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School District Examines Causes of Financial Hardships

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As the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) closes its books for 2016-17, staff is pinpointing some of the financial missteps that led to the district’s current fragile economic condition, where even relatively small over-expenditures could result in state takeover.

The financial report, based on a close examination of the district’s income and expenditures, was presented by Interim Chief Financial Officer Gloria Gamblin and her staff at the school board meeting last week and at the board’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting this week.

One significant misstep last year was the failure of what is called “position control.”
Supt. Antwan Wilson’s administration created 75 positions, mostly in the central office, that were not accounted for in the budget and for which funds had not been allocated, said Katema Ballentine, OUSD’s financial officer of budget development

“That’s huge. I’ve never seen a budget number that large,” she said.

“The normal process is for a site or district leader (to) first confirm that there is money” before hiring someone, she said. “That hasn’t happened as regularly as it should. People were just trying to please (the administration), so they skipped over processes.”

Ballentine said staff was still trying to figure out all of the positions that were created. The budget impact so far seems to be about $400,000, she said.

“We’ve been trying to pull that together,” she said.

Ballentine told board members that budget staff realized during the last months of Supt. Wilson’s administration that the district was facing a $30 million shortfall, but she and Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal were not allowed to tell the board.

“Vernon and I were not permitted,” she said.
Another issue was the misestimate of enrollment and failure to cut expenses when the error was discovered.

“In the fall (of last year), we discovered that our enrollment came in lower by 400 pupils, which was a loss of $3.9 million in revenue,” said Gamblin.

At that time, the administration made a decision to retain 36 of the 42 excess teachers, costing the district $3.2 million.

Overspending was severe in several specially funded programs. The district’s total contribution to special education was $56.4 million, Early Childhood Fund, $2.2 million; and Child Nutrition Fund, $3.2 million, for an overall total of $61.8 million.

Gamblin told board members they will receive monthly financial update reports and that they should know by November what additional cuts might be necessary.

She explained that in order to avoid being taken over by the state, the district is required to have sufficient reserves, a positive fund balance and positive cash balance.

“In the close of 16-17, we do have a positive fund balance,” she said.” We (had) a sufficient reserve of $3.4 million but not enough to meet our 2 percent reserve ($11 million) required by the state or the additional 1 percent that the board has by policy.”

“We also have a positive fund balance and a positive cash balance,” she said, indicating that meeting those three conditions means that OUSD has avoided state receivership.

“However, in the current year we have to really closely monitor our expenditures,” she said.
Oakland’s advisory state trustee, Christopher Leonard, warned the board that OUSD does not have the same leeway as other districts.
Because the district is making payments on $44 million it still owes on its $100 million state bailout loan, the state would be quicker to resort to receivership.

“The state is not going to lend Oakland any more money,” he said. “They are going to watch you very closely. If the board cannot make the decisions to reduce expenses … the state will come in and do it for you.”

OUSD faced a $37 million deficit in 2003 when it was taken over by the state and forced to take a $100 million state loan. Board committees, such as the budget and finance committee, were dissolved, and a state –appointed trustee unilaterally made all decisions on school closures and how to spend the money.

No audit of district finances was conducted during the six years of state control.

At press time, Mayor Muriel Bowser had not replied to questions from the Oakland Post about whether her office knew of OUSD’s budget shortfall when she hired Antwan Wilson as chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Celebrates Birthday at Mills College

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.

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Maurice Arnold with Rep. Barbara Lee at a birthday party on the Mills College campus.

On July 24, Congresswoman Barbara Lee returned to her alma mater, Mills College, for a dual engagement.  As the guest of honor, she conducted a local meet-and-greet among special guests, friends and supporters and she also belatedly celebrated her belated, which was on July 6.

Mills College Lokey School of Business and Public Policy hosted the event for Lee.  The   special guests included Oakland’s Councilmember Treva Reid, District 7; BART Boardmember, Lateefah Simon, District 7, Candidate Mia Bonta, AD-18, Post Newspaper Group Publisher Paul Cobb and many more.

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.  Her political future was decisively shaped when she took a government course that required her to participate in a presidential campaign. “I invited Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak at Mills, and learned that she was running for president,” Lee recalls. “I helped organize her Northern California campaign, and I registered to vote for the first time . . . and the rest is history.”

Whether standing alone as the sole congressional vote against a blank check for endless war, authoring legislation on ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, or representing the U.S. House of Representatives in the United Nations General Assembly, Lee carries her Mills education with her. “Mills instilled me with the confidence I needed to achieve my goals,” she says.

Accordingly, we say happy belated birthday and much success to Team Barbara.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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Activism

Young Adults Speak Out at Climate Adaptation Seminar

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.

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From top left: Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Skyler Kriese, Moiz Mir, Catherine Foster (Photo by Godfrey Lee)

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.
ARCCA is a coalition of the Local Government Commission and represents leading collaborative networks from across California that strive to build regional resilience to climate impacts.  ARCCA members work to enhance public health, protect natural systems, build economies, and create resilient, livable communities throughout California. 

ARCCA members effectively bolster their individual and collective efforts by sharing best practices and resources, identifying strategies to overcome key barriers and challenges, and conducting joint campaigns and projects.

ARCCA believes that the youth have been under-represented in the climate initiative. “It has become more apparent over the years that the youth, with their activism and experience, can have a pivotal role to play in our adaption to climate change. It is the goal of ARRCA, in their work in climate change, to expand the youth’s participation in their projects and actively include them in our leadership phases and decision-making processes,” said Catherine Foster, the moderator of the seminar, and ARCCA’s Climate & Energy Project manager, LGC.

Three college graduates who were involved in the environmental movement on their campuses spoke during the seminar.

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, and graduated as the first Black Valedictorian for the Class of 2021. She served and led many of the prominent campus environmental activism groups. “We all work with people who are different places, so recognize the gaps in your knowledge, and also what the other person does and does not know,” Wakeman said.

Skyler Kriese graduated from Santa Clara University in 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. She is a 2020-2021 CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow supporting Butte County Department of Development Services on three grant-funded, long-range planning projects. Following her service year, she will continue her studies at the University of Michigan, pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Kriese says that local governments need to identify environment justice communities and address environmental justice in their general plans. This is important so that processes and policies can begin to work and ultimately create healthier communities. 

Moiz Mir was the president of the Environmental Student Organization at California State University Sacramento from 2017–2019. As an intern at the Sacramento Mayor’s Office, he organized youth summits to include students’ voices in the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and served on the commission’s Community Health, Resiliency and Equity Technical Advisory Committees. 

Mir advocates building toward inclusivity, to reach out to a more diverse people in the work toward climate adaptation. 

For more information on ARCCA and their upcoming seminars, go to https://arccacalifornia.org/embedding-equity-in-adaptation/ 

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