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School Options letters are in the mail

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UPDATE: Friday morning’s meeting is canceled!

The wait is almost over. By this week, families who selected their top schools under Oakland Unified’s School Options program should receive a letter in the mail with their children’s school assignments for the 2008-09 school year.

Last year, the process had quite a few snags, especially at overcrowded schools. But the district’s central office has since been redesigned to make things more user-friendly for new families and those who wish to transfer between schools.

If and when an Options letter appears in your mailbox, let us know whether you were relieved, unsurprised, or disappointed. Did you feel the process gave you a real choice of schools, whether they were located outside or inside your neighborhood attendance boundaries?

If you care to learn more about the process or weigh in on district policy, the school board’s Special Committee on School Admissions, Attendance and Boundaries meets at 7:30 a.m. this Friday some point in the near future.

image from Greenism’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jen

    We got our letter last week. I guess I would be in the “unsurprised” category. My local school is a PI school and although I requested 6 schools that weren’t my local schools (three of which weren’t actually “hill” schools), that’s what I ended up with – the neighborhood school. Actually, none of the parents in my son’s preschool who applied through options got anything other than their local school. Nor has anyone else I’ve spoken with. As appealing as it would be to go to our neighborhood school, it’s just not an option for us for many reasons.

    I feel like the whole process of open enrollment is a joke. A way to pacify parents with marginal neighborhood schools by giving them the appearance of choice where one does not actually exist. We applied to both public and private and decided that if we got an acceptable public school, we’d go there. Now, we are faced with the choice of sweating it out until mid-May and hoping for the best or making a decision mid-March on which private school our child will attend. It’s not much of a choice – we can’t risk the possibility that waiting will yield better results.

    School Options? Yeah right.

  • John

    Why not re-name it ‘school roulette’ for those who care to stay and play? For those who don’t, take heart! The falling rock housing market could soon make things (rent & prices) a lot better in neighboring communities with better district’s who don’t play games with the academic future of your children.

    In the (very) mean time here are the unwritten instructions for playing SCHOOL ROULETTE: When ‘the letter’ arrives in your letter chamber carefully remove it, put it to your head, take a deep breath and pull the envelope flap! Good luck!

  • Sue

    We got our letter on Friday. We’re happy. Our fifth-grader will be attending the middle school that was our first choice, not our neighborhood school.

    Okay, the kid wasn’t really interested, but his dad and I are pleased.

  • Lisa

    Hi Katy,

    have you requested information from OUSD in past regarding School Options’ outcomes?

    SFUSD puts their data online:

    http://portal.sfusd.edu/template/default.cfm?page=policy.placement.process

    OUSD should do the same, don’t you think?

  • susan

    was very disappointed, we did not get one of the six schools we requested, and we did not go for those impossible such as thornhill, redwood or montclair.

    was at the district today trying to get the real numbers on how many students actually did get one of their six choices… apparently they don’t know yet.. or are not saying.

    they did say that 20 families in the hillcrest neighborhood did not get into school, so we assume those kids took all the spots i wanted.. pretty sure they didn’t end up in my neighborhood school!

    did appeal the decision, now must and see again.

    i would like to have seen the lottery open to the public, i have no faith in this system at all.

  • hills parent

    John:

    I just spoke with my neighbor who told me that the sale of his house fell through because the school told the buyer that there was no room in the neighborhood school, ALTHOUGH a school district representative told the buyer that there was room. How does a buyer deal with this conflicting information? How much will our home values be affected? This sale fell through. How many other sellers will face the same disappointment. AND WHAT IS THIS WITH THE SCHOOL AND THE DISTRICT OFFICE GIVING MIXED MESSAGES! Am I surprised — not at all.

  • Lisa (also concerned about housing values!)

    Hills Parent: which school is this?

  • Katy Murphy

    Lisa: Thanks for sharing the SFUSD link. I’ve just asked to talk with the OUSD’s new Options manager about the data, which was not so easy to come by last year. (Maybe it will be posted, when the analysis is finished, but I don’t believe it’s up there now — from this year or last.)

    One data point that I’d like to see is the number and percentage of applicants who did not request their neighborhood school, but who were assigned to it anyway (broken down by elementary, middle and high school levels).

    Have burning Options data questions of your own? Please post them, and I’ll see if I can get answers.

  • hills parent

    Lisa: The school is Redwood Heights

  • Trudy

    We also received our assignment letter last week and were happy to see that our son was placed for kindergarten in our 3rd choice school, which was not our neighborhood school. I guess you could say we were not surprised–since our neighborhood school is PI and we had picked 6 schools where we knew there were at least some spots for non-neighborhood children, we had expected to be placed at one of the 6–perhaps foolishly so, after reading the other posts. We did feel, in picking our 6 options, that we needed to play the odds and make sure that our choices were wise in addition to being schools with which we could be happy.

    I would also be interested to know how many children were assigned outside their neighborhood district, especially for PI schools. I also wonder if it mattered what order you placed the schools in? For example, our choices 1 and 2 were what we called our “moon shots,” hills schools where we didn’t think our chances were huge, but we thought we might as well try. Our third choice was a more realistic chance, and was the one to which we were assigned. But what if we had placed that school lower and had decided to try for other, more impacted schools first? Would we not have got in?

  • http://ibabuzz.com?education Steve Weinberg

    The School Board Special Committee meeting on attendance and boundaries scheduled for Friday morning has been canceled according to the Board Secretary. It will be rescheduled.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Steve. That’s really good to know, since I was planning to get up at an ungodly hour (by morning newspaper reporters’ standards) to attend. Hopefully no one else will show up to an empty room at 7:30.

    The other Alameda County school districts I covered used to notify their local reporters, by e-mail and/or fax, of committee meetings and cancellations. Maybe OUSD should start doing the same.

  • Karin

    The rescheduled date is now March 14th (next Friday) at the same early hour. Sorry Katy.

    Agenda can be seen here:
    http://boe-webextender.ousd.k12.ca.us/meetings/2008/3/2185_A_Special_Committee_on_School_Admissions,_Attendance_and_Boundaries_08-03-14_Meeting_Agenda_(Long).pdf

    Thanks Steve for updating everyone. I didn’t find out until 8pm myself. Can you share with me how I could have found out directly? I’m trying so hard to learn my way around this system.

  • hills parent

    It sure sounds as though OUSD does not wish to keep the press informed. Do they have anything to hide?

  • Sue

    Hills Parent, I’m sooooo tempted to agree with you.

    But then I remember some wise words from a leader in my spiritual community who works in Interfaith organizations and often encounters members of other faiths/belief systems/religions who don’t know anything about our practices and beliefs.

    “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance or gross incompetence.”

    Perhaps OUSD adminstration isn’t trying to hide anything. Perhaps they are ignorant of the importance of a good relationship with the local press. Or, perhaps they aren’t fully competent, and the lack of press communications can be explained that way.

    None of the alternatives are very flattering, but at least the last two aren’t sinister.

  • Darryl Berk

    Has anybody heard anything regarding closing the schools for a one-day, state-wide march on Sacramento?

  • Lisa

    Hi Kathy,

    it looks like many questions will be answered at the 3/14 meeting.

    The following document is interesting:

    http://boe-webextender.ousd.k12.ca.us/attachments/9699.pdf

    For every seat set aside in the Hills schools for kids from PI schools or kids receiving free-reduced lunch the district will lose, at minimum, one middle/upper class family. I hope they factor this into the data runs!

  • http://www.cftl.org/centerviews/march08.html Juliana Jones

    Katy, this is the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning’s Report on the impact of “pink slipping:”

    http://www.cftl.org/centerviews/march08.html

  • John

    Hill Parent (#6): I genuinely feel sorry for your neighbor whose house sale fell through “because the school told the buyer that there was no room in the neighborhood school, ALTHOUGH a school district representative told the buyer that there was room.”

    In response to your question: “How does a buyer deal with this conflicting information?” The answer is simple, DON’T BY IN OAKLAND!” The only interest city and school board officials have in Oakland “home values” are calculation pertaining to their property tax yield. Regarding your concern “WITH THE SCHOOL AND THE DISTRICT OFFICE GIVING MIXED MESSAGES,” I think you’re just confused. We’re accustomed to “THREE STOOGES” being scripted for scenarios like this – NOT TWO. But in Oakland they’ve perfected the art of doing LESS with LESS. It’s a butter knife cutting edge urban municipussality. I’d nominate Larry, Curly, or Moe for Mayor but (except for super star Brown) a white guy wouldn’t have a chance – NO MATTER HOW DUMB QUALIFIED HE MIGHT BE.

    From what I read the critical Real Estate issues presently seen in outlying areas (quick sales & foreclosures) will likely (sooner or later) be coming to our areas (i.e., Oakland).

    Perhaps Oakland homeowners with kids should sell NOW (providing of course they’re permitted to do so under the terms of Oakland’s 2004 ‘renter voter majority’ passed rent control ordinance – Measure EE). Forward thinking Oakland home owners could sell NOW and bank whatever equity they might have left (after paying Oakland’s exorbitant “home sale transfer fees”, etc.) and rent temporarily in a civilized competently run community.

    When the ‘home repo tour bus’ sooner or later shows up in their new hood they could ‘take the tour’ and choose a foreclosed or ‘drastically reduced’ property close to schools with regular running water and flushing toilets and… They could also donate their (previous Oakland) student’s bullet proof vests to our boys & girls in Iraq.

  • Nextset

    If you want property value protection you buy in Piedmont. Anybody with any history in the East Bay knows that. PUSD is not run to make the students happy and bolster their “self-esteem”. It’s tough and so’s the discipline.

    If OUSD’s Board was taken over by people who actually cared about the community and it’s kids they would adopt San Francisco style policy where academic schools were set up and opened district wide for admission by competition. Those schools would become white/asian dominated. Some blacks would survive the competition and get in/stay in depending on how many total seats were created and how much AA/patronage was allowed – the chips would fall where they may. The result would be the shoring up of property values in the district and better prospects for all. This won’t happen because the cardinal mission at OUSD is pacification, not education and certainly not property valuation.

    OUSD’s board couldn’t care less about shoring up property values in Oakland. Thus the huge difference between the price per sq ft in Piedmont and the price per sq ft for similar homes in Oakland. Piedmont isn’t all about the roaring ’20′s manions – take a look at Baja Piedmont in the Grand Ave area. These families are in hock to their eyeballs and glad to be there – for the schools.

  • Bill

    OUSD is doomed. I was looking to purchase in Oakland after moving from the city. My wife and I, and 2 kids saw a beautiful, yet expenseive home in the hills which we were ready to buy, then we saw the school (Munck)and Brett Harte. These schools are simply not good.

    So we backed out since our cost would also include private schools. We purchased in Orinda.

    Now, considering how dumb, ignorant, confused and all of the other comments I have read about OUSD- why is there so much push for local control? I would push for more charter schools, keepin state control or something that would make this district react.

    By the way, I wonder how many children of OUSD administrators attended private schools such as Head Royce?

  • Sue

    Uh, Bill, you’ve *seriously* misjudged Munck. My younger son is a 5th grader there, and has been attending since kindergarten. My older son, now a sophomore at Skyline also attended Munck as a 5th grader.

    Our school received a Title I Academic Excellence Award this year. Our families are very actively involved, our kids exceed the required annual progress, and our teachers are experienced and effective.

    I have no idea what your basis was for saying the school was “simply not good”, but I’d love to know where you got that erroneous idea.

    It’s true that most of the kids attending Munck don’t live in that neighborhood. My family doesn’t either. We transfered our kids to Munck because it was *SO* *MUCH* *BETTER* than our flatlands neighborhood school, and we’ve never regretted our choice.

  • Corey

    We received our letter Friday. We were disappointed. We got our neighborhood school for our son and our fifth choice school for my daughter. I’m appealing. How early should I stand in line? I heard it was quite early last year.