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Episode #13.1: Strike That


Four previous GR Project guests come back to speak openly and directly about how they are thinking about moving forward after the latest Oakland teachers' strike.  The group discusses timescales for change, alignment of action to those timescales and how to balance the need to survive with the desire to thrive.

Productions and content by some of the guests in this episode:

Episode #12: Paula Mitchell: Maker Agent on Special Assignment


Paula Mitchell has incorporated hands on learning from the beginning of her 25+ year career as an Oakland educator. Paula believes in fostering equity and providing access to high quality educational STEAM programs to historically underserved and underrepresented populations through a focus on culturally responsive making and authentic inclusion for students with disabilities. She is delighted that her job as a Teacher on Special Assignment for Maker-Centered Learning at Grass Valley Elementary School allows her to bring more hands-on, minds-on learning to the community she loves. As a part of this work, Paula developed her school's very first maker education/project-based learning program and its very first makerspace, the Wonder Workshop.

Paula has also participated in the Agency by Design Oakland Fellowship, first as a fellow and then as part of the Senior Leadership team. AbD focuses on the theory and practice of maker-centered learning. Paula is now excited to be continuing her journey with AbD Oakland as its Fellowship Director in the 2018-2019 school year.

In this episode, Paula reflected on her own early education and being good at school. She speaks to her experiences teaching in Oakland public schools,  from the West to the East. Of particular interest right now, Paula reflects on her time as a teacher at Marshall before getting to Grass Valley, and her experience of the Marshall school closure. 

Show Notes Coming Soon

Episode #11: LaShawn Routé Chatmon, Who Do We Want To Be?

LaShawn Routé Chatmon

LaShawn Routé Chatmon is the founding Executive Director of the National Equity Project, leading the organization’s transition from the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools (BayCES).  Under her leadership, the National Equity Project has become one of the leading voices in a movement to change the conversation and approach used to achieve racial equity in education. LaShawn previously served as a coach and director of the high school redesign initiative, where her team pioneered new school design processes, principal network development and site coaching that transformed educational experiences and outcomes for teachers and students in Oakland, CA.  

LaShawn was a MetLife Teaching Fellow, and is currently a LeaderSpring ED Fellow. LaShawn earned a B.A. in political science from University of California, Berkeley; a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Brown University; and an Administrative Credential from California State University, Sacramento’s Urban Leadership Program. LaShawn is a California native and resides in Oakland, CA with her husband and their three sons. 

Over the course of the conversation, LaShawn speaks to her love of learning and school, teachers who most influenced her life and why and how they did, the current state of the equity sector post-2016 and her continually evolving thoughts on the state of education reform here in Oakland.  As you’ll hear, the main theme LaShawn repeatedly comes back to revolves around the question of who we, as a community, want to be.

Special Offer for GR Project Listeners!

The National Equity Project offers many open-registration professional learning opportunities here in Oakland. The next will be Leading for Equity in Complex Systems on September 13-14. Learn more and register at and use code GRPROJECT for $50 off the registration fee.

For more information, check out

Show Notes Coming Soon

Episode #10: Trustee Amber Childress, #KidsNotPolitics


Amber Childress is a marketing techie, public speaker, and community advocate. She was raised in Oakland and has spent the majority of her life in the East Bay, attending Oakland public schools and Mills College. From her school-age years through adulthood, Amber has benefited from programs like Upward Bound, A Better Chance, and the Oakland Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program which fueled her desire to fight for quality education and opportunities for all students. The support she received in school and from her extended family taught her to embrace the idea that “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Childress is a longtime volunteer with Girls Inc. of Alameda County, serving as a mentor, committee member, and class volunteer. She was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Powerful Women of the Bay Innovator Award and in 2017 she received the Jefferson Award for Public Service. She is also a proud alumnae of EmergeCA. Amber currently serves on the Oakland Unified School District Measure G Citizens Oversight Committee and as a Trustee on the Alameda County Board of Education in 2016 for a 4 year term. 

In this episode, Amber speaks about her role on the Alameda County Board of Education, how she decided to run for office and the supports she sought along the way to get there. Amber also discusses the County Board’s role as an appellate board and how she thinks about and actualizes her responsibility to serve her constituents.

Show Notes

05:00 — Trustee Childress comes to Oakland!

07:15 — A Better Chance

11:00 — A Vision Board for the BoE and Staff

15:45 — Cuts, cuts, cuts

18:15 — Connecting with Constituents

26:00 — ACOE at its Best

37:00 — Campaigning and Elections, and the Emerge Program

47:10 — #kidsnotpolitics during Board discussions

57:50 — ACOE in Support of Oakland & OUSD

1:18:45 — Looking back on a First term

1:31:45 — The Five-ish Questions

@lenseandco; acoe.org 

Episode #9: Dr. Susie Wise, Weaving in the Shadows

Susie Wise.jpg

Dr. Susie Wise is the founder of the K12 Lab Network at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (a.k.a. the at Stanford). She founded the K12 Lab in 2007 to investigate the role that design thinking could play in the education sector. This work helped catalyze a national movement to use design thinking as an approach to project-based learning and a toolkit for ed sector innovation. Since 2012 she has led the team to create innovative personal and professional development experiences for teachers, school leaders, and “edu innovators” that help them build their creative confidence and make experiments happen. Recent programs include School Retool, a fellowship for school leaders, now operating in 18 cities, and the Shadow A Student Challenge, launched in 2016 with more than 3500 school leaders participating. Here in Oakland, Susie is also a co-founder of Urban Montessori Charter School.

Susie covers Design Thinking, how she connected her own powerful projects while growing up and in school to her work as an adult supporting school teams to realize their own agency in designing the world around them, and supporting students to do so, as well. Susie also calls out some promising “weaving” work, as she put it, as she seeks to play a role here in Oakland starting this Fall connecting and aligning more organizations towards a powerful vision that doesn’t just tinker around the edges when it comes to education design and re-design. Susie also shares how her personal mother-daughter relationship plays out as she supports her child to design with intention. 

Show Notes

04:00 — Dr. Wise comes to The Town!

10:00 — The Exploratorium Intrigues lays out a Life’s work

20:00 — High School

22:00 — Defining Innovation

28:00 — Class Design Thinking and Responding Further

35:00 — Shadowing a Student

37:30 — Tensions of Design and Risk Aversion

45:00 — Mindsets that support the Work

53:10 — Advice for getting more folks Involved in Deeper Learning

1:03:00 — Where are Oakland’s Big Wins in EDU Innovation?

1:24:00 — The City and Design across Oakland

1:27:30 — Susie’s Deepest Learning

1:31:45 — Dinner at the Wise-Bradshaw's

1:38:30 — Starting a School????

1:44:45 — The Five-ish Questions

@susiewise; @schoolretool

Episode #8: Cliff Hong, Principles of a Principal


In this episode, we talk with Cliff Hong, who has been the Principal of Roosevelt Middle School in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) since the 2010-11 school year.  Before that, he worked as an Assistant Principal at Edna Brewer Middle School in OUSD.  Cliff taught middle and high school for six years in the South Bronx, Syracuse and in Oakland. In 2015, he was selected to be one of a handful of Executive Principals in OUSD.  He is an ardent advocate for public education, which he sees as being absolutely necessary for a democracy to thrive.  

Cliff discusses the skills and positive experience of working in different schools and systems across the country; how he and the Roosevelt team are thinking about growth and performance, and holding themselves accountable; about personalizing learning and supporting stronger relationships amongst students and adults; and about building a team over time working together.

We apologize in advance for the slight echo you’ll hear in this episode.  We have our crack podcasting production staff working hard on resolving this problem.  Thanks for understanding and we hope you enjoy listening to Cliff share his insights and expertise with you.  

Show Notes

4:00 — Randy does his best Terry Gross

15:00 — Cliff as long in the tooth when it comes to the Principalship and dreaming of being a short order cook

17:30 — Becoming a Principal and the Skillz

31:30 — Listening while Principal

34:30 — An OUSD Executive Principal

42:00 — Bye Bye School Performance Framework and Hello CA Dashboard

54:30 — Roosevelt MS and a Community Ethic

1:02:00 — Personalization, Motivation, and Relationships

1:10:45 — Design Thinking at RMS

1:22:30 — Sustaining in the Principalship

1:27:30 — Cliff drops the mic

1:32:00 — Listener Question!

1:37:00 — The Five-ish Questions

Episode #7: Mirella Rangel, Organizando Conexiones

Mirella Rangel

Mirella Rangel is a Xicana mother living and working in Oakland, and a daughter of immigrants who organizes for a more connected world where people value themselves, others and the earth. She is currently Director of Community Organizing for GO Public Schools, and has worked for the past 20 years in and around Oakland schools as a teacher and administrator and in the non-profit sector. Mirella just launched GO's 1Oakland campaign this month, working with families and community to change policies and practices that are barriers to a more equitable school system. Mirella shares her wide range of experiences with community organizing and movement building here in the Bay Area, ranging from her days as a student U.C. Berkeley all the way up to the present day. Along the way, Mirella discusses the personal work and routines she uses to prepare herself to do her job each day, the connections she strives to make for her family and herself to her ancestors, the state of innovation in community organizing and some front lines stories of successes and challenges she faces in her work at GO. 

Show Notes

2:45 - Mirella as Guest and as Listener!

10:00 - Being Chicana and Community

18:00 — Helping Others Listen

23:30 - Working in the Bay

29:00 — How are we organized and not organized. And what organizing means for Oakland’s kids.

34:00 — Innovation in Organizing

42:30 — Success in Oakland Education is…

47:30 - Working at GO Public Schools

59:00 — The #1Oakland Campaign

1:14:00 — The Five-ish Questions