What this high school student thinks about COLLEGE…

jdutton21.jpg Sorry for the delay everyone. Getting ready for the winter break was a very busy time, what with the holidays coming up so quickly this year, so I do apologize for taking a little while to post something new. Anyways, what I would like to start a discussion about this time is the big, looming topic that hangs over the heads of so many high school students, college.

I have found that at this point in my schooling, most of the discussions that I have with adults are about college, where I’d like to go, what students my age think about it, the increasing cost, etc. As a junior, the idea of college that once seemed so distant is becoming very real, so I usually have something to contribute to these discussions as college is something that I find myself thinking about more and more.

I would like to touch on three major things that were on my mind when I began writing this. First, the dilemma between staying in-state or going to an out of state school. Second, the role that parents play in where their child will end up, both financially and mentally. And third, the incredible amount of students who, for a variety of reasons, simply don’t consider or have the option of college.

Here is an interesting story. One day a representative from a college counseling service came to my classroom and spoke to the students about college options. One of the questions we were asked was whether or not we would considering going to school out of state. About three out of thirty-four students, including myself, raised their hands. I would confidently say that that number would hold true in most classrooms in my school. The UC, CSU, and Community College systems are simply cheaper, and easier to get into (in some cases) to the point where most students see nothing beyond it.

By saying this I don’t intend to resurrect the same discussion from my last blog. I’m simply stating what I have observed. I myself will apply to a few UC schools and I see nothing wrong with taking this route, I am just curious what you all think about this. Why do most college-bound students in Oakland Public schools prefer to stay in-state? Is it purely financial? Continue Reading


Reporter heads willingly into the snow and ice

chicago.jpgIt’s a balmy 38 degrees in Chicago today.

That’s where I’m headed, to spend Christmas with my family. I’m taking an exceptionally long break, by newspaper standards — I don’t return to work until Jan. 2.

But meanwhile, you will most likely hear from our two new student-bloggers, Jesse Dutton-Kenny and Isabel Rodriguez-Vega, who tell me they’ll have time to post during their two-week vacation.

And, let’s face it. I’m sure I’ll be furtively checking the blog between shopping trips and family gatherings — hopefully, not too often. I hope you also enjoy a short (and much needed) break from school-related stress.

Happy New Year!


Burckhalter and Sankofa likely to remain open — for now

Late-night update: Burckhalter and Sankofa will stay open, at least through the 2008-09 school year. There will be a story in the paper tomorrow.

I came to the board meeting tonight, expecting a large rally outside, and learned that district staff are no longer asking the state administrator to shut down Sankofa Academy and Burckhalter Elementary School.

State Administrator Vince Matthews hasn’t officially decided not to close the schools yet, but he is expected to go with the new recommendation.

Read the new recommendation here. We’ll learn in the next few hours what postponing the decision will really mean.


On the Agenda: Big decisions


In the realm of school board meetings, tomorrow is an important night.

  • State Administrator Vincent Matthews decides whether to close Sankofa Academy and Burckhalter Elementary, as his staff recommends, or to give the schools a chance to improve and attract more students.
  • The board, with its new powers, decides whether to shrink Hillcrest’s boundaries and change the attendance lines for all of the district’s middle schools — or to wait.

David Kakishiba, the board president, told me today that he feels the board needs to re-evaluate its policies about boundaries and enrollment before Continue Reading


Silhouette. S-I-L-H-O-U-E-T-T-E. Silhouette.

spellelem1.jpgCongratulations to Bryan Zheng (left), a fourth-grader at Laurel Elementary School, and Alec Cowles (below), a seventh-grader at Claremont Middle School, the last students standing in the 2007 Oakland school district spelling bee.

I have to admit that I spell-checked some of the words in the elementary school competition. Mr. Zheng won on “reminisce,” but first he had to overcome the likes of “somnolent,” “metamorphosis” and “echinachea.”

spellmidd.jpgMr. Cowles remembered to put the “ch” and “ph” in schizophrenia, and the “h” in silhouette, earning him the middle school trophy after a long battle with Bret Harte’s Megan Pendleton.

Other middle school runners-up came from United for Success, Elmhurst Community Prep and Westlake (I’ll add their names, when I get them).

The elementary school runners-up were Damian Saravia, Griffin Phillippi, Amanda Tang and Alexis Hager.

If I’ve misspelled any names — or words — in this entry please let me know.


An OUSD education: “Like life out in the real world”

irodriguez2.jpgMeet another student blogger, Isabel Rodriguez-Vega, who discusses the merits of her public school experience.  -Katy

My name is Isabel Rodriguez-Vega, I am 17 years old, and I attend Skyline High School as a junior. I have been in the Oakland Unified School District all 11 of my academic years. First Montclair Elementary, then Montera Middle School, and now Skyline.

We were asked to write for the blog to give a student perspective on life in the OUSD, and I personally think it’s a great idea. The students are rarely asked about their views or experiences, but who would know better?

I know parents, teachers, or just people in the community all have questions about the education system in Oakland because, lets face it, it doesn’t have the best reputation. In all honesty, however, I wouldn’t trade my educational experience in the OUSD for the best education system in America. Well, I don’t know about that, but I do feel I have received a very good education in Oakland. In my opinion, better than any of my friends who attend private school. To me, private school deprives students of real life experiences or interactions that you would get from a public school.

For example, at the beginning of the year there were some serious scheduling mix-ups and it became the students’ responsibility to fix their own problems. Although administration problems within a school are not a good thing, it forces the students to develop problem-solving skills because we are pretty much on our own. I guess one could say life in the Oakland Public Schools is like life out in the real world, or close to it.

What comes to mind when thinking about Oakland Public Schools? Continue Reading


The West Oakland shots heard across the city

laraburenin2.jpgTuesday night’s drive-by shooting at McClymonds, which injured three teenage boys on their way out of a basketball game — including a JV athlete who had played earlier that night — has upset and frightened people throughout Oakland.

Andy Kwok, the rookie teacher I’ve been following, teaches one of the students.  He’s not ready to talk about it yet.

Lara Burenin, a new teacher at East Oakland’s EnCompass Academy, was also at a school basketball game on Tuesday night. The West Oakland shooting made her think hard about her students’ safety, and her own. She wrote a compelling post on the Tribune’s My First Year blog about what it’s like to teach in an area ridden with violence.


What’s Bangladesh? Thinking outside the Bay

jdutton2.jpgEvery day on this blog, we talk about students and their education. So, I figured, why not have some teenagers tell us about it, firsthand? Meet Jesse Dutton-Kenny, a Skyline High School junior, who will occasionally share her musings with us. -Katy

I have been enrolled in Oakland Public Schools for my entire academic career and, believe me, I have a lot to say. 

 Something that has been on my mind this past year or so is the lack of knowledge that many students have about the world and the international communities around them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a teacher mention a foreign country and have a a classmate respond with “What’s that?”

 I really feel that with impending global crises like global warming it is especially important that students know where we are in the world and know a little about our foreign policy seeing as we will be the ones to inherit the earth.

 Teachers can play a big role in this too. Continue Reading


Six hours later…

After hours of listening to — and dutifully recording — passionate speech-making about the ramifications of school closures and the intractable Hillcrest/hills schools overcrowding problems, my forearms are revolting. I don’t know how court reporters do it.

Some things worth noting:

– A bright spot. The state administrator gave the go-ahead for the construction of an Educational Complex near Laney College (permanent buildings for La Escuelita, Yuk Yau, MetWest and Centro Infantil), causing much celebration in the room. They’ve waited years and years for this.

– A sobering “let’s put things in perspective” comment. At the end of the Hillcrest/Montclair/Chabot discussion, board member Greg Hodge mentioned that he was at Children’s Hospital Tuesday night. Three teenage boys Continue Reading


On the special agenda: Dec. 12

School closures. Attendance boundary shifts. A loooong-awaited school modernization project.

All that to say that the school board and the state administrator should not be lonely at tomorrow (Wednesday) night’s 5 p.m. special board meeting. They don’t make any decisions on the hot-button issues at least until Dec. 19, but they will likely hear plenty of advice from families and staff.

As usual, I will be there to report what happens. Maybe I’ll see you there.