Oakland school board member speaks out after resigning amid district-wide controversy

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022
OUSD board member resigns amid school closure controversy
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Oakland school board member Shanthi Gonzales announced she will be stepping down, says the district is not meeting the academic needs of students.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A school district already in turmoil is now losing an important member of the school board. Oakland Unified has seen declining enrollment, school closures and teachers going on strike, while the data shows that a large number of students are behind in reading and math. Now, a disillusioned school board member Shanthi Gonzales announced she will be stepping down.

After more than seven years as a Oakland Unified School Board member, Shanthi Gonzales is candid about her abrupt departure.

"What's problematic about that is that A, students are not getting their needs met, most students or not getting their needs met and B, that that's been hurting our enrollment for 20 years now," outlined Gonzales who is moving to Humboldt County.

RELATED: Oakland Unified school board votes to close or merge nearly a dozen schools

Here's the data from Oakland Unified. Over 47% of high schoolers are one or more years below grade level in reading, 44% are behind in math.

53% of elementary school students are not reading at grade level, with nearly 60% of students below grade level in math.

Gonzales insists that the board is forced to spend too much time on other issues that have nothing to do with a student's academic needs.

This is not the first board member to complain. Jody London served for 12 years.

RELATED: Oakland Unified strike and block party protests school closures; kids told to take 3-day weekend

"When the school district gets caught up in crazy protest and teacher strikes, it sends parents away and if we're really concerned about ensuring that we have a good education system for students in Oakland for a long time to come, we need to really buckle down and figure out how are we going to educate kids," said London.

In her departure letter to the community, Gonzales also talked about the challenges of working with the teachers union.

"One of the challenges that I see is that our union has consistently resisted any efforts to incentivize any effort to attract teachers in hard-to-fill subject, chemistry, physics, math language and particularly special education. Why is that? They just don't believe in differentiating salaries. They believe that everyone is a teacher, everybody should be paid the same."

ABC7 News reached out to the Oakland Education Association. Here's what Union President Keith Brown told us. "Director Gonzales will not be missed. We hope the next director will listen to, and keel their commitments to District 6 students and families rather than closing their schools."

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