Cheri Spigner is running for Oakland School Board District 4 on
As a long term Oakland resident, who raised her children here, she brings the unique combination of experiencing the positives and negatives of the current system of education through being an involved parent and an extensive professional profile from her career in financial consulting.
I asked Spigner how she came to be interested in local politics, particularly within the realm of education. What she told me was not at all the response I was expecting. She received a diagnosis of breast cancer. After a double mastectomy and surviving the ordeal, she began to ask herself what her bigger impact was going to be. “If I die tomorrow, what is my legacy” type of thinking, as she so casually put it.
Like most people, Spigner admitted that she stayed kind of comfortable and didn’t make many drastic changes in her life, previous to her decision to pursue a key role in local politics. Spigner went back to school to earn her Masters degree in Leadership and Development, joined local political action groups and found her way to an open seat on the district she lives in.
Generally, school board members are educators or members of nonprofits in the education sector. Spigner’s point of view as the parent of three children who went through Oakland schools brings a different and invaluable perspective. Educators bring the experience of the classroom, theory, passion, pedagogy, but they cannot see the individual realities of how each child incorporates or struggles to incorporate their school experience into their lives outside of the classroom.
Spigner sees political participation in Oakland education as a part of her civic duty. The experiences she had as a mother, as well as a politically versed individual, can benefit other families in Oakland. Her experiences make her a natural liaison between the board and the community. Spigner’s platform of lived experience also puts her in a unique position to educate others on the importance and process of local politics.
Many people find politics and legislation inaccessible or believe they are not affected by changes in policy or law. Spigner points out that it is often local politics that are overlooked, which is ironic, since this is the legislation that will most directly and immediately impact the people that live in the community.
Spigner’s three main focus points:
One: Spend money wisely. Spigner talks to me about return investments, real time billing, shortfalls, overruns and surplus. I nod my head like I have a clue. She emphasizes updating antiquated systems. A simple, effective step in making Oakland Schools run more efficiently and a worthy use of funds, would be utilizing technology. Spigner sites KP.org as an accessibility overhaul for Kaiser Permanente, which has influenced clients’ decisions to go with them over other companies. The same sort of thinking that goes into making a financial choice about efficiency and fund allocation is a greatly beneficial point of view to have present on the Oakland School Board.
Spending money wisely leads to Spigner’s second focus point.
Two: Improve student pathways to higher education. Too many studies and statistics show that the lack of support in early childhood development in lower socio economic areas is the point at which inequalities in level of education completed, probability of attending college and long term income start. An emphasis on early childhood development and putting funds towards kindergarten through fifth grade education could positively shift the futures of students in Oakland Schools. In addition, there are currently not many platforms in Oakland schools to pursue vocational or technology programs at the high school level. This is another area Spigner advocates for prioritization of.
Part of her plan to prioritize these elements of education is to work with the city elected and community organizations to create full service community schools so that children are able to experience school as a positive place conducive to learning from the very beginning of their education. “I’m a big expectation person,” Spigner adds. “If we change the expectations we change the outcomes.”
Three: Partner with local organizations. Every business in Oakland should be supporting Oakland Schools, says Spigner, as it is these schools that we want people to come to for their workforce and leaders.
Some of the less than ideal realities about Oakland schools are that they are under the national average in terms of graduating people of color. Spigner also mentions that there is a gap in how the schools are serving the high performing students as well, who don’t always get the support they need to explore based on their individuality either. Each child’s experience is just as important as another’s.
A statement that Cheri made during our interview really stayed with me. She said that her passion, involvement and support of her children gave them the freedom to explore their strengths and weaknesses, talents and preferences. – “From a standpoint of quality of education and finding your knack – whatever your “it” is- that’s a gratifying experience. I want every child to have that,” she said. The passion and dedication she brought to her children’s’ educational experiences is also present in her drive to contribute to local education legislation and improvement. The school systems should, in Spigner’s opinion, be that platform that provides the necessary backing and stability for individual students to venture out and explore what is within themselves and how to best use these strengths in the academic world and the work force.
For Spigner, these are not lofty goals. With a career in finance under belt, she is no stranger to negotiation, building strong and beneficial community relationships, garnering support and educating people on how to best negotiate important decisions that will affect the futures of many.
Vote for Cheri Spigner for Oakland Education Board District 4 on November 4th!