Will the wrong schools be targeted for closure?

UPDATE: The Oct. 8 board meeting will be held at Oakland Technical High School, 4351 Broadway, instead of at the administrative offices on Second Avenue. The public portion of the meeting starts at 5 p.m.


This the third year that I’ve covered Oakland schools for the Tribune, and I’ve seen three rounds of school closures (or potential closures). But this one is different.

I went to a community meeting tonight at Montera Middle School, one of six sessions about the district’s shrinking budget and the prospect of closing schools.

When I walked back to the parking lot with Kirsten Vital, OUSD’s chief of community accountability, Vital made it clear that what’s happening has nothing to do with the “Portfolio Management” reform model of years past (in which the district evaluated its schools — including their enrollment — and decided whether to support them, redesign them, open a new school from scratch, or simply shut them down).

This time, it has to do with money. Continue Reading


Fact check about charter schools

Last week, you may have been handed a flyer against Measure N, the Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students parcel tax.

I saw it, too, and the wording of one anti-N argument caught my eye:

Measure N takes 15% off the top for elite private charter schools. This shortchanges the remaining 37,000 district students. It invites even more charters to Oakland to grab a greater share of Oakland’s public money.

The thing is, charters are public schools. Continue Reading


School closure update, and rumors

It might be weeks or even months until the district releases the names of the schools that might close at the end of the 2008-09 year, OUSD spokesman Troy Flint told me today.

According to the original timeline, the list of potential closures was going be created Oct. 2 and 3, and released the following week. But now, the school board isn’t even scheduled to vote on the proposed closure criteria until Oct. 8. Staff haven’t determined when the school names will be made public, Flint said.

In other closure news: You might have seen a “Keep Kaiser Elementary Open” petition circulating online Continue Reading


Harris takes leave of absence from D.C. job

Phyllis Harris, Oakland’s former special education chief, left OUSD last fall to head up the special education department in Washington, D.C. schools.

”It’s an opportunity to change the special education system in the national capital, which has some improving to do,” she told me at the time.

I don’t know what kind of changes Harris made, but the Washington Post reported that Harris took a sudden leave of absence this month, and that a spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle Rhee denied a report in The Washington Teacher blog that Harris had been fired.

Two weeks before Harris took her leave, a federal judge reprimanded the D.C. district for failing to make progress on a court order to better serve children with disabilities, the Post reported.

The Post quoted U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman as saying, “My fundamental problem here is the lack of accountability, lack of coordination, Continue Reading


Two Chinatown schools have abduction scares

Earlier this month as school was letting out, a Lincoln Elementary mom saw a 4-year-old preschooler walking out of school, hand-in-hand, with a man she didn’t recognize. She went up to him and asked who he was, and the stranger dropped the girl’s hand and left, according to a letter that went home to parents.

Then, just eight days later, an 8-year-old boy from neighboring Lighthouse Community Charter School was playing soccer with his classmates at Madison Square Park, downtown, when a man grabbed his wrist and tried to take him away — in front of a bunch of teachers. Continue Reading


Teen animators

image from Roxy Smith’s “Love is Deaf” video

I didn’t even touch a computer at school until sixth grade, let alone create animation. But we’re in a different century now, and some schools — including some right here in Oakland — are teaching kids to work with the latest digital technology.

I bring this up because the annual Bay Street Animation Film Festival is coming up Oct. 25, and the submission deadline is Oct. 6 has been extended to Oct. 13. I got a kick out of last year’s winning video, Love is Deaf, by Roxy Smith. Continue Reading


State law lets districts pay math and science teachers more — if the unions agree

In April, I blogged about a bill authored by Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) that would allow districts to pay math and science teachers more than their colleagues, as long as their respective teacher’s unions approved. (Read the entry here.)

Here’s an update for you: Gov. Schwarzenegger announced this morning that he signed SB 1660. That means that California law no longer requires all public school teachers in a district to be paid according to a uniform salary schedule.

The legislation seems to be an effort to recruit more math and science teachers to public school classrooms; lawmakers said the shortage could reach 33,000 in the next 10 years, and that was before the new eighth-grade Algebra I requirement. Continue Reading


Oakland’s part-time CFO

Chief Financial Officer Leon Glaster wasn’t at tonight’s school board meeting. He won’t be around the district’s administrative offices as often as he used to be, either. That’s because he came out of retirement to work for OUSD — and as a retiree, he’s not permitted to work full-time for more than a year, Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor explained at the meeting.

(Last October, the state administrator approved a two-year contract for Glaster that expired after September 2009. That contract now has “void” stamped across the top.)

Instead, Glaster has been hired as a consultant. He’ll work three weeks out of the month, at least until the school district hires a permanent chief business officer, and will help his replacement make the transition, Mayor said.

The problem is, OUSD hasn’t found a replacement. Continue Reading


Skyline club achieves goal!

Hi everyone, sorry for the cheesy headline…

Today at Skyline we hosted the national organization Invisible Children for an assembly. They showed a film about the role students played in fundraising creatively to end the civil war in Uganda through a program called Schools for Schools.

Skyline’s very own Global Awareness Club has been involved with this program for the past two years and has raised thousands of dollars. Personally, having organized this assembly I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I now have a greater appreciation for the bureaucratic process… it’s not easy. Continue Reading


Meet new principal Carin Geathers

I met Carin Geathers in July at a summer school program at Fruitvale Elementary School. She said she had seen the Trib’s series on rookie teacher Andy Kwok, and jokingly suggested I document her first year as principal of Burckhalter Elementary School — “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Here’s a short video I made of Geathers on the first day at school. You can find the story here.

Continue Reading