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Torres, Hutchinson and Trenado Run in Oakland District 5 School Board Race




Three candidates are actively campaigning for the District 5 seat on the Oakland Board of Education: incumbent Roseann Torres, Oakland native and school activist Mike Hutchinson and middle school teacher Huber Trenado, who is part of the slate backed by the pro-charter organization Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools.A fourth candidate, Michael Hassid, is on the ballot but has not appeared so far at candidate speaking events. 

Torres, who practices law in Oakland, is married and the parent of a high school senior. Originally from Stockton, she has lived in Oakland for about 12 years.


Speaking of her accomplishments, Torres said she is most proud of the 14 percent teacher pay raise that the school board negotiated with teachers.


“This is very big accomplishment to give a double digit raise to teachers” in a district that loses teachers frequently to nearby districts that pay $8,000 or more a year than Oakland, Torres said. She is also proud of her efforts to initiate and pass an ethnic studies requirement at all Oakland high schools.


Torres began working with a teacher in 2014 to develop the policy. Before that, she said, there were only a few teachers who taught ethnic studies “under the radar, without permission.”


Ultimately, the policy passed the board on a 7-0 vote.


When she first ran for the school board, Torres said she had no idea what the pro-charter corporate lobby was or the role of GO Public Schools in Oakland.


“They thought I was going to be a blank check for charters and not just do what I thought was right,” she said. “I started getting checks from all over the country (to support her candidacy).


“I didn’t know they wanted to control what I did and how I vote. Their assumption was: we brought in all this money, and you have to vote way we expect.”


Torres said she supports charter schools and charter school renewals that she thinks are good for the students and the community but that she is not a blank check.


However, GO and other charter school backers have turned against her for taking an independent stand, she said.


Mike Hutchinson, born and raised in Oakland, attending public schools. He is not a teacher but has worked in local schools in many capacities, including as a coach and in afterschool programs.


Hutchinson speaks at most school board meetings, pushing the board and the administration to be more responsive to community needs, he said.


He says he has three top priorities.


First he wants to see the district adopt “authentic community engagement,” to listen to parents and the community to incorporate what they say into policies and decisions.


At present, he said, “district staff shows up and tells the community what they plan on doing,” he said.


Second, he wants to “reprioritize” the district budget, which this year is $792 million. About $80 million of the funds are spent outsourcing district functions to highly paid consultants. The saved money can be invested in improving neighborhood schools, he said.


His priority would be to stop privitization.


“Oakland has over 40 charter schools, but San Leandro has none, and San Francisco and Berkeley only have a few,” he said, emphasizing that the district is giving too many of its resources to charters.


Huber Trenado works as a seventh-grade humanities teacher at Lazear Charter Academy in the Fruitvale District.


His family emigrated from Mexico, and he was born in Los Angeles. He later moved to Oakland, where he attended school and lived in a small apartment with his mother and six siblings.


If elected, Trenado said he would be the first openly gay school board member.


The loss of teachers has lot to do with the lack of support they receive in their first few years in the district, he said.


“Teaching is a really hard thing, and it crucial to help them grow during their first years in the profession,” said Trenado.


He said he wants to improve the schools so all students get served. At many flatland schools, as many as 50 percent of the students do not graduate or have the coursework to go to college.


He has the backing of GO Public Schools but is not a member.


“I’m not pro charter,” he said. “I don’t support new charter schools being opened. I don’t think opening new charter schools is fiscally responsible.”


However, he said, “the whole debate is political,” not focusing on what is good for students and families. “It’s a lot of privileged people” who are complaining about charter schools, he said.




Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools responds:

“The GO endorsement process is driven by the recommendations of parents, educators, and community members evaluating school board candidates on a broad policy agenda, not a candidate’s willingness to support charter growth. GO did not endorse Rosie Torres because she did not do the job- for example, she has been absent or late to at least 1 out of 3 school board meetings. Attendance at school board meetings is the lowest bar you can set for a school board member and Rosie didn’t clear that bar. Our parents, educators and community leaders believe students, families, and voters in District 5 deserve better.” – Ash Solar, Executive Director, GO Public Schools Advocates


Mary Ann Shadd Cary: A Fearless Journalist

She became the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America. Her work as a journalist was not spared criticism, as many disagreed with her views.




By Unknown author -, courtesy of National Archives of Canada, C-029977, Public Domain,

The eldest of 13 children, Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823–1893) was born in Wilmington, Del. to a free African American family. She was raised in a household dedicated to the abolition of slavery. The Shadd home often served as a shelter for fugitive slaves. Young Mary’s father worked for the abolitionist newspaper Liberator, run by William Lloyd Garrison.

Even as free blacks living in the north, the Shadds faced deep-seated discrimination and segregation.

Schools for Delaware blacks during that time were nonexistent. The Shadds, however, wanted their children educated. They relocated to Pennsylvania (1833) where young Mary attended a Quaker boarding school. For the next 12 years, she taught black children in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. Her passion though, was to follow in her father’s footsteps.

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850), Cary moved to Canada with one of her brothers. The act required that slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The entire Shadd family soon followed. It was there that she found Canada’s first antislavery newspaper, The Provincial Freemen. It was a weekly publication targeting blacks, especially those who’d escaped slavery.

Cary would pen many of the stories, often returning to the states to gather information. Through this, she became the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America. Her work as a journalist was not spared criticism, as many disagreed with her views.

A critic from a rival paper wrote: “Miss Shadd [Cary] has said and written many things which we think will add nothing to her credit as a lady.”

Cary however, was less concerned with being a lady than she was with having a voice. “She got a lot of criticism from black male leaders, even from some black women, because she was so visible and she was so vocal,” Jane Rhodes, professor and department head of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago said, noting that Cary defied traditional attitudes presuming a woman’s place was in the home. “And she said, ‘I’m opening the door for you, for black women, and I’m proud that I’m doing that and I’m trying to create a space for you to have a voice.’”

Cary’s drive to support the rights and freedoms of blacks never ceased, especially when it involved education. This spurred her established a school—one that was open to children of all races.

The Civil War erupted in 1861. Cary then returned to the states to assist in the war effort. While working as a recruiting officer for the Union Army, she encouraged blacks to join the fight against the Confederacy and against slavery. Postwar, she attended Howard University, becoming the second African-American woman in the United States to earn a law degree (1883).

“It was fearless, and it was fierce,” Rhodes said of the Cary’s voice. “She really was unafraid and she carried that throughout her life.”


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Students, Community Organizations Ask Judge to Order Mental Health Services, Internet Access

Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.





Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

The May 3 request for immediate relief comes six months after the plaintiffs sued the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Now, they are seeking a preliminary injunction to force the state to respond. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith has set June 4 for a hearing.

“The state cannot just write big checks and then say, ‘We’re not paying attention to what happens here,’” said Mark Rosenbaum, a directing attorney with the pro bono law firm Public Counsel. Public Counsel and the law firm Morrison and Foerster filed the lawsuit on behalf of 15 children and two organizations: The Oakland Reach and the Community Coalition, which is based in Los Angeles. 

In their initial, 84-page filing, they claimed the state had shirked its responsibility to ensure that low-income Black and Latino children were receiving adequate distance learning, with computers and internet access the Legislature said all children were entitled to. Instead, they argued, children “lost precious months” of learning, falling further behind because of poor internet connections, malfunctioning computers and a lack of counseling and extra academic help.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic was unavoidable, these harms were not. Yet for most of this period, state officials constitutionally charged with ensuring that all of California’s children receive at least basic educational equality have remained on the sidelines,” the plaintiffs argued.

Angela J., of Oakland, whose three children are plaintiffs in the case, elaborated on the difficulties they encountered during a year under distance learning in a declaration filed with the latest plaintiffs’ motion. 

Although she is president of the PTA, her school has been uncommunicative and unresponsive to requests for technical help and lesson plans, she wrote. Her children are falling behind and “suffering emotionally,” she said. Her third-grade twins are supposed to be doing multiplication and division but are struggling with subtraction. “They are supposed to be able to write essays, but they can barely write two sentences.”

The Oakland Reach and the Community Coalition have stepped in with technical help and support for hundreds of families that district schools should have provided, the plaintiffs’ motion said. The Community Coalition hired tutors and partnered with YMCA-Crenshaw to provide in-person learning pods with 100 laptops on site. The Oakland Reach hired 19 family liaisons, started a preschool literacy program and offered online enrichment programs for students.

Months passed, infection rates declined, schools made plans to reopen, and then in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature appropriated $6.6 billion in COVID-19 relief that school districts can put toward summer school, tutoring, mental health, teacher training and other academic supports. By June 1 — less than a month from now — districts and charter schools are required to complete a report, after consulting with parents and teachers, on how they plan to spend the money.

But the plaintiffs argue in their latest filing, “this funding comes with no oversight, assistance, or enforcement to ensure that the funds will be used properly to address the issues relating to digital devices, learning loss, and mental health support.” And there’s no requirement that districts begin this summer to address the harm that the most impacted students have felt, the statement said.“Schools are indeed ‘reopening’ to one degree or another, but absent a mandate that all students receive what they need to learn and to catch up, or any guidance from the State that would help them do so,” the filing said.

In a statement, California Department of Education spokesman Scott Roark acknowledged that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted those who “are vulnerable by historic and systemic inequities,” and cited the department’s work obtaining hundreds of thousands of computers, expanding internet access and providing guidance to educators on distance learning for highest-needs students.

“As we work to return children back to the classroom, we will maintain a laser focus on protecting the health and safety of our school communities while providing the supports needed to ensure learning continues and, where gaps persist, is improved,” the statement said.

In passing legislation accompanying the state budget last June, the Legislature laid out requirements for distance learning that school districts must meet to receive school funding. They included providing all students with access to a computer and the internet. 

Missing, however, was an enforcement requirement, like the monitoring that’s used to verify that students in low-income schools have textbooks, safe and clean facilities and qualified classroom teachers. That system was set up in 2004 through a settlement of Williams v. State of California, in which low-income families sued the state over its failure to assure safe and equitable conditions in schools.  

At the time, Rosenbaum was a lead attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, which brought the lawsuit with Public Advocates and other civil rights organizations.

Despite efforts by Thurmond and districts over the past year to get technology in place, Thurmond estimated in October that as many as 1 million students lacked devices or sufficient bandwidth to adequately participate in distance learning from home. Between federal and state funding, districts have plenty of money to buy computers, and the Legislature is considering several bills to fund internet access statewide (see here and here). 

They won’t solve the immediate challenge, but they could become relevant if there were to be a settlement in this case, as in the Williams lawsuit.

Among their requests, the plaintiffs are asking the court to order the state to:

  • Determine which students lack devices and connectivity and ensure that districts immediately provide them;
  • Ensure that all students and teachers have access to adequate mental health supports;
  • Provide weekly outreach to families of all low-income Black or Latino students to aid in transitioning back to in-person learning through August 2022;
  • Provide a statewide plan to ensure that districts put in place programs to remedy the learning loss caused by remote learning.

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San Francisco Proposes Art Installation to Honor Black Lives, History of African Americans

The sculptural figures created in all-black steel with vinyl tubing, each standing four feet high, would surround the empty pedestal where a statue of Francis Scott Key once stood. Key, who wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave owner and abolition opponent.




Dana King/ Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco, CA. – Mayor London N. Breed today announced the City of San Francisco is planning a new public art installation to honor Black lives and the history of African Americans. The installation is planned to be located in Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse next month, in time for Juneteenth.

The installation, ‘Monumental Reckoning,’ by Bay Area sculptor Dana King, honors the first Africans stolen from their homeland and sold into chattel slavery in the New World. The installation consists of 350 sculptures representing the number of Africans initially forced onto the slave ship San Juan Bautista for a journey of death and suffering across the Atlantic in 1619. A handful of these original 350 ancestors became America’s first enslaved people.

The sculptural figures created in all-black steel with vinyl tubing, each standing four feet high, would surround the empty pedestal where a statue of Francis Scott Key once stood. Key, who wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave owner and abolition opponent. Protestors toppled the statue on Juneteenth 2020.

“The art and monuments that we choose to display in our city and the civic art that fills our public spaces must reflect the diversity of our community, and honor our history,” said Breed. “This powerful public art installation in Golden Gate Park will help us not only commemorate Juneteenth, but also serve as an example of how we can honor our past, no matter how painful, and reflect on the challenges that are still with us today.”

Monumental Reckoning would allow visitors to commune with the figures. The phrase “Lift Every Voice” would shine from atop the nearby Spreckels Temple of Music through a second, connected piece by Illuminate the Arts. These are the first three words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, a song written by civil rights champion James Weldon Johnson which was first performed in 1900—the same year the Spreckels Temple of Music opened. 

For more than a century, Johnson’s song of unity has been sung as the Black national anthem. U.S. Representative James Clyburn is currently leading an effort to have the song named America’s national hymn.

“I’m excited to see the new monument go up in Golden Gate Park to honor Black lives and the rich history of African Americans,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton. “I think this is a perfect example of trying to right a wrong. Rather than uplifting individuals with oppressive histories, this is an opportunity to honor diversity and our community through public art.”

The installation was approved by both the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission’s Operations Committee this week. It is currently under review by the Planning Commission. “Lift Every Voice” will also need to be approved by the City’s Historical Preservation Committee before it can be installed. If approved, Monumental Reckoning would open to the public on June 19, or Juneteenth 2021, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. The art piece would remain in place through June 20, 2023.

“The memory of African descendants deserves to be told truthfully and publicly,” said King, Monumental Reckoning’s creator. “Monumental Reckoning fulfills both objectives with the installation of 350 ‘ancestors’ who will encircle the Francis Scott Key plinth in Golden Gate Park. The ancestors stand in judgement, holding history accountable to the terror inflicted on the first group of enslaved people brought here in 1619 to the last person sold to another, all victims of chattel slavery. Even though the business of enslavement ended long ago, it still resonates generationally for African Americans and forms the bedrock from which systems of oppression proliferate today.”

Fundraising, community outreach, and ongoing support for the installation is being provided by the Museum of the African Diaspora. Creative and programming support would be provided by The Black Woman is God, which is an annual group exhibition of Black women artists curated by Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green. The project celebrates Black women as essential to building a more just society and sustainable future and reclaims space historically denied to Black women artists.

“What Dana King’s powerful installation communicates and commemorates is a sober cultural gut-punch long overdue, and I hope it’s the beginning of many such visual testaments in the public realm that venerate the origin stories of our most marginalized and disenfranchised populations,” said Ralph Remington, San Francisco’s Director of Cultural Affairs. “We almost never see images of Black people represented in our public monuments, or in the American telling of history. So, it’s no surprise that in a society rooted in white supremacy, people of color remain invisible and undervalued in our mythology, symbols, architecture and national narrative. While the City examines the historic works in our Civic Art Collection and the future of monuments in San Francisco, this installation will help build and advance a discourse about who and what we venerate in our open spaces.”

 “We are incredibly proud to host this powerful piece,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Monumental Reckoning prompts frank discussion about the legacy of slavery, while charting a course between past, present and future. We are grateful to have these crucial conversations in Golden Gate Park—a beloved public space that belongs to everyone.”

This story was produced by the San Francisco Mayor’s office.

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