Oakland Unified School District

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Oakland Unified School District
1000 Broadway
Oakland, California 94607
United States
District information
TypePublic school district
SuperintendentKyla Johnson-Trammel
Students and staff
Student-teacher ratio25
Other information

Oakland Unified School District is a public education school district that operates about 86 elementary schools (K-5), middle schools (6-8), and high schools (9-12) and 32 district-authorized charter schools in Oakland, California, United States serving 49,000 students.

Located in California's most diverse city, OUSD serves a diverse population of students. Nearly half of the students in district and charter schools speak a non-English language at home. For the school year 2013-2014, 30 percent of OUSD students are English language learners.[1] OUSD also serves a large population of newcomer students.[2] Seventy-three percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals.[3]

OUSD was among the first school districts in the country to implement restorative justice practices to limit or eliminate suspensions.[4] During the 2015 school year, 96.1 percent of students were not suspended.[5]

Started in 2010, OUSD's African American Male Achievement Initiative enrolls more than 400 students. Students in the program have experienced success, including higher GPAs, higher graduation rates (up over 10 percent), and lower suspension rates (with a decrease of ⅓ for students enrolled in the program).[6] In 2016, OUSD launched an African American Girls and Young Women Achievement Program to give students a place where they can find equitable support and new pathways to success.[7]

In 2015 and 2016, OUSD forged partnerships with and secured grants from a number of technology companies, including Salesforce, Intel, Code.org,[8] and Google,[9] and set a goal to make computer science a graduation requirement for the freshman class that begins school in 2017.


The first school in Oakland opened in the 1850s and was located in a rented room in the back of a fandango at Second and Washington Streets. On July 12, 1853, the city held a parade to the first official school building.[10] The schoolhouse was at the corner of Fifth and Clay and cost $1,000 to construct.[11] The first school house had 16 students and was taught by a woman named Hannah Jayne.[12] She was the only teacher in Oakland until 1855.[10] Franklin Warner was hired soon after as Oakland's first principal.[10] Frederick M. Campbell was hired as Oakland's first Superintendent.[10] Reading, writing and arithmetic were stressed, as well as American history. Paper and books were scarce, so a lot of learning was done out loud.[10]

In 1860, there were about 400 students in one-room schoolhouses taught by one teacher, and another school building at Fifth and Broadway taught older students.[10] The first public high school opened in 1869 with 29 students. By the end of the 1870s, there was a public high school and nine public grade schools.[10] In the 1880s, the first kindergarten and the first night school in Oakland opened.[10]

A 1909 Chamber of Commerce guide to the city includes this description of Oakland public schools: "Oakland's chief pride is its public school system and the fact that her schools rank among the highest in the United States. No more modern school buildings can be found in any city in the United States than in Oakland. There are twenty-two public school buildings, and according to the figures of the City Assessor (which, upon municipal property are naturally low) the school land valuations amount to One Million, Ninety-three Thousand, Two Hundred Seventy-five Dollars … Connected with the High School is a completely equipped observatory, in which the study of astronomy is made effective and interesting with the aid of the most modern instruments."[13]

A City of Oakland Chamber of Commerce brochure from 1915, which includes a photo of Oakland Technical High School, states: "The pride of Oakland is its schools. This, the Technical High School, with forges, machine shops, a great auditorium seating 1600 people, chemical laboratories and many other education features which prepare young men and women for an active and useful life, is one of the finest structures of its kind in the United States."[14]

A 1915 Board of Education guide to Oakland schools included 46 schools, many of which are still open today. They include Allendale, Claremont, Cleveland, Dewey, Elmhurst, Emerson, Franklin, Frick, Fruitvale, Lincoln, Manzanita, McClymonds, Melrose, Peralta, Piedmont, Prescott, Sequoia, Santa Fe, Fremont High, Oakland High, and Oakland Tech. High school departments included English, History, Foreign Languages, Mathematics, Science, Commercial, Home Economics, Physical Training, Shop and Drawing.[15]

Oakland's first teachers' union, the Oakland Federation of Teachers, was first organized on May 3, 1943 as the Alameda County Federation of Teachers, Local 771 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to "improve the educational facilities for the children of the nation and to improve the working conditions of the teachers in the public schools."[16]

Oakland's first African American Superintendent was Dr. Marcus Foster, who was also the first black man to head a major U.S. school district.[17] Born in Athens, GA, Dr. Foster arrived in Oakland in 1970, “already a celebrated and proven educator”.[18] Dr. Foster viewed the three Rs and critical thinking as the building blocks of education. He also emphasized the need for art programs, team sports, and school activities that reflected the life circumstances of the students. In the short time he was in Oakland, Dr. Foster created a climate that gave life to a number of firsts: the Arts Magnet School, Far West School, Street Academy, Montera Film Festival (now the National Educational Film Festival), and the Oakland Education Institute (now the Marcus Foster Education Institute). Dr. Foster was murdered by the Symbionese Liberation Army in November, 1973.[18]

In 2003, OUSD Superintendent Dennis K. Chaconas was fired and Governor Gray Davis approved a $100 million emergency loan, the biggest school bailout in California history. Chaconas was replaced by a state-appointed administrator, Randolph E. Ward.[19] Ward resigned in July 2006 after being appointed superintendent of the San Diego public school system.[20] Kimberly Statham was named Ward's permanent replacement, but she resigned suddenly on September 17, 2007, ostensibly under pressure from state officials. OUSD Chief of Staff Vincent Matthews was named interim superintendent.[21]

In 2008, the state turned control over OUSD back to the city. The local school board hired an interim superintendent, Roberta Mayor, in July 2008 while the school board undertook a year-long search for a permanent leader.[22] Anthony "Tony" Smith was hired in July 2009 as the district's permanent superintendent.[23] Smith resigned suddenly in April 2013 after four years leading the district, citing family health issues.[24] School board member Dr. Gary Yee was named the acting superintendent. In September 2014, Antwan Wilson became OUSD's fourth superintendent in six years.[25] After just two years at the helm, Wilson resigned in November 2016 to become chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.[26] Devin Dillon, OUSD's deputy superintendent of Academic Social Emotional Learning, was named acting superintendent, effective February 1, 2017.[27]

2019 strike[edit]

Oakland Unified teachers went on strike for seven days, beginning on February 21st, 2019, for fully funded public education, higher wages, and smaller class size. The strikes were part of the RedforEd campaign and were organized by the Oakland Education Association (OEA)--a union for teachers--and East Bay Democratic Socialists of America (EBDSA). Oakland Unified School District is under populated with a total of 87 public schools, so they have a plan to close some public, unionized (and predominantly low-income) schools over the next few years in order to save money. $57 million meant for public-sector schools is funneled to the private-sector charter schools a year[28].

Leading up to the strike there was a meeting with the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education in which the community of Roots Academy, a school facing closure, testified a plea to keep their school open. Teachers gathered at the #RedforEd rally January 12, demonstrating that they are strike-ready. In show of solidarity, ten non-union charter schools “engaged in a wildcat sympathy strike”[29]. Rallies continued as teachers from all around the Bay Area took a sick day on January 18th, 2019 and gathered at Oakland Technical High School to march to city hall in the name of public education. In an interview at the “sickout”, an Oakland teacher said “We have not had a contract for several years….The district is currently offering a 5% raise amounting to $70 extra which is not enough to keep up with the rising cost of housing in Oakland.”[30]. 1 in 5 teachers leave Oakland Unified School District because they cannot afford to teach in the city they live in[31]. When asked if they had enough resources to succeed, three Oakland Tech students replied “No, we don’t even have paper in some of the class rooms. Some kids do not have textbooks and they have to do their work at home, where they may not have internet. Our classes are overfilled. Sometimes students will try to print their work in the library but there will be no paper if there is no librarian. We did not have a librarian this whole school year until last week.”[30]. Bread for Ed raised more than $175,000 to feed children and families out of school, because “73 percent of [Oakland] students depend on free or reduced lunch from their school”[32].

The teachers struck for seven days. “97% of students were out of school, and tens of thousands were on the picket lines”, according to Oakland Education Association. On February 28, 2019, OUSD “reached a tentative agreement” with OEA[33]. On Sunday, March 3, Oakland Education Association teachers voted to authorize a new contract to implement an 11 percent increase in teachers’ salary for the next four years, plus a 3 percent bonus to account for losses during the strike[34]. The agreement also demands to decrease class size, hold off school closures for five months, and have the district vote on whether or not to push the state for a moratorium of charter schools[34]. Not all of the demands were granted, but the Oakland teacher strikes empowered the community to face the billionaire-backed operation to privatize education.


The district-run schools includes 59 elementary schools, 13 middle schools, 19 high schools, with 9 alternative education schools and programs, 4 adult programs and early childhood education centers at most of the elementary schools. There are 38,000 K-12 students in district schools and more than 5,000 employees.

Elementary and middle schools[edit]

Montclair Elementary School[edit]

In 2015, Montclair Elementary was recognized with the nation's highest honor for a K-12 school, the Blue Ribbon award, which recognizes "exemplary teaching and learning". Only 10 schools in the Bay Area, public or private, received the award that year.

Nearly half the students (47 percent) who attend Montclair come from outside the neighborhood. The East Bay Times reported, "One of the school's secrets to success is what (Principal Nancy) Bloom calls the morning intervention acceleration model. Used in the kindergarten, first and second grades, children meet once a week in groups with no more than four or five students and get targeted instruction that meets their individual needs. On the other days, the students are outside doing physical education."[35]

The school serves an increasing number of English language learner students and students who receive free and reduced priced meals.[36]

In 2016, Collaborative for High Performance Schools praised Montclair Elementary's energy efficient design.[37]

Coliseum College Preparatory Academy[edit]

In 2015, Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA), located on the Havenscourt Campus in East Oakland, achieved a 91 percent graduation rate. The school serves about 450 students and a large percentage are English language learners (170 students in 2014-15).[38] CCPA's ethnic breakdown for the 2013-14 school year consisted of 42.7% Hispanic or Latino students, 28% Black or African American students, 13.2% Asian students, 9.8% White students, 2.6% students of two or more races, and 1.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.[39]

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable Oakland public school graduates include:


  1. ^ "English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement / The Review of Services for ELLs in OUSD". www.ousd.org. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  2. ^ Kingsley-Ma, Liza Veale, Hannah. "Seeking asylum: Young migrants hope to make Oakland their home". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  3. ^ "Oakland's central kitchen to provide a bounty of fresh, locally sourced school meals – The Mercury News". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  4. ^ "Schools ban suspensions after success with restorative justice :: SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet". www.cabinetreport.com. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  5. ^ "New Fast Facts 2015-16 Now Available!". OUSD Data. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  6. ^ "Oakland leading the country in programs to better black male achievement, according to new report – The Mercury News". Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  7. ^ "Press Release: OUSD Creates African American Girls and Young Women Achievement Program". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  8. ^ "Oakland Unified to expand computer science and math with tech company grant". EdSource. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  9. ^ Pershan, Caleb. "Google To Open Youth Education Center In Oakland". SFist. Archived from the original on 2016-09-25. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Bagwell, Beth (1982). Oakland: The Story of a City. Oakland Public Library: Presidio Press. pp. 96–101. ISBN 0-9640087-0-X.
  11. ^ "Hannah Jayne - Oakland - LocalWiki". localwiki.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  12. ^ Phillips, Ryan. "More than a century of Oakland Public School history on display at main library". Oakland North. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  13. ^ Oakland :the city of opportunity /. Oakland, Calif. 1909-01-01. hdl:2027/uiug.30112089226531.
  14. ^ "New or greatly enlarged industrial establishments of Oakland and East Bay cities / by Oakland (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce". www.oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  15. ^ "School directory, Oakland, Cal. 1915-16". HathiTrust. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  16. ^ "Guide to the Oakland Federation of Teachers, Local 771 Collection, 1940-1955". www.oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  17. ^ "Marcus Foster - Oakland - LocalWiki". localwiki.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  18. ^ a b "Our Founder, Dr. Marcus A. Foster". marcusfoster.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  19. ^ Murphy, Dean E. (2003-06-08). "Dream Ends for Oakland School Chief as State Takes Over". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  20. ^ "People in the News: Randolph E. Ward". Education Week. July 12, 2006. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  21. ^ Allen-Taylor, J. Douglas (September 18, 2007). "Resignation Shocks Oakland School District". Berkeley Daily Planet. p. 1. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  22. ^ Murphy, Katy (July 10, 2008). "New Oakland schools leader in town". East Bay Times. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  23. ^ Mellon, Ericka (September 2011). "Smith Tackles Oakland Unified". District Administration. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  24. ^ Woodall, Angela (April 5, 2013). "Oakland Unified superintendent Tony Smith resigns to be with family in Chicago". East Bay Times. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  25. ^ Freedberg, Louis; Fensterwald, John (September 11, 2014). "New schools chief: Oakland 'full of opportunity'". EdSource. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  26. ^ Superville, Denisa R. (November 22, 2016). "Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson Tapped to Lead D.C. Schools". Education Week. Retrieved December 9, 2016; Tsai, Joyce; Cameron, Katrina (November 21, 2016). "Oakland superintendent to be nominated for D.C. schools chancellor". East Bay Times. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  27. ^ Tsai, Joyce (December 14, 2016). "Oakland Unified names interim superintendent". East Bay Times. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  28. ^ "Study Says Charter Schools Cost Oakland $57 Million a Year". Bay City News.
  29. ^ Day, Meagan. "I Was Proud and Humbled to Stand With Such Brave Educators". Jacobin.
  30. ^ a b Youth After Truth. "Public Education is Under Attack". Youtube.
  31. ^ French, Nick (January 7, 2019). "The Oakland School Crisis and the Billionaires Who Caused It". East Bay Majority.
  32. ^ Blanc, Eric (March 3, 2019). "Why Oakland's Striking Teachers Won". Jacobin.
  33. ^ Harrison, Theresa. "Oakland School Board Cuts $20.2 Million from Budget, Including 100 Jobs". Edsource.
  34. ^ a b "After seven-day strike, Oakland teachers approve new contract". Edsource.
  35. ^ "Montclair Elementary named National Blue Ribbon school – East Bay Times". Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  36. ^ "EdData - School Profile - Montclair Elementary". www.ed-data.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  37. ^ Moriki, Darin (2016-03-02). "Montclair Elementary lauded for green efforts". East Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  38. ^ "EdData - School Profile - Coliseum College Prep Academy". www.ed-data.org. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  39. ^ "Ed-Data Website". www.ed-data.k12.ca.us. Retrieved 2016-09-13.

External links[edit]