This election season the quality of candidates for Oakland School Board is so high, that there is a lot of room for hope that things in the school district will turn around. We could only wish that we had such great people in the San Leandro School Board.
DISTRICT 2: AIMEE ENG
Aimee Eng is a very impressive candidate. She has an M.A. in education from Stanford and works for a foundation that gives grants to educational projects in the Bay Area. I had a very long conversation with her, and later heard from her at the Democratic party endorsement interview, and it’s clear that this is a woman who knows education, understands the needs of children, in particular those from under-privileged backgrounds, and who understands Oakland. Her knowledge of educational policy is much more complex than mine, but I was impressed she had to say and her views very much matched mine vis a vis respecting the whole child as a basis for educating her.
DISTRICT 4: KARL DEBRO
Karl Debro is a pretty much all you want in a School Board candidate. A Philosophy major at UC Berkeley, he went on to teach English at Bancrot Middle School and San Leandro High School for 20 years. He later earned a Masters and a Doctorate in Education and currently directs a program that allows high school dropouts to earn their HS degrees while taking college classes.
But it’s Karl Debro’s courage and willingness to stand up for what’s right that makes me confident he will be an amazing School Board member. At San Leandro High, Debro co-founded the straight-gay alliance in the late 90’s. When a lesbian student couple experienced harassment at the school, he and other teachers conducted class discussions on discrimination and harassment against LGBT students. Homophobic parents complained, and Debro, the only African American among the teachers that had engaged in those class discussions, was disciplined. Rather than accept it meekly, Debro sued the district on free speech and racial discrimination grounds. He ended up winning and as the result of his lawsuit, the San Leandro school district implemented an anti-bullying program that has been very effective in creating an attitude of inclusiveness and non-discrimination among district students.
I think that Debro’s commitment to issues of equality and social justice, coupled with his educational achievements and extensive classroom experience, will make him an ideal School Board member. I fully endorse him.
DISTRICT 6: SHANTHI GONZALES
I had a long conversation with Shanthi Gonzales, and her knowledge of educational policy and the needs of children, in particular children of color in the Oakland school district, is incredibly vast. I was surprised to learn, when I looked at her biography, that she is not an education professional. Instead, she’s a social justice activist and lawyer. Her heart is definitely in the right place, but so is her mind. She is intelligent, definitely knowledgeable, has a no-nonsense approach to public policy and would undoubtedly increase the professionalism on the board.
I reached out to all candidates for Oakland School Board and invited them to meet/speak with me and/or respond to a candidate questionnaire. I only endorse candidates who are strong liberals, are committed to accountability, transparency and fact-based legislating and who are intelligent, competent and knowledgeable.
See Marga’s 2014 Voter Guide for recommendations on propositions and other local endorsements.