A Learning Curve at the County Office of Education

There’s a ton to reflect on even though my internship with the Superintendent’s Office at the Alameda County of Education started less than two weeks ago. I have already met dozens of people and begun to sink my teeth into the projects that I will work on this summer. So far I feel a sense of calm urgency, and I think it’s in part fueled by my daily doses of morning coffee. Or it might be stoked by the constant planning, meetings, and conference calls that I keep seeing in motion around the office. There are many Post-It notes and tasks waiting to be accomplished and checked off the County’s to-do list. Since it is summer, that means budgets are being turned in for final review, including the budgets of the 18 school districts in Alameda County, the County Office of Education, and the State of California. Once budgets are finalized, education dollars will be allocated according to strategic plans laid out in each district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) to take care of students’ needs, especially for those most vulnerable. But as I’ve seen in federal government, education funding is tight in state and local governments as well. Despite there being more funding this year, politics still plays a huge role in ensuring the highest-need priorities are met. I am eager to witness how this plays out on the local level--where school boards and district staff will be able to make last-minute adjustments before everything is all set in stone.

Even more exciting so far has been my introductions to the people who commit to seeing this work to fruition. I visited ACOE’s Community School in Hayward with my supervisor, Dan Bellino, and was fortunate enough to meet Principal Earl Crawford and his trusted tutors, Jamal and Nick, who gave us a tour of the facilities. We walked into a few classrooms, saw teachers and students in action, and at the end of it I was able to once again realize who this vital work is done for—all students, especially the most vulnerable and at-risk. After this visit and a few days of being in the office, I was reminded of how refreshing it is to be in a space where education policy and politics constantly buzz through the air. It is incredibly inspiring to be working in an institution whose mission aspires to serve all students and children.

Last summer I interned at the U.S. Department of Education, and I was able to help their mission move along from a bird’s-eye view. At the local level, I can more closely observe the educational process. Advocacy groups, non-profits, labor unions, and community members are right at the helm of the County’s work, and it’s fascinating to see how they interact and work together. As for myself, I have a few planning projects and policy researching tasks on my to-do list, and in the next few months I will have the privilege to support the ACOE in their mission. I am in the same office as my supervisor Dan, and Superintendent L. Karen Monroe’s office is just down the hallway, so I know there will be no short supply of mentors as I embark on what will surely be an eye-opening experience.

Gladys Rosario is a senior at UC Berkeley studying political economy and global poverty & practice. She is interning at the Alameda County Office of Education as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.