Should public schools be responsible for private school references?

I’ve been told that enrollment at some public elementary schools dips in the upper grades, as families with means or scholarships transfer their children to private schools. Many others, I hear, make the switch before middle school.

I bring this up because it’s private school application season, and a Thornhill Elementary School mom tells me her school won’t write personal references for those applications. She thinks that such a position puts kids who attend public schools — but who might want to go to private school in the future — at a disadvantage.

Here’s what the Thornhill notice said, according to my source: Continue Reading


Next week, special ed director follows her old boss’s trail to D.C.

Phyllis Harris, who has overseen Oakland’s special education programs since July 2003, leaves her job next week — a fact that many have speculated about or known for over a month. She’s moving East to be the deputy chancellor for special education in D.C. Public Schools.

Curiously, the head of the Oakland school district also just took a job in D.C. Last month, Kim Statham accepted a position in the Washington’s new state department of education.

Harris says she has trained Lisa Ryan Cole, a 25-year district employee and an “outstanding (special education) coordinator,” to replace her, at least on an interim basis. Ryan Cole was a teacher and, most recently, the middle schools coordinator for the department. Continue Reading


Forum to help parents find LGBT-friendly schools

family1.jpgTomorrow night, dozens of public and private school parents and school administrators will meet at Chabot Elementary School in Rockridge to discuss ways to make schools more welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents and their kids.

The session is co-sponsored by Our Family Coalition and The East Bay Community Foundation.

In Alameda County, the median age of a child from an LGBT family is only 6.2, according to the news release from Our Family Coalition.

Here’s more information about the event, straight from the flyer: Continue Reading


Oakland makes charter group’s “Top 10″ list

Only 15 cities in the country have a larger charter school “market share” than Oakland, according to a report released today from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

With 15 percent of the city’s 47,000 public school students enrolled in charters last year, Oakland tied for eighth place with St. Louis, Mo., Brighton, Colo. and Albany, NY. The report said charter school enrollment in Oakland increased by 8 percent between 2005-06 and 2006-07, while the number of kids in traditional public schools dwindled by 4 percent.

New Orleans was number one, at 57 percent. In Washington, D.C. and Dayton, Ohio, 27 percent of public school children attend the independently run institutions.

Here’s something else: Continue Reading


At long last, OUSD hires new budget director

budget.jpgBarak Ben-Gal, who quit OUSD about six months ago to take a job at Yahoo!, finally has a successor. His name is Jason Willis.

Willis came to Oakland’s central office earlier this year as a project manager for the Expect Success! initiative. Like Vincent Matthews, the interim state administrator, he received a major promotion after just a few months on Second Avenue.

He was actually promoted about three weeks ago, but I just heard about it through the grapevine yesterday. Here’s an e-mail the district spokesman sent out after I asked for Willis’ resume and got a bio instead. (I don’t know who the “all” is, in case you’re wondering.)

Hello All,

I would like to formally introduce Jason Willis as the new Budget Director for the Oakland Unified School District. Many of you know Jason through the work he performed in his previous position as an Expect Success project manager focused on developing the District’s investment framework and service economy.

Prior to joining OUSD in 2007 Continue Reading


Berkeley’s school lunch revolution: Should Oakland join?

Early this morning, I paid a visit to Berkeley Unified’s Central Kitchen, where nutrition services director Ann Cooper – “Chef Ann” – and her small staff make thousands of pounds of healthy food from scratch every day.

I expected the braised tofu and the locally grown veggies. The real surprise was what hit me before I stepped inside: the smell of food.

That might sound funny — and it would have made no sense, a generation ago, when lunch ladies actually cooked. But in the days of frozen, commodity surplus food, most school kitchens actually don’t smell like much. They definitely don’t make my stomach growl.

Two years ago, Berkeley Unified hired the former restaurant/hotel/cruise ship chef to replace the frozen food, chicken nuggets, greasy pizza and other typical cafeteria fare.

Cooper said the transformation was so difficult it almost killed her. Continue Reading


OUSD mends its ways, provides school info

reportcard.jpgIt may have been prompted by the threat of a lawsuit — and then, indeed, a lawsuit — but the Oakland school district has plugged the gaping holes in its state mandated “School Accountability Report Cards.”

Now, you can see how much money each school (including charters) spent per student, how many teachers were teaching out of their areas of expertise, what the safety situation is like, and so on.

Si usted habla espanol, se traduce la informacion. The report cards are translated into other languages, too.

All of this has been required for almost 20 years, but the district acknowledged in a legal settlement signed today that it had failed to provide it all.

The only catch is Continue Reading


Take 2: Montera Middle School teacher wins award

jjonesresize.jpgAnother hearty congratulations to Juliana Jones, who was selected as one of the top two teachers of the year for Alameda County. She teaches math at Montera Middle School, as one of you pointed out.

And an apology. Earlier this morning, I wrote that Jones taught at another middle school.

Jones has been at Montera for about six years. One of her colleagues tells me that many her students — who have struggled with the subject in the past — make it to algebra by the eighth grade.

Photo courtesy of the Alameda County Office of Education


Oakland teacher named Alameda County’s teacher of the year

Congratulations to Juliana Jones, a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher at Westlake Middle School Montera Middle School. The Oakland Teacher of the Year learned last night that she was being honored as one of the two best teachers in the county.

A spokeswoman for the county says Jones has been at Montera for about six years — and that she taught in Beverly Hills before coming to Oakland.

Linda Lamoureaux, a special education teacher at Livermore High School, was the other winner.