McDaniel Jr. began as a parent leader with FIA before joining the organization’s staff. He grew up in East Oakland and saw his siblings fail to graduate from high school, before his parents sent him to elementary school up the hill at Grass Valley Elementary and Skyline High School. He said the experience helped to shape his current opinion that families should not be so tightly bound to their neighborhood schools.
“Honestly, the only thing that kind of breaks some of the stigma that we see in this city is being able to see something different than where you’re growing up,” he said.
McDaniel’s own sons attended REACH Academy and Cox Academy, the former a charter and the latter a district school, that are located next to each other near 98th Avenue and Bancroft Avenue in deep East Oakland.
Kean, FIA’s co-founder, also grew up in Oakland and has worked as a teacher, principal, and administrator for both OUSD and charter schools. When she was principal at Acorn Woodland Elementary, students saw massive gains in math and reading, but it took a lot of hard work, she said. Teachers were given more planning time, worked with coaches to help learn new curriculum, and were observed every week.
One of the organization’s aims is to help schools do more to engage parents. In the upcoming school year, Families in Action is hoping to work with 20 schools to organize “family engagement walks,” where school leaders can share their strategies for improvement with parents, and allow parents to see those strategies in action.
Over the next few months, Families in Action will also hold a summer leadership institute and host a candidate forum for the OUSD special election to be held for District 5 on Nov. 7.
“These families don’t believe in themselves—that they can be and do any more than their situation. And one of the best ways to get them to break out of that is to bring them into community, in partnership with their child’s education,” McDaniel said. “We need to tune back into our kids as well… It’s been too long since our schools have partnered with families—there’s been that disconnect because of the pandemic. We need to bring families back into the fold.”
This article was published on June 22, 2023 and is available here.