On October 10th, 2013, Jody London, a Board Director in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), spoke to JSAers at Oakland Technical High School on state school funding and the pressing issues that education faces in Oakland. An active parent of two Oakland public school students, Jody London has a long track record of working to better the city’s education system. JSAers at Oakland Tech listened intently to her PowerPoint presentation in which she described the functions of the OUSD School Board and presented her education policy reforms.
After answering questions from a group of thirty-five students, Ms. London was thoroughly impressed by the level of professionalism and critical thinking that the JSAers showed at the keynote event. They were captivated by the way Ms. London was able to connect with her audience and make a compelling case to improve public education in Oakland. When talking on the state of public education in Oakland, she said, “I think Oakland suffers from a chronic inferiority complex. I am disappointed more people don’t choose to stay in the system, because I think our schools have a lot to offer”.
She also went on to talk about the board’s decision to consolidate seven schools and close down five others in Oakland. She remarks, “Right now in Oakland we have 101 schools for 38,000 students. That number doesn’t include charters. Most districts our size have between 50 and 60 schools…As a result of that and some other financial management tools, we think we will have resolved the structural deficit, which is huge”. At the mention of charter schools, former AIPHS alumni Kevin Covarrubias and David Zhu asked Ms. London what her take on the role of charter schools in education should be. In response, Ms. London stated that while charter schools should exist to provide students specific educational alternatives (i.e. military, vocational, etc.), there are a plethora of charter schools in Oakland that don’t serve such a purpose and perform just as well, if not worse, than Oakland’s public schools.
Oakland Tech Chapter President, Dagmawi Fasil, reflects on the keynote event: “I felt that having Jody London come down and speak to us was a great way for our chapter to better understand local politics. Many people enjoyed it and I feel that it was a great experience that our chapter will definitely do again in the near future.”
All in all, this keynote event was a major success and Oakland Tech’s chapter aims to host another event like for next semester. In the meanwhile, this chapter is planning on a debate war with Oakland Charter High School for December and a chapter conference for some time after Winter Congress.