California Educator

February/March 2023

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Page 38 of 59

I N A V I C T O R Y for Oakland students, families and commu- nity, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) board voted on Jan. 11 to stop five schools from being closed and one from being scaled down. Last February, the board had voted to close 11 schools only a week after making the proposal public. The schools marked for closure would affect Oakland's most vulnerable students and communities. Massive community outcry followed, including a rally/march in downtown Oakland in February and a hunger strike by two Oakland educators. Despite the pleas of students, educators, parents and oth- ers, the board reaffirmed its decision to close schools as soon as the end of this school year, refusing to consider alter- natives or delay the decision. But subsequent actions under the leadership of Oakland Education Asso- ciation, among others, prevailed and convinced the board to change plans. "After months of protests, advocacy and a hunger strike by two district employees, Oakland educators are proud of [the board] vote," said OEA President Keith Brown. " This win is a culmination of the power of educators, parents, students and community members joining together to do what is right for the future of Oakland." OEA and allies' actions included organizing the huge February march that demonstrated parent and community support, a one-day unfair labor practice strike, and helping elect new school board members in the Nov. 22 election who voted against closures. OEA was supported by multiple part- ners; NEA contributed financial support. CTA President E. Toby Boyd praised the collaborative work. " This is a victory for Oakland public schools and testament to what happens when educators, parents, stu- dents and community ... band together to advocate for the public education Oakland's students need and deserve." He also said that regarding major decisions and proposals, the district should allot more time for input and discussion by stakeholders. "Parents, educators and community members must be given the opportunity and time to provide input on important decisions that impact OUSD students without hav- ing to go on hunger strikes or organize protests to be heard." Brown admonished district officials and the school board for ignoring stakeholder opinion, saying "it should not have taken this long for our leaders to listen to our voices and do what is right for students." He called for measures to heal the resulting rifts. "As educators, our mission is always to protect students' lives and be pillars of our communities. This is why we can- not ignore the harm this has caused to our most vulnerable, whose lives were upended since this debate began. The next step is to repair the pain and stress our students and communities feel and continue the fight for racially and socially just schools." Boyd said in support, "Speaking on behalf of 310,000 CTA members, we stand with Oakland's educators in their fight for equitable resources and equal access for all students." At press time, a fiscal trustee is requiring OUSD to adjust its budget to recognize the costs in keeping the schools operating. Also, the state Public Employee Relations Board said in a proposed decision that the OUSD board's vote last year to close or merge schools violated labor law, as it was made "without providing notice and the opportunity to bar- gain the effects of that decision" with OEA. Collaborative effort led to victory for students, community Oakland Educators Key in Stopping School Closures "This is a victory for Oakland public schools and testament to what happens when educators, parents, students and community members band together to advocate for the public education students need and deserve." —CTA President E. Toby Boyd 37 F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H 2 0 2 3 A

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