How to get — and keep — good teachers

Each year, some 14 percent of Oakland’s public school teachers leave the district, and many of those vacancies are filled with rookies. The Tribune has devoted quite a bit of space and ink to the subject of teacher quality, most recently in our series following first-year teacher Andy Kwok through his year at EXCEL High School.

Want to learn more about how OUSD hires and supports teachers, or to offer your own two cents? There’s a District 1 (North Oakland) town hall meeting on that very topic at 7 p.m. next Monday, Nov. 17 at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School, 4314 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland.

The speakers include Continue Reading


Dispatch from Washington: Election Night tension

Raven Tarrance, a 16-year-old from East Oakland who is serving as a page for the House of Representatives, wrote this essay about watching the presidential election returns in Washington, D.C. with pages representing both parties. -Katy

November 4, 2008: the Election Day that would make history. This was the day that every person, young or old, had the right to let their voice be heard and vote. But the person that made the day so special was Barack Obama, the African American presidential candidate.

My classmates and I watched CNN anxiously while waiting for the results. Obama T-shirts and signs filled the room. As the room overflowed with pages, you could feel the tension rise between the two parties. Harmless teasing turned into candidate bashing. Continue Reading


Students who work for better schools

Did you know the Oakland school district has a city-wide governing council made up of high school students? One of its leaders, Arwa Omar asked if I’d share some information she had written about the council’s work, as well as some thoughts from her colleagues. -Katy

All City Council (ACC) is a platform for youth empowerment and youth voice. We work with the leadership classes throughout the Oakland school district to push for positive change in our schools. We consist of eight governing board members: President, Vice President, Secretary, Historian, two Student Board Directors, Media/Outreach Director, and Treasurer. These positions are vital because they are the bridge linking the students to the decision makers (Board of Education).

Andrew Wilson, MetWest High School (President)
All City Council is important to me because first and foremost I am an advocate for student voice. It has shown me that with enough effort and determination anyone can push for positive social change. Continue Reading


Skyline students find a human skeleton

While cutting through a canyon near Skyline High School, some teenagers stumbled upon a human skeleton and a makeshift shelter.

Troy Flint, spokesman for the Oakland school district, said the students apparently collected the bones last week, on their way home from Saturday school, and that they brought them Friday to the principal’s office at Skyline, where Oakland police officers later identified them as human remains (A police sergeant told our crime reporter that he thought the kids found the bones today, but that he wasn’t certain).

Investigators say it appears that Continue Reading


Study looks at Oakland’s school budgeting system

Oakland Unified is one of about 10 districts across the country that has tried an approach to funding its schools that’s designed to focus more resources in low-income areas than traditional budgeting systems do.

This means that local schools have more say in how they spend their money (a figure roughly based on attendance and enrollment) than they used to. Individual schools also pay their teachers’ salaries out of that pool of money, so those with more experienced — and expensive — teachers have less money left over for other things.

Researchers from the nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based social science research group American Institutes for Research recently studied how these budgeting systems were put in place in Oakland and San Francisco, and how they have worked.

Through their interviews and focus groups, researchers found a strong preference in both school districts for this approach. But they also found that it didn’t Continue Reading


Hillcrest’s middle school is back on the table

FRIDAY UPDATE: The committee didn’t make any recommendations this morning, although Kerry Hamill made it clear that she was for keeping the middle school at Hillcrest. The committee agreed to meet two weeks from now, on Nov. 21 (same time), to discuss a scenario Hamill proposed that includes expanding Montclair, redrawing attendance boundaries and keeping the Hillcrest middle school intact.


Hillcrest is one of the only public schools in Oakland that includes an elementary and a middle school.  Its grade configuration was hotly contested last year, since a number of pre-kindergarten families in the hills neighborhood — who paid top-dollar to live nearby — were turned away because of overcrowding.

Last December, the board decided not to narrow the school’s attendance boundaries or do away with the middle school, but to study the issue further.

But both issues have resurfaced, as you can see on this presentation from a previously canceled meeting. At 7:30 tomorrow morning (sorry for the late notice!), the district’s Special Committee on School Admissions, Attendance & Boundaries will discuss these scenarios. You can find the agenda Continue Reading


Smoking: like drinking ice water?

A high school student featured this morning on National Public Radio said she started smoking cigarettes at age 13 (and recently quit, after much difficulty). Interestingly enough, she compared the initial experience to the feeling of re-hydration.

“They make you feel better when you first start,” Kindra Tanner told the reporter. “You feel good — refreshed, like drinking water after running all day.”

Interesting. I thought it was mostly about image Continue Reading


The tax for teachers failed. What next?

The “Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students” tax measure received 61 percent approval, but it fell short of the two-thirds vote it needed to pass — likely, because it was strongly opposed by the teachers union, itself.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board (and the bargaining table). The district’s part-time CFO, Leon Glaster, hasn’t loaded raises into the budget. The state is poised to make mid-year cuts, and further cuts next year.

What should the district and the teachers do now in the short term — to avoid labor unrest — and in the long term, to offer more competitive pay?


Tax for teachers is failing

It’s not looking good for Measure N, the parcel tax measure for teachers that the teachers union is against.

Around 60 percent of the votes counted as of 11:30 p.m. (59 percent of precincts) have been cast in favor of the proposed $120 annual property tax, but it needs two-thirds approval to pass.

You can read the story here. It should be updated until 1:30 a.m., and then early tomorrow morning.