Archive | November, 2012

When Was the Last Time You Read a Book?

30 Nov

     We published this article, written by two Oakland teachers, in our most recent newsletter.  They were trying to capture a very real and very ironic problem for teachers: overworked as they are, how often do teachers get to teach themselves.  If this resonates with you, teacher or not, please let us know in the comments.

When Was the Last Time You Read a Book?

By Sarah Rose Oyfstand and Aram Mendoza

When was the last time you read a book?

I spent two weeks of my summer participating in an intensive professional development with teachers from my school along and dozens of other bay area teachers from various social justice oriented high schools. The seminar was excellent – everyone walked away excited to start the year with new ideas and methods for helping our students learn how to read and discuss difficult texts. During the closing circle, a teacher from a progressive school in Oakland stated, “I resolve to read during the school year, just like I’m expecting my students to read.”

A simple yet provocative statement. During the lunch hour a handful of teachers sat and discussed the fact that as educators we have a hard time carving out space for intellectual and political development in our own lives. One teacher reflected that, “during the summer my partner doesn’t want to watch any documentaries or movies that get our intellectual juices flowing because it’s summer, and that’s the time to take a break. But during the school year we also don’t want to watch things that provoke us to think too much because need a break from the classroom and just want to decompress.” The majority of the teachers echoed the sentiment.

How many times have you heard something similar? Be honest, when was the last time you read a book? When was the last time you read a book that wasn’t a novel? When was the last time you were in a study group?

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Parental Oversight (of OUSD)

30 Nov

This article is written by a parent of a Special Education child in OUSD which we published in our most recent newsletter.  As it shows Oakland parents have in-depth knowledge of how OUSD currently runs and how it could run better.  We hope more parents write and we can start conversations from the bottom up of how to make real change in public education.   If you would like to write too, we are willing to publish your views on this website and in our newsletter.  And if you’re not ready to write a full article, you can always start by commenting below.


Parental Oversight

By Kristen Dixon

The school district needs parental oversight especially in Special Education. The district often makes changes and creates policy that will directly affect our children with no input good or bad from the parents. Surveys are a productive means to engage parents, town hall meetings and other informal forums besides school board meetings that tend to drone on and go through countless agenda items some relevant and some not. The system as it exists is set up to tire parents out, build frustration, and lead to hostile feelings and actions by parents ultimately leaving the district with them closing the door behind you.

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Mi Pueblo DBQ available for download!

23 Nov

See below for a great resource from two OUSD teachers for teaching about the 1-9 audit at Mi Pueblo.


Please share with other educators! Check-out the lesson materials here

Dear teacher colleagues in OUSD and other Bay Area schools,
Many of you have probably heard about the impending 1-9 audit of Mi Pueblo stores (more info below) that poses a serious threat to the economic livelihood and stability of many of students’ families throughout the Bay Area.  Both of us work at Oakland schools and have several students whose family members are employed by Mi Pueblo and many more students who know someone who works there.  In the broader climate of both attacks on immigrant communities and economic hardship for OUSD families in Oakland, we felt compelled to do what we can as teachers to support our school communities.  We are writing to share what we hope is a useful lesson plan and set of resources for teaching your students about the situation at Mi Pueblo and opening up dialogue in your classroom about immigrant and worker rights issues.    
Click here to view the Mi Pueblo Document Based Question Lesson Plan and resources page. From there you can easily download the lesson materials including a detailed lesson plan, student readings and worksheets, powerpoints and primary documents. The lesson is designed to support students to write an evidence-supported paragraph in response to the question: To what extent should Mi Pueblo or the Federal Government be held responsible if immigrant workers lose their jobs because of the I-9 immigration audit? There is an optional action-based extension suggested as well.  
Taught in its entirety, the lesson will take several class periods, however it could easily be shortened into a 1 or 2 day lesson. It could be adapted for a middle or high school classroom. It is great practice in preparation for the OUSD fall DBQ history assessment or for learning document sourcing and analysis and argumentative writing skills in general. This would fit in perfectly to a unit about immigration, industrialization, labor, civil rights or federal juridiction. The materials are all editable so you can adapt to the student needs and current foci of your classroom.
Please consider carving out time this December or January to teach about this struggle. Please also pass along to any other teachers you might know who might be interested. And if you do implement part of the lesson in your class, let us know! We would love to see what your students come up with and let Mi Pueblo workers know young people are investigating the situation.
Be in touch if you have any questions about the materials. And please note, this is a work in progress! If you add any lesson materials in ways you think would be helpful for others or create any new materials, please share with us so we can upload to share it with others.
Thank you for engaging your students in critically analyzing the world around them,
Perry Bellow-Handelman,
Alexander Mejia,
Summary and Update about the Mi Pueblo 1-9 Audit 

In early fall, the Mi Pueblo grocery store chain, which employs over 3,000 mainly immigrant workers in the Bay Area, began implementing Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s E-verify system under which the social security numbers of all new job applicants are checked.  A short while later Mi Pueblo announced that they had voluntarily joined E-verify because they are undergoing I-9 immigration audit through which all undocumented workers at their stores are expected to lose their jobs. Layoffs are expected to start on January 1, 2013.  Whether Mi Pueblo was forced to undergo the 1-9 audit by ICE or volunteered to do so is unknown.  However Mi Pueblo has been putting out a consistent message to their primary Latino immigrant cliental that their commitment to immigrant rights is unwavering and that they are doing everything they can to support immigrant workers at the store.

This all came on the backdrop of a several year long effort by UFCW to unionize workers at the non-union stores and a hunger strike held by workers at one of the stores in 2011 in protest of working conditions, low wages and firings of pro-union workers.  Several community groups see the audit has an attempt by management to squash union organizing efforts and other worker dissent.  They have joined together under the name of “Dignity and Resistance Coalition” and are organizing to demand Mi Pueblo not collaborate with ICE and not move forward with the 1-9 audit firings.

On October 20th and November 21st (the day before Thanksgiving-often a busy day for grocery stores) there were very energetic pickets held outside of the Mi Pueblo on High St. in Oakland. At each of these protests there were over a hundred people in attendance who marched, chanted, gave out information and watched various showings of a community theatre performance based on the struggle of Mi Pueblo workers. The Dignity and Resistance Coalition has continued to organize around the situation of the workers and build community support. In other areas of the bay, the UFCW is continuing to have meetings with workers in order to unionize.

While the I-9 audit is still taking place but no (or very few) workers have been fired yet. Some say that the slow pace of how the audit is being implemented is due to the negative press and community resistance that Mi Pueblo is receiving. Others say that Mi Pueblo is waiting until after the holidays (their busiest time of year) to fire these workers so as not to diminish their revenue at this important time for them financially.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union that is in the middle of an organizing drive with the Mi Pueblo workers is putting together two upcoming actions in San Jose: the first one will be a community forum about workers rights and organizing on December 9th and a protest in against sexual harassment at Mi Pueblo on December 18th. There will be other upcoming actions around the Christmas holiday that are organized by the Dignity and Resistance Coalition.  For more information about their current organizing, you can contact

The 3rd Issue of Our Newsletter!

8 Nov

This is the 3rd issue of our newsletter, Classroom Struggle.  Please share widely and give us feedback!

Click on the image above for a color version intended for web viewing.

For a black and white print quality version please click here.

Please Note: We recently have changed the title of our newsletter and committee.  We will shortly put out our reasoning behind this.  However, if you have already seen this issue in print with the old title, all the content is the same except for the links in the articles now point to our new website,  Enjoy!


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