Grant for Oakland Unified School District to be invested in science, math education
on September 9, 2016
It is back to school time and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is welcoming their students with a new investment in science and math education, backed by a $2.5 million donation from Salesforce, a cloud computing company headquartered in San Francisco.
This new grant was officially announced on September 1 by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. For the fourth consecutive year, the company will also donate $6 million to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).
“This is certainly one of the biggest donations we have had in recent years,” said John Sasaki, director of communications at the OUSD.
The donation follows the success of a pilot program in San Francisco. According to Ebony Frelix, the senior vice president of philanthropy and engagement for Salesforce, since 2013 their donations have helped the SFUSD become the first school district in the nation to require computer science curriculum for all grades, reduce class sizes and increase student grade point averages.
“We’ve built the playbook in San Francisco, and now we want to build on that success in Oakland,” Frelix said. Frelix also expressed their hope to spread the model to other communities in the Bay Area.
For public schools in the OUSD, this new funding is expected to provide dramatic condition changes for children and teachers. “The main target is computer science and math innovation for kids who are struggling. But the way to distribute the money is more up to us,” Sasaki said.
According to Sasaki, $600,000 of the grant will be used to create a pilot Principal’s Innovation Fund at six middle schools, where principals will decide how to spend the money to promote innovation depending on the schools’ own situations. The rest will help increase STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming and increase the number of African American and Latino students in STEM fields.
“Educational inequity is a problem across this country. Oakland is no different,” said David Silver, director of education for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “We need to make sure that every kid is a part of the American dream.” With Salesforce’s help, he said, Oakland is now able to launch the Oakland Promise Future Centers, college and career hubs, at four middle schools in Oakland.
In addition to the funding, Salesforce employees will volunteer 20,000 hours in the OUSD and SFUSD during the 2016-2017 school year, working on everything from campus beautification projects, like building a new playground, to working directly with students in the classroom. “This is exciting,” Silver said. “A part of the reason why Salesforce’s donation is innovative is this 1-1-1 model. They are not only focusing on dollars and resources, but also investing volunteerism and having people support the communities.”
“Salesforce cares about this kind of long-term donations, which are really important to public education, so we need to make sure we are able to continue the partnership in the future,” Silver said.
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