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HEROES Profile- David Silver

HEROES Profile      October, 2015     

Hellaawesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

“…I have never been more optimistic than today. We have…a powerful vision of educational equity, and models of successful schools. This is our time.”

David Silver

Director of Education, City of Oakland

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I grew up in Ann Harbor, MI, went to UCLA, and taught in Compton through Teach for America. I moved up to Oakland to be in a diverse, progressive area where I could work with students, families and community members to make it better.

 What is your connection to Oakland Education? How would you describe your role in the community?

I have been involved in Oakland education in a variety of roles since 1997. My personal goal is to do everything in my power to eradicate education inequity and to empower more students to be the first in their family to graduate from college. I’ve built a career around this mission through service in the following roles: bilingual teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School, assistant principal at Lockwood Elementary, founding principal at Think College Now, Program and School Director at Teach for America, CEO of College Track and now Director of Education for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. These roles have helped me increase impact and break down educational equity.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

As Director of Education for the Mayor, I have the opportunity to work in partnership with students, families, educators, partners, the city, OUSD, and Mayor Schaaf to realize a vision of educational equity for all students in Oakland. With the collaboration of these key stakeholders, I am able leverage the work that has already been done and align it to our shared vision of creating a true continuum of excellence from pre-K through K-12 and beyond –ensuring that every child in Oakland graduates high school with the expectations, resources and skills to complete college and be successful in the career of their choice.

Share one or two highlights from your career, in which you made an impact.

Before becoming the Director of Education for the Mayor in Oakland, I served as the Chief Executive Officer of College Track, a national non-profit whose mission is to empower students from underserved communities to graduate from college. During my tenure, I led the organization through significant growth – from serving 900 students to more than 2000 including expansion to Colorado, Sacramento and Los Angeles; more than doubling the staff size from 30 to 85 employees; and increasing the annual budget from $4.5 to $15 million. Most importantly, quality increased as College Track scaled; four-year college acceptance and matriculation (94% and 89% respectively) are the highest in the organization’s history, and the college graduation rate is more than 2.5 times the national average for students in low-income communities.
Prior to College Track, I created Think College Now (TCN), a college-focused elementary school in Oakland Unified School District, in collaboration with a group of committed parents, students, educators and community members. TCN’s mission is to ensure all students have an opportunity to graduate from college and pursue their dreams. From 2003-2011, I served as founding principal and, during my tenure, the school received several honors including becoming the first California Distinguished School in the Fruitvale neighborhood. TCN’s Academic Performance Index rose from 585 to 849 and went from 10% and 23% of students at grade-level proficiency to 60% and 80% in reading and math respectively. Finally, I am proud to say that 31 of our original 39 second graders are now in college.

 What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

When I was younger, I played basketball with kids from a variety of backgrounds. In high school and college, I was involved in organizations that brought together people from diverse backgrounds. During the Rodney King riots, I was motivated to explore the underlying causes of racism and poverty. This led me to join Teach for America (TFA), serving as a second grade teacher and basketball coach in Compton, California. My experiences with kids and families during my time in TFA still drive me today.

What motivates you?

Reflecting on some of the students that I had that were brilliant but never went to college motivates me to make sure that their children will have the opportunities they deserve.

What is your best advice to young people?

You can fail but don’t quit. Life is not a straight line and has a lot of ups and downs. Remember who you are, what you value, what motivates you, and the importance of reaching out to people for support during tough times.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to dance, bring people together, go to baseball games with my three year old son, play basketball, and hang out late night at IHOP.

What do you love most about Oakland?

I am continually impressed with the diversity and commitment to equity in the wonderful city I am proud to call home. I have worked in education in Oakland since 1997 and I have never been more optimistic than today. We have incredible students, dedicated teachers and principals, committed families and community partners, as well as a mayor, superintendent, and School Board with a powerful vision of educational equity, and models of successful schools. This is our time.

 If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland, what would that vision look like?

Every child from birth would have the expectation and resources to graduate from college and be successful in his or her career. First generation college students would know how to navigate the system, be academically ready for college success, and financial concerns would never be a barrier.

60 Seconds with David Silver


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