Four Lessons Learned from Engaging with Community Stakeholders
September 6, 2018

In California’s eighth most-populated city, education stakeholders face a complex education challenge: a system of 129 public schools operated by 23 different education organizations, including district-run schools, individual charter schools, and nonprofit charter management organizations with multiple school sites. According to GO Public Schools, Oakland’s system of competing and disconnected schools, separated primarily by modes of school governance, is “not efficient, not delivering quality education for all students, and not oriented in service of family and student needs.”

In response, GO Public Schools Oakland brought together community, family, and student leaders in 2017 to launch 1Oakland, a campaign that is working for an exceptional, equitable, and sustainable education system that reflects a commitment to all Oakland students.

The campaign is centered on the belief that all Oakland students will receive an excellent education when:

  • Oakland’s elected school board and charter school boards ensure excellence and equity across all public schools;
  • All public schools contribute equitably to providing Oakland’s most underserved students an excellent education; and
  • All public schools have equitable access to public resources.

As part of the campaign, GO Public Schools organized support for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Board of Education Community of Schools Policy, which was successfully adopted earlier this summer. The policy calls for the Oakland superintendent to develop a citywide plan for bringing district and charter public schools to the table to focus on improving quality and equity for all Oakland kids while also working toward financial sustainability. In support of the policy, GO Public Schools mobilized attendees and speakers at every Board convening since February, catalyzed more than 120 letters to the Board in support, and held hundreds of community meetings to lift up the voices of families, educators and students.

Daisy Padilla, community organizer and operations manager for GO Public Schools, recently shared four key lessons advocates have learned during the 1Oakland campaign:

1) Be clear about decision-making rights:

From the beginning, our community leaders asked us to be clear about who decides what. They were tired of being engaged and told they were going to “lead” something, only to have the solution presented to them. From the very beginning we shared our credo from Rules for Revolutionaries: “High input, low democracy.” We then set out to design a decision-making matrix so that we were clear where community was the “approver,” and where our leaders and staff were “approvers.”

2) Don’t outpace your leaders:

We’ve learned that things move at the speed of light and can get complicated, but the ability to be nimble is important to continue to do this work. At the same time, this work must be led by community leaders. We learned that while the work moves quickly, our leaders must be with us at every step of the way.

3) When in doubt, ask your leaders:

This work was led and guided by families, educators, young alumni, and community members. There were many times where circumstances changed, and we were surprised. Sometimes the surprises were painful and deeply challenging. We worked best when we took the time to connect with leaders. They were not only the folks helping get the word out and building the base, but a source of wisdom.

4) We are better together:

We also learned what it means to be #1Oakland. Our leaders reflected the rich diversity of Oakland, and it was our diversity that made us stronger. Whether it was having a group of leaders that reflected the diversity of Oakland, or district charter, or stakeholder diversity, we found our way together, learned how to work with people we would have never met if it were not for our common cause, and we were all the stronger for it.

Interested in connecting with advocates at GO Public Schools? Reach out.


Christina Dobratz

Christina is PIE Network's Project Manager, Communications & Policy  

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