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Oakland has a new (interim) superintendent

That’s right. Tonight, just one day after State Superintendent Jack O’Connell gave the school board the OK to hire a superintendent, they named an interim leader: Roberta Mayor.

organizationalchart.jpgMayor is a chief management analyst for FCMAT (you know, the agency that rates the district’s progress under state control?). A pretty shrewd move on the board’s part, since Mayor’s team has dissected and rated OUSD’s operations from the low point in 2003 until now.

With high FCMAT ratings this fall in fiscal management and academic policy, the state-run district could regain full local authority within a year.

Mayor officially starts July 1, and is expected to serve for up to one year. Meanwhile, State Administrator Vince Matthews will remain on Second Avenue, overseeing the budget and academic policy. (A more apt illustration would have two birds at the top post.) Continue Reading

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Just a `flatlands’ school, you say? Think again.

Think College Now is located smack dab in the middle of Fruitvale, on International Boulevard, in the flatlands of East Oakland. Many of the public elementary school’s students are immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries, 18 percent are African-American, and more than half are learning English.

Lincoln Elementary School is in downtown Oakland, in the heart of Chinatown. Many of its students also come from immigrant families and are learning English. The majority of its English learners are native Cantonese speakers. More than 80 percent come from low-income families.

But the California Department of Education honored Think College Now and Lincoln today for outstanding academic performance, along with their higher-altitude neighbor, Hillcrest.

The three Oakland schools were among 343 public elementaries in the state to be named California Distinguished Schools, a recognition based largely on test scores (although, as one district staffer duly noted, the evaluation process did include school visits and a “narrative” submission.)

Think College Now has an API score of 781, Continue Reading

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Chris Rodriguez takes on old routine in a new way

Thursday update: Another story, about Chris’s classmates at Crocker Highlands, ran in today’s Tribune. The fifth-graders used borrowed wheelchairs last week as an exercise in empathy. Chris might return to school in the next week.

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During an interview last week, Chris Rodriguez said something that struck me as particularly insightful for an 11-year-old (although, after interviewing him and his classmates, maybe I should re-evaluate my assessment of that age group):

“People in wheelchairs can do everything that you can, just in a different way.”

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Chris was paralyzed from the waist down after a stray bullet came through the wall of his music school on Jan. 10, and he’s been trying to return to a normal routine. Continue Reading

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Oakland school board will now run most — but not all — of the district

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell and school board president David Kakishiba signed an agreement this afternoon at Oakland’s Grass Valley Elementary School that returned local authority over staffing and facilities.

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This means that the Oakland school board now oversees three out of the five key departments. The state, however, still controls the purse strings and academic policy — areas of no small importance.

For a celebratory occasion, it was a relatively sober affair, with references to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts and Oakland’s upcoming employee contract negotiations (The budget projections recently presented by OUSD staff include no changes to the salary scale, a fact that concerns board members).

At 7:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, Continue Reading

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Sobrante Park’s principal will stay put

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Marco Franco, the well-regarded principal of East Oakland’s Sobrante Park Elementary School, told his staff today that he will keep his job, and that he will be back in the fall.

In February, Franco learned that he might be assigned to another school or fired over a February confrontation with two reportedly aggressive parents. His teachers formed an ad hoc committee in his support and wrote letters to district staff urging them to reconsider. (Read the blog post.)

According to Continue Reading

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Will Oakland find its `rock star’ superintendent? (And does it need one?)

rockstar.jpgI came across an interesting story in the Christian Science Monitor about the growing demand for superintendents, especially in struggling urban districts.

If what they say is true — that some 20 percent of school districts are looking for one right now — I wonder how Oakland will fare in the competition.

As the Oakland school board decides what to do with its soon-to-be-restored authority to choose the district’s first superintendent in five years, should it go for a “rock star?”

Considering that the average superintendent (nationwide) stays in place only a few years, how much emphasis should be placed on a district’s top dog?

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

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School choice program earns a solid B and two As

I did some poking around on the OUSD Web site, and I found a document with an overview of the School Options results. It might have been there for awhile, and maybe some of you have already seen this, but I thought it was worth posting.

Apparently 87 percent of Oakland’s prospective kindergarten families — 1,966 — received one of their top three choices of schools, an improvement from last year. The district reported a 96 percent success rate at the middle school level and 97 percent for future high schoolers.

Not bad, at least on paper. I guess before we can give a final grade to the much-maligned School Options program, we should see the success rate for families who did not put one of their home schools on the list. Continue Reading

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Spring testing baffles students

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to post something here. Why, you may ask? Well, I’ve discovered that March-May of my Junior year is fast becoming an extremely stressful time for myself, and many other students in my situation.jdutton2.jpg

Why, you may ask? The tests have arrived. Ask any high school student, or really upperclassmen I guess, and they will tell you that there seems to be no end in sight once those first tests start coming. At Skyline this year we will be taking the California State Tests the last week of April. Following that, AP Exams are given in the first three weeks of May. Finals for regular classes are a few weeks after that in the second week of June.

But, it doesn’t even end there. Many Juniors and Seniors are also taking the SAT, SAT II, or the ACT during these spring months as well. That is exhausting just to think about. There really seems to be no time in between to study, review, do homework, have a part-time job, or just relax. How do students do it? Continue Reading

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Big decisions come at an early age

The Education Report welcomes another student voice to the blog: Diamond Broussard, a junior at Skyline High School, who will occasionally contribute her musings on high school life. If other students would like to submit pieces for consideration, they can e-mail me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. -Katy

dbroussardresize.jpgAs my senior friends are graduating and moving on to better things and prepping for their futures, and as they have overcome the drama of choosing a college that suits their career goal – or for that matter, any goal  — my junior friends and I are beginning to have a little anxiety about the future.

Often times we are pressured by family members or friends or teachers to know exactly what we want to be and what we want to achieve in life. Although I have known since junior high school that I want to attend a university and later have a career in fashion, and more specifically own my own boutique, other classmates are unsure of what path to choose, for many reasons, but one in particular: what job is right for my GPA or IQ.

My friend Christina and I had a conversation about how important being smart is when considering colleges.  Continue Reading