The Real Power of Students
By: EC Staff
I am a recent OUSD graduate, and there were and still is too much staff turnover in Oakland Schools. Rasha says it best, “Students walk up three tiring flights of stairs only to meet a closed door.” We’ve walked up to far too many closed doors while students at McClymonds because we’ve been left with substitute teachers. We’ve had far too many teachers who couldn’t teach or worse, thought they could teach.
Attending and teaching at McClymonds is highly stigmatized, often creating a barrier between students and their community members. Mack is underserved and underrepresented and deemed a place for students not to attend by its own community. As if no educator there fights for a better education for their students and as if only students with no potential would go there. But McClymonds is not the problem and never was.
I have met and been fortunate enough to be a student of Mr. Curry, Dr. Taylor, Ms. Vaughn, Mr. Algarmi, Ms. Bertani, Mr. Rizkallah, Mrs.McGhee, Mr.Hill, Mr.Smith Ms.Turner, Ms. Jensen, Ms. Shelley, Ms. Cabezas, Ms. Hall, and Mr. Evans. They work selflessly and tirelessly for their students and are as frustrated as us about the lack of resources and respect McClymonds receives.
Whenever we had issues with staff turnover, low-quality educators or even sexual harassment they were our guides.
For instance, one of the new teachers hired was not properly evaluated by the hiring department. For the sake of privacy, his name is Mr. Rawls. I was part of the Engineering pathway since my freshman year but dropped out my senior year. Mr. Rawls was my Senior Capstone teacher for engineering, but because of his inappropriate comments and lack of respect towards my personal space, I had to leave.
When I spoke to an adult about it, she took me straight to administration where I found out that I wasn’t the first girl to report him. The administration said they’ll take care of it and since I left his class I didn’t know if anything changed.
What wasn’t getting through my head was how are all these reports being made and yet he’s still roaming around as a teacher. So, I did my own little research and saw an inappropriate picture on one of Mr.Rawls’ social media pages. At school, we are told to be careful of what we post on social media as that will affect our future employment, yet our hiring department is hiring the very people who we are warned not to be. McClymonds not only receives the last of the apples but the last of the rotten ones.
When I found out that the sexual harassment didn’t stop and girls affected were being told that they didn’t have to go to class, I was infuriated. My friends came and told me that Mr. Rawls is saying I left the pathway because I don’t like men and he tried his best to make me feel comfortable. His ego of course came into play when he said that when I talk to him I clearly don’t know who I’m talking to.
I could’ve either at that moment went to Mr. Rawls and confronted him or took another approach. I was advised to reach out to Jumoke or the district about it. I thought my administration at Mack was going to take care of it, but the process took too long for me and my peers at a local level.
Therefore, I ended up taking the advice from one of my guides and sent out an email explaining everything to Jumoke and Ron Smith. Best believe the same day they found out was the same day Mr. Rawls left the district. The administration worked really quick then. It was that day that I realized how important and helpful District leaders are in my fight towards fostering a safe environment for myself and my peers.
However, there’s a lack of communication between the School Board members and students. We don’t see much change when countless people attend the meetings to speak on issues such as staff turnover and lack of resources for students and teachers. Also many don’t know when the meetings are and when some attend there is a lack of organization. Students need to know who to connect with whenever they have an issue at hand. When they reach out to officials they need to know that their voices will be heard and considered. They also need to see that for themselves as me and my peers have when reaching out to higher officials.
Adults shouldn’t expect students to go to School Board meetings, rather the School Board should go to the students. Hearing student voices at their respective schools and allowing students 16 and up to vote on their education is vital in establishing a good rapport between School Board members and students. There needs to be a clear and known communication pathway, and until then the narrative of Students vs. Adults will continue to persist.
My Questions for our School Board Members are as follows:
1. Why are we so focused on budget cuts? Is that the best way to manage money?
2. What policies are in place that will protect our educators whenever they need to stand by their students or for themselves?
3. What gaps have you noticed, but not worked on bridging?
4. Why do students not know about their power working with you and not against you?
5. Throughout all School Board meetings held what has really changed [for students]?
Energy Convertors is an organization focused on utilizing the voices of students to improve education for all. We believe in taking negative energy and converting it into positivity that serves our community.