No fixes yet for school overcrowding problem

I hope no one came to this morning’s Special Committee on School Admissions, Attendance and Boundaries meeting expecting solutions to chronic overcrowding at the city’s hills schools.

What the committee did seem to conclude, however, was this:

  • Moving from full-day to half-day kindergarten isn’t the best or most effective way to increase a school’s capacity.
  • To make sure all neighborhood families have a home school, the district will have to add classrooms to various schools (Montclair was mentioned), move attendance boundary lines, or both.
  • The district needs to balance out the number of special education students at various schools (Some schools, if I heard correctly, have none; in others, special needs students make up to 30 percent of the student population).
  • District staff needs to address “split-street” Continue Reading

Back in the swing of things

Well, my senior year has begun… and I couldn’t be more excited.

Like Isabel said, there are ups and downs to this school year. We get to look forward to graduation and senior prom, enjoy the status of “seniors,” reward ourselves by not taking as many APs as possible (well, some of us), and feel a sense of completion to a long journey. On the downside however, we will have to say goodbye to friends, valued teachers and faculty, and family (for those of us heading off to college). Plus it also means one more year of logistical and bureaucratic goings-on at Skyline.

Like Isabel, I do look forward to waking up for school in the morning, but I too have had problems with the administration from the very start. I love Skyline, and have a lot of pride as a student, but I do not deny the school has some kinks that need fixing. Continue Reading


Bill would require teaching of the “Secret War”

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs AB 2064 into law, lessons on the Vietnam War will be required to include the refugee experience of Southeast Asians — and the role the Hmong played to fight Communism.

If you have a chance, you should read this personal and thought-provoking piece by Connie Vang, a young Hmong woman who is a freshman at CSU Fresno. It was published today in New America Media.

Vang writes:

Many young Hmong do not know about the Secret War. They do not know how their parents and elders ran through treacherous jungles and escaped Laos by crossing the Mekong River. They do not know that in Laos today, some Hmong are still hunted and tortured by the government. Continue Reading


Another Year

I would like to briefly respond to Katy’s post, “Summer’s Over,” by saying that overall it has been an OK first three days of school. I might even say it’s been good.

There are negative and positive aspects to the beginning of this year. Something positive: The scheduling crisis isn’t nearly as bad as it was last year. Something negative: It’s still bad. I’ve experienced some problems concerning my schedule, as well as a lot of other students, but I have hope that things will clear up soon.

I know I should be more upset with the current situation or depressed at the fact that summer is over, but I find that I can’t wait to go to school every morning. Continue Reading


Troubling audit

The Oakland school district could eventually have to repay up to $24.7 million to the state because of expenditures made more than two years ago.

Auditors from the state controller’s office, in typically untimely fashion, just finished scrutinizing the books from the 2005-06 school year. But the auditors found the district’s financial records to be so spotty from that time period that they couldn’t render an opinion – good, bad, or in between – on the overall fiscal picture.

I’m at the board meeting right now, and the auditors just finished presenting their findings. Definitely a downer.

“It would seem to me that we need a state takeover of the state takeover,” board member Greg Hodge said. “We’re essentially saying that the state didn’t do better record-keeping than we did on our own.” Continue Reading


Oakland’s most overcrowded schools

Tribune photo of Hillcrest Elementary School in 2007

Eight of Oakland’s elementary schools could really use some elbow room, according to the Oakland school district’s space formula.

But what to do about the increasingly popular Chabot, Hillcrest, Kaiser, Lincoln, Montclair, Redwood Heights, Thornhill and Peralta? Most of those schools have already added portables in recent years to expand their capacity, and they still don’t guarantee neighborhood families a slot.

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


Wanted: pencils

If you want to learn more about the conditions in some Oakland schools, you need only pay a visit to DonorsChoose.org, or other sites on which teachers post their wish lists. Here are two excerpts I came across today, from different schools:

“There have always been shortages of pencils and crayons in the school district I work for. The upcoming $800 cut per student will make our situation even more dire. Without materials like pencils, notebooks, folders or a stapler, our class will not be able to function.”

This one was particularly vivid:

“The gray carpet is covered from years of stains, and there are large 2 foot by 8 foot patches where the rug has come apart entirely and reveals the underlay beneath. A new rug would help my students to take greater pride in their classroom and brighten their surroundings.”

The requests on DonorsChoose range from notebooks and art supplies to costly equipment, such as a $1,000 LCD projector screen Continue Reading


Summer’s over

In honor of the First Day of School 2008, I offer you the following facts, courtesy of the district’s back to school report:

Estimated enrollment (as of Aug. 22): 39,227 36,731.

Amount of moola spent on summer modernization projects: $51.4 million

New teacher hires: 300

Teacher transfers: 145

Vacancies: 4

How was opening day at your school? Does it feel good to be back? Tell us your stories.


From Castlemont to the Library of Congress

photo by Ray Chavez/STAFF

When school opens Monday at Castlemont’s Leadership Preparatory High School in East Oakland, Raven Tarrance won’t be there. But she has a pretty good excuse.

Raven, 16, leaves Monday for Washington, D.C., where she plans to spend the next five months as a page for the House of Representatives, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She’ll go to a special school for pages in the Library of Congress — and, most likely, will bump elbows with some of our nation’s biggest movers and shakers.

When I met with Raven at her house yesterday, she said she might drop us a line or two on her experience in the months to come. You can find the Tribune story here.