The final school board meetings of the 2021-22 school year are Wednesday, and Oakland Unified School District leaders have a full agenda of topics to discuss before taking a summer break. Here are three big items school board members will be voting on this week: the District 6 vacancy, school closures, and the budget for the 2022-23 school year.
Vacancy in District 6
It has been almost two months since former District 6 Director Shanthi Gonzales stepped down from her seat after seven years on the board. Shortly after his resignation, the board voted to fill his position by nominating a District 6 resident who applied and interviewed for the position.
Nine people applied for the position. Last week, the board questioned them on issues ranging from OUSD enrollment and the district’s budget to school closures and problems at schools in District 6.
On Wednesday, at a special meeting to be held before the regular meeting, the six remaining board members will vote on who will replace Gonzales. The appointee will hold the position from July to January.
The District 6 seat will also be elected in November and the winning candidate will be sworn in in January. A few candidates have said they will run for the full term, which some school board members can take into consideration when deciding on the interim appointee to avoid giving that person an advantage in the election.
If the council cannot decide on a new representative by July 1, the county superintendent will call a special election.
For an overview of each of the nominees, you can read The Oaklandside’s story from June 15 for summaries and links to each person’s candidacy. For the cover of the interview series, this Twitter feed documented the three-hour session. The video recording of this meeting is also available to watch on line.
The board is also expected to hold one more vote on school closures.
In February, the OUSD Board of Trustees voted to close seven schools by 2024. This year, Parker K-8 and Community Day School closed, and next year Brookfield Elementary School, Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Grass Valley Elementary School, Horace Mann Elementary School, and the Korematsu Discovery Academy would close.
The school consolidation plan also reduces two K-8 schools, La Escuelita and Hillcrest, to K-5 schools, and merges RISE Community School with New Highland Academy.
Since that vote in early February, protests have gone beyond school board meetings, students and teachers have participated in walkouts, hunger strikes and a one-day teacher strike, and families have moved into Parker K-8 and turned it into a community. run the summer program. The board considered postponing this year’s closures, but rejected those proposals in two votes since Feb. 8.
Some families affected by the closures have submitted their own resolution to overturn the council’s decision, which the council will consider and vote on this week. Over the past few months, none of the school board members have changed their minds about the closures. Last week, they voted the same on their postponement as they did in February.
Each year, no later than June 30, the school board must adopt a budget for the following school year. On Wednesday, the OUSD board will vote on the 2022-23 budget, which tops $700 million. The budget presented Wednesday will include cuts of about $40 million, which the board approved earlier this year, and nearly $61 million in one-time funding for COVID relief.
Some of that COVID funding is going towards things like technology, safety precautions, tutors and other positions to address learning loss, mental health support, and more.
OUSD Business Manager Lisa Grant-Dawson pointed out that one way the district can increase revenue is to increase attendance, since district funding is tied to student attendance.
Before the pandemic, OUSD’s attendance rate was around 94%. But this year it’s dropped to around 90%, which means millions of dollars in lost revenue. As part of Wednesday’s budget presentation, the Grant-Dawson team also included a budget scenario if OUSD could bring its attendance rate down to 94%, an additional $11 million in funding.
How to watch Wednesday’s meeting
The special council meeting to select the new District 6 representative begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Members of the public can attend the meeting in person at La Escuelita, 1050 Second Ave., or watch online at Zoom or the neighborhood website.
The regular meeting begins at 4:00 p.m. with an in camera session, when council discusses private matters such as student discipline and legal matters, and council returns to open session at approximately 5:30 p.m. This meeting will also be held in person at La Escuelita and broadcast online.
Meeting Agendas downloadable from the department’s website.
After Wednesday, the board is due to hold a retreat on Aug. 5 to review board procedures, and the next regular meeting will be on Aug. 10. The first day of school is August 8.