GO Public Schools has been operating for parts of five school years, and its impact is being felt in every public school in the city. Providing leadership, information, education, and advocacy, our coalition is working to improve public education in Oakland.
Accountability to our Community Priorities
In the fall of 2008, GO Public Schools worked with Oakland Community Organizations to organize families, teachers, and principals to push back on the Interim Superintendent's plans to close 10-17 schools with virtually no input from community. The Interim Superintendent's plans coincided with news that OUSD was the most improved large, urban school district in the State of California over four years (now five!) and Linda Darling Hammond's positive evaluation of the small schools reform.
In response to this organizing, the Board of Education decided not to close schools based on size, and, instead, to organize citywide engagement about the future of at-risk school communities and district fiscal sustainability. GO provided the leadership our community needed to protect its investment in Oakland's small schools and individualized learning environments.
In January 2009, the Interim Superintendent announced a plan to pass nearly 100 percent of a $17 million midyear budget cut on to school sites. GO requested copies of the central office budgets and worked with parents, teachers, and principals to recommend more than $17 million of cuts to the central office that they would make prior to cutting programs and services directly serving children at schools. These recommendations were presented to the Board of Education who directed the Interim Superintendent to keep cuts as far from classrooms as possible. In the end, 75 percent of the 2009 midyear budget cut came from the central offices.
Information to Engage Community
The GO Leadership Center connects Oaklanders to public education policy and decision-making via our online community, email and print newsletters, meetings and events for the community. More than 6,000 Oakland families receive a monthly print newsletter from the GO Leadership Center and our email list has grown to reach 4,000 Oaklanders. In 2009, GO hosted Tim Daly, CEO of The New Teacher Project, and Don Shalvey, Senior Program Officer of Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to speak about critical issues in teacher evaluation and federal funding.
In the fall of 2011, GO provided the community with crucial information and updates about school closures and district restructuring, while working to ensure families and schools affected by the closures were effectively supported through the transition.
During the 2011-2012 school year, GO played a key role in promoting participation in the implementation of OUSD's Thriving Students strategic plan via GO's email alerts, printed tools, and website. In January 2012, we hosted an event with Maria Santos, OUSD Deputy Superintendent, and Perry Chen, OUSD Chief of Staff, with over 150 in attendance to hear an update on the implementation of OUSD's Thriving Students strategic plan. This was first "progress report" from the district at which community members were able to ask questions about the implementation and future of the strategic plan. We also hosted almost 200 attendees in March 2012 for an event featuring Superintendent Smith sharing updates about important topics in Oakland education and answering questions from the community.
Since September 2009, our volunteer Board Agenda Watch team has previewed and explained board meeting agendas, attended board meetings, and then shared their notes to highlight discussions and decisions. This work puts a spotlight on board activities, brings more voices into the discussion, and makes board members more accountable to our community.
Leadership to Advance Reform
Throughout the spring of 2009, GO Public Schools was an advocate for hiring a superintendent who believes in and plans to advance our community's education reforms. GO volunteers developed a profile of the skills and approach our next Superintendent would need and shared their ideas at the Board of Education's community meetings throughout the city.
Click here for GO's Statement on the Selection of Dr. Anthony Smith.
Additionally, GO advocates for the continuation and improvement of Results-Based Budgeting (RBB), a system in which dollars follow students to schools and school communities are empowered to decide how to allocate funds. GO engaged and secured support from 85 percent of OUSD principals to continue and strengthen RBB in 2009, and offered suggestions to district leadership around how to improve the budgeting system and process.
Click here for the principals' letter in support of Results-Based Budgeting.