Innovation in OUSD, despite OUSD

photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune staff

Joaquin Alvarado, one of the Claremont Middle School parents who managed to convert a run-of-the-mill computer room into a high-tech media lab — and a basic word processing class into a 3-D animation elective — doesn’t have much love for the school district’s central office.

In an interview this week, Alvarado said Second Avenue had been more of a hindrance than a help. For one thing, because of a new board policy introduced in the middle of the semester, the people contracted to teach Claremont’s animation class (and many other contractors, for that matter) weren’t getting paid. The PTA had to cut these teachers a check so that they wouldn’t up and leave, as others did. It’s supposedly been fixed.

OK, so central office bureaucracy is hardly a new story line. But what about that staff presentation about turning Claremont into a “school of choice for North Oakland families?” Wouldn’t this new media focus potentially further that goal? You’ve got these die-hard public school advocates pouring all kinds of energy into a cutting-edge project, and essentially doing most of the fundraising and heavy lifting. It sounds like a dream come true. How can the Oakland school district do a better job of encouraging such innovation — by parents and teachers alike —  and to what extent is it doing so now?

A story on Claremont’s Media Lab is in today’s paper. You can read it here.

P.S. I feel like a broken record here, but customer service in the central office is bound to suffer, at least in some departments (details TBA), with the upcoming budget squeeze. CFO Vernon Hal said Wednesday night that to spare schools from deeper cuts, Second Avenue is taking the biggest hit.

Katy Murphy

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

  • susan

    Isint’t Claremont in Program Improvement like year 5? Why are they spending that much focus on computers and such when the math and reading scores are in the gutter. This is the impression I get when I hear of such things. Too me, it means less time for teachers to work with kids in the old way of paper , book and pencil method.

    Oakland needs to get things in order with the basics first. And we wonder why charters are around?

  • TheTruthHurts

    Katy, you may have a point. How is central office to support innovation when it’s not even funded to support basic services. If I’m struggling to get my kids to school in the morning, I probably won’t be good at getting them to music lessons, soccer and dance. Just as teachers complain they are asked to do to much with too little, I bet the same thing is happening in central office. We really need to study what “functional” Districts are doing.

  • Judy

    San Ramon Unified is the third lowest funded district in the state. That may surprise many folks, who feel that districts on the other side of the hill get so much money from the state. OUSD gets so much more from the state than Oakland. So how does a Title I school in San Ramon…yes there is a Title 1 school…score 916 or so on the API? It has a “functional” district office, informed site administrators, and highly qualified teachers. How does this happen? Once again, it all happens, or in the case of OUSD, does not happen at the district office level.

    I won’t even go into the challenging, rigorous curriculum that my daughter is experiencing in SR, both of which did not exist at her so-called better Oakland elementary school. If we expect less of our children, we will get less.

    Katie – has OUSD ever shown figures as to how many Oakland graduates make it to the second or third year of college after graduating from high school? Getting into college is one thing, staying in is another.

  • Nextset

    Interesting story and photo.

    I’m afraid it’s all going to go bye-bye.

    OUSD is not going to have the money to run (maintain) computer labs. Part of the problem there is the cost to repair and replace stolen or vandalized equipment as well as maintining current software and attendants.

    The budget cuts and problems currently are a mild taste of what is in the pipeline for 2010 & 2011. I don’t envy the school board and administration who must balance expenses and income. They can’t print money and have to meet payroll every payday.

  • ProStudent

    Why aren’t we looking at how TNTP’s budget was not cut at all (remained at $700,000 not including what we pay in housing them in prime real estate at the district office) although more than likely we won’t do as much hiring in the district next year? Shouldn’t some more money be going to HR to do . . . hiring and other tasks important to the infrastructure of the district? Who oversees TNTP? Who are they accountable to? and can they do what they are doing with less money from Oakland taxpayers? (besides sending our money to NY)

  • seenitbefore

    Funny how the focus of what it actually means to the STUDENTS at Claremont during this critical time in their development to have access to art, music and computers is totally eclipsed. “Sorry kid….”

    Statistics show that students who are involved in the arts score significantly higher on their SAT scores and are one of the highest demographics of students who go on to success at the university level, business, medicine and beyond.

    We are taking away the ability for students to learn critical and creative thinking skills. Students NEED to be exposed to many connections relating academic subject material in order to have it contain meaning for their lives.

    Claremont’s problem with test scores is about a lack of leadership, rampant discipline issues with unruly students whose parents refuse to participate in the educational process and too many outside agencies selling the school “curriculum or behavior packages” and dictating ridiculous policy to the teachers…. but not allowing them to actually teach without handicaps.