This week the Oakland school board began interviewing 10 applicants who stepped forward seeking an appointment to represent District 4 for the remainder of Gary Yee's term as he transitions to serve as acting superintendent.

The candidates are leaders with strong backgrounds in public service and education, leaders with broad policy experience and leaders with deep roots in the community.

This is good for Oakland.

Our GO community came together in 2009, in part, around a shared understanding of how important Oakland's school board is to children and youth specifically, and to the health of our city more generally.

Since then we have helped increase community awareness of the board by reporting on their meetings, highlighting the important issues, organizing forums and sharing information about school board candidates.

When we started this work in 2010, eight of the previous 14 school board elections seats were unopposed (only one candidate) and only a few of the six contested elections were competitive. Across Oakland, we are seeing evidence of the community deepening its involvement and dedication to students and public education and signs that our community leaders are rising to the occasion.

It is truly a positive sign that so many ambitious and competent leaders are aspiring to serve in this important office.


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Our students need the best board member possible right now. There are important decisions to be made immediately, such as the hiring of a permanent superintendent and addressing the findings of the recent state audit.

As the board interviews these candidates and makes the appointment, we urge members to consider candidates who:

  • Have a strong commitment to serving each and every one of our children, in all of Oakland's public schools;

  • Will be the best school board member, period -- independent of political considerations;

  • Have a record of getting things done and the skills to move from vision, to policy, to and through implementation;

  • Bring relationships from across the district and city to support the district's work;

  • Share our values about engaging those impacted by decisions in making decisions;

  • Are able to make a strong, immediate impact on the work of implementing the Thriving Students vision to support students;

  • Are open to new information and perspectives;

  • Have skills to develop relationships across differences within the board; and

  • Are interested in serving the entire city, not just District 4.

    We urge board members not to become distracted by political considerations such as whether a candidate is interested in running for election in November 2014. The stakes are too high for students right now.

    We look forward to partnering with whomever the board appoints and see this as another hopeful sign of things to come for the Oakland education community.

    At GO, we believe in the power of community and the importance of our leaders in ensuring that our schools serve all of our children and have an equal chance at leading happy, successful lives. They, and our community, deserve nothing less.

    Jonathan Klein is executive director of Great Oakland Public Schools. To learn more, go to www.gopublicschools.org.