OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT
5735 47th Avenue Sacramento, CA 95824
(916) 643-9000 FAX (916) 643-9480
Jonathan P. Raymond, Superintendent
BOARD OF EDUCATION January 28, 2011
Trustee Area 4
Patrick Kennedy Sunday, January 30 marks California’s first Fred Korematsu Day in honor of an
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ordinary citizen whose determination to right a societal wrong made him both a hero
and a controversial figure.
During World War II, Oakland resident Korematsu was arrested and convicted for
Ellyne Bell, MA, LMSW
2nd Vice President defying Executive Order 9066, which required Japanese Americans to relocate to
Trustee Area 7 internment camps. Korematsu argued that the internment amounted to imprisonment
without fair trial and appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. In
1944, the court ruled against him and he was sent to a camp in Utah.
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For taking a stand, Korematsu was labeled a “troublemaker,” even by some in his own
community who believed the best way to prove loyalty to America was to go along with
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Despite this criticism, Korematsu didn’t give up. And in 1983, a federal court in San
Francisco overturned his conviction on the basis of prosecutor misconduct in the first
Diana Rodriguez trial (the government suppressed intelligence documents showing that Japanese
Trustee Area 5 Americans posed no security risk). For his 40-year struggle, Korematsu received the
Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. Last year, California established January 30
as Fred Korematsu Day.
Trustee Area 6
“If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don't be afraid to speak up,” said
Korematsu, who died in 2005 at the age of 85. “It may take time to prove you're right,
but you have to stick to it.”
Student Board Member
To honor his memory, I’d like to ask schools to acknowledge Fred Korematsu Day on
marquees, if possible. Also, the Fred T. Korematsu Institute
(www.korematsuinstitute.org) has free, downloadable K-12 curriculum about this
turbulent time period and Korematsu’s life. I encourage you to visit this site and find a
way to discuss with students the important civic responsibility we all have to stand up
for what is right.
In fact, Korematsu’s story of courage is a good lesson for all of us as we labor to
improve schools and close achievement gaps with less funding.
We must let go of the old idea that the destiny of our schools is controlled solely by tax
funding, and that we are powerless to shape our own future in the face of factors
playing out on state and federal stages. We need a new normal that calls for home-
grown innovation, flexibility and resourcefulness.
A good example of this take-charge – rather than sit-back – stance can be found at
Theodore Judah Elementary School, where Principal Corrie Buckmaster Celeste, her
parents, students, teachers and staff have found an innovative way to save money
and help the environment. By educating students about recycling and composting –
the campus has a flourishing garden – the school cut back its waste stream. That led
to questions about whether the school’s dumpster needed to be emptied quite so
It didn’t and Judah’s pick-up service was cut back from five days a week to two.
That led our operations department to audit the number garbage containers, their
sizes and the frequency in which they are picked up for every school in the district. We
have now adjusted refuse service at 33 of our sites for a savings of about $47,000 a
year. Imagine how much more could be saved if all schools worked to reduce waste in
the same manner as Theodore Judah.
And about that Judah garden. It’s one of several inviting campus features that make
the school more attractive to parents. Because of this proactive, “offense thinking,” the
Judah team is building excitement in the community for the school, “going green” and
more. Now a site that was at risk of closure a few short years ago has an enrollment
that is growing – like its garden. As a parent said so definitively, “We are going to
educate and empower our kids so they educate and transform our families, homes
At all of our campuses, we need to replicate these good ideas that accentuate the
positive service we offer students.
Too often in education, we dwell on what we don’t have instead of focusing on what
we do have. As we compete for students with private schools, charters and other
districts, let’s work to promote our assets and strengths, because among 79 sites, we
have some pretty exciting programs.
Following in Fred Korematsu’s footsteps, this is not the time to simply accept our fate
– declining enrollment, dwindling dollars – with silent resignation. Let’s stand up
together and fight for better schools. Our kids deserve it.
Jonathan P. Raymond