Oakland schools recycle, cut waste in half

Now for a blurb about something encouraging: The Oakland school district has signed a contract with Waste Management that will reduce its landfill waste by 50 percent.

According to Tim White, the superintendent of facilities, that means an annual reduction of 20,000 tons in greenhouse gas emissions.

The new plan will save money, too — up to $500,000 a year, according to White.

Maybe that money could be used to improve school lunches. What do you say?


Another American Indian charter school?

The American Indian Public Charter School, a once-struggling institution that rose to national prominence — and local infamy — under former director Ben Chavis, already has two sister schools (four, if you count the charters started by Chavis’s protege, Jorge Lopez).

Now they’re asking for another one: American Indian Public Charter School – AIM.

At tonight’s board meeting, director Janet Roberts presents the charter petition to the board and the state administrator (who, as of now, makes the call). Continue Reading


More on the custodians in custody

(New information has come to light! See the update below.)

Just last September, Sylvester Jack Lawson was one of 70-some Oakland school district employees who received an Expect Success award, honored for “for exemplifying the highest commitment to the success of our students and our district.”

Today, the 52-year-old Oakland High School custodian, who’s been a district employee for 15 years, stands accused of stealing district property, and even taking a kid’s lost wallet. He was formally charged today, and appears in court tomorrow.

Then there’s Kenneth Wayne Hill, 43, a janitor at Webster Academy in East Oakland. He had a 2005 felony conviction (smuggling Continue Reading


Busted: Three custodians with stolen property

Three janitors suspected of stealing computers and other electronic equipment from Oakland schools have been arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property.

Police arrested the first employee Saturday, and the other two today, during an investigation of two burglaries that occurred last week – one Sept. 2 at the district’s human resources department, and the other Sept. 3 at Webster Academy in East Oakland, in which 22 brand new computers were swiped.

District spokesman Troy Flint said he could not release the names of the arrested employees because the district didn’t want to appear that they were holding the suspects up for public humiliation. While that rationale strikes me as odd — it is a matter of public record, after all — what can I do? It’s contract negotiation season. (Our police reporter is working on it…)

Flint said investigators found a large amount of stolen property – computers, VCRs, DVDs, among other electronics – in the suspects’ possession and believe that “it might be part of a larger pattern of theft.” Continue Reading


Teachers: Does anyone support Measure N?

UPDATE: Some 100 union representatives voted overwhelmingly this evening to oppose the parcel tax. Only one person abstained from the vote; everyone else voted to campaign against it, Betty Olson-Jones (the union president) told me.


At first glance, you wouldn’t think a parcel tax to raise teacher’s salaries would be at all unpopular among teachers. But later this afternoon, roughly 100 union representatives decide whether to campaign against Measure N, the “Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students” tax.

In fact, it sounds like the real debate won’t be about whether the teachers should support the November tax measure, which would raise about $10 million a year for teacher pay. It will be whether to actively oppose it, or simply remain neutral.

Union President Betty Olson-Jones tells me that she hasn’t heard from a single teacher in favor of the state administration’s hastily-conceived parcel tax initiative that would give teachers more money.

Really? As imperfect as Measure N may be, I find it hard to believe that 2,000 employees would stand, on principle, against an effort to increase their (often paltry) paychecks. Olson-Jones said she was somewhat surprised, too, so I told her I’d try to solicit teachers’ opinions in this forum.

Here’s my question: Are there any teachers out there who secretly — or not-so-secretly — hope the controversial measure will pass so they will have a few thousand dollars more to support themselves and their families? Continue Reading


Young artists make debut at Art Murmur

If the sultry weather draws you outside this evening, you might check out the Oakland Art Murmur, a monthly event hosted by a group of local galleries on first Fridays.

Tonight, the Red Door Gallery (416 26th St.) is featuring the work of emotionally troubled and mentally ill children from the Lincoln Child Center, a school and a residential facility in Oakland.

Lisa Rasmussen, who teaches in Lincoln’s Transformative Art department, says the experience helps kids tap into their “own creative source.”

“I teach them fine art techniques, and they run with them,” she said (via news release). “Their work is so raw — and when I show it to my teachers and painting mentors, they are shocked to learn the art is coming from kids. It’s so refined.” Continue Reading


NCLB hurdles too high for many schools

It’s been almost a month since I’ve overloaded you with data. Good thing, because California’s No Child Left Behind and state Academic Performance Index results came out today.

This was a tough year for schools across the state, simply because the federal test score standard rose again. For an elementary school to clear the NCLB hurdle, 35.2 percent of its students — on average, as well as in various racial and academic “subgroups — needed to have tested at “proficient” or better in English (up from 24.4 percent last year). And 33.4 percent had to do so in math (up from 22.3 percent last year). It’s a similar situation for upper-grade schools.

I’m confident that you’re all proficient in math yourselves, but just to make it easy: That’s an 11 percentage point hike.

So, while Oakland’s test scores did rise this year, only about 37 percent of its schools met No Child’s challenge — down from 43 percent that passed the test last year.

Also this year, 12 Oakland schools hit the Program Improvement list after falling short of NCLB goals for two years in a row: Continue Reading


Grass Valley mourns the loss of veteran teacher

Room 4 at Grass Valley Elementary School seems awfully empty this year.

Deidria Etheridge — a third-grade teacher known by friends and family as Dee — suffered a heart attack and stroke just three days before the start of school. She died Aug. 26, at age 59.

I stopped by Grass Valley this week to learn more about Etheridge, since she had taught there for more than 20 years.

After hearing the stories, I have to say that I wish I could have met her. Continue Reading


Roof-scaling burglars hit central office

Oakland schools just can’t seem to shake these computer-pilfering thieves — and the latest offenders might be wandering around with the Social Security numbers of the district’s new hires. Here’s a version of a Web story we posted just now:

Late last night, thieves broke into the Oakland school district’s human resources offices and stole as many as 12 computers with the personal information of an estimated 100 new hires.

Police believe the burglary took place around 11 p.m. Tuesday night; it was reported around 7:30 this morning when employees began to arrive, said district spokesman Troy Flint.

The thieves appear to have climbed onto the roof in the rear of the building, Continue Reading