Skip to content

Strong Neighborhoods, Strong Schools: Case Study: Oakland Community Organizations

Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) is composed of several dozen faith-based organizations whose congregants participate in OCO through the religious institution to which they belong. Affiliated since its inception with the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing (PICO), a nationwide network of similar groups, OCO works on multiple issues of concern to low- and moderate-income families in Oaklands’ flatlands neighborhoods. Key concerns include affordable housing, crime prevention, and education. Residents of the flatlands have been concerned that their schools are severely overcrowded and test scores low relative to schools in wealthier Oakland neighborhoods. In 1999, OCO joined forces with the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools (BayCES), a school reform group working primarily with teachers, to launch a campaign to end the overcrowding and advocate for small autonomous schools. Through persistent, well-informed organizing and political action, OCO/BayCES moved the Oakland Unified School District toward the adoption and implementation of a Small Schools Policy which prioritized the flatlands and included ongoing involvement of parents, teachers and community members in the design and management of the new schools. This report discusses OCO’s accomplishments, which have made these achievements possible, in the indicator areas of community power, equity, social capital, and leadership development.