Oakland Superintendent of Schools Looks at Coming Challenges


Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell is superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.

Every student in every neighborhood deserves a great education. This drives everything we do. A successful community of schools cultivates lifelong learners who overcome challenges to become Oakland’s next generation of community leaders.
The school board’s Community of Schools Policy calls on us to reimagine our school system to ensure a quality school for all Oakland students. At last week’s  board meeting, staff presented an update on the Community of Schools Policy and the Citywide Map.
This presentation is the first of several the Board will receive this year regarding the Citywide Plan.
Currently, many of our schools are under-enrolled, are located in areas where few students live, or both. OUSD operates too many district-run schools for the number of students we serve—more than 10,000 seats are projected to be empty across 87 schools this year.
Having too many schools with low enrollment prevents us from reaching the future we want for Oakland. Simply put, we are spreading our resources too thin. Maintaining the status quo will not improve outcomes for our students.
Additionally, charter schools have played a role in educating Oakland’s students for the past 20 years and now serve nearly 30 percent of Oakland public school students at 45 charter schools.
The District must work together with charter schools to make every public school option a quality option.
This is just the beginning and we want Oakland families and community members to be part of the conversation.
This community of schools will help OUSD achieve four critical outcomes on behalf of students and families:

  • Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood: By reinvesting in a smaller number of district-run schools, our remaining programs in every part of the city will be better resourced to meet the needs of 21st century students.
  • Building on Our Achievements: More students are graduating, more students are reading at grade level, and fluency among English Language Learners is increasing. We’re positioned to build momentum where OUSD is already seeing progress, and open doors for new achievements across the District.
  • A Financially Sustainable District: Making our school district sustainable is the first step toward achieving high-quality schools across Oakland. Financial stability means we can better serve the whole child, eliminate inequity, and ensure excellent teachers for all students.
  • Building Constructive Relationships with Charters: OUSD is working to foster meaningful partnerships with charter schools to ensure quality and equity. We want all families to have comparable information to access all high-quality school options that meet the needs of their childS

The focus of last night’s presentation was on the first two analyses that will inform the development of a Citywide Map. The Citywide Map will be finalized in February, and it will identify the number and location of district-run traditional schools, alternative education schools, specialized programs, preschools, adult education, and charter schools.
I am hearing some questions and misconceptions about the Citywide Plan that I’d like to clarify. I’m committed to demystifying this process and keeping the community engaged and informed by sharing information as we move forward.
Determining the proper number of schools for Oakland and creating the highest quality education inside those schools are challenging responsibilities.
But we must address each of those issues or we run the risk of passing them onto the next generation of students and district leadership. Avoiding this difficult work is not fair to anyone, and I am committed to seeing it through.
I hope you will join me, school leaders, and families from across Oakland who are united in a vision to build a brighter, bolder community of schools to which Oakland families are proud to send their students.
The coming weeks and months will be difficult as we face critically important issues and make tough decisions, but I know that together, we can build something special for Oakland’s students.
Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell is superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. A video presentation by the superintendent is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZM9ScWjBrY&feature=youtu.be


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