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Swanson’s bill is one step away from becoming law

sswanson2.jpgA bill that would tie the return of Oakland’s self-governance to its performance on annual progress reports has just cleared the state Legislature.

Assembly Bill 45 now goes to the governor. Schwarzenegger has until mid-October to sign or veto it. (No clues yet on how he is leaning. Someone in his press office told me he hasn’t taken a position.)

I wasn’t in Sacramento today, but from what I’ve gathered, the debate today in the Assembly was intense.

Our Sacramento reporter says it’s unusual for opponents to launch such strong attacks during this last step of the legislative process.  Continue Reading

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Meet Andy Kwok, rookie teacher extraordinaire

kwokresize2.jpgBeing a journalist isn’t easy, but it’s felt pretty darn comfortable these last two weeks. 

I’ve been following 22-year-old Andy Kwok, a first-year teacher at EXCEL High School at McClymonds for an ongoing project on new teachers.

Chapter 1 comes out on Monday, complete with a multimedia component (click here to see the video) and a blog.

Hopefully his blog will become a forum for new teachers to chime in with their stories and for veteran educators to offer advice — and maybe some solace, too.

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Local control bill clears Senate, but won’t yet see Arnie’s desk

Update: The final vote was 27-12 — more than two-thirds approval. 

Oakland Unified’s local control bill secured a victory in the state Senate this afternoon, netting at least 25 votes (two votes were still out as of 4:30 p.m.) when it only needed 21, said Amber Maltbie, the communications director for Assembly member Sandre Swanson.

But the bill is not bound for the governor’s office yet. Because it was tweaked in a Senate committee this summer, it needs to return to the Assembly first. Maltbie says that will probably happen early next week.

I wonder if government teachers are using Assembly Bill 45 to explain the legislative process.

It sounded so simple back in December, when the newly inaugurated Swanson introduced a bill that would force an immediate return of local control to OUSD’s elected board.

The bill has since become much more nuanced. It would still make the state superintendent transfer authority to the locals – but gradually, depending on auditors’ annual progress reports. It also allows the state superintendent to take back powers over certain areas Continue Reading

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Jerry Brown writes families, plugs charter school

jerrybrownresize.jpgJerry Brown might have returned to state politics, but he is still the #1 booster of the Oakland charter school he started as mayor. 

Using his personal stationery with the California state seal and his title, the attorney general sent a recruitment letter to local families last month on behalf of the Oakland School for the Arts.

Someone who received the letter sent a copy to us and asked if political officials were allowed to use their titles to promote a personal (though not necessarily financial) interest.

I called the California Fair Political Practices Commission. For questions regarding the use of political titles, seals and/or resources, commission spokesman Roman Porter told me, “I would typically refer folks to the attorney general’s office.”

Interesting… Continue Reading

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Grading the boss on her one-year anniversary

kimberly-statham.jpgJust a few weeks into Kimberly Statham’s tenure as Oakland Unified’s state administrator, the teacher’s union gave her a report card with a big, fat D. At the time, I remember thinking that an “incomplete” might have been more fitting.

But now that it’s been almost a year since Statham was given a permanent appointment, I think it’s fair to ask the question: How well has she led the Oakland school district?

I’ve already posed that question to a number of people, but I welcome input — on or off the blog — from you all, as well. Specific examples or anecdotes are especially helpful.

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Oakland Tech engineers take top honors at state fair

lucygelbresize2.jpgOakland Tech’s Engineering Academy cleaned up at the California State Fair this year. According to proud academy mom Ann Daniels, the program took top honors, the instructor sweepstakes and numerous individual prizes.

(pictured left: Lucy Gelb, 3-D Cad)

I visited the selective academy in late spring for a story about three seniors — Aissata Nutzel, Juliana Velez and Naomi Zabel — who had been accepted into MIT. Students were intently working at drafting tables, and the walls were covered with architectural drawings and designs. It had the feel of a college studio.

Parker Merrill, whose students racked more points at the fair than any other group, started the program about 20 years ago. Tech’s winning students include: Continue Reading