Principal’s Message – September 10th, 2019

Hello Kaiser Elementary Families:
The proposed merger of Kaiser and Sankofa, which will be voted on by the OUSD Board of Education tomorrow, surfaces many heavy emotions. No topic evokes more emotion or is more complex than race.

Kaiser is a school that is rooted in a desegregation movement. It mirrors the diversity of Oakland, while most schools remain highly segregated. We are proud of the significant academic growth that students have shown for the past four years, growth that has been outpaced by African American students, narrowing a historic achievement gap. We are aware that race at Kaiser is not only black and white: it involves dozens of ethnicities and cultures and mixes of all-of-the-above. Some media portrayals and other conversations about our school have left these facts out and have simplified the matter as “hills vs. flatlands” or “white vs. black”.
For those of us proud of the accomplishments at Kaiser, a critique that lifts up race can be really hard to hear. At the same time, Kaiser exists within an historic framework and broader context. Public education was designed to
provide completely different outcomes to white children and children of color. It was designed to maintain structural inequality. The disproportionate failure of black and brown children remains painfully real in Oakland where we see lower graduation rates, higher incarceration rates, and even shorter life expectancy.

No matter the outcome of tomorrow’s school board vote, our community is in deep need of healing. We would do well to double down on our celebration of diversity. We need to genuinely listen to one another, even if the message is uncomfortable. We need to take a stand against racism and study its roots in our society. I am calling upon all adults in our community to begin this healing and to model for our children what is possible when we do this. I have faith that the Kaiser community will come through difficult conversations stronger and more unified in our shared commitment to educate and nurture our children.

~ Dennis Guikema, Principal