Author Archives: Cailin

Galvanizing Community Engagement in School Facility Quality

Posted on by Cailin
Filed under: School Facilities

Alejandra's passion lies at the intersection of education and social policy. Her current work for the Oakland Unified School District reflects her interests as she examines the dilemma of assessing opportunity and increasing awareness around school facilities. 

Alejandra is a first year Masters of Public Polity student at Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. Before entering into graduate school she served as a college readiness advisor through AmeriCorps VISTA in the San Antonio Independent School District. 

No matter the context, school facilities departments across the country face a common dilemma: on the one hand, the quality of school facilities play an important role in the education of all students; yet on the other hand, facilities issues are somewhat technical, arcane, and not readily accessed by individuals beyond those whom are trained in facilities minutia.

Questions of how to merge the interests of the parent and school district community with those of school facilities are especially salient in light of California’s changing landscape of education accountability. In joining the PLUS team supporting the Facilities Department of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), I have taken on the role of assessing opportunities within this new accountability context to communicate the importance of facilities and to increase awareness and devotion to facilities on behalf of parents and the school district alike.

My efforts to explore opportunities for community outreach exposed me to exciting developments in accountability within the district. In particular, I attended two sessions of Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings, where elected parent representatives representing each voting region of Oakland give input into the school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan. 

Raquel Jimenez, Coordinator at OUSD’s Student, Family, and Community Engagement Office introduces the topics for the LCAP Parent Advisory Committee Session.

During these meetings, my inner education policy nerd was thrilled to observe parents and stakeholders work through contentious issues in education and develop rules of governance around them. This was my first time truly witnessing the intersection of policy development with local community organizing. I walked out of the meetings excited about the PAC as an avenue by which to communicate with parents and work together toward incorporating the voice of facilities into local accountability priorities.


Parents review findings from an English Language Learner Study session. The OUSD LCAP requires ELL Parent representation within PAC governance.

Yet as I delved further into the project, it has come to my attention that much more is needed to bridge the gap between students’ day-to-day interface with school facilities and actual advocacy around school repair, maintenance, and operations. While an increased emphasis on parent and stakeholder involvement in local accountability is a step in the right direction, this project has demonstrated the important role that explicit data and policy development plays in ensuring that proper attention is paid to facilities. 

Student PAC representatives facilitate a session of Jeopardy to foster leaning around the OUSD school report card. Oakland is currently the only district in California that formally incorporates student leadership into the PAC, a development spurred by student advocates in Californians for Justice.  

In the wake of California’s gaping facilities funding deficit, it still begs the question: how do we galvanize the community around the issue of facilities? This is where communications and advocacy comes in: educating and mobilize audiences around the importance of pushing for good repair is critical! It is my hope and ambition that our PLUS team’s project will help in this effort and I am certain that I will carry my lessons forward in the future.

Photos: Alejandra Barrio

Want to find out more about the PLUS Fellows Program? Click here!

Connected for Collective Impact: CBOs + School Health Pathways

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Ángel Ross is working with a collaboration between the California Endowment and SCUSD. Ángel a first year in the Master of City Planning program at Berkeley, concentrating on housing, community and economic development. Their previous work has focused on youth organizing around immigration, queer, and education issues in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. In July of 2014, the California Career Pathways Trust became law making $250 million in funds available to school districts, community college districts, and other regional bodies to support career pathways programs. Part of the goal of these one-time competitive grants is to establish regional collaborative relationships…

Health Pathways at Schools: Charting an Uncertain Roadmap

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Cailey Gibson's desire to promote the use of community based participatory research and evaluation to advance health equity and policy change has influenced her work with SCUSD. Cailey is currently a first year MPH student in the School of Public Health in Health and Social Behavior. She has spent the last four years in the Bay area working in public health and community development in the social enterprise sector. Here’s a riddle: what’s frequently risky, involves uncertainty, is intended to achieve a specific outcome, and is carried out by people who don’t normally interact? If you’re a public health student like myself, you’ll be forgiven…

School-Community Collaborations: Unpacking HOPE SF From a School’s Perspective

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Dennis is working for the San Francisco Unified School District to conduct a service inventory of educational and support service needs to aid in bolstering the resources of the SF HOPE initiative. Dennis is a Doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program. He previously served the role of Senior Instructional Manager for the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and has over a decade of experience working in the K-12 non-profit and public education sector.  Background: In conjunction with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, the San Francisco Unified School District has joined this concerted effort to transform the low-income public housing sites and…

A School Facility Truism You Can’t Escape: A penny now saves a pound later

Posted on by Cailin
Filed under: School Facilities

Sari is currently working with Oakland Unified School District to increase the manner and effectiveness in which school repair is communicated with stakeholders. Her hope is that through her impact, more attention will be paid to the importance and necessity of good school facilities.  Sari is a first year Masters of Public Policy student at the Goldman School of Public Policy. She previously worked as an analyst at the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards on occupational health data and has spent time working to integrate sustainable agriculture into public school curricula.  Effective communication is the all-encompassing tool that has the potential to mobilize a wide range…

Promising Enrollment Trends for SFUSD

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Justine's interests in program evaluation, data analysis, and children/youth policy have led to examine the challenges facing SFUSD as enrollment begins to increase for the first time in decades. Justine is a second-year Master of Public Policy student at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. She has ten years of work experience in the Bay Area nonprofit sector and has done program evaluations for school and community-based after school programs. Schools are physical, stationary structures. People are not. They move from place to place. The number of students in any given school district can vary each year, yet the school…

Making the Case for Infrastructure: School Facilities and the Next Hollywood Blockbuster?

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Max's interests in health equity and public policy led him to pursue a PLUS Fellowship working with the Oakland Unified School District. Max Gara is a Master of Public Health student emphasizing in Health and Social Behavior. Before coming back to school, Maxwell worked for Oakland Unified School District and Cowlitz County Health Department focusing on environmental health issues.           John Oliver has a knack for transforming obscure, arcane policy conversations into biting, populist calls to action. He recently turned his attention to the declining investment in maintaining and operating our national infrastructure and its consequences:   Our…

Intentional Collaboration

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In our first entry in a series of entries by our current PLUS Fellows, Anna Maier explains her work in West Contra Costa County Unified School District.  Anna Maier is a 2015 PLUS Fellow (Client: West Contra Costa Unified School District + City of Richmond) and second year Masters of Public Policy student at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Prior to grad school, Anna served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and taught elementary school in Oakland Unified School District and worked as a research and evaluation associate at a local youth sports nonprofit.     As a PLUS fellow with West Contra…

My Motivation to Join Y-PLAN

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Y-PLAN New York City Student, Yessica Carela, from The Academy for Language and Technology in The Bronx recently reflected on what brought her to Y-PLAN. Read her story here!      My Motivation to join Y-PLAN was that Y-PLAN is not like a regular after school program. In Y-PLAN  I have been able to learn new things about my community that I didn't have a clue existed. For me, the first motivation to enter Y-PLAN was  to help my community and learn things about it. Through the years that I’ve been in Y-PLAN I can actually say that I have…

WhY-PLAN: The Value-Add of Y-PLAN

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Y-PLAN Client, Stephen Newhouse of AC Transit highlights the value-add that Y-PLAN brought to his work and community. WhY-PLAN This fall, AC Transit had the pleasure of planning future transportation service improvements with the help of MetWest High School students participating in the Y-PLAN program.  Forty-one 11th grade students examined bus routes in their neighborhoods, surveyed passengers, considered trade-offs, and developed recommendations to improve service. [s1] Y-PLAN demonstrates how government agencies like AC Transit can encourage civic participation among young people and their families.  Reflecting upon my experience with Y-PLAN, three key benefits stand out. Two-way Street for Education Y-PLAN is a…