Vol: 19 No: 1 – November 2020

APT is committed to OSA as a diverse, equitable  and inclusive school community. A place where students thrive, and where parents, teachers, and students— together with the school leadership and board, partner to ensure the success of the school.

Please join us for the Monthly APT General Meetings on 3rd Wednesday of the month at 6pm!

Next Meeting: November 18, 2020 

Zoom LINK Password: OSArocks

If you know 6th grade families or those who are new to the school, please send this newsletter to them.

Sign-up for Konstella! “The only platform where OSA parents can have interactive discussions online”

Konstella Videos & Guides: See these useful Konstella Videos & Guides

QT Club: OSA LGBTQ Students Building Community

The OSA student QT Club (Queer Trans) meets monthly and there are close to 20 members so far this year. Members gather for interactive discussion and presentations on a range of topics. Both middle and high schoolers are welcome to the group. Some of their recent  presentations focused on the history of queer Halloween, and the role of Black trans women in music, and the history of queer community volunteerism. The Club is also partnering with an organization called Turnout. 

This organization offers trainings and professional development and volunteer opportunities for the queer community in the Bay Area. The Club and Turnout are discussing the possibility of OSA student internships with Bay Area LGBTQ organizations. Members are also currently discussing the launch of a queer art contest at OSA. The QT Club is on Instagram @qtlunchclub.

OSA Alumni Update

OSA is 18 years young, and we are so proud to have begun the Alumni Association in the past year. 

The purpose of the OSA Alumni Association is two-fold: 

(1) to create a community for alumni who are in all different fields and living in all different locations so that we can continue to build together and learn from one another; and 

(2) to ensure that there is alumni participation with current students and relationships with current administrators.  The Alumni Association works to connect peers from all eras and highlight our different yet connected experiences during our OSA tenure.  

It is important to the Alumni Association that the spirit of old Oakland and the history of OSA remain alive in the school today.  We hope to build a strong alumni network and have a true presence at OSA.  The OSA Alumni Association hopes to be a part of this experience, as current students build their disciplines through their art, and start the conceptual blueprint for their careers, within or outside their craft. The APT will be inviting representatives to one of our meetings soon to share their experiences and give insight on the direction of the school.   

APT will be hosting an Alumni Panel at the November 18 General Meeting at 6pm.  Please have your students join this exciting event.

Please checkout the OSA Alumni Association Website to see what our alumni are up to!  https://alumni.oakarts.org/

PODS – Parents of Students with Disabilities

PODS – Is a parent led social group for Parents of Students with Disabilities. 

Next Meeting: December 16, 2020

The purpose of this group is to: 

  • provide emotional support
  • share experiences & ideas
  • educate each other on how to properly advocate for our children with IEP and 504 plans  

To receive meeting updates, resources, and connect to other parents in PODS please join our group APT-PODS in Konstella

Check out this link for more Konstella tips.

A recent success was to add child-find language to our charter renewal and the hiring of amazing special education coordinator Sara Ordaz.

Our goal this year is to ensure adequate services are implemented for all students with IEPs and 504 plans.

Board of Students of Color Newsletter

APT is honored to circulate the extraordinary work of the Board of Students of Color who have generated a beautiful and compelling November Newsletter.

Download it HERE!

NOTE: December’s Giving Tuesday focus will be on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Principal Oz is currently working with Kathryn Keslosky and the Board of Students of Color to put together the content for the one-day fundraising event which will help fund OSA’s DEI initiatives.

OSA Staff Spotlight

Interview with an Equity Champion

Uma Joshi – OSA World History & Ethnic Studies Teacher)

What is a memorable catalyst to your ‘Why’?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint a specific catalyst but my “why” in championing equity will always be my students. I try to always think of them first and what they might be feeling or going through in the moment. Part of this naturally comes from me being an empath, I can honestly say that I feel a lot of the emotions that my students carry into each class. However, moments that stand out to me the most are what I like to call “aha” moments. Sometimes when teaching history, especially in a way that is never taught before which is outside of a textbook, you wonder how much students are really retaining. When students can connect an idea or a current event to something that we may have studied months prior, I feel that these are memorable moments that remind me of why I continue pushing an equitable learning environment that shows multiple perspectives beyond the traditional narrative.

What’s an example of how you’re living your ‘Why’ (inside and outside of OSA)?

Although I mentioned that my “why” are my students, I can also safely say that I try to implement an equitable learning environment that shows students that it is ok to make mistakes, have off days and practice self care. This year, I have been faced with decisions of whether to push through curriculum, or allow students to have a self care day. Knowing that we are living through a pandemic, continual racial violence and injustice and a contested election, I have always geared more toward allowing my students time for self care, rather than just telling them that I know they are overwhelmed, but continuing to push through teaching curriculum. I think that a lot of teachers believe they are teaching with equity in mind, but acknowledging students mental health versus actually honoring it are two different things. I have even learned this year to take care of myself and my own mental health, knowing that I need to strive to be a positive energy for my students when I see them. I think outside of OSA, I try to make clear that caring for the holistic individual and their wellbeing is important, which is something I think can be lost in our current society.

What’s one hope you have for the future of OSA or the OSA Community?

A hope I have for the OSA community is to put our beliefs on equity into practice. As I mentioned before, I think a lot of the OSA community (specifically staff) believes wholeheartedly in equity, however some can continue to push the dominant narrative of producing work even during times of distress. My hope is that the OSA community acknowledges that school systems can be harmful and oppressive and that we must try our hardest to combat these systems. This really starts with gaining an understanding of equity and what it may look like at OSA.

What’s a book, film, podcast, website, or other resource, that has nurtured you through this pandemic, and that you recommend to our community?

I’m currently reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi which is a Nigerian fantasy novel. Because of the intense subjects that I teach at OSA, I’ve found nurturing in books that can provide an escape to continually thinking about the current situation that we are all in. That’s not to say that I don’t love keeping up with politics and current events – and for that I have been listening to the Higher Learning Podcast with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay.

Art & Activism

“Vote-Don’t Stay Silent” Digital Drawing by Vincent Truong: 12th Grader

(3rd Place – FIA voting poster contest)

Our OSA students speak for all of us through their artwork (reprinted here) and with their passionate words:

“It is selfish to pass this opportunity. People who can vote need to take action and speak for others, if not themselves.”

– Nicole Mendoza: 11th Grader

(1st Place – Families in Action (FIA) voting poster contest)

Let’s hope we all voted, especially to help represent the voices for our youth that cannot vote yet!

See all of the amazing submissions HERE.

Konstella Pro-Tips for Parents

Konstella! The only platform where OSA parents can have interactive discussions online”


Konstella is a private OSA family network created with the intention of bringing the community together to share ideas, find connections or organize support for students at OSA. Below are some tips for using the network and ways to adjust your account to work for you.

Please consider the following norms when communicating via Konstella:

  • Take an inquiry stance
  • Assume positive intentions
  • Discuss ideas & issues, not people
  • Cross-check the accuracy of information the OSA website

THINK” before you post:

T – Is it true? 

H – is it helpful?

I – Is it inspiring?

N – is it necessary?

K – is it kind?

Konstella Tips:

  • Need to update your student’s sub-pathway? On your Konstella homepage, click your name in the top left corner. Click ”Your Children” then add/modify your children. If using the app, click the “Settings” icon in the top left corner and click on “Your Children”.
  • Want to reach out to a specific parent for a private conversation? Find that parent using the Konstella directory and send them a message. If their email address or phone number are posted, you can reach out to them that way as well. 
  • Looking for parents with shared interests? Look through the many Social Groups on Konstella. There are several parent-led groups to choose from – you can even start a social group of your own.   
  • Getting too many emails from Konstella? Go into your Account settings and adjust the notifications. You can choose to get notices immediately, only once a day or none at all. If choosing to receive no notifications, you’ll have to log into your account to check for any important information that is posted.
  • What is the difference between the Konstella website and the app? The website offers the full array of Konstella’s offerings. The app is meant to be an “at-a-glance” look for the directory, calendar and recent announcements.

Check out this link for more Konstella tips.

From Surviving the Crisis to Living the Charter

Charter schools are not inherently better or worse than district-run schools, but they are prone to different challenges. Because charters were created, among other reasons, to avoid the democratic control that district-run schools are subject to; racial equity and disability advocates often critique charters’ lack of accountability and contribution to the alarming trend of resegregation. The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) staff and Board members expressed ongoing concerns with OSA and stated that OSA’s charter renewal was in jeopardy because OSA had promised to better reflect the demographics of Oakland families enrolled in the District in the last charter term, but didn’t deliver. The OSA student body had increased its white student population, reduced its students of color population, with fewer English Language Learners, fewer students with disabilities, and fewer socio-economically disadvantaged students. At the same time, OSA teachers, parents and students were more vocally expressing frustration in a lack of transparency and accountability observed on the part of some of OSA’s board and leadership. OSA’s charter renewal brought two crises to a head: lack of inclusion and lack of democracy, with the very future of our school at stake. 

OSA survived this crisis and grew from our conflicts to become better and stronger. Former Executive Director Staci Smith and Board Chair Elise Darwish had placed removing auditions on the table. Parents and staff were divided on the issue. We had to educate ourselves to understand how the audition process produced racial exclusion. We began to explore how kids with little to no arts training could experience OSA as a welcoming and supportive environment to grow within. The school had some creative ideas and we all began to understand that a new path forward was possible.

Parent organizations—Parents of Color (POC), Parents of Students with Disabilities (PODS—featured in this issue) and the Alliance of Parents and Teachers (APT)—did research, facilitated dialogue and advocated for stronger, more inclusive equity measures in the charter, such as regular reporting on enrollment and student achievement by student groups. 

To make OSA more democratic and accountable, the APT advocated for a charter clause mandating three parent representatives and a student representative which was adopted by the OSA board of directors. OSA staff did a tremendous amount of work on the charter document however some OUSD Board members were not likely to be convinced by the document alone. In the end, it was the public comments of OSA parents and students (who stayed up until 11pm for multiple meetings), particularly the testimony of Black and brown families, and OSA staff of color, that made OUSD Board members sit up and take notice, and ultimately give OSA another chance.

(Sample of speakers at OUSD Board meeting)

Renewing the charter took all of us, but it was just the first challenge.  Now we’re faced with making good on our promise. Living the Charter will also take all of us. Here are some examples of what our community is doing:

  • ED Lisa Sherman-Colt promoted several faculty and staff of color to leadership positions; 
  • Principal Mike Oz and a team of experienced educators have continued regular assessments of student academic achievement. Results are analyzed from multiple perspectives including school-wide, by grade-level, by ethnicity, disability and socio-economic status and at the level of each individual student’s needs to ensure that student support efforts are effective; the school has begun sharing this analysis with parents & community;
  • History teacher Uma Joshi took on the role of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Researcher and Developer, ; 
  • Edutainment for Equity has been hired for a year long residency; 
  • Anti-racist training has been added to faculty & OSA administration professional development; 
  • The Equity sub-committee of the OSA Board is meeting regularly to oversee implementation of our equity goals and ensure that our equity work is front and center in our next strategic plan; 
  • The Step-It-Up team has entered into a partnership with the People’s Conservatory and specific Title 1 schools to recruit more students with disabilities, students of color, and socio-economically disadvantaged students into OSA;  
  • The OSA staff of color group took on researching resources to assist OSA in ongoing diversity and inclusion work; 
  • A number of white-identified parents created a white allies group to better understand how white supremacy permeates society and impacts all schools; and
  • After a Brown Act training, and at the request of parents, students and alumni, the OSA Board added a public comment session to each agenda item, creating more opportunities for meaningful exchanges with stakeholders. 

This is real progress we should all be proud of but we have much more to do:  

  • The arts programs need to be redesigned so that students with less prior training can thrive; 
  • The strategic plan should be driven by input from underrepresented students and families; 
  • We need permanent staffing for DEI work and more culturally appropriate curricula; 
  • As we welcome more students with disabilities, we need adequate staffing to serve them in compliance with the IEP and 504 plans; and 
  • It’s critical that OSA board members fully participate in anti-racist training & development. 

With appreciation for the school leadership’s skills and intentions, we face the challenge to become much more inclusive and equitable.  We know that we have to put the voices of the BIPOC families and students who face racism everyday at the forefront of our shared governance. The best leaders in this case will be those who can effectively follow the leadership of the community they serve. 

It took all of us to save the school and it will take all of us to Live the Charter so that OSA truly embodies equity, inclusion, transparency and democracy through the arts. Our students and communities are counting on us to succeed.

1 The California law that guarantees the public right to attend and participate in the meetings of local legislative bodies.

2 While POC (People of Color) is widely used as an umbrella term, the emerging term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), acknowledges the severe impacts on Black and Indigenous people under systemic racism and highlights the way whiteness emerged from the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement of African peoples and how this history shapes the experiences of all people of color under white supremacy.


…more to come!

Your feedback on the OSA APT Newsletter is welcome!

News item submissions (by the 5th of each month) osanews@aptosa.org
Submission Guidelines

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