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WCCUSD Releases Plan for Returning to 100% In-Person Instruction for Fall

The District’s plan includes masking for all individuals indoors, a physical distancing of 3 feet where feasible, hand hygiene, and at-home screening for students and staff.

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From the exhibition "The Nineties: A Glossary of Migrations" https://www.muzej-jugoslavije.org/en/exhibition/devedesete-recnik-migracija/; Photo Courtesy of Ivan Aleksic via Unsplash

The West Contra Costa Unified School District released its 100% Return to In-Person Instruction Plan to its community on Monday. WCCUSD’s first day of the 2021-2022 School Year is Monday, August 16.

The plan is available at www.wccusd.net/return2school and follows the California Department of Health (CDPH) guidance and guidelines. The Return to School plan results from three internal working groups and feedback from the WCCUSD community. The plan includes three sections Instruction Core/Social Emotional Learning/Technology, Operations, and Community Engagement/Communications.

WCCUSD’s Board of Education adopted the following statement about the return to school plan at its May 5 board meeting.

“The District will reopen for 100% in-person learning this Fall pursuant to local, state, and federal guidelines and with additional resources provided by WCCUSD to schools in need of them. These resources may include but are not limited to additional counselors, mental health services, custodians, CSO’s, etc., and the district will make these recommendations to the board this summer.”

The District’s plan includes masking for all individuals indoors, a physical distancing of 3 feet where feasible, hand hygiene, and at-home screening for students and staff. WCCUSD is also planning a Restorative Start for the first six weeks of school that focuses on the following:

  • Relationships between students and school staff
  • Students’ social-emotional needs
  • Community partnerships and staff training
  • Relevant and rigorous curriculum
  • Evaluation and implementation of systems for long-term transformation

WCCUSD plans to hold a series of information sessions about the 100% Return to In-Person Learning Plan starting the week of July 26. Details of the session will be available on the District’s website www.wccusd.net.

Robert Jordon works in the Communications Office of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Activism

Title IX: 37 Words That Changed Everything

Civil rights attorney and Alameda County District Attorney primary winner Pamela Price has long been recognized as a significant contributor for the enactment of the groundbreaking Title IX legislation because of her role as the lead Plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit, Alexander (Price) v. Yale. Her story as the Plaintiff and later as a leading civil rights attorney making new law under Title IX is featured in Sherry Boschert’s new book, 37 Words. Her fight for justice as a young woman is also featured in the ESPN documentary “37 Words” which will air on ESPN channels starting on June 21st.

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37 Words Author Sherry Boschert in front of poster with keynote speaker Pamela Price. (Photo courtesy of Price).
37 Words Author Sherry Boschert in front of poster with keynote speaker Pamela Price. (Photo courtesy of Price).

By Post Staff

Civil rights attorney and Alameda County District Attorney primary winner Pamela Price was a featured guest at the 50th Anniversary celebration of Title IX in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center (NWCL).

Price participated in a casual conversation with NWLC President and CEO, Fatima Goss Graves and Sherry Boschert, author of 37 Words, about the importance of Title IX and continuing to defend gender rights.

Price said the invitation-only audience included 75 high level women’s policy advocates and leaders from student chapters fighting on behalf of Title IX rights from around the country, as well as some of the behind-the-scenes pioneers of Title IX.

Attorney Price has long been recognized as a significant contributor for the enactment of the groundbreaking Title IX legislation because of her role as the lead Plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit, Alexander (Price) v. Yale. Her story as the Plaintiff and later as a leading civil rights attorney making new law under Title IX is featured in Sherry Boschert’s new book, 37 Words. Her fight for justice as a young woman is also featured in the ESPN documentary “37 Words” which will air on ESPN channels starting on June 21st.

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is a non-profit organization that has been on the leading edge of every major legal and policy victory for women and girls for nearly 50 years.

NWLC launched a yearlong effort to mark its 50th anniversary as well as a refreshed strategic plan that will forge its efforts to ensure that women and girls — especially those of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community — can live, learn, and work with safety, dignity, and equality.

Earlier this month, in anticipation of Title IX’s 50th anniversary on June 23, 2022, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) which includes 35 organizations advocating for gender justice in education including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released a report, “Title IX At 50”. The report takes a look at Title IX’s impact over the last half century, celebrating the significant progress to end sex discrimination in education, while recognizing the work that remains to be done.

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Activism

Tenants Protest Management Practices at New Oakland Veteran Housing

During visits this month, this reporter found the doors to common areas at Embark locked. When residents tried to open these doors, they were unsuccessful, with the exception of a second-floor balcony, which residents claim was recently reopened. That area was overgrown with weeds. Lyons stated the companies are now looking for a landscape vendor to clean up that area.

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Tenants Deidre Robinson (left) and Sergeant First Class Rodney B. Burton (right) sit on the second-floor balcony of Embark Apartments, a recently opened affordable housing complex for veterans. The area is overgrown with weeds. Photo by Zack Haber.
Tenants Deidre Robinson (left) and Sergeant First Class Rodney B. Burton (right) sit on the second-floor balcony of Embark Apartments, a recently opened affordable housing complex for veterans. The area is overgrown with weeds. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Since March of last year, tenants at Embark, an affordable apartment complex for veterans in Downtown Oakland, have been demanding that the companies that oversee and own their buildings address safety and habitability issues and provide residents with respectful management that is free of harassment.

“It’s such a nice building,” said tenant Deidre Robinson. “But they’re actively destroying it, and I don’t understand why.”

Robinson, along with most of her neighbors living in the 63-unit Veterans Affairs (VA) subsidized apartment complex that opened in early 2020, is a Black veteran. While Embark is publicly funded, it is privately owned and operated.

The San Francisco-based John Stewart Company, which oversees 372 buildings in California, serves as property manager while the Berkeley based non-profit, Resources for Community Development (RCD), owns the building. In addition to Embark, RCD owns 59 other affordable Bay Area properties.

After a period of homelessness and struggling with severe depression, Robinson has used VA services to secure stable employment and what she calls her “forever home” at Embark. Her new apartment made her “super happy” at first, but she no longer feels safe there.

She says she regularly encounters people who don’t live at Embark but enter the complex without permission.

“I take mace when I go to the laundry room,” said Robinson, “because I find hostile people there who don’t want to let me wash my clothes when they’re sleeping there.”

According to Robinson, she often finds human feces and urine in halls and stairways and her packages often go missing. She suspects people who break in are responsible for these problems and says management won’t investigate to find who is responsible, even though the complex contains security cameras in all common areas.

In an email representing a collaborative response from John Stewart Company and RCD, Communications and Marketing Director Lauren Lyons wrote that the companies “are aware of some incidents of loitering, package theft and public urination,” but that their staff “confront non-residents, monitor our security systems to prevent theft as much as possible, and have frequent janitorial/cleaning schedules.”

She also wrote they “provide footage to the local police whenever they conduct an investigation.”

During a tour of Embark that a tenant named Sergeant First Class (SFC) Rodney B Burton hosted on a weekday afternoon of this month, this reporter encountered food scraps on sticky dusty hallway floors while what appeared to be human feces lay in a stairway. A person walked through Embark’s unlocked front door who apologized and immediately left when SFC Burton confirmed he wasn’t a resident.

During nighttime visits, this reporter found a side fire exit door unlocked at Embark, allowing easy entrance to the building from the street.

In late 2020 and early 2021, Embark tenants began to organize to collectively address problems. They’ve sent two letters to John Stewart Company and RCD to express their grievances and list demands. In the first letter, sent in March 2021, they announced the formation of the Embark Veterans Tenants Association and wrote that “though our building is new…profit is being put before us tenants.”

They demanded that “all outstanding rent be zeroed out” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and asked that management regularly give rent and utility receipts to tenants so they can better keep track of their finances and hold the companies accountable for any errors. The demands related to finances came, in part, due to residents receiving notices they felt constituted harassment and intimidation.

“I’ve been harassed by managers” said SFC Burton, “and they intimidated some other veterans that constructively evicted themselves, even though there’s a moratorium on evictions.”

This reporter obtained two Notice to Pay Rent or Quit letters that John Stewart Company had sent to residents in August and July of 2020 which stated, “If you fail to either pay the total amount of rent due in full or return possession of the premises…you may be evicted.”

According to SFC Burton, a few of his neighbors felt intimidated and left after receiving such notices demanding payment that they couldn’t pay. At that time though, as well as now, an Oakland based eviction moratorium would have prevented John Stewart Company or RCD from winning any eviction case at Embark against a tenant for nonpayment of rent.

In an email to this reporter, Lyons, the companies’ spokesperson, wrote that in 2020 “Property managers sent notices to all RCD residents who had an unpaid balance on their account,” and also stated such notices included information about rental assistance. None of the notices from 2020 this reporter saw contained such info, but one notice from summer of last year listed contact info for agencies that help with rental assistance.

According to Oliver Yan, who worked as Resident Services Coordinator at Embark from its opening till fall of last year, the companies weren’t helping tenants’ efforts to secure rent relief during his tenure.

“I would actually argue they were working against those efforts,” Yan said.

Yan claims that the bulk of his job had been trying to get Embark tenants rent relief funds, but the process was “extremely frustrating,” in large part due to John Stewart Company’s “bad accounting practices.” Yan needed accurate accounting information to help tenants secure rent relief but often couldn’t obtain it due to the management and ownership’s resistance.

“John Stewart Company was actively fighting me,” he said, “and RCD was not helping.”

According to Embark tenants, accounting problems persist. On March 31, 24 members of Embark’s tenant union sent another letter of demands to the companies. Residents asked for full rent and utility receipts from March 2020 till the present time, which they say they still haven’t received. California Code of Civil Procedure requires any property owner to provide receipts to tenants for rent payments.

Additionally, Embark tenants objected in their March 31 letter to “community spaces,” such as shared social rooms and balconies, being “inaccessible for residents for the last two years,” even though they’d seen management using them.

According to Lyons “common areas are not currently closed” but had been closed “during the height of the pandemic.”

During visits this month, this reporter found the doors to common areas at Embark locked. When residents tried to open these doors, they were unsuccessful, with the exception of a second-floor balcony, which residents claim was recently reopened. That area was overgrown with weeds. Lyons stated the companies are now looking for a landscape vendor to clean up that area.

Tenants at Embark had formed their union in early 202, affiliating with Bay Area Tenants and Neighborhood Councils, a tenant union with over 500 members, also known as Bay Area TANC.

TANC and Embark residents held BBQs to help spread the word about tenant organizing. According to SFC Burton, over 40 people are now meeting every month to organize about Embark tenant issues, and they’ve had success getting rent and utility relief for many Embark residents.

“It’s been really fun to work with TANC, and efficient,” said SFC Burton. “Without organizing, I don’t even want to think about what would have happened.”

Juleon Robinson, a TANC member who has been organizing at the complex, feels he’s learned a lot from Embark tenants.

“I’ve learned about patience,” he said. “[SFC Burton] knows everyone in that building, and he’s checking in with them all the time. Relationships are so important for organizing.”

Embark is not the only John Stewart Company/RCD building where tenants have been organizing. Tenants at Fox Courts, a nearby complex with 80 apartments for low-income tenants, which John Stewart Company manages, and RCD owns, have also unionized, affiliating last year with TANC and forming the Fox Courts Tenant Council.

Fox Courts tenant Annie Coffin was motivated to organize because, while she had been happy when she moved into the then new complex in 2009, she thinks conditions at Fox Courts have worsened.

“When I first moved in this place was nice,” said Coffin. “But now you have to argue with management to get the base minimum of upkeep.”

Some of Coffin’s complaints about Fox Courts echo those at Embark. She says people break in and defecate or vomit in common areas. Packages go missing, and she says management and ownership don’t do anything to stop it. She’s also complained that management harassed her neighbors and those who visit her. In November 2021, Fox Court Tenant Council wrote a letter, which 36 tenants signed, demanding “regular maintenance of common space, immediate habitability repairs” and “accountable available and respectful management.” In April of this year, the union made 15 specific demands in another letter.

Unlike at Embark, John Stewart Company and RCD did formally respond to the Fox Courts letters. Lyons says the company has also “recently met with 23 [Fox Courts] households who attended a resident meeting.” According to Fox Court tenants, the companies have corrected some, but not all, of their concerns.

Meanwhile, at Embark, Deidre Robinson hopes John Stewart Company and RCD address the problems there and treat the complex “like the blessing that it is.”

“We just want someone who cares who comes in and out of the building,” she said, “and why they can’t open up the community rooms is beyond me. It’s almost like John Stewart Company is unaware this is a complex full of veterans.”

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Bay Area

“Youth Sports Nation” to Support Northern California Youth Baseball All-Star State Tournament in Oakland

Terry T. Butler (“Mr. Community”) and MLB-Oakland A’s legend Bip Roberts of Youth Sports Nation will host by providing ballpark entertainment and building excitement around baseball. “As alumni of the Oakland Babe Ruth Baseball League, our goal at Youth Sports Nation is to teach the conception of unification and sportsmanship through the game of baseball,” said Roberts.

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MLB-Oakland A’s Legend Bip Roberts (left) and music legend Terry T. “Mr.Community.” Photo courtesy of Youth Sports Nation.
MLB-Oakland A’s Legend Bip Roberts (left) and music legend Terry T. “Mr.Community.” Photo courtesy of Youth Sports Nation.

Special to The Post

Music & Sports Legends Group Youth Sports Nation will support the Oakland Babe Ruth Cal Ripken Baseball League as the league hosts the Northern California Youth State Baseball All-Star Tournament.

The seven-day tournament — from July 2 – 8, 2022, will take place at Oakland’s Carter Gilmore Field at 1390 66th Ave. Games begin at 9 a.m. including the holiday weekend. There is no cost to attend.

Terry T. Butler (“Mr. Community”) and MLB-Oakland A’s legend Bip Roberts of Youth Sports Nation will host by providing ballpark entertainment and building excitement around baseball.

“As alumni of the Oakland Babe Ruth Baseball League, our goal at Youth Sports Nation is to teach the conception of unification and sportsmanship through the game of baseball,” said Roberts.

Oakland is one of eight cities in northern California that will host games. The other cities are Hayward, Rohnert Park, Tracy, Woodland, Elk Grove, River Park and Windsor.

This statewide tournament, which differs from Little League baseball in that players use a regulation size field, is for 12-year-old competitors. The winners of this tournament will advance to a regional section tournament and perhaps move on to compete in the Babe Ruth Cal Ripken World Series.

“With the need to increase community activities, we’re bringing families together through the game of baseball,” say board members of Cal Ripken Babe Ruth Baseball.

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