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Is Jack O’Connell afraid to let go?

jackoconnell.jpgIn late November, at a press conference held at Crocker Highlands Elementary, the state superintendent of public instruction made a big announcement: The mostly state-run Oakland school board would regain control over the district’s facilities and personnel departments, likely within the next two months.

Perhaps more importantly, Jack O’Connell announced that the board would be able to choose a superintendent for the first time since before the 2003 state takeover.

Well, February has come and gone. Although O’Connell did make a stop in Oakland at the end of the month, it was to talk about budget cuts, not power transfers.

“Whatever excitement there was in December, it’s gone,” said board president David Kakishiba, who sent O’Connell the latest draft of the agreement about two weeks ago. “It should never have taken this long.”

Kakishiba said O’Connell initially called on the board to carry forward a number of “brand name” reforms begun during the 5-year state administration, such as Expect Success. “For me, representing the board, that was a little too specific,” Kakishiba said.

“I said, `What the board is committed to are results. We want effective and manageable management systems. We obviously want to accelerate academic achievement. We obviously want safe and clean schools.’”

Some seem to think the board will undo everything that happened in the last five years, Kakishiba said, but he insists that is “an unfounded fear.” He just hopes central office managers, principals and teachers stick around through the transition — whenever it actually happens. 

I called the state department of education last week for an update, and I’m waiting to hear a response.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Caroline

    What a wild patchwork of experiments they’ve turned OUSD into under state control (or really the control of Eli Broad)! Is it really any better? Are any of the experiments working?

    And you’d think they could try out the experiments on wealthy districts with less to lose rather than fragile and vulnerable districts with lots of high-poverty, high-need kids. Couldn’t Palo Alto or Mill Valley be the guinea pig for a change?

  • Irene

    Is anyone investigating the influence of Eli Broad’s $’s and educational philosophy on Oakland? It strikes me as a corporate re-model approach, re-configure the units that are not making a profit (i.e. test scores are not increasing). It translates to closing schools, opening them as charter schools or small schools or…

  • Sue

    Wait. I’m not the only one who thinks these things?

    I’ve been saying since ’03 that someone needed to investigate the relationships between FCMAT, Dr. Ward, and the Broad training. I don’t have the time or resources.

    It always seems really suspicious to me – first Dennis Chacones had FCMAT do an audit of the district. Then he started implementing their recommendations. Then (just as Dr. Ward was about to leave Compton) the new accounting system – recommended by FCMAT – turns up the district’s deficit, which had to have been accumulating from years before Chacones was in charge.

    But Chacones took the fall, and we got the foxes running the hen house, as my Grandma used to say.

  • John

    Caroline: Why not attempt experimental medicine on healthy patients instead of those with chronic and terminal conditions?

    Given the high school drop out rates and other terminal education maladies that have aflicted Oakland for years, is it best to forego some educational experimentation on the near room temperature corpse that is OUSD? Perhaps, as suggested by your comments, education experimentation should be restricted to the likes of Mill Valley or Orinda!?

    Perhaps some experimentation in the Orinda Unified School District would allow this OUSD to beat its own record as NUMBER ONE in student testing and other measures of academic prowess?

    Perhaps Piedmont students might benefit from some kind of experimental curriculum to make them better bird call impersonators on the David Letterman Show?

    Let’s yank the medical experimenters out of HOSPICE and rush them over to a nail salon in the Mill Valley School District to do some last gasp hang nail experimentation!

    Gotta go right now.

  • Sharon

    Hey John,

    Have you ever heard of the Tuskeegee Study? That was another “let’s find out what will happen” experiment using poor, uneducated subjects who did not give their informed consent.

    Also, you seem to confuse “experiment” with “treatment.” Just because an experiment is being conducted doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome for the subjects.

    For information on an urban experiment that actually may be working, please look into Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone.

  • Nextset

    Interesting comparison of OUSD to the Tuskeegee Study. Real parallels. In both cases the blacks didn’t bother to take care of their own needs. In both cases the white establishment ran the lab study. In both cases the blacks were studied as they die. In both cases the distruction of the blacks was treated as inevitible anyway so somebody might as well make use of it.

    History repeating! Thanks Sharon.