Superintendent Antwan Wilson answers Green & Gold questions on Call for Quality Schools

Superintendent Antwan Wilson

Oakland Unified School District

Superintendent Antwan Wilson

Green & Gold reporter Quenajonay Frazier wrote three questions for Superintendent Antwan Wilson for her story on his Call for Quality Schools, which leaves Fremont open to having a charter school take it over. Wilson’s answers were too long to print in the hard copy of the newspaper, but we are reprinting them here.

Q. Some Fremont students feel disrespected by the fact that you have not made time to come to Fremont High for at least one meeting since the day you announced the Call for Quality Schools. What is your response to them?

A. I have dedicated my life and my professional career to promoting social justice in the educational arena. I have the upmost respect for students and believe strongly in the ability of students to succeed, and the right of all students to a quality education. My role is to make sure that our team leads in such a way that this process allows for student voice to be included in the plans to improve the schools. This means that I have made it possible for leaders such as Mark Triplett and Isaac Kos-Reed and other district leaders to engage with students. We will continue to make sure this happens. I planned to be at the first kickoff meeting back in January with Fremont students with Mr. Triplett and Mr. Kos-Reed. Unfortunately I had a family emergency that required I miss the meeting. I plan to make time to visit Fremont again before Spring Break and I hope that during that time I will be able to talk directly with students. I was in fact at Fremont last Friday, though not for the reason I would have hoped, and today am meeting with a group of Fremont leaders that includes the principal, teachers, and students involved in preparing the response to the Call for Quality Schools.

Q. Is it true that you too feel disrespected by Fremont High students?

A. I believe in the students at Fremont and do not feel disrespected by them. I believe that many students were led to believe that I want to close their school and fire all of their teachers. That’s is completely false. When many believed this, they decided to try to do something about it. The fact is that closing Fremont has never been an option to me. The process has always been about community involvement and creating high expectations for students so they have a chance at living the types of lives they deserve as a result of being educated at Fremont. This does require that we teach students how to express themselves in respectful ways, even if they observe adults not always modeling that for them. Speaking out in ways that are respectful increases the chances of being fully heard. I do not believe that students were always encouraged to be respectful. That was inappropriate and I believe we can do better by our students. I’m hoping the students at Fremont stay involved in the process and help us make sure we have a school where students always feel safe, respected, expected to learn, and are prepared to learn, graduate, and succeed in college, career, and life.

Q. Some students feel you do not understand Oakland and Fremont history and the stress we’ve all been under with so many changes to our schools. They think you should spend more time getting to know Oakland before making such big decisions about possibly giving schools to charter companies. What is your response to them?

A. I would say that I have spent a great deal of time studying Oakland. I will continue to learn more. It is important that I do not wait to make sure that our students receive the best education available. The type of education that one would expect to find in the most affluent of neighborhoods should be available to our students. I can’t wait to make improvements families deserve. This means that we must act. I do not have a plan to give schools over to charter schools. I never have had that plan. Some have inaccurately stated that as my goal. It’s just flat wrong. What we have done is said that as communities go through this process, all options should be on the table. I believe communities should have access to all options. We can’t afford to take options off the table until we see the success for all of our students at all of our schools. Final decisions about school programs must come with the involvement and support of the broader school community, including students, families, teachers, staff, and community members.