The last time I attended an Oakland Unified School Board meeting, I taught at an OUSD elementary school. I was an active Oakland Education Association (OEA) union member. People read newspapers. Nobody had a Facebook profile. Board meetings were held in the old district office, but everything else felt oddly familiar.
If anyone is interested, they could probably find an old Oakland Tribune article titled “The Classroom Shuffle.” A reporter learned about classroom consolidation and how it disrupts entire schools six weeks into the school year. Consolidation almost always occurred at low-income/ low-performing schools. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. I could not continue teaching for a district that allowed consolidation to continue. One night I was called by someone who I believe tried to warn me. He told me that if I kept exposing the situation I would lose my job. I kept exposing. I lost my job. Was it related? I will probably never know. I know that it was worth it. I ask a great deal of my students and children. Besides, I found photography again.
I also stayed in Oakland and had two children. We found an innovative OUSD school that is often mistaken for a charter. Our kids have learned Spanish. Our kids have learned art. Our kids have learned how to dance and build a community. Our kids have learned that diversity is a dynamic power that changes lives. Diversity breathes and builds bridges.
When our teachers decided to “work to rule” recently, the teachers informed families how this would impact the community. We met after school. On the Saturday “work day,” families created signs showing support.
When I was a teacher, I realized that parents held more power than teachers. Now that I am a parent, I question my wisdom. Who holds the power? Is it the mayor? Is it the Board? Is it the union or the parents? What about the children?
We all seem too busy to listen to everyone. Honestly, I do not want to listen to everyone, but I pretend that I am a good listener. I just want to wait until I am ready to speak… and I am not ready yet. I have waited for thirteen years, so I can wait a little longer.
My favorite poster illustrates the disconnect between the children’s optimism and the district’s lack of confidence. While OUSD prepared evidence to support their future failure, a young MLA student created a poster that read, “Save The Ocean.” I suspect that some people ignored her sign or dismissed her message as something a little child might create. I thought of it differently.
Even a child could sense that those in charge were unmotivated and she knew that Oakland could do better, so she asked for more. We went to the meeting asking to save our teachers, but it was not enough, so she turned up the volume. So, 14% and two languages is not enough for you? How about we save the dolphins too?
But it’s gonna take a lot of love…And love is a whole lot of work.
If you want to see more photos, you can view the photo gallery here.