OP-ED: Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds Don’t Need to be Charters

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By Jumoke Hinton Hodge, District 3 Oakland School Board Member

The Oakland Post headline was shocking to say the least. There is nothing written or recorded stating schools would be turned over to charters in our Intensive School Support Initiative.

The Call for transformation and the turnaround of sluggish school growth has been discussed for years, frankly. The five schools selected were based on the persistent voices of Latino and African American families asking for quality programs over the last six years I’ve been in office.

The Board of Education, families of color, and the community of Oakland consistently identified our high schools as a vital part of our system. Our high schools must be the centers for our students to excel, explore and come out highly prepared to enter the world.

And for some young people our high schools become a place for survival and safety. We know this to be true of Oakland because they just approved a voter initiative, Measure N of $13 million that supports Career Exploration.

<p><p>Our initiative was, first and foremost, an invitation to educators dedicated to quality education. It was a call to say we must step up to serve our students, families and Oakland’s future. Coupled with systemic and structural changes to inspire equitable and quality education, the District is providing a space to lift up good work in our schools, Last week, the district completed the first round of engagements with all of the impacted school communities. Unfortunately, the fear from misleading public information, like the above-mentioned Oakland Post headline, clouded the process.

This headline led the community to believe that charter schools were the District’s ultimate solution for the turnaround and redesign of struggling schools. Charters can be easy targets, allowing us to avoid hard questions about under performance in our traditional schools.

This call did include Charters. Honestly, they have the freedom to submit charter applications even without a process such as this. I recommend we don’t get distracted by their inclusion, but instead ask the question about the quality of the education and are we equitably serving all of our students.

We should be preoccupied with the questions, how we will link these efforts to a feeder pattern of schools in East and West Oakland – where students of color have been perpetually underserved? How can we guarantee a solid start in their lives from Pre-K through 12th grade, while under our charge?

McClymonds, Castlemont and Fremont have all taken the initiative to articulate their desire to innovate and be at the forefront of their change.

This journey OUSD launched last week will take us 18 months to complete and even longer to sustain. I encourage us all to collectively work through the fear and the hurt from the failed visions of the past.

We can’t move forward together without this commitment.

Let’s use our passion to build better schools, learn from our students, educators, community partners and the public. Together we can display how the Oakland education system can fuel a vibrant economy and improve the quality of life as we witness generations of young people thriving.

Jumoke Hinton Hodge is the District 3 member of the Oakland Board of Education.

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