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Judge: School district wrongfully fired Katrina Scott-George

UPDATE: The ruling was upheld at today’s hearing. 

Judge Frank Roesch issued a tentative ruling today in favor of Katrina Scott-George, who led school reform efforts in Oakland under former schools chiefs Dennis Chaconas and Randolph Ward before she lost her job last fall (Access the case through Domain Web. Case #: RG07325360).

The judge agreed that the district illegally fired Scott-George, which could mean that she wins back her job, as well as back-pay and benefits. A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

If the personal and educational implications of this case weren’t so serious, the storyline might be fit for a soap-opera: Continue Reading

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Senate Education Committee passes local control bill

It’s been a busy week on the Oakland school district governance front. Today, the Senate Education Committee voted 6-1 to pass a bill introduced by Assemblymember Sandre Swanson that would speed the restoration of voting powers to Oakland’s elected school board.

On Monday, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell (who opposes the bill) stole a bit of Swanson’s thunder by announcing he was going to give some of the powers back to the state-run district.

But the bill is moving steadily through the lawmaking process. It has to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee before it makes it to the Senate floor.

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Checkpoints at Oakland schools

It has just come to my attention that at least two high schools in Oakland scan students — and, presumably, visitors — for weapons. This isn’t news, I admit, just news to me. I visited most of the high school campuses during the last year, and saw little more than security cameras. In fact, kids at the now-defunct East Oakland Community High School complained about those.

I mistakenly assumed Oakland Unified was metal detector-free.

But Dewey Academy, a continuation school near the OUSD central office, does indeed have a checkpoint.  The school decided to adopt metal detector wands to make sure no one — including non-students — brought weapons to campus, said Hattie Tate, the principal.

“It just became necessary Continue Reading

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Retired teachers pledge $3 million to future McClymonds grads

Now for some uplifting news: An Oakland couple has pledged that upon their deaths, $3 million of their estate will help McClymonds high school graduates pay for college or trade school.

The scholarship fund will be established at the East Bay Community Foundation and will eventually be administered by the schools, according to press release issued by the foundation. The McClymonds complex, located in West Oakland, now consists of two small high schools — BEST and EXCEL.

All we know about the couple is that they have tutored Oakland children in literacy and that they have been donating $100,000 for each of the last 10 years to a tutoring program at another school.

They are quoted as saying, “You can assure that at least a portion of what you have accumulated in your life is devoted to a cause dear to your heart, and our cause is education.”

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Sound policy or “political theater?”

I noted with a bit of surprise this morning that Mayor Ron Dellums was one of the few non-school board politicians who made it to the 8 a.m. board meeting to discuss the transfer of some powers back to the Oakland school district.

Even state superintendent Jack O’Connell, whose office runs the school district, skipped the meeting and headed straight to the press conference at Franklin Elementary School.

Maybe he felt he had heard and said enough.

Either way, his absence was enough to prompt school board member Greg Hodge to wonder aloud if the whole transfer-of-powers announcement at Franklin Elementary wasn’t merely a bit of “political theater.”

If so, it was a well attended show. At Franklin, the front of the room was packed with local and state officials — even the city auditor — who smiled and applauded as the cameras rolled.

Maybe Hodge was right. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first act.

What do you think this step will mean for education in Oakland?

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Add a few more to the “OUSD exodus” list

State Administrator Kimberly Statham has asked her CFO and second-in-command, Javetta Robinson, to leave the district — apparently over professional differences, board member Noel Gallo says.

Statham confirmed that Robinson is leaving, but she wouldn’t say why. Robinson said she wants to wait until Monday to talk about what happened. There will be a story in tomorrow’s paper. Hopefully it will be online soon.

In other departures, district spokesman Alex Katz is leaving for a communications job at City Hall. Kathryn Cahill, a project manager for Expect Success, and John Vacchiery, another Expect Success leader who worked on the central office redesign, are also departing. So is Jerry Luzar, head of the Oakland Athletic League.

At this rate, who will be left?

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O’Connell to make a big announcement on Monday

UPDATE: After the 8 a.m. meeting at the district office, the group heads to Franklin Elementary School, 915 Foothill Blvd., for a press conference. 

I returned from vacation today to hear some important Oakland school district news:  After four years under state control, a slice of democracy is in sight.

At 8 a.m. Monday at the OUSD central office, the state superintendent of public instruction is scheduled to meet with school board members, the state-appointed administrator and some state lawmakers to hash out the details of an agreement that would allow the board to have authority over its “community relations and governance.”

The announcement is scheduled for 9 a.m. The whole event, of course, is open to the public.

Community Relations and Governance is one of the five operational areas (The others are personnel, finance, pupil achievement and facilities) that has received relatively high marks on Oakland’s periodic progress reports by the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team. But, to the dismay of some board members, state superintendent Jack O’Connell has kept the area under state control.

Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for O’Connell, says Continue Reading