Do You Believe The Children Are Our Future?

Authors: Dave Room | Green For All Fellow Candidate Support Quality Public Education for All: Join the May 3rd Save Oakland Schools Action. When: May 3rd, 2011 at 6 p.m. Where: Cesar Chavez Auditorium 2825 International Blvd Oakland, CA 94601 Learn more about the campaign by watching this video:

These times we live in are calling forth a movement of movements to assure basic human rights such as education, jobs, and public health for everyone in this country. Right now, these rights are threatened by budget cuts at the state and federal levels that will unfairly impact low income communities and communities of color. One aspect of my Green For All project is to support the struggle for these basic rights playing out on the ground in Oakland, CA. Below is one such story from a school community in Oakland being threatened by budget cuts. The Story It’s 8 a.m. in the morning. I walk into the courtyard at Learning Without Limits (LWL), an Elementary school in Oakland. LWL’s Principal, Leo Fuchs, is leading the kids through a full body recitation of their vision statement. I am blown away watching several hundred kids recite an amazing self-affirming, hopeful statement about their participation in creating a better future. Afterwards, Leo tells me they do this everyday. I’m there because LWL is slated to lose almost all of its teachers. Oakland Unified School District had announced huge layoffs a month prior. LWL was slated to lose 16 out of its 17 teachers. LWL is a new school, and its one of a group of public schools in the flatlands Oakland that have had tremendous improvement in academic performance over the past six years. Because of them, the Oakland Unified School District has been the most improved urban district in the state for six years running. LWL replaced Jefferson school, one of the lowest performing schools in the district. I’m there as a Green For All fellow and I’m doing story-centered advocacy work for Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) to tell the story of the layoffs. We are using video to tell the story. At the beginning of our conversation, Leo says he is feeling pretty good because the layoffs of the permanent teachers were rescinded the previous night. But he is still concerned about the temporary teachers and support staff. He then introduces me to Morgan, a teacher, who would be assisting us with the shoot that day. Morgan starts us off with Rosia, whose official title is Mentor and Noon Supervisor, but who plays many other roles including secretary and nurse because of previous staff cuts. A few minutes into our conversation, Rosia pulls a paper out of her pocket and says, “I have song but I’m not gong to sing. The song I thought of is the one Whitney Houston sings. It says ‘I believe the children, teach them well and let them lead the way.’ Teach them well. That’s a key word. That’s what our school does. We are a small school and it’s filled with kids that have knowledge and curiosity. We believe that they already bring that; they bring that to our school. We just pull it out of them.” At LWL, like other full service community schools in the district, they are creating the conditions for the natural genius of the kids to emerge. I’m excited now, smiling and nodding, knowing that we are getting exactly what we came for. Rosia continues “We also believe this: when we teach them well, they’ll do well…another thing we do well. We show them ‘the beauty they possess inside.’ The TV shows them the beauty they should have and it doesn’t make them feel good… they show them what is perfect. We show them what is inside. And we ‘give them a sense of pride to make life easier.’ That’s what this songs says.” I agree with Rosia. Teaching them well and the beauty they possess inside is our responsibility. Let Your Voice Be Heard I invite you to join us at or post a comment to support OCO’s Save Oakland Schools Action: When: May 3rd, 2011 at 6 p.m. Where: Cesar Chavez Auditorium 2825 International Blvd Oakland, CA 94601 Stand up for public education and let your voices be heard saying “We won’t go back!” to the decades when Oakland public schools failed low income communities and communities of color.

Dave Room co-founded Bay Localize – a for-impact organization that helps Bay Area residents build equitable and resilient communities, and coordinates the Local Clean Energy Alliance. He leads TakeBack the Mic Bay Area, an initiative that inspires, supports, and provides a platform for communities to tell their own stories.

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