School funds and “transparency”

I’ve received a report from an Oakland mom who says the principal at her kid’s school has refused to let parents or teachers look at the budget. The mother said the budget in question was for the current year, not the one being developed for 2009-10.

Hmmm… Last I checked, public school budgets were a matter of public record.

What is the process at your school for accessing this information? Have others faced similar difficulties? Do any schools post budget details online?

UPDATE: Continue Reading


A primer on performance pay

Don’t call it merit pay. If you’re ever at a social gathering with a bunch of policy wonks, you can show you’re really in the know by offhandedly referring to “P4P,” a cute acronym I learned today at a conference about “pay for performance.”

New approaches to teacher compensation, which have come in and out of style, are definitely on their way back in. In fact, they are on the table right now in Oakland, as labor leaders and district administrators try to find common ground on a possible new parcel tax initiative for teachers.

Roberta Mayor, Oakland’s interim superintendent, and Laura Moran, the district’s chief operating officer, came to today’s conference to gain insight into the controversial compensation strategy that Obama has recently endorsed. Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, and a couple of other local union leaders (who were skeptical, at best, of some of these proposals), also came. Continue Reading


The vaccination debate

photo from Inferis’ photo stream at flickr.com/creativecommons

More California families are choosing not to have their kids vaccinated, a trend that is worrying public health officials, according to a Los Angeles Times report this weekend:

A rising number of California parents are choosing to send their children to kindergarten without routine vaccinations, putting hundreds of elementary schools in the state at risk for outbreaks of childhood diseases eradicated in the U.S. years ago.

Exemptions from vaccines — which allow children to enroll in public and private schools without state-mandated shots — have more than doubled since 1997, according to a Times analysis of state data obtained last week. Continue Reading


School renamed Barack Obama Academy

Oakland has become one of the first school districts in the country to name a school after President Barack Obama.

Students from the school formerly known as the Alternative Learning Community applauded and hugged each other tonight after the board voted unanimously to allow the alternative middle school to rename itself “Barack Obama Academy.”

The students were candid Continue Reading


Should Oakland stiffen its grad requirements?

Education Trust-West thinks so, and so does Brad Stam, OUSD’s chief academic officer.

Right now, less than 40 percent of Oakland’s high school seniors graduate with the requirements needed to attend a state university. At some local schools, Ed Trust reports, barely more than half of the classes offered count toward those 15 course requirements, known in the education world as “A to G.”

photo by Alison Yin

There seems to be a movement afoot to adopt those college requirements — a `C’ grade or better on all 15 “A to G” courses — as the new standard for graduating high school in Oakland. Continue Reading


Classroom robbery at Oakland Tech

It has not been a good week for Oakland. Fortunately, no one was hurt in this morning’s robbery at Oakland Tech. It happened about 20 minutes before the start of school, while the teacher was out of the classroom. Two suspects — men in their late teens or early 20s — were later arrested up the street, at Longs Drugs.

This letter is going home to families, detailing what happened.

What steps should schools take to protect themselves from dangerous intruders?


Lessons on violence, guns, police

image by DAN ROSENSTRAUCH/Bay Area News Group

I’m still at a loss for words about what happened on Saturday. What do you say to young children and teenagers about the tragedy — or about their safety, in light of the proliferation of weapons in the community? How has the death of four Oakland police officers affected your students, or your own children?

What questions are they asking?  Continue Reading


Some advice on middle school, from your friendly (elementary school) alumni

photo of Think College Now alumni panel by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

There are probably all kinds of fancy ways to describe the transition from elementary school to middle school, but 13-year-old Nhat Tran probably put it best: “a small world to a big world.”

Nhat goes to Roosevelt Middle School now, along with another nearly 700 kids. He says he likes it “OK,” but he sure misses the nurturing cocoon that was his elementary school, Think College Now. Continue Reading


Thanks, but no thanks

Some of you might have read the heartwarming story about players and families from Danville’s Monte Vista High School — the team that McClymonds beat last Saturday to make it to the state championship  — donating more than $1,000 to Mack, so that the players could stay overnight in Sacramento before the big game.

The donation came about after the Mack coach was quoted in the paper saying he was “broke” after covering the team’s expenses all season, and that there was no money for hotel accommodations.

Late this afternoon, though, the Oakland school district sent out a news release saying the whole thing was just a “misunderstanding” — that the basketball program would be provided for, and that they would give back the money.

Continue Reading