Bill would check Oakland’s charter movement

train2.jpgThe Oakland school board has endorsed it, and the Assembly’s education committee has kept it alive.
 Assembly Bill 2008, which would stop Oakland’s charter movement in its tracks, is another attempt by Sandre Swanson to help the state-run school district get back on its feet and stay there.

Conceived of concern that charters are bleeding the school district of students — and the money that follows them — the bill would prevent any new charters from opening as long as the district has a debt to pay.

In other words, for a looong time.

Oakland’s 32 publicly funded, independently run schools now educate some 8,000 children in the city, and two more are slated to open this fall. One in six public school children in Oakland attend one. (The history of the local charter movement, and all the openings and closings, is well documented here.)

One might argue that it shouldn’t matter how many students leave traditional public schools. If you’re not educating those kids anymore, then why do you need the state dollars alloted to them?  Continue Reading


The votes are in…

I didn’t make it to tonight’s special meeting of the school board, but OUSD spokesman Troy Flint was kind enough to keep me posted on the decisions as they came in.

The board voted to

  • Wait on the Life Academy decision (to move the small high school, at least temporarily, to the old Carter Middle School campus) until there has been a further review of other options.
  • Reject an arrangement that would give the BayTech charter school access to classrooms at Westlake Middle School and McClymonds High School. Staff have until April 21 to come up with another way to accommodate BayTech’s expansion, unless BayTech agrees to a May 1 extension.

And the state administrator, Vincent Matthews, did go with his staff’s recommendation not to allow the Peacemaker Leadership Academy charter to open in Oakland.

Thoughts? Predictions? Observations (from those in attendance)?


Should math and science teachers get paid more?

A bill introduced by Sen. Gloria Romero would make it easier for school districts to reward their experimentally and numerically inclined teachers.

scienceteacher2.jpgState law now requires districts to compensate teachers according to a uniform salary schedule, with pay increases based on years of service and continuing education.  (That is, unless the union and the district negotiate other criteria for the salary schedule in the collective bargaining agreement.)

This law would allow districts — with the approval of their respective employee unions — to funnel some general fund money into the paychecks of science and math teachers in schools with the lowest state API rankings (1, 2 or 3). 

Proponents say the extra compensation could help offset a shortage in math and science teachers, which is expected to reach 33,000 in the next 10 years, according to a study cited in the bill. Continue Reading


On the agenda: Wednesday, April 16

The school board holds a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday night to vote (my fingers still need to get used to typing that word) on the controversial Life Academy relocation and (as Peter has noted) a charter school facilities policy that could have implications for non-charter schools.

Here’s what’s on the agenda:

  • A proposal for Life Academy. The state administrator has recommended that the Fruitvale/San Antonio-area school move temporarily — at least for the 2008-09 year — to the old Carter Middle School campus in North Oakland, where International High School is now located.

Student activism in the 21st Century


It may not be the ’60s anymore, but we students are still out there protesting.

On Wednesday, ten students from Skyline High School who are members of the Global Awareness In Action Club (www.globalawarenessinaction.com) attended the protest of the Olympic Torch in San Francisco. These students, including myself, had all been learning about the situation in Tibet recently, and felt compelled to attend the protest on behalf of Tibetans all around the world. Teachers and parents were incredibly supportive of this.

I am aware that this story has been very controversial in the news lately. I would like to make it clear that we students felt very strongly about the Human Rights Violations going on in Tibet, but we are not in any way against the Olympics, the Olympians, or the Chinese people. They have our support.

It would be very difficult to explain the experience I had at this protest to anyone who wasn’t there. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that to be condescending, all I mean is that it was overwhelming, incredible, fantastic, a bit nerve-racking, and a great learning experience. Continue Reading


Coming of age in Oakland, in 350 pages

Day after day/ Father in da penitentiary/ You don’t know the life I’m livin’ / Everyday tryin’ to make it to the/ Top but keep on slippin’/ Why all dats on yo mind is pimpin’, pimpin’, pimpin’/ Bop, bop, bop, aw man, there’s another man shot/ Dead over a 900, 800, 700 block/ Time is tickin’, man look at da clock/ Like Martin Luther King said Let freedom ring/ Let freedom ring don’t ever let it stop

That’s how Destiny Stewart’s poem, “The Life I’m Livin'” begins. I won’t give away the ending. She is one of 250 Oakland middle school (or former middle school) students whose poetry was published in an anthology, “Voices from the Middle” after a citywide poetry contest last year.

If you want to read more, you might check out the book release event at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Barnes & Noble at Jack London Square. Read the release here.


Safe enough for a charter, but not Life Academy

Not long after Life Academy students and staff learned they’d be uprooted from their Fruitvale-area campus because their school building wasn’t up to snuff with a seismic safety law for California’s public schools, someone paid the small high school a visit.

It was Peter Hanley, director of the Oakland Charter School Collaborative.

Reached this week, Hanley said that he did, in fact, scope out Life Academy’s campus. He liked what he saw. If Life Academy is forced to move, he said, “it would make a nice facility for a charter school.”

Why, you might ask, would it be legal to house one public school in a particular building, but not another? Charters are public schools, after all. Continue Reading