The safety factor

After I returned from an education reporters’ conference and caught up on the follow-up coverage of the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School incident, I was struck by the ending quote in Erik Nelson’s story:

Parents at the school have worked hard to convince community residents the school is safe and worthy of sending their children to instead of private school, said Dave and Caitlin Martindale, who have a kindergartener at the school.

“It’s hopefully not going to set things back,” Dave Martindale said, adding, “but people believe what they read in the newspapers.”

I live near Piedmont Avenue — where BayWolf diners enjoy braised duck and wine pairings (around the corner from the revving bikes in front of Egbert Souse’s dive bar), and where Cesar patrons sip cocktails over pricey tapas dishes.

Continue Reading


A lesson in organizing (and political pressure)

forum0428.jpgThere was standing room only in the Havenscourt auditorium tonight.

Parents and teachers crowded into the large room to listen to what the Oakland school board hopefuls had to say, while small children scampered up and down the aisles.

Unlike the painstakingly neutral League of Women Voters events, the organizers of this forum — Oakland Community Organizations — made their case for certain school reform policies at the get-go.

“We cannot afford to go back to the way things were before small schools and charters,” Deanita Lewis, a parent at Havenscourt’s Coliseum College Prep, told the people on the stage.

The climate was so favorable for candidates who embraced independently run, public charters and small schools (loud, mid-sentence cheers, vs. polite silence and half-hearted courtesy applause) that few on the stage dared to say much to the contrary.

Even District 7 incumbent Alice Spearman, Continue Reading


Forum tonight for all school board candidates

As the Oakland school board begins to regain its powers and prepares to hire a new superintendent, the elections on June 3 arguably matter more than those in the recent past.

If you want to find out what the nine candidates for Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7 think about small schools, charter schools, autonomy (vs. centralization), and enrollment policy, stop by a school board candidates forum organized by Oakland Community Organizations tonight at the Havenscourt Auditorium, 1390 66th Ave., at International Blvd. It starts at 6 p.m.

Heard of any more upcoming candidate forums? Please let me know, and I’ll post them with more advance notice.


Watching your peers squeak by

This post was written by Diamond Broussard, a junior at Skyline High School. -Katy

dbroussardresize1.jpgAt school, I am surrounded by the same peers, many of whom I know personally, that I have known since my freshman year. Yet it still surprises me how some of these students get by. Here I am, seizing opportunities given to us students by administrators and other people, taking the time to make sure that I am fulfilling my responsibilities as a student. Meanwhile, a few of my friends are slacking off, enjoying their social lives, shopping or going to the movies every weekend or working at part time jobs — all the while bringing home mediocre grades and achieving very little.

Though I should be used to seeing students settle for less than they should and succeeding by doing just the “minimum requirements”, it bothers more and more each day. While I do not have much of a say in my friends’ educations, I wish that many of them would challenge themselves as I do because many of them do not realize just how bright they really are. Why won’t they go above and beyond in their education?

Today, many Oakland youth are about “hustlin'” and “gettin’ money.” Continue Reading


Are schools doing enough to stop bullying?


When Zachary Cataldo’s daycare provider picked him up after school on Monday at Piedmont Avenue Elementary in North Oakland, she found him lying on the ground; an older kid had apparently slammed the 7-year-old into a tree, and he was too dizzy to stand up, according to Zachary’s aunt, Janine Cataldo.

Zachary was admitted to the intensive care unit of Children’s Hospital-Oakland with a fractured skull and was released last night, Cataldo said.

It wasn’t the first time the boy said he was attacked at school. Cataldo said her nephew’s front teeth were knocked out last year, when he was in kindergarten, and that he has been a regular target for bullies. 

“It’s not just bullying, it’s violent bullying,” Cataldo told me over the phone today. Continue Reading


“Students’ Loud Plea: Don’t Cut Colleges”

20080421__ecct0421protest2_gallery.jpgThis headline caught my attention today when I got home from school and glanced at the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. It interested me because this decision will have a big impact on myself and others my age; and the headline picture consisted of students protesting at the state Capitol.

The picture reminded me of a previous heated debate over a blog entry about students protesting at the Olympic torch relay.

These possible budget cuts would raise the already high college tuition and also require colleges to cut down on spending, which sounds like bad news to me. As a junior in high school, college is constantly talked about, encouraged, and expected of me. I have no doubt that I will be able to get into a good college, but paying for it is another thing. Continue Reading


Conference, anyone?

There must something about the last two weeks in April that makes people want to get together and sympose. As I get ready to leave for the annual Education Writers Association meeting in Chicago, three local conferences have come to my attention:

  • On Friday and Saturday the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, a major player in Oakland’s small schools movement, is co-sponsoring a conference with Stanford University’s School Redesign Network and EXCEL High School. On Friday, groups tour Think College Now, ASCEND, EXCEL, and Leadership High School. Saturday, starting at 9 a.m., researchers, teachers, and community groups talk shop at a school whose future we were just debating: McClymonds, at 2607 Myrtle St. (Registration is required and costs $$$. Some spaces were available as of this afternoon. Here is a link to the conference info). Continue Reading

Should McClymonds be McClymonds again?

mcclymonds.jpgI stopped by a West Oakland Education Task Force meeting tonight, and one of the issues discussed was the future of two small high schools — EXCEL and BEST — at McClymonds.

McClymonds High School, like many other middle and high schools in Oakland’s flatlands, was swept up in the small schools movement. The difference between Mack and the other once-comprehensive high schools is that it was pretty small to begin with.

In 2006-07, the combined enrollment of BEST and EXCEL was just 532, and it might be lower now.

This spring, two major developments happened: Continue Reading


Mastering discipline, manners — and squid sauce

When I visited the kitchen at Lafayette Elementary School last week, I expected to see children at work. I’ve seen children as young as 8 years old chop vegetables in cooking programs (usually, with butter knives), so it’s not as if I were shocked to see kids cooking.


But the scene at the Lafayette kitchen made an impression from the moment I stepped in the door. The hustle and bustle, the professionalism, the poise under pressure. (I was also addressed as “ma’am” when I daftly stood between the door and a boy lugging a large container of food.) Continue Reading