Oakland parents disrupt school board meeting again, launch recall effort

Oakland's school board was forced to move its meeting Wednesday night, because of protestors singing modified Christmas carols. 

"They're making a list, checking it twice, make a mistake, our kids pay the price, budget cuts are coming to town," was just one of the lyrics.  

It's the fifth disruption in as many sessions, and now the activism comes with a recall threat.

"There are board members that need to go," said protest organizer Saru Jayaraman, from the group, "Oakland is Not For Sale." 

Jayaraman led a few dozen people in song and chants, halting the meeting early in the agenda. 

The board paused for more than 30 minutes, then moved the meeting to an upstairs committee room, with two-way conferencing to the auditorium they abandoned. 

"There are other members of the public who would like to be part of this meeting," Interim Board President Jody London admonished the group. 

Their empty chairs were immediately filled by children, shouting "no school closures" into the board microphones. 

London, in particular, is a target of critics, who say they don't trust the judgment or transparency of the seven-member board. London has already been served with an intent to recall - a petition with 50 signers. 

Putting the vote to North Oakland voters will require thousands more signatures.  

Jayaraman is spearheading the recall with other parents who scuffled with school district police at an October board meeting. 

She and others intend to sue, claiming excessive force and inuries, and blaming London.  

"She had the police force beat us down and so she does need to be held responsible," said Jayaraman. "What we're doing with the recall election is sending a message to the entire board that the people of Oakland are not for sale."

London has served three years on the board and her current term ends in January 2021.  

"My job is to make sure students receive the education they deserve," she told KTVU. 

And of the recall against her? 

"It doesn't feel great, but I'm a public servant," she responded. 

The school district has been roiled by months of discontent after closing one school this year, and identifying 13 others for possible closure, consolidation, or reconfiguration. 

Staff projections show $15 million will have be cut in the year 2020-21, with costs rising, and revenues flat. 

Oakland has 36,000 students spread among 83 schools. Fremont, by comparison has almost the same student population, occupying 42 schools. 

London said she believes most Oakland parents support the board's tough choices, and support her. 

"People are saying 'Jody, you guys are on the right track, I know this is hard, but I support you.' I have been getting emails and text messages and hearing from a lot of people."   

London estimates her critics will need 9,000 signatures to put recall vote on the November 2020 ballot. 

A similar effort against five of seven board members several years ago failed, she noted. 

"What we really want is to have conversations with you all," said one meeting attendee, using his public comment time to ask the board to return. 
"You are invited to come back down here and actually talk to us!"

But the board finished their business in the quiet of the committee room and the protest crowd dwindled away.