Rookie teacher will stay next year

kwok.jpgAndy Kwok, a 23-year-old biology teacher whose progress we’ve followed this year, has decided to return to EXCEL High School in the fall, despite his struggles.

For the most part, we told the earlier stories in the My First Year series from Kwok’s point of view. This time, we decided to feature three of his students: Sunshine Mapp Parker, Brandon Stewart and Travon Adkins.

Read the stories and watch the videos here.


Police: Former students started school fire

arson2.jpgWhen I picture an arsonist, I imagine a stealthy, grown man, wearing dark clothing and a mask. He’s deranged, shadowy, and possibly drug addicted. Maybe I should adjust my mental picture.

Remember the fire last week at Sobrante Park Elementary School? Two brothers, ages 12 and 16, have since been charged with arson and vandalism. They live in the neighborhood and used to go to school at the school they are accused of damaging. Continue Reading


Parents sound alarm about fire safety

firealarm.jpgParents and teachers at Tilden Elementary School, which serves a large number of disabled children, showed up to the board meeting tonight to ask why the school still doesn’t have a working fire alarm or intercom system.

“The potential for disaster with tragic consequences is far too great,” said Kathleen Boos, a teacher at Tilden.

Boos said teachers have to run up and down, knocking on doors, whenever there’s a drill or a crisis. The phones often don’t work, she said, and the school was recently encouraged to buy Walkie-talkies as a temporary solution. Continue Reading


The elephant in the race

elephant.jpgBrian Rogers may be running for a nonpartisan office — the District 1 seat on the Oakland school board, against Jody London and Tennessee Reed — but his Republican party affiliation has hardly been a non-issue.

The Oakland public school parents Yahoo! group has lit up in recent weeks with debates on Rogers’ politics, knee-jerk reactions to those politics, his endorsement by Jerry Brown and his large donation to Mitt Romney (who is a proponent of private school vouchers, according to his Web site). Continue Reading


On the agenda: May 14

On Wednesday, the fateful day on which the governor’s May revise is released, the Oakland school board holds its regular meeting. Check out the agenda, if you’d like.

The state administrator votes on recommendations for Measure E parcel tax funding, and the board could vote to ratify the contract for interim superintendent Roberta Mayor, which includes a salary of $250,000 plus six weeks of vacation and other perks. (Read the full contract here.)

Also, the board decides whether to add another portable on Peralta’s Elementary School campus to alleviate a space shortage, which has been the cause of much drama in the last few weeks. Here is the resolution.


More accolades for Mack


The McClymonds boys basketball team, which won the state championship this year, were honored today by the state Assembly for their accomplishment. They are shown here, striding onto the Assembly floor behind Assemblymember Sandre Swanson.


Rockridge neighborhood patrol

windshield.jpgFor all of the progress I’ve been hearing about at Claremont Middle School, it sounds like a handful of kids are giving it a bad name in the neighborhood — most recently, by flashing a gun on their way home from school.

Below is an e-mail string between Kate Fitzgerald, a homeowner who apparently spotted a group of kids with a gun last Friday, and David Chambliss, principal of Claremont Middle School.

This isn’t the first I’ve heard of friction between Claremont kids and neighbors. Earlier this year, my editor handed me a copy of a letter that Jan Christensen-Heller, of the Christensen Heller Gallery on College Avenue, wrote to the manager of Trader Joe’s. She had met him at Claremont’s Community Day, and urged him to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy with shoplifting.

“I really love it here,” Christensen-Heller wrote. “However, the aggressive behavior Continue Reading


Another suspicious Sobrante Park fire

arson.jpgWhen Sobrante Park Elementary School kids came to school this morning, they saw a burned out portable classroom where they used to make art projects.

The fire happened last night, and firefighters say it looked suspicious — much like the arson at Peralta Elementary School last year. (Here’s a brief on last night’s fire.)

Carmen Denhams, the school secretary, told me this is the third time in a year this has happened. Continue Reading


High-stakes stories?

tests.jpgI usually steer clear of schools when they’re taking their annual spring exams, so I don’t have a good sense of what the atmosphere is like during these high-stakes periods.

Some schools, I hear, organize i-Pod giveaways and other gimmicks to motivate kids to show up and take the tests seriously. Last year, Mt. Diablo High School in Concord held a controversial assembly in which kids were grouped by ethnicity (and pumped up accordingly).

What’s the scoop this year? Has anyone spotted Continue Reading


AP Exams, still chugging through

jdutton2.jpgHello everyone, I really shouldn’t be blogging right now seeing as my AP U.S. History exam is at 8:00 am this Friday, and studying is my top priority, but I wanted to update everyone about our exams and how it’s going.

AP exams began this Monday (May 5th) and will continue until next Friday (May 16th). Personally, this year I am taking 3 exams: Statistics, U.S. History, and Environmental Science. I got through the first one, two more to go!

But enough about me, let’s talk about AP classes. I get a lot of questions from my parents, teachers, and other kids about AP classes, so I’ll pose some to you… Why should students take AP classes? For the college credit, the challenge, the boost in GPA, or some other reason I can’t think of right now? Is the AP system unfair in certain respects? Continue Reading