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Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith at Wednesday's school board meeting. Photo by Nausheen Husain.

OUSD board postpones discussion of federal inquiry at first meeting of the year

on September 13, 2012

In their first meeting of the 2012-13 school year, Oakland Unified School District board members decided Wednesday evening to postpone one of the highly anticipated items on the agenda: a discussion about the district’s response to a federal inquiry into the disciplining of African American male students.

School superintendant Tony Smith said that both staff and board members had agreed to postpone until Sept. 27 any action on the “voluntary resolution,” as Smith called it, that the district has been developing in response to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Since last May, the Department of Education been investigating assertions that Oakland is disproportionately disciplining black students within the public schools.

After the postponement was announced, a handful of attendees left the OUSD meeting, at the district’s Paul Robeson building headquarters, and the school board moved to other business: recent school closures, budget cuts, and complaints of inadequate attention to programs for students with special needs.

Smith said the results of the California Standards Test had been delayed, which in turn would delay the school district’s statistical analysis for the 2011-2012 school year. He made passing reference to last year’s controversial closure of five schools, a move board members said was required for budgetary reasons. But he also praised improvements in some schools, including Sankofa Academy in North Oakland, along with what Smith called the school “across the street,” a reference to remodeled La Escuelita Elementary School.

“It looks nice on the outside,” said Joel Velasquez, an Oakland parent who has been vocal in the school closure debates, in reaction to Smith’s statement about La Escuelita Elementary. “Let’s worry more about what’s going on in the inside.”

Velasquez, along with a number of attendees, shared concerns about the financial situation of Oakland’s public schools.

“Chicago teachers are showing the way forward,” said Edna M. Brewer Middle School teacher Mark Airgood, referring to the teacher’s strike in Chicago. “That’s what we need here in Oakland.”

Airgood and a group of other educators at the meeting voiced their objections to new policies obliging special needs teachers to teach at multiple sites. “The students are being shafted,” said OUSD Resource Specialist Naomi Katz. “They aren’t getting the education they deserve.”

In other matters, the district approved replacing Oakland’s anti-bullying policy with an updated version that officials said adheres more closely to state and federal regulations on bullying in schools.

OUSD board members are slated to address the examination of African American boys and school discipline at their meeting on September 27 at 5pm.



  1. Lawrence on September 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Despite the protests, Oakland still has too many schools. We have almost twice as many schools as we need for a student population our size. This means money is being spent on admin and support staff and not on teachers here, who are paid less than in other areas.

    Here’s a great article on this.

    “According to Ed-Data, Oakland employs one administrator for every 151.7 pupils. Alameda, by contrast, employs one administrator per every 385 students. And Pleasanton’s ratio is 1 to 319.”

    Even the teacher’s union has said we have too many schools.

    “The union contended, according to the fact-finding report, that the district’s ‘priorities are skewed’ in part ‘by the recent growth of decentralized small schools, each needing a principal and staff.'”

    The purpose of schools should be to educate our kids, not provide full employment for support staff. While school closures are painful and should be done as carefully and equitably as possible, they are necessary in Oakland.

    Also, please correct the caption. His name is “Tony”, not “Troy”.

  2. Cynthia Gorney on September 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Of course you are right, and thank you for catching the typo in the picture caption! Correction taken care of.
    Appreciate your close eye. ON

  3. Lynn M. on October 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    As a parent of a child that was kicked, punched and had racial epithets thrown his way casually in the hall..I think the Anti-Bullying policy in OUSD is a JOKE .
    These events occurred at the hands of 4 different African American boys and my son is Jewish. I’ve always taught my son to be color blind and amazingly he still is. What did not occur was an unsatisfactory response to my complaints that he have a safe environment in which to learn. These children were not suspended and continued to haunt my son and make learning extremely difficult while in the classroom also.
    We are now going to have to sustain a lawsuit because African Americans feel preyed upon in OUSD because their son’s are suspended for such assaults? Puhleeese. Where are my son’s rights? As I told his African American principal (yeah you got that right). These attackers would have been arrested if these assaults had happened not 300 feet from the school grounds where there ARE LAWS to protect citizens from random assault..but not at OUSD SCHOOL GROUNDS!
    So now we are going to take more money away from his education to pay lawyers and a few plantiffs? I know white people are in the minority here, but we have lost our right to a safe learning environment and this must be talked about too!

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