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New Online Marketplace, Housing Program Aim To Keep Teachers In Oakland

Keith Burbank, Bay City News - SF Chronicle


More teachers and especially teachers of color may remain in Oakland thanks in part to $6 million from state and private sources, city officials announced Thursday morning.

Five million dollars will go toward continuing the Teachers Rooted in Oakland program. The program reduces the cost of housing for Oakland Unified School District teachers as well as prospective teachers training and earning their credential. TRiO also provides a stipend for both groups.

One million dollars will go toward an online marketplace called TRiO Plus where teachers can find apartments at special discounted rates. The money for TRiO Plus came from Bank of America while the $5 million came from the state.

"Our teachers matter," said Assemblymember Mia Bonta, D-Oakland, who secured the $5 million from the state. "Our kids matter."

Ninety percent of students in the Oakland Unified School District are students of color while 50 percent of the workforce is white.

Students of color do better when they are taught by teachers of color, said Kyra Mungia, co-founder of TRiO and deputy director of education for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

That's why Mungia helped start TRiO, she said. Mungia is also a former teacher.

The program focuses on Black, Hispanic and other teachers of color in subject areas that are hard to fill. Teachers in Oakland consistently say they consider leaving the profession because housing costs so much in Oakland.

Schaaf's office has no jurisdiction over the Oakland Unified School District, but she and her office have given lots of time and energy to further the education of Oakland children.

"It's clearly what I care about," Schaaf said as she prepares to leave office following eight years at the helm of a major American city.

TRiO launched two years ago and has been successful at increasing the teachers residents of color and teachers residents overall in the city's public school system. The $5 million will support more than 100 teachers over nine years.

TRiO Plus launched this past summer and will provide teachers with better access to housing. Landlords interested in participating oversee more than 3,000 units in Oakland.

This past summer, 23 teachers secured apartments below market rate and four renewed their leases for a lower rate, Mungia said.

TRiO Plus is something that other cities can duplicate, Schaaf said. The mayor and other leaders said they don't know of any other place in the nation where a similar program exists.

"TRiO is bringing stability to our schools," said Tara Gard, OUSD's chief talent officer.

David Silver, director of education for the mayor, said TRiO makes housing for teachers possible right away rather than having to wait for housing to be built, which could take five years.

Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb said in his first year in office, Emerson Elementary School in Oakland "lost two great teachers" because they could find nowhere nearby to live.

"I think this is very exciting," he said about Thursday's announcement.

Mungia said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has highlighted TRiO in remarks he made.

"It's had a huge impact on my life," said Alyssa Santiago, a ninth-grade special education teacher.

TRiO has kept her from worrying about paying rent on time.

More information about TRiO Plus can be found online at