District’s new CFO puts a new number on the deficit

lglasterresize2.jpgTwo months ago, Oakland Unified’s state administrator adopted a budget prepared by former Chief Financial Officer Javetta Robinson. It projected a deficit of $1.45 million.

Leon Glaster, Oakland’s new interim CFO, said last night that he believes the deficit is actually $4.7 million — more than three times what Robinson estimated.

Glaster said the previous budget’s allotment of custodians, substitute teachers and substitute classified staff didn’t seem to account for the full cost of those positions. He also added more custodians into the budget.

District spokesman Troy Flint said staff had not yet determined how much needed to be trimmed from the budget, or what would go by the wayside. Some cuts will likely be announced in September, he said.

“This is a more realistic assessment of where the district is,” Flint said. “There’s no sense in running from the reality…”  Continue Reading


Fremont high school students feel the heat, literally

Craig Gordon is steamed. The Paul Robeson High School teacher just told the school board that several classrooms at the small school, located on East Oakland’s Fremont campus, have reached sauna-like temperatures (OK, I’m paraphrasing here).

Since school opened on Monday, Gordon said, the temperatures in some rooms rose to the mid-80s and even the 90s.

“It seems like something is really haywire,” he said. “It’s not a good way to open school. Students are sweating … and they’re just not able to concentrate.”

I remember hearing last year about the winter chill creeping into the classrooms. How widespread are these climate control problems in Oakland, and how hard (i.e. costly) are they to fix?


Will there be an apology tonight?

Update: Dobbins did apologize — to the student and her family, to the board, to the rest of the school community — and said he was wrong. He also said that he had good intentions, and that there was “no inappropriate contact.”

cdobbins1.jpgThe Oakland school board meets tonight for the first time since calling for the resignation of Chris Dobbins. According to the terms of the censure (no committees, no appointments), the board is pulling Dobbins from the Chabot Space & Science Center board of directors and replacing him with David Kakishiba, board president.

Maybe Dobbins will apologize to the public tonight. Maybe not. Last week, after a report detailing his relationship with a 17-year-old former student was read aloud, the board member said he wouldn’t step down. He said he made an error in judgment, but that the board’s action was unfair.

Also tonight, district staff present a back-to-school report that includes enrollment (40,084) figures, construction project costs, a test score analysis and a staffing update  Continue Reading


Rapper-funded backpack giveaway Thursday night

mistahfabresize.gifEast Oakland’s Youth UpRising center, at 8711 MacArthur Blvd., is giving away 200 backpacks stocked with pens, pencils, 3-ring binders and other school supplies during a back-to-school celebration that begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Mistah F.A.B., a rapper and Oakland Tech graduate, donated the money. He is quoted in Youth UpRising’s press release as saying, ” I feel it’s really important that kids go to school to see the value in their education. The power of the pen is mightier than the sword; the more we know, the more we can make a change.”

At the back-to-school event, near the Castlemont campus, families will also find info about the high school exit exam and watch performances illustrating the connection between academics and artistic expression.

More on Youth UpRising (from their release): Continue Reading


Are teacher blogs (for students) a thing now?

I just noticed that a sixth-grade teacher at the Alternative Learning Community, a new middle school I just wrote about, has created a blog for her students. After the first day of class, she told them how impressed she was of them already. She also promised to post photos and homework assignments online.

Wow. When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine being able to communicate with my teachers like that — not just because I hadn’t heard of the Internet, but because I only interacted with them during the school day.

Nowadays, many teachers give out their cell phone numbers — and some, apparently, create online spaces to check in with their students.

Do you know of any other blogs teachers have created for their students? Feel free to post the links.


Oakland kids and teachers head back to school

kwokresize.jpgMy peanut butter and jelly sandwich is packed, and I’m off to school.

Andy Kwok, a brand new biology teacher at EXCEL High School in West Oakland, has been kind enough to let me into his classroom today and for many other days throughout the year. More on that later.

In the meantime, feel free to let us know how that first day went — whether it meant saying a tearful goodbye to your kindergartner (or middle schooler), facing a new set of students, or showing up at a new school.

I’ll be anxious to hear about it.


Redwood Heights braces for kindergarten boom

Earlier this year, Redwood Heights families were in a panic. Their local elementary school’s kindergarten only had space for 40 students, and a number of “neighborhood” families were assigned to other schools.

After the outcry, the district made some changes. Big ones. As of earlier this month, the kindergarten classes had more than 80 children enrolled. While they somehow managed to find space for the Class of 2020, some parents say they feel it was a Band-Aid solution — one that won’t be possible for future kindergartners.

“We don’t believe they solved the problem. We believe they created a bigger problem,” said Kim Cole, who started a group called Future RHS Parents.

Cole and others say a lot of people give fake addresses to receive priority in Oakland’s School Options program — an issue they have been calling to the school district’s attention. Continue Reading


Dobbins report details late night (early morning) meetings with 17-year-old

The school board’s special censure committee released a very detailed fact-finding report tonight on their fellow trustee, Chris Dobbins. They also called for his resignation, a move he said he will not make.

I should note that in my previous interviews with Dobbins and the 17-year-old former high school student, neither mentioned the late night/early morning conversations in Dobbins’ car at the Berkeley Marina or at Strawberry Canyon.

After the meeting, Dobbins said repeatedly that nothing criminal or physical happened between him and the girl, who turns 18 next month.

He said he agreed that what he did — meeting with the young woman alone and sending her e-mails, even after he promised concerned district employees that he would cut ties — was ethically wrong. Continue Reading