Meet Oakland’s 2008 teachers of the year

As OUSD tries to recruit more local teaching talent, it’s only fitting that Herman Brown (left), a math teacher at West Oakland’s Cole Middle School, was named an Oakland Teacher of the Year for 2008.

Brown, a 33-year teaching veteran, wasn’t just born and raised in West Oakland; he lives so close to Cole that he walks to work in the morning, Principal Ivory Brooks said.

Brooks said Brown is a mentor to many at the school. “He is really an inspiration to the other teachers,” he said.

Oakland’s other teacher of the year is Karen Pezzetti, who teaches 12th-grade English at Youth Empowerment School in East Oakland. Pezzetti has been teaching for six years, has a master’s degree in education, and still loves her job. Here’s what she wrote about it:

“Ultimately, I am excited to wake up each morning. I get to collaborate with a talented team of professionals to educate young people who are hilarious, awkward, sweet, smart, silly, spastic, moody, talented, unique, and special. I get to come to school each day and motivate them to learn and to give them the tools they need to become autonomous learners themselves. This is the most rewarding profession imaginable.”


While we’re on the subject of giving kudos, check out the list of employees — teachers, clerical staff, custodians, principals and administrators — recognized for their contributions to the Oakland school district, at Friday night’s Expect Success awards ceremony.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    How many Middle schools and High Schools does OUSD operate?

  • Katy Murphy

    Including alternative education/independent study and schools that are phasing out in the next year or two, there are about 20 middle schools and 24 district high schools in Oakland.

    Not counting alternative ed, there are about 17 high schools in OUSD.

    And then there are charter schools on top of that.

  • Nextset

    Katy; On the 17 OUSD High Schools, what’s the primary determiner of who goes to which High School? address? Parental Choice? Suitability?

  • Katy Murphy

    Every student has one or more neighborhood schools. But through OUSD’s School Options process they can choose where in the city they will go to high school — as long as the school they pick has space for them.

    If they have an older sibling enrolled at the school already, they will have admissions preference, starting next year.

  • aly

    Between Mr. Brown’s incredible service and accomplishments with his students and Principal Ivory Brooks’ dramatic improvement of Cole’s climate, I am even more confused about Cole being closed to make way for West Oakland Middle than I have ever been. Katy- can you make sense of this for me, please?

  • Nextset

    Katy: Does OUSD have any school that is an academic, selective school such as SF Unified’s Lowell High?

  • Katy Murphy

    No, but there are academically selective academies — kind of like schools within a school — at Oakland Technical High School.

  • former hills parent

    I just moved from the Oakland hills to San Ramon and have found a SHARP contrast between the two school districts. The curriculum is academically challenging. The needs of the higher level students are addressed, as well as those students that need remediation. Falsification of addresses and the overcrowding of more desirable schools is being addressed in a proactive manner, rather than OUSD’s typical stance of waiting for the problem to arise before addressing it.

    I have more diversity on my street than I did in Oakland, which surprised me.

    Check it out. There is a reason that San Ramon Unified has the 6th highest API scores among unified school districts. AND it is not only about affluence. It is about responsible, proactive, and informed school district leadership and school board.

  • Nextset

    Former Hills Parent: The difference between school districts is that San Ramon is not in the business of mass producing “Boxcar Willies”. The residents in that district are themselves likely products of CA public schools who have made something of themselves and they don’t want less for their kids OR their neighbor kids. The understand that competitive education is vital to social upward mobility – it worked for them.

    In Oakland the professional/educated population in my experience didn’t go to OUSD – they went to private schools, Piedmont schools or whatever. They don’t expect or require OUSD to produce educated students and treat OUSD as a lowest common denominator school that only exists because the state requires one. OUSD is dominated by socialist/leftist policy as is Oakland City politics. Not that that is the end of things – Berkeley is leftist also and their schools perform better for various reasons – probably demographic.

    That’s only my experience. Perhaps Katy has demographic stats about Oakland that can shed light on the defference between the two districts. I believe OUSD is blacker, less educated, and more populated. I suspect OUSD has more female headed households, with a lower average income. Perhaps OUSD has more democrats also.

    So of course the two school districts will be very different. One district has plans for their kids and the other just has hopes with no intention politically of doing what is needed to get the best performance from the students.

    My own answer to this situation is that OUSD create schools within the district intended to academically match Piedmont High and Lowell High. OUSD has the larger number of students and faculty to draw on to find brights. OUSD could have a strong academic campus using a district wide selection just as they have more bodies to shop among for a good football team. What they don’t have is the will to create a cognitively segregated and selective academic campus (Lowell High in SF for example) – thus leaving the field open for the Charters to do exactly that.

    Then OUSD will complain that the Charter schools are “draining” the best students from the “public” schools. This will become even more so as the economy goes into Depression and brighter families drop out of more expensive schools and neighborhoods and go to the Charters.

    We need one OUSD High School where no student will set foot on campus without first being proficient in Math and Language at their grade level or better. Just one campus.

    Brave New World.

  • John

    Ya hear that OEA Executive Directors! If OUSD promoted ability segregated learning it could help stop the intelligent migration of the better students from Oakland’s “public” schools to charter and private schools.

    Fewer public school students = fewer public school teachers = decreased power and corporate earnings (confiscated teacher dues) for BIG teacher UNION INC.

    A distant secondary consideration for BIG teacher UNION INC. might be the positive spin off benefits for urban public educator job security and morale. Oh I know it’s a stretch, but I’m sometimes prone to bouts of nostalgic ‘early teaching career idealism’ about the role and purpose of Teacher Union Inc. “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance for ever and a day…”

  • http://Equois@aol.com Eric Maverstein

    Congratulations to Mr. Herman Brown. A tireless, dedicated educator…of which there are too few, far and between in OUSD…others having been burned out (use em, abuse em, and lose them) or moved on due to the deplorable state of the District…top down
    Thank you for the inspiration Mr. Brown, while in the short time serving on the faculty with you…you made my tenure working in the District a bit more bearable.

    God Bless.

  • Marilyn

    Congratulations to Mr. Herman Brown!! WOW, he is a product of the Oakland Public School -system- attending Cole, Lowell and a graduate from McClymonds High School!!