Katy Murphy

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

  • Christopher Waters

    For those of you to whom it may not be clear from Ms. Murphy’s initial comment about the “why”:

    As his reason, the governor’s letter simply borrowed, verbatim, from the letter Jack O’Connell sent to the governor in urging him to veto the bill. O’Connell subsequently sent the same form letter to everyone who contacted him about this issue. So clearly, Jack O’Connell is calling all the shots and our governor doesn’t have any of his own thoughts on the matter.

    I don’t understand the school board’s silence since the bill came through the Senate. Everyone knew tomorrow was the governor’s veto deadline.

    I don’t understand the silence of Oaklanders on this subject. We kicked and clawed our way to a measly 230 petition signatures in support of local control, in the form of a superintendent with a fiscal trustee.

    The school board, the city council, the mayor, the county superintendent, the state Assembly, the state Senate, the east bay media, and even FCMAT, all agree that state control is doing Oakland public schools more harm than good, and that the time for a return to local control is now.

    As far as I can tell, only Jack O’Connell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Eli Broad disagree with this analysis, for reasons that should be plainly obvious to everyone by now (see http://www.eastbayexpress.com/2007-10-10/news/eli-s-experiment/print). They did not receive nearly enough public pressure. What just happened, and why?

    Oaklanders: are you concerned about housing, economic development, crime? Public transportation? Livable, walkable communities? Diversity, culture, the arts? The environment, our watershed, our forests and our farms? Nutrition, food security, public health? Gender equity, domestic violence, social security? Global warming, global hunger, global war? What about education — where does that fit into your worldview? Are you buying No Child Left Behind? Is the privatization of our public schools working for you, either in theory or in fact? How many “new small schools” does the state administration have to create before it catches on that they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? How many state administrators does it take to screw in a light bulb? How many unaccountable politicians and independently wealthy conservatives looking for a social laboratory are we willing to tolerate?

    Oaklanders: what the hell?

    You still have a chance to redeem yourselves: vote for AB45 next year, when Assembly member Swanson re-introduces the bill. And in 2010, when Arnold Schwarzenegger runs for U.S. Senate and Jack O’Connell runs for governor, remember to mark your ballots for the other candidate.

  • Pamela Drake

    I agree with your shock about the quiescence of our community. I imagine that most folks a) were not pleased with the piece meal approach (in the bill) to the situation, b) thought it was a done deal that it would pass and were getting to ready to do battle with FCMAT, an organization that makes up its own rules and then gets to judge whether they have been met; and, therefore, cashes a bigger check the more obtuse the “rules” are. Don’t despair so fast, many of us have been fighting for better schools for decades. We should mount an immediate response to this outrage. Please email me- pamelad205@sbcglobal.net

  • Susan Harman

    Christopher Waters said it well. He left out one important question: where was our New Best Friend Don Perata?
    Ahnold reminds me more and more of Bush. It’s no longer enough to Speak truth to power; we need to speak power to power. CalCARE is organizing a massive boycott of the state tests in the spring. Please join us. 496-6028
    Susan Harman

  • Chris Perrius

    You imply that the new small schools (or “new small schools” in scare quotes) are a “state administration” program. As more and more people seem to be forgetting, the new small schools movement was started by parents organized by Oakland Community Organizations when Chaconas was superintendent. When Ward ramped it up he had community-based partners OCO and BayCES co-lead it (I work for BayCES). Before the small schools, students were attending overcrowded elementary schools and dropout factory high schools. Who would want to go back to that? Whatever shortcomings remain, the “new small schools” have been a very positive step, and frustration with state control or NCLB should not get displaced into attacks on new small schools. Once we go back to local control, what will we want then? A caring, engaging school environment for every child where every child is known by teachers who have the time and support they need to help every single child learn? Small quality schools in the flatlands that are comparable to the schools that have always served the hills? That’s what small schools are about.

  • Christopher Waters

    If you are reading this item and Katy Murphy’s excellent education blog with interest, I encourage you to join the Oakland Public School Parents email group, where district-wide conversations, networking and organizing take place among parents, teachers, staff, board members, the media, and community supporters. To subscribe, simply send a blank email to:


    Christopher Waters
    OUSD parent

  • Christopher Waters

    To Chris Perrius:

    The small schools movement started under Chaconas was a very valid and worthwhile one. That movement has since been co-opted by the Broadies in service of their own agendas. What began as a rational, focused effort to improve the quality of life, services and opportunities at our schools turned into a privatization, charterization and balkanization campaign that is eating our schools alive from the inside, and BayCES, with all good intentions, has sold its soul to the devil in order to attempt to hold on to the ghost of what was good about the small schools movement as it was originally conceived. Now we have K-5 school campuses broken into three separate “schools,” with principals cannibalizing each other, refusing to let the “other” schools’ students share bathrooms and water fountains, while hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expenses for Broad consultants are autocratically “voted” approved by the state administrator at each and every “board meeting.” Here’s some thoughtful reading on the small schools topic, by an Oakland teacher, for the benefit of readers here. This 2005 article is every bit as relevant today as it was then — perhaps, in some ways, more so:

  • Alice

    Chris, I could not have stated it better!

  • Chris Perrius

    Chris, The level of consultant fees and the fact of the state takeover are separate issues and trotting them out in an attack on small school reform exemplifies the point I just made about displaced frustrations. Surveys reported in the recent new small school evaluation show that students, parents, and yes, teachers are more satisfied with the small schools than with other schools, despite bathroom-sharing (and worse) problems. And the article by Craig Gordon you link to concludes [emphasis added]:
    “Despite the struggles and uncertainties, as my small school, Mandela High, nears the end of its second year, I can attest to amazing efforts by staff, students, and parents to create a functional and caring learning community. *I feel more connected with the student body than I ever did in a large school. And despite early misgivings, most students seem to have grown attached to our school.* But so far we have not seen much evidence of significant academic gains. Most of the old issues of low student achievement, behavioral problems, and teacher burnout persist.”
    Teacher burnout and turnover are indeed big problems as they are in most cities and we support and make all efforts to alleviate them. Smaller schools with time for teacher collaboration etc are meant to be better environments for teachers. But achievement
    gains *are* in evidence, and a quick dismissal of a new reform based on slow gains in achievement would put one firmly in the NCLB camp. The small school reform implementation
    has been far from perfect, but once again, please don’t let political
    battles lead you to advocate tearing down a reform that has led to indisputable
    improvements in student experiences and outcomes.

  • Skyline Teacher

    The 4-5 small schools I have visited for whole days have been much more orderly and safe than the large high schools. I think this counts for something, even if the test scores don’t tick up much. My own experience in public schools is that our home life determines most of our academic (and other) success but that if your school is not safe or calm, you are prone to increased levels of depression, fear, etc., which then lead to truancy, drug use and son on.

    Test scores are not the only measure of a school. How teachers and students feel IS important. The right to the pursuit of happiness is right there in the Constitution!

    Of course we should try to hold high standards even as all trends go in the other direction. But we also need to take care of our students’ mental and emotional stability.

  • Christopher Waters

    To Chris Perrius:

    In your first post, you accuse me of conflating my frustration with state administration and NCLB, with what you perceive as my disapproval of the small schools movement. In your second post, you accuse me of conflating the state administration’s egregious approval of expenditures for Broad consultants, with what you perceive as my disapproval of the small schools movement, and you go on to imply that I disapprove of small school reform based on slow gains in achievement.

    It’s no surprise that your characterizations of my comments are not only misleading, but contradictory. You have a noble investment to protect. Your rationalizations are as vehement (and no doubt, as sincere) as Steve Jubbs’. After making so much investment of time, money, effort and goodwill into creating momentum for the small schools movement that most of us – including myself, as I said before – support, the Broad-sponsored OUSD administration began spoon-feeding its own agenda into that reform effort until charterization began to abound, form no longer followed function, and the “creation” of small schools began to replace any other coherent administrative vision. BayCES had a choice to make about what was being done with your investment, and you became the lapdog of the devil. It’s a Frankenstein story.

    BayCES, above all others, should be supporting the immediate return to local control, so the small schools movement can be returned to the service of education, instead of empire-building billionaires.

  • Chris Perrius

    Chris W: “Lapdog of the devil”? That kind of hysterical rhetoric speaks for itself.

    Of course BayCES also wants the small schools to receive the best possible support and we work every day to improve that. And we are in 40 schools every day working hard with principals and teachers to reach every child. This work goes on no matter who is in the
    central office. I think this thread has played itself out but I look forward to debating these issues again in the future.