Truth from the Mouth of Babes- A Student Director Drops the Mic in Oakland

Oakland has some great plans.  At the Board meeting we heard about the Quality School Development Process, and directors queried staff on the ins and outs, very academic.  But there was one question from student director Ramirez, that quieted the room and is still awaiting an answer.

Who is going to teach?

You see, the student actually attends a school that is an early iteration of the school improvement process, Fremont.  She described a situation where “permanent substitutes” staff classes all year and students don’t even get a real grade, they get a “Pass” potentially.

Her voice shaking a little, she described the “high quality teacher” language that was bolded in the policy, and the dissonance between what is happening at our sites.  And the lack of transparency that sites experienced.

Ending with a simple statement that brought the loudest applause of the night, “what are we going to do?”

I appreciate the District’s work to try to improve our most challenged schools as well as supporting the portfolio of schools in continuous improvement.  But if paper and policies were going to fix Oakland’s problems they would have done been fixed.

We need the people, and without that, reforms will continue to shine on paper but fall flat to the students who were supposed to be served.

These are big issues that need big bold answers—like looking at housing, new structures of schools—as individual school attrition rates vary widely in Oakland–and rethinking compensation, especially for hard to staff schools or subjects, to name a few.

And let’s continue to privilege the voices of our students and families in school improvement. I am continually impressed by our student directors, and the insights they bring to the debate.

I, like student director Ramirez, am still waiting for a good answer on how we are going to staff these reforms with the educators that our students deserve.  This is the central question underlying Oakland’s continuing progress.  I hope we, as a community, follow this young lady, and keep asking the toughest questions.

And I hope even more that through honest dialogue we find answers.

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