About The Debate

With 4 Oakland school board seats vacant and no incumbents running, the 2020 election has the potential to remake Oakland’s schools. So what are the candidates' vision for Oakland education, particularly amidst the uncertainties of Covid?


Led by moderator Viola Gonzales, school board candidates from across Oakland will discuss community-driven questions around the topic: The Future of Oakland Education Amidst Covid.


A critical aspect of this candidate forum is that the discussion priorities are driven by our community. What specific questions and thoughts do you most want the candidates to address around the Future of Oakland Education Post-Covid? Read the 4 debate questions and their inspiration from the community


These will then be grouped into question areas and prioritized by frequency of response with the results being made public.

School board candidates from every district who have filed their statement of intent are invited to participate.

This debate is a grassroots effort by citizens of Oakland. All individuals and organizations are welcome to attend and invite others to attend.

Ground Rules
Organizing Team

Viola Gonzales, Moderator


Viola Gonzales, long-time resident of Oakland, is a former Oakland school board member. She has held executive leadership roles with such organizations as the AnewAmerica Community Corporation, Latino Community Foundation, Latino Issues Forum, The Unity Council, and the Oakland YWCA and served on a multitude of advisory, civic and nonprofit boards. Currently she is the Co-Chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission and board member of Health Access Foundation.

Jessica Ramos, Supporting Organizer


What’s up! I am Jessica Ramos, born and raised in Oakland, California. I am a first generation student, attend Skyline High School and am an active organizer in my community and school. I was also a finalist for California Student Board Member, and I currently am part of and lead clubs in my school such as La Raza, Mock trial, and the Tertulia club. Outside of school I am part of many different organizations such All City Council, Oakland Youth Advisory, Iceehouse, and many more. My goal is to see Equity in Education across California and make a difference for black & brown students.

Maxwell Stern, Supporting Organizer

I am Maxwell Stern, a 17 year old junior at Oakland Tech. I have been a student in Oakland public schools all my life and was active during the teacher strike in the 2019-2020 school year. I am part of the Oakland Youth Advisory Commission and a spring intern for Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office.

Ben Stiegler, Technical Director


Ben’s activism career started in 1977, building public access community FM radio stations and organizing to influence Honeywell (his one-time employer) to get out of the defense industry. Since then he’s lent a hand at local through national levels, from March for Science to Oakland council, school board, and mayoral races.  He consults nationally on AV system design & acoustics challenges for colleges, theaters, non-profits, and businesses, and designs and supports cloud infrastructure & security. He is co-chair of the Carleton College Alumni Admissions Program Board,  an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 202 Oakland, and plays French horn in several community ensembles. His family loves Joshua’s challah!

Joshua Krafchin, Organizer

I’m a digital organizer committed to making democracy work better through inclusive conversation. I invent tools, spaces, and events that foster transparent dialogue and ensure everyone has a voice in how we govern ourselves.


For most of my life, I stayed out of politics. I had just sold the digital marketing agency I founded when Trump was elected. Something needed to be done, so with some friends I started Swing Left, and it went viral fast. I quickly learned that partisan national politics aren't my thing and threw myself into understanding how activism becomes law and creating better systems for democracy. Most recently, I was a core team member at Democracy.Space, a digital voting platform based on the concept of Liquid Democracy

During these quarantine days, I bake challah bread on Fridays and give it to friends and neighbors (free) -- if you'd like one, let me know here.

In order to be eligible to participate in this candidate forum: a candidate must file their statement of intent by May 8, 2020, as evidenced by the inclusion of their name on the 2020 City of Oakland list

All candidates, regardless of their beliefs and positions, are invited to attend.

As this is a city-wide debate with many candidates, strict time limits for candidate speaking opportunity will be observed.

Candidates are encouraged to speak their hearts and minds but do it in a way that's respectful.

We ask the Oakland community to contribute questions and thoughts for the candidates via this form. The organizing team will group answers into buckets and prioritize by frequency. The intention is that the most commonly held sentiments are prioritized with the ultimate decision about order being made by the moderator, Viola Gonzalez

Oakland Debates

Subscribe to Debate Updates