Freshman debater offers ideas for urban education to Schaaf, Wilson

Daniela Guerra-Reynosa (second from left) gets last minute advice from debate coach Maya Shweiky before she begins the

Lisa Shafer

Daniela Guerra-Reynosa (second from left) gets last minute advice from debate coach Maya Shweiky before she begins the “Innovations in Urban Education” roundtable at Oakland City Hall on Jan. 26. Standing behind Reynosa are school board director Roseann Torres and Superintendent Antwan Wilson, who were also part of the roundtable.

Freshman Daniela Guerra-Reynosa joined new mayor Libby Schaaf and new school superintendent Antwan Wilson to discuss improving urban education, but she differed with the two leaders on whether charters were a good way to do that.

Below is part of the freshman debater’s speech from “Innovations in Urban Education,” sponsored by the Bay Area Urban Debate League on Jan. 26 at Oakland City Hall.

My name is Daniela Reynosa. I am currently a ninth grader at Fremont High School, located in East Oakland. I’d like to start off by thanking you all for giving us a chance to be heard. I’d also like to thank you for taking some of your indispensable time to allow BAUDL debaters and other students to bring their perspectives on how to improve our current education system into consideration.

Today, I would like to bring an important is- sue to the table. The Call for Quality Schools, in which three of the five identified schools will benefit from Measure N and Measure J funding

I briefly want to mention the dynamics of my school, which has had the most engagement with regard to this process. Fremont High School, is an urban public high school located in the Fruitvale District of East Oakland, California since 1905.

It was formerly a group of smaller high schools as a result of the previous district reform ef-
forts, located on the same campus and known as Fremont Federation of High Schools. Fremont is a vital part of East Bay community. Not only for the fact that it allows for newcomer, special education and often times at risk students to obtain an education but also for its history.

Three years ago the previous superintendent decided to reconstitute Fremont into one school without the community’s voice. This time, Fremont and the community need to be a part of deciding how to transform and improve for itself. And so do the other school communities.

While I agree that it is vital our schools to take the proper steps toward improving; I am not open to the idea that the voices of the communities in Oakland schools suddenly have to compete with charter schools to keep what’s rightfully theirs. Charter schools are not required to follow traditional public school regulations nor required to be transparent with the community.

This is a drastic change, and who will it be benefiting in the long term? Not all the students at the schools. If we remove a school from a community and install a charter school, not everyone will be accepted. Charter schools are not required to accept all students. We need to keep our schools public so Oakland youth have a better chance to succeed and that the community can continue to own them. We should take steps to better those five schools and enrich them, and have them receive the Measure J and N funds that the community advocated for, not wipe them off the map.