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UC and Oakland focus on student opportunity

President Napolitano offered an enthusiastic welcome to the new Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) superintendent, Kyla Johnson-Trammell, during a small reception co-hosted by UCOP and UC Berkeley at 1111 Franklin on Nov. 6.

President Napolitano highlighted Johnson-Trammell’s local background as key to her past and future success. Born and raised in East Oakland, Johnson-Trammel was educated in the public school system she now serves, and received her doctorate in education at UC Berkeley.

“We at UC are thrilled that OUSD is now under the leadership of a woman who is not only rooted in Oakland, but also in the University of California,” said Napolitano. “We look forward to building on existing partnerships between UC and OUSD, and exploring new opportunities to expand educational access across Oakland.”

She noted that those partnerships include supporting Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Oakland Promise initiative, for which UC has raised $500,000 in the past year, by leveraging financial aid and donor programs.

Prudence Cartner, dean at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, proudly named Trammell as an alum of the school’s Principal Leadership Institute – and noted that her appointment means three alumni of that program are now running California school districts.

In introductory remarks, Vice Provost Yvette Gullatt said that she’d been impressed by Johnson-Trammell’s proclamation about leadership: “We are who we’ve been looking for.” Picking up that theme, Gullatt continued, “This gathering represents an intersection of shared interests and concern for our young peoples’ best futures. ‘We’ at the University of California are dedicated to making college and career preparedness a reality for all students, those from Oakland schools and across the state. UC welcomes and seeks to include a spectrum of students, faculty and staff that mirrors the diversity of California itself. We are fortunate to have a leader who actively advances that diversity.”

Both Cartner and Napolitano underlined the importance of UC academic preparation programs like MESA and Puente, which serve more than 180,000 K-12 students as well as many of their parents.

Johnson-Trammell confirmed that participation in the MESA program in middle school was key to “stretching (her) dreams” as well as helping her mother understand how to help her achieve them. She also credited her participation in UC Berkeley’s Young Musicians program for exposing her to the college campus as a place where she would be welcomed.

For the past 18 years, Johnson-Trammell has worked in various capacities at OUSD, beginning as a teacher before becoming a principal, then deputy superintendent and now leader of the entire district. She listed her three priorities in that role as fiscal vitality, nurturing a quality school in every neighborhood, and developing organizational resilience to weather the inevitable challenges.

Her optimistic outlook is shared by Napolitano, who summed up the event by saying that “although it may seem that there is always a new hurdle before us, opportunity abounds for Oakland and for California.” Invoking the UC motto, “Fiat Lux,” she enlisted her fellow educators in the room “to roll up our sleeves and work together to ensure that the torch we pass to the next generation burns brighter than ever.”

Other attendees at the reception included Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf; Ted Lempert, president of Children Now; Bob Giannino, chief executive officer of uAspire; Oscar Dubón, UC Berkeley’s new vice chancellor for equity and inclusion; and Diane Dodge, executive director of the East Bay College Fund.


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