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Blogs for teachers

Kafi Payne taught Spanish at EXCEL High School at McClymonds before taking a job in the Oakland school district’s new teacher support department. Payne posts the latest workshops, free supplies and Web resources, as well as discussion topics, on a new blog called, “So you want to be a teacher in Oakland?”

For national perspectives, there’s Ed Week’s Teacher Beat, which today has a post about proposed teacher tenure reforms in Ohio, Florida and D.C.

And if you’re in the mood for something mindless and silly, check out education blogger Alexander Russo’s post today of the “20 hottest education folks of 2009.” It’s titled Hot…for Education 2009. I didn’t nominate anyone, I swear, but Russlynn Ali did make the top 20, and there’s a San Francisco school board member in there, too.

photo of Kafi Payne from her teachers blog

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More turmoil in the Skyline principal’s office

The principalship at Oakland’s largest high school is notorious for its political challenges. It’s no place for beginners. But from what I’ve heard, Skyline High School‘s various factions have embraced Al Sye, a veteran administrator — and the latest in a string of people to inhabit the principal’s office.

Recently, however, Sye became the subject of a central office investigation, and it remains to be seen how long he’ll stay at Skyline, or whether he’ll return for a second year. Chris Dobbins, a school board member who represents the high school, said Sye is off for two weeks, but didn’t say why.

What happened? Continue Reading

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The federal stimulus and California schools

With the failure of state lawmakers to close a budget deal over Presidents Day weekend — one that was thought to have enough votes to pass — California, as a New York Times reporter put it, “appears headed off the fiscal rails.”

Scary stuff, but at least our state and its schools are expected to receive a chunk of money from the feds. Under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, which Obama is expected to sign today, the Oakland school district could receive roughly Continue Reading

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Creative Use of Jargon 101

I referred to the closure of Tilden School in a post last week, but you won’t find that term on tomorrow night’s Teaching and Learning Committee agenda. You see, what district staffers have in store for Tilden is actually a “Restructuring of Instructional Program and Redesignation of Facilities.”

I know I keep harping on the dearth of plain English coming out of the central office, but I just don’t understand the purpose behind all of this jargon. Would any concerned parent see the Tilden agenda item and think: “Oh, my special needs child might have to go to a different school next year, but that’s OK, because her school isn’t being closed. It’s just being redesignated”? Continue Reading

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Tilden Elementary School faces closure


photo from Tilden’s Web site

Tilden Elementary School might close in June.

OUSD staff have determined that the district can’t afford to complete the repairs necessary to make the school — which offers 16 special education programs — clean and safe, said district spokesman Troy Flint. Last year, I wrote about the lack of a functioning alarm and intercom system at Tilden. Flint said the school’s uneven terrain also creates access problems.

Tilden’s closure isn’t official, yet. The recommendation goes before the Teaching and Learning Committee on Tuesday night, and the Facilities Committee on Wednesday night – and then before the full board in March. Some parents are fighting to save the school rather than see their children splinter off into four schools: Bella Vista, Burckhalter, Brookfield and Howard.

Christa Dahlstrom, a Tilden parent, wrote about the closure today in her blog, Hyperlexicon: Continue Reading

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Tomorrow, a free night of jazz


photo courtesy of Eric Swihart

Despite the district’s financial cutbacks, music is still playing in Oakland schools – many of them, anyway. Some middle and high school music directors have managed to squeeze lunchtime jazz clubs or after-school programs into a hectic schedule of chorus, string and concert band, said Westlake Middle School teacher Randy Porter.

If you like jazz and are looking for some recession-friendly entertainment Continue Reading

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Black “History” Month

I know that this blog may get a bit of comments but I’ve been thinking about this lately and feel that it is necessary to discuss this.

Before I start saying anything, I want to apologize for being MIA. So, Hello everyone. I hope everyone is enjoying the 2009 so far.

February is known as Black History Month in America. However, I would much rather call it Black Heritage Month. At Life Academy, we have “Advisory Challenges.” Students and teachers make posters and post them around the school asking “Who is this person and what did he or she do?” The challenge for this month is to see which advisory can find out the most information of these people. Upon this challenge, I started to contemplate about Black History Month. After listening to a poem about Black History Month and thinking about this some more, I came to the conclusion that I would rather not call February Black History Month. Here are my reasons/questions that I have:

  • Why is February, the shortest month, Black History Month?
  • If February is Black History Month, does that mean every other month is white history?
  • Is black history not the same thing as American history? Continue Reading
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Should Oakland teens have a curfew?

OPD thinks so. At 5:30 p.m. tonight, the City of Oakland’s Public Safety Committee hears a proposal to keep kids under 18 off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on school nights, and between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends.


Tribune file photo by Ray Chavez

You can read a detailed report in support of the “Youth Protection Curfew” here.

Some community organizations plan to protest the proposal, saying it “criminalizes youth, parents and businesses.” The following release is circulating from a group called Critical Resistance: Continue Reading

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Report: Oakland charters outshine district schools


Tribune file photo of Lighthouse Community Charter School by Ray Chavez

It might not come as a surprise that a new report by the California Charter Schools Association has found that Oakland’s independently run, publicly financed charter schools are doing better than the city’s traditional public schools.

The report does analyze state test scores in great depth, though, breaking down the results by grade-level, race and economic status. It even matches each charter with two or three district schools (within five miles) that have comparable demographics. In 22 out of 32 cases, the charter school had a higher API score than the similar district schools averaged.

You can find a summary of the report Continue Reading

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Metamorphosis. Ophthalmologist. Surveillance.

One of my good friends studies ophthalmology, and I learned just the other week that I was at least two letters away from spelling her field correctly in my mind. The first `h’ and the first `l’ really threw me for a loop. 

Those two consonants didn’t faze Trinh Huynh, of Westlake Middle School. Trinh took first place in the middle school division of the OUSD Spelling Bee with that very word. Linnea Gullikson, of Joaquin Miller, won the elementary division with “metamorphosis.” (Hopefully I’m spelling these words right. Writing about a spelling bee can really set you up for public humiliation…)

Anyone take photos at the event? Just send them to kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Here is a list of the winners of the 2009 OUSD Spelling Bee, and their schools. The top five will advance to the county bee: Continue Reading