How Student Voice can help Oakland’s Ed Crisis: Our Three Campaigns

This is the testimony we are giving at the Oakland School Board meeting which culminates more than a year of research from students and community members.

Good Evening,

My name is Charles Cole, III, and I am the Founder and Executive Director of Energy Convertors, an organization that seeks to improve education by elevating the voices of students. Today, along with our Teacher Leader, we stand here for our students and wanted to let you know the three resolutions we came up with as a unit. They include (1) Board Meeting Redesign, (2) Rooney Rule for Educators, and (3) The Opportunity Ticket.

1. Board Meeting Redesign
Our fellows have been turned off by the disorder and chaos they see at school board meetings and do not want to take part in the process even though they are aware how important they are. From a distance, all of this just looks like fighting and adults grandstanding to many of our youth. However, our students want to be part of the process and have created a scaffolded resolution with both low hanging fruit wins and long-term systemic changes. The three changes are:

  • A special designation on the speaker card that identifies students and potentially gives them an additional minute or so to speak. This would be a clear indicator that we prioritize student voices
  • An event with board members that explains what is happening in our district without the education-wonky speech. Students also stated they would appreciate more of a back and forth so they can ask questions and learn.
  • Finally, to retain power, our students want to be a voting block. They propose allowing students 16 and up to vote in school board races so they have a real voice moving forward. There is a statewide campaign underway that we are joining.

2. Rooney Rule for Educators 
Our fellows feel that they are not properly represented by their teachers. The Rooney Rule for educators would ensure that more Black and Brown teachers and principals are being sought after and we can set benchmarks and goals to improve over the years.

3. The Opportunity Ticket
Our fellows have been watching the budget crisis and understand that schools may need to close. It’s not a good situation. However, when closures must occur, they tend to hurt vulnerable Black and Brown families the most. If that is to happen, we stand with the Oakland Reach and the notion that the most vulnerable students and families that will be impacted will have first choice at any Oakland public school (traditional or charter) to live out our value of true equity in Oakland.

Charles Cole, III is the Founder and Executive Director of Energy Convertors. EC’s goals are to utilize student voice and focus on the end-user in education in order to improve things. They firmly believed that liberation must be led by those most impacted. Go to for more details.