Will OUSD fire one of its star principals?

star.jpgLast week, I went to Sobrante Park Elementary School to see how its teachers — including one of the district’s teachers of the year — do literacy. Oakland’s chief academic officer arranged the visit, and I wasn’t surprised that he chose that particular school.

Sobrante Park, in East Oakland, is one of the few Oakland schools that has dug its way out of NCLB’s Program Improvement watch list. Its success at raising the test scores of its mostly low-income, Latino and African-American students was documented in a case study by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform. The Christian Science Monitor wrote about it last year.

But I hear the school might lose its popular principal, Marco Franco, over a Feb. 19 confrontation with two parents who are said to have shoved him and threatened to harm him.

According to a letter signed by Franco’s supporters, police investigated the incident and “recommended that the family be moved to another school, which Mr. Franco and the staff supported as a sensible step to avoid future violence from the family.”

Instead, Franco learned that he might be fired, demoted or transferred to another school, said David Draheim, an attorney and the husband of Sobrante Park teacher Roberta Draheim. The Draheims and others formed an Ad Hoc Committee in Support of Marco Franco and Sobrante Park Elementary School and have written several letters, which they’ve sent to school and city officials. Continue Reading


Still more candidates…

Two more people filed for school board yesterday — Tennessee Reed and Olugbemiga Oluwole, Sr. Here’s an updated list, as of 12:30 p.m. today:

District 1, North Oakland. Currently held by Kerry Hamill

Candidates: Jody London, an OUSD parent; Brian Rogers, director of the Rogers Family Foundation and board member of the Small Schools Foundation, and Tennessee Reed, a writer.

District 3, West Oakland. Currently held by Gregory Hodge

Candidates: Olugbemiga Oluwole, Sr. , a community program manager for Volunteers of America, and Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Greg Hodge’s wife and director of the West Oakland Education Task Force. Continue Reading


No pink slips for permanent Oakland teachers

There isn’t much good you can say about a 14 percent teacher turnover rate. But when it comes to state budget cuts, Oakland Unified’s revolving door may not be all bad — at least for those who stay.

thebobs.jpgThe district announced this afternoon that Oakland’s permanent teachers, counselors and librarians — and, for the most part, new, untenured teachers — won’t be receiving pink slips as part of the plan to cut $23 million from the 2008-09 budget.

(About 47 first- and second-year teachers might lose their jobs, slightly less than last year. District spokesman Troy Flint says those layoffs are not directly related to budget cuts.) Continue Reading


And the school board candidates are…

Four seats on the Oakland school board — in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 — are up for grabs in the June 3 city election, and the deadline for all but one of the seats was last Friday, according to the city clerk’s office.

As of this afternoon, six people had filed their candidate papers.  District 3 (West Oakland) candidates have until Wednesday, the extended deadline, to file.

District 1, North Oakland. Currently held by Kerry Hamill

Candidates: Jody London, an OUSD parent, and Brian Rogers, director of the Rogers Family Foundation and board member of the Small Schools Foundation

District 3, West Oakland. Currently held by Gregory Hodge

Candidates: None, although Hodge’s wife, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, says she’s Continue Reading


Chris Rodriguez gets ready to go home

chrisrodriguezwheelie21.jpgUpdate: Here is a video of Chris leaving the hospital on Tuesday.

This week, at long last, I had the chance to meet 10-year-old Chris Rodriguez, who was paralyzed in January by a stray bullet during a piano lesson. 

Chris told me about some of the things he looks forward to when he gets out of the hospital, which I mentioned in the story.

If this is any indication of how deeply people — even perfect strangers — have been touched by what happened to him, I got calls this morning from a Trader Joe’s manager, who wants to give him a case of mandarin orange chicken, and a friend of the guy who co-founded the Guitar Hero video games, who is sure his buddy will want to do something for Chris, too.

Unfortunately, the “To Help” box was omitted from the paper, leaving would-be helpers in the dark (it’s now posted online and will run in the paper tomorrow). Here it is: Continue Reading


Court ruling could make some home schools illegal

homeschool.jpgA state appeals court has ruled that California parents don’t have a constitutional right to home school their children, and that all kids need credentialed teachers.

The Associated Press estimates there are 166,000 home-schooled children in California, but that it is unclear how many of them are taught by uncredentialed teachers (i.e. parents).

Do you know Oakland or East Bay families who could be affected by this ruling (which will likely be appealed, if it hasn’t been already)? In your opinion, should parents have the right to educate their own children, even if they don’t have credentials?

Oh, and Gov. Schwarzenegger just jumped into the fray, via news release: Continue Reading


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. Continue Reading


Oakland teacher’s union joins AFL-CIO

The teacher’s unions in Oakland, Fremont, Hayward and San Leandro — among others — have decided to stand with their trade union friends who sweep the floors, answer phones, help classroom teachers and build things.

afl-cio.jpgThe move to join the AFL-CIO was announced this afternoon. Sharon Cornu, of the Alameda Labor Council, tells me it will create more leverage for teachers and other employees in Oakland’s upcoming contract negotiations, and that the various groups of workers will now “speak with one voice.”

The Oakland Education Association is still a part of the National Education Association, but a recent agreement between the NEA and the AFL-CIO allowed local bargaining units to link directly to the mammoth union federation.

What difference do you think this affiliation will make in the way teachers and other workers are represented? Does everyone agree it’s a good idea? How do you think it will play into the contract negotiations?

image from daily.dose’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons


Principals, unite?

Dozens of employees in matching T-shirts caused a bit of a stir at the last school board meeting. They spoke out about their ever-increasing responsibilities, they demanded pay raises, and they weren’t shy about applauding (or, at one point, tittering at) various comments by board members.

If my headline hadn’t given it away, I bet you’d never guess who those employees were. Yes, they were school principals — mobilized, united and tactfully frank about the challenges of their jobs.

principal.jpgThis is particularly fascinating to me, as I’m usually hard-pressed to get a peep from a principal — on the record, anyway — about anything remotely controversial or subversive. Yet here they were, asking for 20 percent raises and talking about burnout. (Their contract has not expired, but the salaries can be re-negotiated each year.)

Today, I spent the morning tagging along with Kimi Kean, the principal of ACORN Woodland Elementary School in East Oakland, to see what a principal’s day is like. Continue Reading


School Options letters are in the mail


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, Continue Reading