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Skyline headed towards change or stuck in a rut?

By jkenny
Sunday, September 14th, 2008 at 7:33 pm in high schools, Jesse Dutton-Kenny.

So I got my wish, I got to see Skyline’s new principal Mr. Sye. Last week there were “class” assemblies at Skyline where Mr. Sye and the new assistant principal Mr. Blye (I’m sot sure if this is how you spell his name) introduced themselves and their plans for Skyline.

One thing I’ll say is that they sure love sports. I fully expect to see a rise in the athletics department this year as both men have committed themselves to boosting involvement in sports. Mr. Sye was formerly a wrestling coach, football too I hear, and Mr. Blye is the new athletics director.

This is great for those students involved in sports but I couldn’t help but feel a little left out since almost 90% of that assembly had to do with sports teams. Honestly, I’m not noticing any big changes in Skyline thus far other than the new rule of “NO HATS IN THE HALLWAYS” that we are reminded of everyday.

Maybe I’m just a pessimist after last year and the grave disappointments it brought but I am still hoping to see something radical here… Perhaps it’s like the current election, whoever gets elected is going to have a lot of clean-up to do before they can get down to business, so I’ll cut Mr. Sye some slack. Parents, teachers, students… your impressions?

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  • Jose, Former Student

    Jesse,

    I recently graduated from Skyline and now enrolled in college. It was a joke the last two years at the school.

    My friends said, “Mr. Sye is in the hallways in between classes, making sure students get to class, no hats in the hallway or class,getting to know the students,etc.” Do you realize this is very different form the past two principals?

    This is a sign of building relationships with students, teachers and staff. Which results in less discipline problems.

    I hate sports. I understand for most students in high school sports is what the majorty of them are interested in and it appears this is part of Mr. Sye’s method of connecting with the students. This sounds like a good start to me.

    It is great that you will give “your perspective” of the new administration at Skyline. Based on your comments and my friends, things have already started off in a better direction at the school.

  • John

    An emphasis on sports That’s great! Skyline would make a great Sports Magnet School. It seems Skyline may well have finally gotten the kind of compatible leadership seriously needs.

    For the academically inclined, hitch a ride to, and borrow an address in, Lamorinda. The schools there, and a number of elsewheres, are already clean and down to academic business. If ones personal academic house is in order it’s probably not in ones best interest to continue attending one that isn’t, even one with a good football team. Go Titans!

    Surely “NO HATS IN THE HALLWAYS” doesn’t include football helments?

  • hills parent

    You can join my family in leaving Oakland for the other side of the hill. The schools in San Ramon are wonderful! All, but a very few have API scores well above 900. Those below are in the 880s. Not to mention the middle schools in the 900′s and the high schools in the high 800s.

    Most importantly, San Ramon has a FUNCTIONAL school district office, with curriculum leaders who know curriculum, business officers who know school budget issues, and directors who know what is happening at each of their schools.

    You would also be surprised at the diversity in SR.

  • dbroussard

    San Ramon? Diversity? I am sorry but I take this as a joke.

    San Ramon may have better schools and better neighborhoods, but the schools don’t make the student. The student makes the school. I am kind of fed up with hearing negative feedback about Oakland and OUSD, while I have my concerns, I would not have gotten the great high school experience that I’ve gotten at Skyline at any other school.

    And, yes, I do know what I am talking about. I almost went to a school similar to the ones in San Ramon, one with great academics and a better neighborhood. However, it had its flaws. Schools like the ones talked about hear have student cliques and many students overwhelm themselves attempting to keep up with the prefect reputation that the school has through academics and sports programs. Many friends that I have who attend schools like these complain about their unhappiness at the schools that they attend do to fake “everything is perfect here’ facades and covered up evebts like suicidal students and druggie students.

    It sounds to me like Oakland schools are OK and on the right track to becoming successful again.

  • hills parent

    I have lived in Oakland now for over 15 years and have not seen the “on the right track to becoming sucessful” scenario. Now who is joking? How long must the community wait to see substantial change? The turnover of teachers is an indication that all is not right with our schools. How long does Oakland plan to train new teachers, only to have them leave for more “functional” school districts?

  • Chauncey

    The term Diversity has been hijacked, manipulated and distorted by white liberals. If you hear the word, context or framing comes to mind? Whites coexisting with Latinos or Blacks or something along those lines.

    I pose the question, isint a Latino family living in Orinda around affluent whites and Asiand diversity for that family?

    That diversity flag is old liberal white jargon. I am a black man who was raised in East Oakland wmong the white liberal definition of “diversity” and never did I see or expect to see a wite in my street.

    I grew up and survived that form of diversity, and now ofer my family my from of diversity. Hell yes San Ramon is nice, kids do not tag, and I get to have peace there as I have enjoyed over the last few months.

    Diversity as used by white liberals, in my eyes,is racist as hell- yet submliminal

  • Prophet

    Mr. Sye does not know what he is doing. A buddy of mine says that he is related to and living with Dr. Ben Chavis of american indian schools.

    Since he is not too smart on running an Oakland school, he will do what mr, Chavis tells him to do.

    But I think that Oakland schools district is so bad that they did not even know that they hired a relative of dr, chavis who will now have alot say at Skyline. Dr. Chavis has a good charters schools, but not just anyone can get in, you must be chinese!

    I will tell you this though, mr. Sye better not think he is bringing that american indian stuff up here. The school and teachers will get him out quick.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Hills Parent: You can’t wait to see change. You have to make it yourself.

    There are no calvary coming. The state takeover’s inability to shift things is proof of that. This city fixes itself from within or it will not be fixed.

    The state is broke. The feds are broke. Careerists run the show. Education trends blow in and blow out. NCLB trucks on, with little positive to show. Dellums is hapless, the school board is mediocre.

    The district wants to freeze salaries, already lowest in the county. They even asked us to give up our prep periods. Third-year teachers I thought would be lifers are already quitting the PROFESSION.

    In the midst of this reality some good teachers teach some good students at some good schools IN OAKLAND. Diamond and the other star students who post on here are clearly examples of this. If she is overly optimistic it is because of her own positive experiences. But the overall picture is not good, obviously.

    I am told Long Beach is a model for change that can happen in a place parallel to Oakland. You might want to check it out. However, no two cities are exactly alike.

  • hills parent

    I am an educator. I have seen marvelous changes in many cities. I have had the good fortune to visit many schools, seen many changes, and have felt wonderful about many school districts. However when it comes to my young children I can no longer wait for these changes to occur.

    I agree that the state takeover does not seem to have made much difference. What will it take? I have no answers. I wish that there was an easy cure for what ails OUSD. I just know that I cannot wait around for change.

  • John

    Dbroussard: If you’re trying out for Skyline head cheerleader you’ve got my vote! When my wife worked at Skyline she often detected the small of marijuana in the halls. There was also little or no “covering up of druggie students” when she worked there.

    You state that “San Ramon may have better schools and better neighborhoods, but the schools don’t make the student. The student makes the school.” You make an excellent point here Dbroussard. I only wish your insight was as wholeheartedly accepted and professed by politicians and their constituencies! If such were the case NCLB legislation could be more objective and less punitive for teachers when NCLB performance results don’t measure up to snuff, or rather the generalized legislated expectations of stuff snuffing legislators.

    Anyway, as the Beach Boys lyrics of my generation expressed it, “Be true to your school.” You see Dbroussard, you don’t have to have the best football or academic team to be a cheerleader. But thankfully Skyline has a good football history, and now a good sports principal to match. Go Titans! But if you’re a good student go to San Ramon or Lamorinda or…

  • John

    Cranky, why do you admonish Hills Parent that, “You can’t wait to see change. You have to make it yourself.” Hills Parent obviously made the change that a good parent of a good student needs to make. So did Chauncey!

    Welcome to the good hood with good schools where tagging is done, and territorialism maintained, by dogs with tails and barks that are worse than their bites.

  • Pamela

    Give the man a chance before you dog him. It may work out. Keep hope alive.

  • Sue

    A diversity of opinions about the new principal… Good! I haven’t met him yet, but since my older son is at Skyline, I probably will.

    For the moment, my hope is that he understands something about Spec. Ed. students and laws. That was the stumbling-block I saw with the previous principal. I’m sure others saw other problems in the last couple of years, and hope Mr. Sye will be prepared and capable of dealing with those too.

  • cranky teacher

    John: I was responding specifically to the statement, “How long must the community wait to see substantial change?”

    I would NEVER begrudge a parent making decisions based on what is best for their child. Our children are not political pawns or fodder for social experiments. I’m a parent, I understand that.

    However, your comments that Diamond is not getting a good education unless she leaves Oakland are silly and simplistic. Complex districts like S.F., Oakland and Berkeley can be navigated by savvy students and kids with their heads screwed on straight straight into the top schools — however, they can be death traps for unmotivated students from unsupportive backgrounds.

    Check out the number of kids from Oakland Tech who got into the Ivy League last year. It compares very favorably with suburban schools with huge advantages.

  • cranky teacher

    …meant to say “savvy parents”

  • A skyliner

    Not sure about that Chavis connection but…

    …Mr. Sye has never principled at a school remotely as large or dysfunctional as Skyline…

    …because nobody who had that kind of experience…

    … applied for the job…

    … in fact, hardly anybody at all applied for the job…

    …according to our Nexo, Wendy G.

    Principaling in Oakland is like coaching the Raiders…

    …good as a stepping stone maybe, but you aren’t going to last…

    …and you’re going to leave with some scars…

  • John

    Cranky: Your disclosure that you “would NEVER begrudge a parent making decisions based on what is best for their child” is reassuring and I assume you believe made more credible by disclosing your parenthood.

    I agree that “complex districts like S.F., Oakland and Berkeley can (more efficiently) be navigated by savvy (street smart) students and kids with their heads screwed on straight into the top schools.” I also believe it is largely the “unmotivated students (you reference) from unsupportive (family, etc.) backgrounds” that make some schools in such “complex” districts “death traps” (as you call them).

    Perhaps the reason you think MY suggesting a good student should leave a school “death trap” for safer more academically focused quarters is “silly and simplistic” because you’re under the influence of anger instead of logic & reason in making your response.

    I certainly agree that “children are not political pawns or fodder for social experiments.” I also believe good students shouldn’t stay in school “death traps” as a means of improving school test scores or reliable source of ADA IF they have the means or a strategy to upgrade. Those that don’t must obviously make the best of their ‘high risk student’ high school environment.

    It’s not necessarily a bad thing when good students (savvy parented or not) think they’re getting the best education. Denial isn’t always a bad thing and, in this context, is well complemented by the old lyrical admonition to “be true to your school”
    as, exemplified by the eloquence of Dbroussard.

  • Sue

    I happen to agree with Diamond’s views of Skyline. Teachers and other students have been very good to my disabled son, and he’s made excellent progress during his first two years there.

    Over the summer, something “kicked on” for him, and now we’re getting wonderful feedback from the school (and from his private piano teacher). We’re seeing it at home too. He’s understanding things he never understood before, he’s taking responsibility for household tasks that have been his for years, but now he doesn’t need reminders, he just does what he’s supposed to do.

    A year ago, we weren’t even all that worked up about a snafu that denied him the opportunity to take the CAHSEE with the rest of the sophomores, because he’s never taken standardized tests seriously, or done anything more than the minimum to get it out of his way. Now, we’re looking at the possibility that he might actually be able to pass it, and get his high school diploma.

    I can’t believe that some people are trash-talking about a school that has accomplished that much with a kid with autism. There’s a disconnect from reality somewhere, but I don’t think it’s in my family’s observations, or in Diamond’s.

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    Sue, I’m very glad for your son. I worked with many of the students in the autism program last year and they all seemed to be blossoming. Congratulations on your success at Skyline.

  • Catherine

    I went to see “The Wiz” this weekend. Several Skyline students were in the play and the lead character is a former Skyline student.

    What I found remarkable, was at the end of the play, all those who were headed off to college were given their moment in the sun, introduced, college announced.

    Then the Skyline students who had a couple of weeks rather than months to prepare were announced.

    The dancing, acting, and stage presence was great to see. The talent was amazing. I felt gratified to bring my 9 year old to a performance with so many talented young people from Oakland.

    I hope Skyline continues to develop talent in academics and the arts as well as sports.

  • i wont tell

    going to skyline i sure hope there will be a turn around, did any1 hear of what happened in mrs.center’s class? she was fired for a teacher straight out of college, my friends tell me *ill levae out the profanity* ‘hes a mother…..idioit, we were in the middle of a great lesson with mrs.center and now we are learning about respect!?!?’ i honestly think this is sad, and as for football, ive seen the varsity team, they have enough talent to flip there record, just not the coach *head*