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  • Passionate about Black students’ success,  Dirk Tillotson started and supported schools in Oakland and beyond.  52, was a prominent education activist in Oakland who was shot and killed Oct. 1, 2021.
    The home of prominent Oakland education-equality advocate Dirk Tillotson may have been targeted in the Friday night break-in that resulted in him being shot to death and his wife, Amina, wounded.
    She was treated at a local hospital for a gunshot wound and released, Oakland police said.

    “It does appear to be a targeted incident,” said Oakland police spokeswoman Kim Armstead, adding that she could not specify whether the target was the East Oakland townhouse in the Maxwell Park neighborhood or a person.
    The shooting was reported at 11:29 p.m. Friday at the couple’s home in the 2600 block of Monticello Avenue, which is a primarily residential area. Authorities said both victims were asleep when at least one person broke into the home. Tillotson, 52, was awakened by the noise and was shot after confronting the suspect, who also shot his wife, authorities said. No arrests had been made as of Sunday at 3:45 p.m., Armstead said.
    Tillotson’s career in education activism took him all over the globe, from helping to reform schools in Qatar, to working on educational equity issues in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, to helping to incubate the first autism inclusion school in Harlem, New York, to expanding translation services for Oakland students.

    “The world lost one of the best advocates for education in the world,” said Paul Le, who with Tillotson founded Great School Choices — a nonprofit that fights to give all students an equal shot at educational success. “Even though he never tooted his own horn, that’s what we lost last night.”OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 3: A card left by a neighbor of late education advocate Dirk Tillotson reads “You can tell where a beautiful soul has been by the love left behind,” on the steps to Tillotson and his wife’s home in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, October 3, 2021. Tillotson was killed and his wife shot and wounded in a home invasion turned double shooting. (Dylan Bouscher/Bay Area News Group) 
    Tillotson graduated from UC Berkeley’s law school, Boalt Hall, and passed the California State Bar to become a lawyer but was not practicing law at the time of his death, according to the Bar association.

    Tillotson wrote several op-ed articles for this news organization. In one 2015 article, he celebrated a new contract for Oakland Unified School District teachers, but added that “Oakland still has a ton of work to do in delivering quality education equitably.” The city, he wrote, had a long way to go to close achievement gaps for low-income students and students of color. He called for a “multi-year sustained focus on our most challenged schools,” and an improved, more equitable enrollment system to “help match our most challenged students with the best school options.”An undated photo of homicide victim Dirk Tillotson, left, of Oakland, with his son Malcom, center, is seen on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Tillotson was shot and killed during a home invasion in Oakland’s Maxwell Park neighborhood.
    Tillotson and Le had been planning to launch a new initiative in the coming weeks to expand their activism nationwide, Le said. The project, Led Better, will still launch, Le said, in Tillotson’s name. “But it sucks that he won’t be able to see the fruits of that labor.”
    Led Better will offer teachers remote, digital training in special education, English as a second language and other high-need areas. The goal is to make these services more accessible and more affordable to all educators. The project is set to start in California and New York, and then branch out to other states, Le said.

    Dirk Tillotson memorial on Zoom - October 11 - 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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Los Angeles, CA


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