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Update from our political director

My name is Michael McDaniel and I’m the Political Director with FIA. I’m a father and a veteran and a proud Oakland public school graduate. My work involves navigating the political dynamics in Oakland and advocating for policies that serve Black and Brown public school students. This is the first piece in an ongoing series we’ll be sharing with you this year to give some insight into what I do.

An organizing principle that drives my work is: “Power respects power.” FIA is in the business of building Black and Brown parent and youth power. As we tell families and students, we have to act, organize, and put on our power coats if we want to change the status quo.

We appreciate the partnership of Charles Cole (left) of Energy Convertors and District 7 School Board member Cliff Thompson (right), pictured here with me.

Our Successes in 2022-23

I want to thank all the parent and youth leaders for all their hard work on FIA campaigns in the past year. It is due to your efforts that the conversation and narrative around what outcomes need to look like for our Black and Brown families in Oakland is shifting and gaining traction.

As I look back on the last 12 months, there are many highlights to share, but here are a couple that stand out:

FIA’s “Raise the Bar” campaign has awakened people to the fact that just 2 out 10 Black and Brown students are reading on grade level in Oakland public schools– and have been for decades. We cannot stand for these kinds of results, and the community got behind this campaign. Parents and students have raised their voices to public officials, letting them know that our children will not be left behind. Families made their voices heard through meetings with school board members, by attending school board meetings and we also held a press conference outside their meeting chambers to make sure they do not ignore these results.

Families and students flex their power outside of the building where the OUSD school board meets, and are joined by District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo.

Last September, we hosted our first candidate forum, which featured mayoral and school board candidates talking about education and quality schools. I’m proud that it was the largest candidate forum of the 2022 Oakland election. I’m even more proud of how the community came together to ask candidates tough questions to understand their priorities and values. Families and students deserve a seat at the decision-making table because we are the ones who are affected by the decisions they make.

Looking forward to 2023-24

This summer, parents and youth are building power through FIA’s Summer Leadership Institute. Part of the institute involves learning more about the upcoming District 5 school board election. With a deciding vote, the next D5 school board member will have the power to sway major decisions, like charter schools’ ability to be renewed, receive funding, or have access to district facilities. Not only that, there are 26 public schools in District 5, which encompasses the heart of the Fruitvale, and where Black and Brown students have lower than acceptable academic outcomes. We are working to ensure families understand the stakes and the importance of electing a school board member who will prioritize our students’ needs.

With District 3 School Board member VanCedric Williams at the FIA 2023 A-G Awards.

I’m also looking forward to continuing to advocate for quality schools in my work with our city and county elected officials. What I have discovered is that though we may disagree on policy, we can find common ground in our desire to see Black and Brown students better served by Oakland public schools. I thank our school board members especially for their commitment to serving our children – I can only imagine how difficult your job must be – and I look forward to working with you and our FIA families this year. We need everyone in the room to shift the conversation to be about quality, equity and access and flip these outcomes for our students.

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Families in Action for Quality Education (FIA) was founded in 2019 and now has grown to serve over 16,000 district and charter school families. FIA has graduated over 500 parents, youth, educators, and school board members from our leadership institutes to advocate for access to quality education across the city of Oakland. For more information and to sign up, visit FIA’s websiteFacebookInstagram or Twitter.

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