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. Continue Reading


Another flatlands success story

Steven Thomasberger (pictured below), the principal of Allendale Elementary School in East Oakland, says schools like his often “become accustomed to feelings of mediocrity and worse.” So after his students made huge gains on state tests, he decided they should celebrate. He wrote this piece about the evening. – Katy

On Thursday night, Allendale celebrated. I had the profound pleasure of hosting a party for third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students and their families. This was an unheard of celebration of academic success for students in this flatlands neighborhood tucked just below the Interstate 580, between High Street and 35th Avenue.

We told the kids, “Dress up as if it was a graduation, come with your parents and be honored, and be proud of your achievement.” Their accomplishment was to score at or above grade level on the California Standards Test. Their test scores made Allendale one of the most improved schools in Oakland, which is the most improved large, urban school district in California. My bit of hyperbole in my address to the parents was, “I guess that makes us one of the most improved schools in California.” Continue Reading


New principal tries to break up PTA

Some Tilden Elementary School parents were dismayed this week to learn that their new principal, Rachelle Sallee, wanted no part of the school’s PTA.

In a rather abrupt e-mail to parent Steve Asztalos and other PTA members, Sallee announced that she planned to disband the existing parent group and create a new one that would focus on “fundraising and community engagement.”

Date: Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 8:03 AM
Dear Steve,
As the administrator of Tilden, I am selecting NOT to have
a PTA this year. I have established another group that will be
working towards fundraising and community engagement.


Rachelle Sallee
Tilden Elementary School
Oakland Unified School District
(510) 879-1560

Tilden serves a large number of disabled children, and parents had worked closely with the previous principal, Joslin Johnson, to address safety issues (such as an evacuation plan and the lack of a coordinated alarm system), Asztalos said.

“It’s a rather stunning development,” he said. Continue Reading


A happy, anti-climatic ending for small schools

There was plenty of drama leading up to the school board meeting tonight. The television trucks outside the Oakland Tech auditorium, the cameras, the crowd. Fittingly, the board members, the superintendent and the state administrator were on stage, under brutally bright lights, while the audience sat in relative darkness.

“This is not a show, it’s a meeting,” board member Greg Hodge said in an unsuccessful attempt to even out the lighting.

But it was a show, as these kinds of meetings often are. In this case — to everyone’s relief (except, maybe, for some of the journalists) — it was an anti-climatic one. Continue Reading


Board prez: All this closure talk is “premature”

More than 1,000 people are expected to pack tonight’s school board meeting at Oakland Technical High School to speak out against the closure or merger of the district’s (new and old) small schools, according to Oakland Community Organizations organizers.

For all of you who are feverishly preparing your speeches, this bit of information might be helpful: The board appears likely to back off of the “right-sizing” idea entirely, at least for now.

David Kakishiba, the school board president (pictured here), told me today that there is no plan to close schools this year, and that he didn’t know how that notion took hold. He said he will likely make a statement tonight, at the beginning of the meeting, to assure people that OUSD will seek other ways to fix its budget other than shutting down schools.

“It’s absolutely backward,” Kakishiba said. Continue Reading


Politicos stand against Oakland school tax

Measure N, the “Outstanding Teachers For All Oakland Students” tax, is no longer just an unpopular cause; it’s the cause to be against (unless, of course, you’re Jack O’Connell).

At a press conference yesterday, Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan and Assemblymember Sandre Swanson — both critics of the state administration that put this tax on the ballot — joined the `N Stands for No’ chorus.

The $120 parcel tax would raise about $10 million a year for teachers’ salaries. But its opponents (too many to list here) say the ballot measure is all wrong, and that it came out of the blue from O’Connell’s office in Sacramento.

Noel Gallo, the lone board member who supports this election, says that’s not true.

(Pictured above is Eleanor Alderman, a second-grade teacher at ACORN Woodland Elementary School in East Oakland. Photo by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune)

Continue Reading


School closure meeting moves to bigger venue

So many people are expected to attend Wednesday night’s Oakland school board meeting — where the board is likely to signal its direction on potential school closures — that the district has moved the meeting to a larger venue: the auditorium of Oakland Technical High School, 4351 Broadway.

No final decisions are expected Wednesday night, but the board could establish criteria for closure — or make it clear that it won’t support the large-scale closure plan proposed by Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor as a cost-saving measure.

You can find the agenda here. The public part of the meeting begins around 5 p.m.


D.C. chancellor shakes up teacher firing policy

Michelle Rhee, the new chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, made a name for herself last year by announcing plans to fire 100 central office administrators and close 23 schools. Before her appointment, Rhee had never run a school, herself. But at age 37, she was picked by Mayor Adrian Fenty to reform a low-performing school district legendary for its bureaucracy.

The Washington Post reports today that Rhee has announced that she will bypass union negotiations and impose her own program to fire ineffective teachers if they don’t improve in 90 days.

Teacher evaluations will now be based mainly on test scores and other achievement data, according to the Post story: Continue Reading