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By Venus Morris.
Dear Mr. Superintendent,
When I first heard you were coming to Oakland, I figured you were a flunky from Sacramento, sent to do the state's dirty work. But then I learned getting a superintendent means regaining local control over our schools. And that gives me hope the district will start to change.
You see, I just graduated from one of the schools in your district. I know you haven’t yet been to my West Oakland alma matter, but when you do visit, you might want to be on your Ps and Qs. Don’t be surprised if you’re knocked over in the hallway by students who aren’t afraid of big school officials—even a former football player like yourself. Most of the kids there have had discipline problems, been kicked out of other Oakland schools, or been to jail. Many of us don’t have role models. And still, we want to learn.
That’s not always easy. When I was in ninth grade, my English and biology classes had different substitutes throughout the whole school year. They couldn’t even keep track of the work we turned in, so they’d leave, and mess up our credits.
But things got better. By tenth and eleventh grade, we got real teachers and computerized smart boards. They even painted the walls off-white, the floors a dark tan and added colorful murals.
But you’ll only know about changes like these if you actually spend time at your Oakland schools. And that’s what I’d like to challenge you to do, Mr. Superintendent. Visit each of Oakland’s 107 public schools before winter break. That would show the students for the first time in a long time, someone is on our side and cares.
I know some schools will dress up nicely for the superintendent’s visit. But I hope you’ll look past the get up so you can see what it’s like for the Oakland schools like mine, which don’t have all the music programs, football teams and engineering competitions.
I'm excited someone new is in charge of my school district. Not to overwhelm you with the comparison, but this moment kind of reminds me of President Obama coming in, and promising change. I hope you, too, will partner with young people and work together to fix this district--in each and every Oakland school.