Oakland Unified School District

Mission: The state-appointed leadership of the Oakland Unified School District embarked on a set of initiatives collectively called Expect Success! Essentially a redesign of OUSD, Expect Success! aims to transform schools into communities of learning to build more opportunity, empowerment and expectations of success in the district.

Expect Success! replaces large failing schools with smaller new schools, aggressively decentralizes budgetary power to schools, equalizes school funding based on student attendance, and shrinks the central office by reorganizing it into service organizations.

Approach: Full Circle Fund’s work, which spanned three full years, focused on fundraising, communications and outreach. At the outset of Full Circle’s engagement with OUSD, fundraising was a huge unmet need. The district lacked a fundraising team, especially for developing local support. Full Circle Fund Members served this function on a temporary basis, driving early action on fundraising results.

In the second year of Full Circle Fund’s engagement, the team helped OUSD make effective use of a first-ever survey of students, parents, teachers and staff with the ultimate goal of enabling the district to create actionable changes within its schools.

In the third year, Full Circle Fund’s Members helped drive changes in the District’s communication strategy, helping to make Expect Success!relevant as a unifying theme for students, teachers and the community. The team also continued to work for funding and resources for changes in information technology, which remained one of the major unmet needs in the effort to retool the district.


  • The partnership between Full Circle Fund and OUSD has made a significant impact on the health and direction of the district. OUSD school results have improved markedly in this period, rising far faster than the state average.

  • Full Circle Fund Members helped to: process more than 30,000 responses to the district’s first ever survey of stakeholders, which includes students, parents, teachers and staff. This provided over 100 Oakland principals with custom data analysis that they can use to improve school performance and student achievement.

  • Members organized a Funders Forum to develop broader participation and support among the individual donor community. Over 130 new potential funders were exposed to the Expect Success! project.

  • Members convened meetings with a set of high-potential partners and funders, from local foundations to U.S. Senators. With Full Circle Fund’s help, Congresswoman Barbara Lee became a supporter of Expect Success! She secured nearly $200,000 in federal support for technology needs for the effort in 2008.

  • These efforts attracted $26 million in support of the redesign project during 2005.

  • “When I think about the improvements at Oakland Unified, the help we enjoyed from Full Circle Fund is high on the list of contributors. Full Circle Fund’s members are smart and talented; they bring outstanding connections; and when they make a commitment they follow through.” - Randolph Ward, Former State Administrator, Oakland Unified School District


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