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On the agenda: School board comes in from recess

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The Oakland school board meets Wednesday for the first time since June 27. During a quick scan of the agenda, a number of items caught my eye:

Kitty Kelly Epstein, from the mayor’s office, presents the findings of the Mayor Ronald Dellums task force on Education & Community Learning. Among many other ideas, the report calls on city leadership to “Challenge NCLB and the Accountability Regime.” (I wonder how OUSD’s leadership will view that recommendation, as many of the district’s reforms are closely linked to student data.)

It looks like the board will actually vote for the first time in years — on a delicate subject. It will consider a new by-law relating to investigations of board members who may have violated legal, ethical or professional standards. This seems to be linked to an ongoing district inquiry of Chris Dobbins and his relationship with a 17-year-old student. The list of violations named in the proposed by-law includes “unprofessional or inappropriate relations with students.”

District staff is recommending the approval of a new charter high school, East Oakland Leadership Academy. It would open with 50 ninth-graders in the fall of 2008 and then add a class each year. It’s currently a K-8 school located on Seminary Avenue.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Jim Mordecai

    What caught my eye was what wasn’t on the agenda. I had sent to the Board President a request for an item to be placed on the board agenda and my item wasn’t on the agenda. This was a violation of my right, and the right of anyone in the public, to place items concerning board business on the agenda of regular meetings of the Board.

    Ed Code 35145.5 “It is the intent of the Legislature that members of the public be able to place matters directly related to school district business on the agenda of school district governing board meetings.”

    I plan to be at Wednesday’s meeting to protest the Board violating my right as a member of the public to place an item on the Board’s agenda.

  • Jim Mordecai

    I attended last night’s Oakland School Board meeting mistakenly assuming that when Jack O’Connell in a ceremony at Franklin Elementary returned control over the “governance operational area” that this meant the elected school board would then be running the Oakland School Board meetings.

    Post ceremony the meeting is run by the Board President but all actions of the Board need the approval of the State administrator. In fact the agenda of Board meetings has not changed. It still reads meeting of he State Administrator and/or Board of Education.

    A question might be how can the Board have power over governance if it has to have mother State Administrator approve its actions item by item?

    A second question might be why would elected Board Members cooperate with this insulting dance of subordination?

  • http://wwwstatic.kern.org/gems/fcmat/CALIFORNIASTATELOANSTOSCHOOL.pdf Pat Hudson

    In case you had not noticed, OUSD still owes over $50 million to the state for gross fiscal
    mismanagement. As a result, OUSD school board does not deserve to be given full
    control of OUSD matters.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Ms. Hudson:

    My point was that the ceremony at Franklin Elementary gave the appearance of returning local control. However, attending the School Board meeting made clear that inspite of the press release and the signing of the MOU Oakland School Board meetings are directly run by the State Administrator. It is hard to find a difference from before Jack O’Connell signed returning control over governance except that now the School Board members are paid to sit in front of a Board meeting without the power to run their own meeting.

    Ms. Hudson if you look at the 5-year recovery plan passed at Wednesday night’s Board meeting the Oakland Public School debt totals $108 million. But, if you break that debt down $53.8 million was for March 27, 2003 emergency loan from the State. That means the State of California mismanged the budget to a slightly worse degree than the School Board racking up a total debt under State management of 54.2 million.

    However, just looking at debt does not give a true picture but distorts the picture. The State debt is not yet as great as the school board’s debt because only a small portion of the 32.8 million the State borrowed of the $100 million has been spent. In fact the interest on that borrowed money is less than the interest being paid to the District. In a sense that is money borrowed that is producing revenue. The issue of management responsibility is a complicated issue. A simple statement that the State or the School Board mismanged things suffers from simplifying a complicated issue.

    The Chaconas administration was managing the District for the School Board when the debt was made public. There were structural problems in the management of the District existing prior to the Chaconas administration that contributed to debt and prevented it being dealt with when it was a small amount. The management of the District’s finances did not have control over its budget. They were flying blind. What was missing were two important things.

    The first thing was position control. That meant when a person was hired that they had the money to pay for that person’s position. The second thing was an internal auditing function that prevented oversending of each department and school site budget. Flying blind without these important pieces was possible because the District revenues were increasing with increasing enrollment and increasing money for school construction that provided bank revenue when school construction money was banked.

    In a perfect storm of structural bad news the enrollment increase became a decrease due to the growth of the cost of housing and the growth of charter schools drawing off students and ADA average daily attendance State revenue. More bad news was the Alameda County Office did not allow use of incoming school construction funding to cover its accounts nor borrow money at a very low rate of interest.

    Going to the State allowed borrowing but the structural problems associated with declining enrollment have been sustained. Nobody has really discussed if the State has really stoped the flying blind by putting in effective position control and an internal audit.

    The bad news that Ms. Javetta Robinson seemed to be solving the flying blind problem but she was fired. Only time will tell if the proper controls over the budget have been established.

    I rest my case that a simple explanation that the Oakland School Board mismanaged the District’s budget is off the mark.

  • Turner Dodge

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Mordecai.