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Post Endorses Candidates Who Fight to Save Schools, End Austerity Regime in District

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A committee of local educators created by the Oakland Post Editorial Board has endorsed candidates for the Oakland Board of Education in all four open races this year, supporting outspoken community leaders who oppose austerity and continued domination of district policies by state agencies and who unequivocally oppose closing neighborhood schools.

The Post endorsed: District 1 – Stacy Thomas and Sam Davis; District 3 – Cherisse Gash and VanCedric Williams; District 5 – Mike Hutchinson: and District 7 – Kristina Molina and Ben “Coach” Tapscott.

Participants in the Post’s committee were teacher Shalonda Tillman, Post editor and educator Ken Epstein, parent Mona Treviño, educator Henry Hitz, retired teacher Eleanore Stovall and educator Nirali Jani. The committee made recommendations and Post publishers Paul Cobb and Gay Plair Cobb made final decisions.

The Post did not endorse candidates who support closing more Oakland schools, take money from privatizers or pro-charter school billionaires or would like the district to continue the kind of draconian cuts that have become common in recent years.

The Post-endorsed candidates are:

District 7

Post-endorsed candidate Christina Molina in District 7 describes herself as a product of OUSD, having “attended Melrose Elementary School, Calvin Simmons Junior High School, and John C Fremont High School.”

“Oakland public education needs less obscurity and more transparency. Families, teachers, students, and community stakeholders need to know how schools are spending and investing funds. School site parent-run organizations need to be provided with their school budget to see how the administration has expended every dollar of their child’s education,” she said.

The Post also endorsed Ben “Coach” Tapscott for District 7 school board.

When the state took over the school district in 2003, the district was about $50 million in debt, he said. When the state receiver left, the district was $100 million in debt, an amount that still is not paid off. “If they generated that debt, they should pay for it,” Tapscott said.

“When they cut, they cut at the school sites, (but) we’re top heavy with upper and middle management.

“I think there is a lot of waste going on,” he said “I think there is a conspiracy, you have more privatization, keeping us in debt. The state controller, what is that person doing to monitor the money?”

District 1

Stacy Thomas wants to give leadership on the school board that puts the students, families and schools first.

“I want the school board to be really fiercely protective of our resources and our public schools,” she said.

Thomas, who owns a bookkeeping business, wants to bring her background in accounting to the budgeting process and focus on improving the district’s financial mismanagement. She said OUSD should take more control over its budgeting and hold district staff accountable for ensuring the budget is balanced without harmful cuts.

If elected, Thomas said she will push back against recommendations from the Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) and a state trustee who oversees the district’s finances.

Sam Davis is a former Oakland teacher and the father of an Oakland Technical High School student. He currently works at the University of California on an education data project to help California high schools better prepare their students for college eligibility. He is also active with the Oakland Tech PTA, and a volunteer board director with Faith in Action East Bay.

District 3

Cherisse Gash is an Oakland native and comes from a family of educators. Before becoming a parent in the district, she was a student in the district. She has been active in numerous Parent Teacher Associations at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She has been a dedicated parent volunteer at several different schools and district programs including the African American Male Achievement program.

She works as a health educator, advocate and caretaker and is a proud member of a union family. As a longtime resident of District 3, she understands the needs of the community and will fight for equity and educational opportunities.

VanCedric Williams has worked for 20 years as a teacher in San Francisco.

He is an officer of the San Francisco teachers’ union and has statewide experience in the California Teachers Association. He has lived in Oakland for 10 years.

He strongly opposes charter schools, closures, co-locations, refuses to take money from privatizers such as GO in Oakland and the California Charter School Association (CCSA).

He advocates for racial and social justice in schools and communities.

District 5

Mike Hutchinson, who co-founded the Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), was born, raised, and educated in Oakland. He has spent more than 20 years working and volunteering in Oakland’s schools and with Oakland youth.

He has been at the forefront of fighting against school closures, for democratically elected school boards, and to end the district’s adversarial relationship with community by creating an authentic community engagement process where the community is treated as partners and decision makers.

He strongly opposes charter schools. “Charter schools are not public schools. I have been working for years to end the privatization of public education. I have never and would never advocate for a charter school.”

Bay Area

Most Californians Worry Schools Won’t Reopen Fully Next Fall, Poll Says

The majority say they approve of how Newsom handled schools this year.

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More than 4 in 5 California adults, including public school parents, believe that the pandemic has caused children, especially low-income children and English learners, to fall behind academically.

  Six in 10 Californians are concerned that schools will not be open for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released on April 28.

  The annual survey of Californians’ perspectives on education also found that a majority approved of the way Gov. Gavin Newsom has handled K-12 public schools, although opinions were split along partisan lines, with 22% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats supporting him on the issue.

  And perhaps in an indication of the erosion of support for public schools, 42% of parents say they would send their youngest child to a private school if cost and location were not at issue. This compares with 31% who would choose a traditional public school, 14% a charter school, and 13% a religious school. The preference for a private school increased from 35% last year and 31% two years ago.

  The survey of 1,602 adults over 18 was taken from April 1-14 and was offered in English or a choice of Spanish and three other languages. The margin of error was 3.4%, plus or minus, overall, and 7.4%, plus or minus, for the 295 respondents who are public school parents.

  Facing a recall election, Newsom can take solace in the poll’s finding that a majority of Californians (57% of adults, 64% of public-school parents) approve of how he has handled K-12 education.

  “Majorities of Californians approve of the way that Governor Newsom is handling the state’s K-12 public schools and school reopening, while they remain deeply divided along party lines,” said Mark Baldassare, president, and CEO of PPIC.

  However, a year ago, when the last survey was taken weeks after schools closed quickly in response to the first throes of the pandemic, his approval marks were higher, with 73% of adults and 78% of public school parents expressing approval.

  The poll, which focused on education, also found:

  Of those who said children were falling behind academically during the pandemic, 60% said that was happening by a lot and 22% by a little. The views were similar among ethnic and racial groups. Eight in 10 adults said they were concerned that low-income children were falling farther behind other children. More Blacks and Latinos were very concerned about this than whites;

  Amid continuing debates and lawsuits claiming that schools aren’t opening quickly enough, slightly more adults overall than public school parents said that schools should at least be partially open now (53% vs. 48%), while 28% of all adults and 27% of public school parents said that schools should be fully open now;

  Looking ahead to the fall, 61% of all adults said they were concerned that K-12 schools would not be open for full-time in-person instruction (24% very concerned, 37% somewhat concerned), and two-thirds of public school parents said they were concerned (25% very concerned, 41% somewhat concerned).

  When it comes to their own schools, two-thirds of adults said they approved of how their school district handled closures during the pandemic. Support was highest in the Los Angeles area (74%) and the Inland Empire (68%) and lowest in Orange County and San Diego (54%). Approval among public school parents was 72%.

  The clear majority of all adults said that teachers’ salaries in their communities are too low. About 1 in 3 said salaries are just about right while 7% said they are too high, and 3% said they didn’t know. Among racial and ethnic groups, 76% of Blacks said pay is too low, compared with 59% of whites, 61% of Asian Americans, and 62% of Latinos.

  Last month, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that California school districts could substitute local assessments for the state standardized test, the Smarter Balanced assessment, under some conditions. Many districts are expected to exercise that option.

  Asked whether they favor conducting year-end state testing this spring to measure the pandemic’s impact on student learning, 75% of all adults (and a similar proportion of public school parents) said they were in favor of continuing testing, with 23% opposed. Latinos were the most in favor (83%) and Blacks the least supportive (68%) with 70% of Asian Americans and whites in favor of continuing year-end testing.

  As for the perennial issue of school funding, 49% of all adults, 53% of likely voters, and 51% of public school parents said that the current level of state funding for their local public schools is not adequate — about the same level as a year ago.

  When it comes to school construction and renovation, 59% of all adults, 55% of likely voters, and 74% of public school parents said they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. Legislative leaders plan to place a bond on the state ballot in 2022.

 

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Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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Education

Supporting Social-Emotional Learning During the Pandemic

One of the most important ways to assist students during the pandemic is to work with them in learning how to manage their emotions.

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Most students have been learning virtually for over a year now, due to COVID-19. It’s probably fair to assume that most students have adjusted favorably to the expectations of online learning whether they wanted to or not. With caring and well-prepared teachers, most students are being exposed to grade-level lessons and activities.

   However, even though students appear to be more familiar with educational platforms, learning apps and are more tech-savvy than ever before, we can’t assume that they are still not being affected by the pandemic and all the things they have given up since it began. Students now sit for long periods and movement between and during class is minimum and if they get too fidgety or distracted, they could be called out for it. Recess is a thing of the past and Physical Education is reduced to what can be done in front of the screen.

  As parents and teachers try to juggle their children’s lives in front of the camera as well as behind the camera, we also have to take into consideration their social-emotional development, even more so, now that we are in a pandemic.

    According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), the leader in the field of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), SEL “is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Helping students learn how to manage Social Emotional Learning will help them to better process and navigate through the current health plight, as well as how to succeed in school and life, long after the pandemic is finally behind us.

   One of the most important ways to assist students during the pandemic is to work with them in learning how to manage their emotions. Even though many students have been attending school online for over a year now and many have become quite adjusted to learning virtually, we still have to check in with them often and gauge how they are feeling. We have to notice any change in their behavior and allow them to move periodically after sitting during their online classes or to take movement breaks on purpose.

Other ways to help students manage their emotions during this time, is to help them in identifying and labeling their emotions. We could be of great assistance to them if we help them to recognize how they are feeling and commend them for taking responsibility for those emotions.

  For example, “I am feeling grumpy today because I didn’t get enough rest last night.” For those feelings of fear, anger, and/or sadness we can guide them in finding strategies that could make them feel better or practice ways to calm them down by journaling, soothing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing.

   Another great way to support our children’s Social Emotional Learning especially during this Pandemic is to help them to continue developing their self-esteem. According to an article in ‘very well mind’ an online developmental psychology website, “The concept of self-esteem plays an important role in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which depicts esteem as one of the basic human motivations.” The article goes on to say that, “Maslow suggested that individuals need both appreciation from other people and inner self-respect to build esteem. Both of these needs must be fulfilled for an individual to grow as a person and reach self-actualization.”

    So, as we think of ways to develop self-esteem within our children, they can feel good about accomplishing tasks, as well as feeling good about the accolades that could result in carrying them out.

   For example, giving children more responsibilities around the house, no matter how big or how small, is a productive way to help them in feeling good about themselves.

    Allowing them to make age-appropriate choices will also make them feel like a respected contributing member of the family, as well. It is also beneficial to teach them how to think through their decisions and to come up with options that they have decided upon on their own. Most importantly, when they can make choices and fulfill their responsibilities around the house, it is equally important for us to show our appreciation towards them for helping out and for the effort they display.

   Another way to support our children by developing their Social Emotional Learning is by working with them in building empathy.

  This is not always easy to do, since it’s all a child can do to think about how they are feeling, let alone think about how someone else may be feeling.

   So, when we continue to openly discuss the pandemic and how it can affect others, we can then begin to have our children think about how it could feel to walk in someone else’s shoes. If the person is someone the child knows then we could brainstorm ways in which they could help them or offer a word of kindness by phone, text, email, social media, etc. We could even teach them the skill of “active listening” and let them understand the value of being supportive in our silence. This type of life skill is something that can be used throughout their lives, for the rest of their lives and can be applied to numerous everyday situations.

   Another valuable strategy that we can model and share with our children is the use of “self-talk.” Some may call it “talking out loud” and back in the day, it could have been referred to as “talking to yourself.” According to the media organization Psychology Today,“ Many people are conscious of an inner voice that provides a running monologue on their lives throughout the day.

     This inner voice, our self-talk, combining conscious thoughts and unconscious beliefs and biases, provides a way for the brain to interpret and process daily experiences.” Today we have come to realize the benefits of it, and it teaches our children how to better associate their words with their feelings. For example, when you are in heavy traffic you could model by saying, “This traffic is so backed up, and I’m going to be late. I’m feeling angry that we can’t move faster, so I’m going to take a deep breath and turn on the music to calm myself down.”

This quick commentary will help in teaching our children words that can be associated with their feelings, as well as possible strategies that can help in calming them down, like deep breathing and listening to music. Practicing “self-talk” often with our children, by modeling and by allowing them to practice so that it will become a useful tool that can be used to regulate their emotions when needed, will be invaluable.

   Helping our children learn to manage their Social Emotional Learning has benefits that can take them far beyond the pandemic, but while we are still in it, we must help them to understand and handle those emotions so that they can have less emotional stress, make responsible choices and decisions, feel better and show empathy for others and most of all so that they can work successfully towards academic achievement.

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