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? Bad teachers, bad administration, out of control students, difficult learning environment, drugs? Yes, there are all of these things at Skyline, but there are good things too. Going back to the life analogy: life is what you make it. This goes for school as well.

If you are motivated enough to get good grades, take the AP classes, and stay out of trouble then you will probably not even encounter the negative aspects. Private schools definitely offer a different sort of environment, maybe better to some, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have problems also. Every school has negative aspects, and it all depends on your personal motivation.

The differences between Skyline and private schools are slight. Skyline offers as many (maybe more) AP or Honors classes as any Oakland private school, but has the added student diversity providing not only an education, but also a different outlook. In public school you encounter all different sorts of people, races, cultures and social classes. This is what makes public high school unique.

So parents, when thinking about sending your kids to a public high school or private, consider these things.

Katy Murphy

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

  • John

    Hi Isabel: I also attended Montclair, Montera, and Skyline high! I also wouldn’t trade my Oakland school experiences for that of a private school, or anywhere else for that matter. I had some GREAT teachers in the Oakland Schools! My Government Teacher at Skyline put a picture of Snowflake, a very smart gorilla, on the wall after I made a report about him in government class. The teacher thought it was cool that I’d be reporting on a gorilla in government class, and now I understand why!

    I never attended the more advanced classes at Skyline when I was a student there. Although I did play in a popular Skyline rock ‘n roll band, after being in a number of other lesser bands from other lesser Oakland schools. The name of the band I played in at Skyline was “Rain.” But most people (all Skyline students and most teachers) reading this never heard of “Rain” because they weren’t alive when I was a student in the Oakland Schools.

    Here’s some information about my experiences at Skyline, and before, when I was playing rock ‘n roll in the Oakland Public Schools.


    I didn’t attend my Skyline High School graduation because I was anti-establishment and thought it was not cool to participate in a lot of established school and government activities, like joining the military and going to the Vietnam war. So instead of going to Vietnam when I (first) left the Oakland Schools I went to University and then back to the Oakland schools where I spent another 25 years in the classroom as a teacher. But I won’t say anything about being a teacher in the Oakland schools because the Tribune is only interested in hearing from young teachers and students, so I’m writing about some of my K-12 Oakland student experiences.

    Oh yeah! When I was at Montera I got in trouble for shooting off a popper cap during a percussion moment in music class. I was interrogated by the vice principal for an hour. I got in almost as much trouble as a student as I did as a teacher in the Oakland schools.

    Anyway, when I was in the 5th grade at Montclair Elementary my teacher got annoyed when I noticed her classroom map only had 48 states when there were 50. She hadn’t updated her map and told me that everyone knows there are now 50 states in these United States.
    Anyway, those are some of my student experiences in the Oakland Unified School District. If I wasn’t so old I’d also talk about some of my teacher experiences in the Oakland Unified School District. Oh to again be a struggling young inexperienced inexpensive teacher in the OUSD. I’d have the Oakland Tribune hanging on my every word!

    P.S. If there are any mispellings here it’s because I was a teacher in special education.

  • left oakland

    Thanks for writing Isabel! I appreciate your willingness to speak out about your experiences. You seem like an accomplished young woman and I look forward to reading your entries!

  • Katy Murphy

    John: You must know it’s not true that the Tribune only wants to hear from young, inexperienced teachers! In fact, one of the reasons I created the My First Year blog so the veterans could share their wisdom with the rookies.

    So please, share away.

  • Sue

    Hear, hear!

    John, I’ve met so many wonderful, experienced teachers in Oakland, and I often wonder how they have the whatever-it-is that keeps them working in the district year after year. Is it strength? Compassion? Caring for kids? Stubbornness? A sense of accomplishment?

    I like to claim that my younger son, a 5th grader at Munck, is one of those students that reminds teachers of the reason they chose the career in the first place. He loves learning, and is very bright and charming.

    But I’ve also seen teachers undercut by administration, unable to get the materials and support their students need, and worst of all silenced for the convenience of the district, when speaking up to parents would be in a child’s best interests.

    I’ve also seen several new teachers come into the district and leave the next year, and in my opinion we should have kept them. They had great potential, and our losses were Alameda and Piedmont’s gains.

    My view as a parent – but the views of someone who’s been teaching in the district for years, now that’s worthwhile information. I scratch my head and puzzle over the problems, but you may know of solutions.

  • Sue

    Isabel, (and Katy) you may start seeing some interesting posts from far away places. I just put a link to this blog post on a Washington post blog.

    I was trying to express why disabled students shouldn’t be excluded from mainstream classes, and how all kids should be exposed to all the kinds of people they’ll meet in life, not just people who are like them. And then it dawned on me – you’ve already said what I was trying to say: school is preparation for life, so it shouldn’t exclude anyone.

    Thanks for saying it so well!

  • Isabel Rodriguez-Vega

    Thanks a lot for all of your comments!

    John: It sounds like you’ve had some great experiences with Oakland public schools, and your life also sounds very interesting! I would love to hear more about it, and I plan on reading that essay from the website.

    And thanks for the positive feedback Sue! It would be very interesting to get some posts from Washington bloggers.

  • John

    Great Katy! I’m looking forward to your tenured and retired teacher articles and blog! This will enable the veterans to share their gleaned wisdom with everyone. In may also help steer young teachers on a more positive career path in, or AWAY from, the Oakland Schools. And it could prove helpful to parents looking for feedback from sources other than the wisdom of OUSD youth. I’m sure some of my experienced retired and working classroom colleagues are looking forward to “sharing away,” (perhaps anonymously) in the wake of your due diligence to seek them out and follow up article(s). Looking forward to it! Thanks!