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1 GO Public Schools Questionnaire Christopher Dobbins Esq., MBA, MPA Vice President, Oakland Board of Education Director District 6, Oakland School Board 645 A Canyon Oaks Drive, Oakland, CA , cell: Occupation: School Board Member, District 6; Criminal Defense Attorney; Bartender Employers: Oakland Unified School District, Bay Area Defense Associates, Applebee s of Alameda Work Address: 300 South First Street, Ste. 220, San Jose, CA Work Phone: Campaign Address and Phone: Same as above 1. My vision for equitable public education in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is a comprehensive portfolio of schools with multiple options designed for student success. Our core goals of students reading at grade level by third grade, succeeding in algebra by ninth grade, and graduating prepared to succeed in the workforce or college are benchmark goals that should be easy to attain. The reality is that they aren t being attained by everyone. Our focus as a School Board is to set the education policy for the district, but also to keep the district fiscally solvent. I believe the Board and the Superintendent and staff have the district set on the right course to achieve these goals. At this point, I am not sure which systemic changes are needed to achieve this vision as most of our decisions are being dictated by financial concerns. I am looking forward to expanding this vision this year with the Superintendent and my colleagues on the board. 2. The options process has allowed for families to choose schools throughout the city, but it has had the negative consequence of disinvestment in the neighborhood school in the many parts of the city; at least in the elementary school. In 2008, I chaired the committee that explored this issue in depth and we came to the conclusion that siblings of students at a school had priority over neighborhood students that did not have a sibling at the school. I have wrestled with this decision over the past two years, but I would maintain my position to promote keeping families together as the first priority in this process. In a perfect world, each neighborhood school would be so successful that there wouldn t be the need to head up the hill to get to one of the seven desirable elementary schools. In reality, we know this is not the case. The options process should still be the process that we employ in Oakland. The reforms to the process are to invigorate every school site to make it desirable to the parents and families.

2 3. While philosophically I am opposed to Charter Schools, the reality is that they are not going anywhere. In many ways they have pushed the discussion about alternatives to education and have probably been a larger detriment to Catholic Schools and education than public schools. In any event, charter schools should be looked to for best practices and alternatives to doing business in the district. I believe that there are a disproportionate number of charter schools in Oakland, but I do believe that the OUSD Charter Office has a handle on how to regulate and monitor these schools and has raised the standards for keeping them in operation. The fact that over 8,000 students in Oakland are choosing charter schools and only 54% of Oakland students are attending OUSD, however, also indicate that many families in Oakland do not feel comfortable with the public school district. Since Charter schools will be on the landscape; especially in Oakland, a comprehensive strategy needs to be developed to account for them. 4. The state level practices and policies that hold back education is the funding source of the schools. The state funding mechanism does not adequately fund public education so the schools never get enough money to make them truly viable. In order to remedy this issue, the local school district should advocate through our elected representatives in Sacramento to push the envelope to make needed changes. Much has been said about reforming Proposition 13, expanding the property tax base, modifying the Average Daily Attendance formula, etc. I am open to any and all of these changes, but there is no comprehensive strategy at this point. 5. Having effective, qualified teachers in every classroom is the goal of the district. The teachers are the frontline to the students and have the greatest impact on their education. Everyone knows that Oakland teachers are paid relatively less than their colleagues in other East Bay districts and reaching a contract agreement (without putting the district back into receivership) is the primary component in retaining effective and qualified teachers in every classroom. Additional ideas include more training and development for staff, greater mentoring programs between veteran and new teachers, allowing for new teachers to visit successful teachers, more instruction in classroom discipline (especially for new teachers), and greater district support for teachers. While I am opposed to merit pay based on test score results, I would support increased funding for teachers in high needs schools and/or increased funding for high needs subject areas like math and science. For many years, the district started the year with unfilled vacancies, although I believe that has not been the case for the past three years. 6. Oakland students will benefit from the new Federal investment because the money will be used to directly benefit the students. I have confidence that the leadership of the Superintendent and staff and the School Board will utilize the money proactively and utilize the funding source as it is designed.

3 7. Long Beach Unified School district is seen as a model urban school district that Oakland could model itself after. Their use of Si Swun math had a direct impact on Oakland math scores and was a primary reason that the School Board voted to implement their program. Long Beach has twice the amount of students as OUSD, but it has many of the same big city problems that Oakland has to face. Oakland s police chief is from Long Beach so it would seem to be a natural progression to glean his knowledge of how he was able to work with his school district. Many in OUSD feel that there is not enough collaboration with our city leadership so to view how other urban cities work with their school districts, would allow for greater partnerships with the City of Oakland. 8. I support early childhood education programs; especially the Child Development Centers (CDC) and spent much of this summer in working to keep the Hintel Center open at Carl Munck Elementary School. Many of these issues revolve around funding, but the district needs to do a better job of recruiting and process applications. I would be in favor of allowing parents to register at the sites instead of having to register in the downtown location. In addition, looking for outside funding to keeping the centers open. In the case of Hintel, we have met with state legislators and are in the process of asking the Indian Casinos for help. The goal is to build an endowment to keep the school open and to insulate it from budget cuts. Other programs need to be supported and make the transition into the public schools a smooth process. The CDC program is a great first step for a child and connects Oakland families with OUSD at their earliest stage and is very integral in the future academic success of the child. 9. Special Needs students are a tremendous resource in the OUSD, but their education comes with higher financial requirements. As a former Special Day Class teacher (Elmhurst April, 2004), I have seen how these needs are prevalent. In order to ensure that this population of students is set for success there needs to be quality instruction as well as quality support staff in every classroom. Increased training and support for classroom teachers by district staff will ensure that all special needs classrooms are properly staffed and that the students will be successful. 10. Parents and Caregivers are the child s primary roles in the educational process. The district can support their efforts by keeping them informed and engaged in the educational process and providing resources and/or options to parents whose children are not being successful. Parents and Caregivers have a right to participate in the decisions at their children s schools by getting involved in PTA or the School Site Council (SSC). Parents also have a responsibility in keeping abreast of their child s schooling by keeping in contact with their child s teachers. In reality, however, this often doesn t happen. When I was teaching, I made a point to call 3-5 of my student s parents every evening. The calls were not just to the students who were behavior problems in school, but I wanted to cycle and call all of my students (I taught middle school so there were over 100) at some point to check in and give progress reports.

4 If there are issues with the school or a specific teacher, parents have the right to bring these issues to the school leadership. If the answers are not effective, going to a School Board Meeting generally will be effective. As a school board member, I would defer initially to the Principal, then to the Superintendent to resolve the issue although I am always open to input from parents and staff. 11. Principal and teacher evaluations are very important, and often very controversial. Usually, teachers are evaluated by just the Principal and the comment from teachers is that if they receive a negative evaluation, it is personal with the principal. The same is true when Principals are evaluated by their network officer. Evaluations should be done through the chain of command as is currently done. If the evaluation is negative, however, and the party wishes to have a second opinion then an additional evaluation should be done by a neutral third party. Parents are de facto evaluators as parents will choose between various teachers or various schools based on their own knowledge. An evaluation should be used to inform and guide and should not be used as a punitive tool or a vindictive element. While the human element is always prevalent, standard and multiple evaluations should be conducted throughout the year so as to be fair and constructive. 12. Constructive dialogue concerning contract negotiations with our bargaining units is a goal and definite priority for this year. Unfortunately, the district cannot pay its employees what it would like to due to severe budget constraints. That being said, the goal is to come to a mutually agreeable contract and to prevent any work stoppages that would affect our students and families. As a member of the school board, our role can be as a facilitator in bringing the sides to the table and keeping them there. We are also charged, however, with keeping the district fiscally solvent. Ultimately, we can speak with our different constituencies (teachers, parents, students, community members) to explain the process and to present the facts as the district sees them. As board members we should also have a commitment to seeing the process through and to get a contract accomplished. 13. The School Board should have an open and transparent relationship with the community. The purpose of members of the school board is to be the civilian trustees of the local schools, i.e. the eyes and ears of the community and we must be accountable to the public. The same is true with the parents and families as well. During my four years on the board, I have tried to attend as many meetings at the individual schools in my district. While I have attended many, I have not made nearly all of them or as many as I would have liked. I like to think, that I am fairly accessible and give out my contact information as much as people will take it. Every board member is different and their personal comfort with being accessible is different. In terms of meetings, both in number, length, and size of the agendas, this is also a delicate issue. The balance is whether the democratic process should be limited by shortening the number of meetings, shortening the length of the meeting, or limiting the agendas. I

5 tend to error on the side of expediency, but other board members or members of the public may wish to have a protracted discussion. Either way, it is a work in process and I am always open to making meetings more accessible to the public. 14. The Board is excited about the new strategic plan of Superintendent Smith. I view the strategic direction as a means to provide wrap around services to our students and truly make Oakland Public Schools the center of the communities in which they sit. The obvious obstacle to implementation is the funding sources for these programs in addition to a coordination of the services that will be provided. As these elements are further developed and integrated into the schools, we can adjust our resources and/or develop the vision further. 15. The Superintendent and the Board have discussed the potential for closing schools (the number is still in debate); we will approach this work through a transparent and thoughtful process. Nothing is politically tougher than closing a school. In my first month on the board in February 2007, the District closed four schools. The process was devastating as many in the community felt that the process was either rigged, forgone, or in the least, disingenuous. Closing a greater number of schools will be that much more difficult. The case will have to be strong in order to close or merge schools, but if it is to be done, it will be done with maximum community input as well as strategically thought out by the district. It is not going to be an enviable decision, but if it will make the district more sustainable, which will in turn benefit students and families; then it is a tough decision that will have to be made.

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