Oakland school board president steps down

Alice Spearman, Oakland’s new school board president, won’t hold that title for much longer.

Spearman just called me up to say she was about to resign her presidency, a post she has held for just four months. She said she came to this decision on her own, and that no one else pressured her to do so. She will remain on the school board.

“I just don’t think I was effective,” she said. “My management style is just different than most.”

A new board president will be elected tomorrow at a special meeting that begins at 5 p.m. Spearman says Noel Gallo, the current VP, is most likely to become the next board prez. Gallo is listed as “acting president” on the agenda.

“I like to speak my mind,” Spearman said. “I don’t like to be in the forefront.”

Anyone who has attended an Oakland board meeting can certainly attest to the first half of her statement. Still, I wonder what precipitated this.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Public School Fan

    Do you think that this has something to do with the search for a new superintendent?

  • Katy Murphy

    The timing made me wonder, but who knows. If I find out anything definitive, I’ll let you know.

  • James Jones, Parent

    Good. Ineffective leaders are not what we need… ever. I’m glad she recognized her deficiencies and moved on. It takes much more than an opinion to get things done.

  • Nextset

    Interesting… Well, sometimes when people get what they wished for, it just doesn’t work out.

  • David Spencer, Parent

    Here we go again!
    I hope Alice Spearman was not forced to step down because of political pressure over the search for a new superintendent.

    The focus here should be on educating our students. I am tired of Oakland being used as a stepping stone for some “hotshot” to come in from out of town and “save” us. They make a name for themselves and then jump ship.

    We need a superintendent who knows Oakland; knows the students, knows the parents, knows the teachers, knows the community – we need someone who has some skin in the game. We need someone who has been here, has passion for Oakland and is qualified to do the job.

  • Judy

    Now if only she would resign form the school board…

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  • harlemmoon

    Uh, and you guys think Alice is bad?! Wait until you get a load of Gallo. That guy can’t string a sentence together.
    Folks, the play here is obvious: Alice stepped down to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest as things heat up with the Supe search. Do not be surprised by her support of one of the aforementioned candidates. More of the same games, people.
    Again, I say, to give this dysfunctional board the reigns is to place the district back on the road to utter chaos.

  • Catherine

    I cannot think of a single person currently elected to the School Board who is qualified to serve as president.

    1. School Board Members verbal and written words say they will make educational decisions based on proven studies of success, yet, they only do so if it fits with their politically correct agenda about educational theories.

    2. They are some of the same School Board members who did not pay attention to financial considerations several years ago which lead to further financial decline and the financial state of affairs we have today.

    3. Students in the flat lands are leaving for the charter schools and students in the hills are leaving for private schools or the other side of the tunnel because of the educational quality which is the job of the School Board. To be fair, it is also the job of the Superintendent that the School Board would have continued to have control over if only they had made educationally and fiscally sound decisions in the past.

    4. The School Board continues to promote an agenda which causes the majority of black (all nationalities) and Hispanic (all nationalities) students to leave before graduation – which in turn causes lost tax revenue from employment, home-ownership, and sales tax – because the students who have dropped out have only illegal methods of earning money.

    5. There is a racial component maintained on the School Board at the expense of the best educated, most financially experienced, and the most highly innovative (using the vast pool of educational longitudinal studies available) individuals available for the job.

    6. The School Board presentations by students are about dancing, music and poetry rather than spelling bees, mathletes and geography bees which is a very small demonstration of what the School Board values in Oakland.

    I give it to Alice Spearman, at least she was honest about her lack of ability to create change for a school district that desperately needs change in a positive educational and fiscal direction.

  • Jim Mordecai


    The only qualification to be President or Vice President of the Oakland School Board is to get the majority of school board member votes.

    Catherine you are not qualified to vote unless you are a school board member.

    Oakland residency is the only qualification to run in a school district for a contested school board seat.

    I do not recall very many people running for school board, although a large number qualify.

    Few would want to dedicate so much time to a job that very few step up and say they appreciate. The token pay will never pay for the abuse that comes with the position of Oakland School Board member.

    Being a School Board member in Oakland is not an easy job. The personal attacks perhaps reflect frustration but achieve little but discouraging citizens from wanting to run for the office.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Catherine and Jim are both absolutely right.

    The public school board members should be the town fathers (or the female equivalents) – the industrialists, the professionals, the people that hire and fire a thousand workers. School board members do not need to be the uneducated/unaccomplished, people who have never met a payroll, people who have not already run large organizations.

    But this is Oakland. Social workers, “educators” racial “activists” actually think they have some business in public life – as if they actually produce anything. Like Jim reminded us, (essentially) nobody else ran. So OUSD gets what they have available. So the schools get run into the ground and the students go through OUSD happy, unchallenged, and with delusions that they are educated. But I suppose they can dance.

    OUSD will continue to fail on all measures until it changes it’s operation from a afrocentric playground to a tougher, competitive school. And we all know that becoming a real school means making a lot of people nervous, agitated and unhappy. Students need to have to prove themselves in competition to get the better things – like being allowed to attend the nicer schools – in order to get the academic progress we all want.

    I think it’s too late for OUSD and Oakland. Like Jim said – look who ran for office.

    The Charters – run by charismatic figures – will eat OUSD alive.

    Brave New World.

  • Former OUSD Parent

    I am glad Alice is staying on the Board, though. She is sole member willing to discuss the racial disparity within OUSD schools. Her heart is in the right place, and I believe she works for the kids and her constituents, which makes her a very strong presence on the board.

    As for Noel Gallo, term limits would be great; his leadership style tends to be nothing more than frequent axe grinding and obsequious service to the Perata political machine.

  • harlemmoon

    Does anyone know whether the public has any say in who becomes the next board president in light of recent developments? Does Gallo get the top slot by default? Or is there some way to seat someone from the panel who is more competent – I know. Its a stretch, but we have to work with what we have.

  • Katy Murphy

    Well, tonight’s meeting is open to the public (and public speakers).

  • ProStudent

    Catherine and NextSet: What is wrong with you two?!

    “They are some of the same School Board members who did not pay attention to financial considerations several years ago which lead to further financial decline and the financial state of affairs we have today.”

    Response: The state has been under state control for the last six years. Duh! Where have you been? The state was supposed to get us OUT of a fiscal crisis but instead put us in another one.

    “Students in the flat lands are leaving for the charter schools and students in the hills are leaving for private schools or the other side of the tunnel because of the educational quality which is the job of the School Board. To be fair, it is also the job of the Superintendent that the School Board would have continued to have control over if only they had made educationally and fiscally sound decisions in the past.”

    Response: That’s actually NOT what the data says. That’s not why we’re a declining enrollment district. Where are you getting your data from? The top of your head?

    “The School Board continues to promote an agenda which causes the majority of black (all nationalities) and Hispanic (all nationalities) students to leave before graduation – which in turn causes lost tax revenue from employment, home-ownership, and sales tax – because the students who have dropped out have only illegal methods of earning money.”

    Response: What agenda is that?

    “There is a racial component maintained on the School Board at the expense of the best educated, most financially experienced, and the most highly innovative (using the vast pool of educational longitudinal studies available) individuals available for the job.”

    School board members are elected officials. People in their communities/districts voted for them. If you live in Oakland, then you voted for one of them.

    What school district did you two come out of?

  • harlemmoon

    ProStudent thanks for your response.
    I’ve been saying the same thing about this incompetent school board and how many of them occupied the same seats when the takeover occurred (see post #8).
    The Board is counting on the community to forget that they have so miserably failed the students, the community and themselves. Just ask Kerri Hamill. That loser is licking her wounds somewhere. She thought she was going to ride her Board seat to a post on the city council. Well, it didn’t quite work out for her. And it’s a good thing. She represented the very worst of the board’s political, back-stabbing ways.

  • Pamela

    Good for Alice. It’s hard to climb the corprate ladder only to find that your ladder has been leaning against the wrong building. I hope that she remains a force on the school board.

  • Nextset

    ProStudent: I didn’t come out of OUSD. My parents very carefully avoided it. I did go to Oakland Tech in the summer sessions that were run by UC Berkeley. I knew a few students in OUSD. Several relatives taught secondary schools in the East Bay over the years including OUSD.

    My extended family (and friends and associates) generally went to the Catholic Schools in the East Bay. This seems remarkable since their interest in Catholicism seems to have magically arrived when my parent’s generation had children in CA.

    None of my parent’s generation went to Catholic Schools, they all went to (officially) segregated public schools. I am informed that the education my parents and their generation received in their segregated public schools was clearly superior to anything they saw in the integrated (ie black dominated) public schools in CA. I have only their opinions to go on, but this generation did go on to graduate and undergraduate degrees in integrated colleges.

    I have had the experience on interviewing products of OUSD for jobs, training OUSD products on the job, and working with OUSD students. A long time ago, not recently. I found them to be simply uneducated, with little insight about what they were lacking. As a lawyer I see plenty of black professionals from the East Bay – and they didn’t go to OUSD either.

    Are there blog readers who work in Northern Ca colleges? Can anyone else give us their experiences with OUSD products in college or in vocations?

  • Oakland Teacher


    I should not even respond, particularly since the thread is about the board president; it is so tiresome how nearly every response ends up being about how OUSD is a failure.

    I can give you my experience with my oldest child, a 2006 OUSD graduate. He took 5 AP classes in both his junior and senior years. He got 5’s (the highest score possible) on 4 of the 5 tests each year. He scored 780 out of a possible 800 on the verbal SAT and extremely high on the other SAT sections as well. He had some mediocre but mostly excellent teachers, who provoked his thinking and encouraged him daily. He grew up with and attended school with a wide variety of students, and I know he is better for it. He was accepted to UCLA, Cal and a host of private schools. He got academic scholarships to every single one of them. He is attending a school that gave him a $45,000 yearly scholarship. His best friend from high school is also attending a brand name college on a full scholarship. He had a large group of friends in high school, and all of them went to good colleges.

    Are the public schools perfect? No, of course not. But my son and his many friends who had similar (and in some cases even more exemplary) experiences, prove that there are opportunities for learning and excellence in OUSD.

    It is tiresome to continually read how it is not possible to access decent educational opportunities in OUSD. That is just not true. I know that if you had ever interviewed my son or his friends for a job, you would have been happy to hire them. They (and many like them who attend OUSD schools) are a credit to their generation, and are far better educated, more motivated, aware, and capable than anyone that went to my all white, all middle class, suburban high school.

    We have had to roll with some punches over the years with OUSD, but it has been well worth it. Even though not all students have a great experience, it doesn’t mean that the system is completely broken.

    PS I enjoyed Ms Spearman’s tenure on the board! It was fun to hear someone actually speak their mind up there for a change, even if I didn’t always agree with her.

  • Katy Murphy

    It’s official: Noel Gallo has been elected president of the OUSD board. Gary Yee will be vice president.

  • Equois

    Is that Gary “no backbone”, “establishment lackey” Lee?

    …The same guy who is an ex-OUSD elementary school principal, who wouldn’t recently stand up for the beleaguered principal at Skyline High School….

    Yeah…there ought to be term limits…because these guys are weak and ineffective!

  • Small Town Kid


    I don’t know what specifically you’re referring to when you talk about “no backbone” or “establishment lackey” regarding Gary Yee. I do know that Gary was the only one who would talk to parents and provide accurate budget numbers during the early days of the OUSD budget crisis.

    Since it is a confidential personnel matter, neither you or I have an idea of the real reasons the board didn’t support the Skyline principal – it could range from the cravenly political to malfeasance. I don’t have any connection to Skyline so I don’t have an opinion on the issue.

  • Catherine


    Nothing is wrong with me. I will attempt to answer your snarky comments with more in-depth information. Since you seem to be very familiar with the inner-workings of the district you probably know this information.

    1. Of course I know for the past 6 years the district has been under state control. How did we get there? Financial mismanagement, poor student performance and our drop out rates were at the top of the reasons. While I personally liked Dennis Chacones, he did not pay attention to the financial considerations of his massive decisions – and while I may be wrong, I believe it was Mr. Chacones who brought us Open Court simplistic and rigid reading for all.
    2. My two children attend OUSD schools at both schools this has been my experience. Also, if you follow the stats posted on OaklandPublicSchoolParents you will find that the charter school attendance has nearly tripled in the past 4 years. These students are not coming from the hills – with the exception of Oakland School of the Arts. I will work on these stats for you. At my younger child’s elementary school we are losing 8 students in the fourth and fifth grade, about 9% – all are moving to the other side of the tunnel. Middle School is more difficult to assess because some students are transient, others intentionally move or move their children, still others are moved by the district. By the way, where is your data source?
    3. The agenda of the district is to close the GAP at the expense of the highest performing students. By not addressing the needs of the high performing kids, you hold their test scores steady while increasing those scores at the bottom. It gives the appearance of closing the GAP. The other agenda is to not hold students accountable for their behavior, for example, principals are being told not to suspend and teachers are having negative performance reviews for referring violent, insubordinate and tardy students to the office and principal. The memo was reported by Katy and is available at the district. The other agenda is to not hold parents accountable for their behavior. I have two examples of teachers who were reprimanded for calling child protective services because the second and third grade students were being kept at home over 50% of the school days to care for infant siblings and / or elderly great-grandparents. In both cases the union went to the Board.
    4. The school board is quite familiar of the longitudinal studies of which I speak. The first can be found at http://www.dpi.state.nc.us.closingthegap. Basically it states that children at risk, usually those of color, lower socio-economic background and those without educational support in the home (three examples were mine) should be in school 11 months per year. Files should be kept on parental involvement in the school and the children’s educational goals and assistance and home visits should be made by teachers and district administration to provide the support needed to get and keep students in school. Another study was done on gifted students. The study indicates that grouping gifted kids in a classroom benefits the gifted students and has very little negative affect average and underperforming students. In the case of both of these studies, the data is politically incorrect by Board standards. The Board states, and indeed including in the job description of the incoming Superintendent that the outcome and recommendations of such highly regarded longitudinal studies should be incorporated in all schools.

    I support OUSD through student attendance, volunteering at two different schools in the district a minimum of 20 hours per month each, with my disposable income (approximately $6,000 per school) and through my review of education code, longitudinal studies that could benefit the district and making others aware of the studies that are ignored.

    What do you do for the district? It sounds like you work for the district, so that means you put in the required hours to collect a paycheck, you spend time blogging, but what are you doing to improve the district schools?

  • harlemmoon

    Noel Gallo in a leadership role? Say it ain’t so!
    This should not inspire confidence in anyone who is even remotely connected to the district.
    Gallo’s rambling, incoherent musings on the utterly arcane are legendary. He’s a political hack with a narrow agenda – his own. Neither Gallo nor the rest of the cronies on the board would be tolerated anywhere else on the planet. I’m shaking my head for this is a sad day indeed for the school district.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    Nextset: I’m intrigued by this comment, “The public school board members should be the town fathers (or the female equivalents) – the industrialists, the professionals, the people that hire and fire a thousand workers.”

    Someone else recently mentioned to me that the profile of the school board in days-long-ago was something similar. I have no personal knowledge of those times.

    So who would these people be? Are they really out there somewhere? My guess is that if they are, they don’t care much about the public schools — nor even have them on their radar — because they have never used them, not even the “better” ones in the hills. And this would perhaps be because their desire for social class self-segregation is so extreme, and it has also been that way for many years.

    Give me some ideas here.

  • Nextset

    Oakland Teacher: The more discussion on the blog about OUSD successes the better.

    And I haven’t heard of many teachers with own kids in OUSD.

    My own interests are in the stats and the median and average reading levels, the more typical performances. I have always said that the bright students could teach themselves if they had to – they are going to do relatively well regardless of the failed school.

    A good school can take a fair to middling student and get a better outcome than would have been expected. That is done by carrot-and-stick teaching and exposing the students to an opportunity or career avenue that grabs the student’s ambition. Does anyone have stories of those kind of programs or experiences at OUSD?

  • Nextset

    Sharon: The ruling class of a town or region traditionally were the (male) local industrialists or their nominees, the leaders of the local professional community, law enforcement, the religions. These were the same people that traditionally controlled the local draft boards, the county supervisors and the city councils.

    They used their civic positions to develop the town/city for the future. They drew up the plans for the public infrastructure and public monuments and buildings. They controlled local judiciary appointments and elections. They generally saw to it that the city thrived and grew.

    By operating the local school boards they made sure that the proletariat was prepared to enter industry, military and even to go on to higher education. The upper class tended to have their own schools but public schools in areas not dominated by the lower middle class were run to feed to Universities. Piedmont, for example.

    You never saw on school boards the likes of what we have now. Single mothers, lower middle class politicians, non-professionals, non-university educated.

    The bunch I’m describing can typically be found in Rotary Clubs – and not the ancillary smaller clubs, the big-town main clubs like Downtown Seattle Rotary. Membership was invitation only and exclusive. Blackballing was practiced.

    When these people ran schools you didn’t have schools that worried about students being happy or pacified.

    Things have changed. Most of the change points to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. At least it was at that point that agendas were altered.

    The ruling class disidentified with public education and turned it over to the lower class – that is operators from the lower middle class. The uppers stopped taking school board seats. As a result the operation of the schools changed from future oriented and more authoritian to female dominated/social worker thinking. So the urban schools crash and burn.

    Successful societies are not matriarchal. And permissiveness doesn’t work, especially if you are trying to get upward mobility for the lower classes. You just give them all the rope to hang themselves.

  • Nextset


    The changes in the early 1960s saw the democratic party coalition of ethnics & labor consolidate electoral power in the urban areas. The largely republician town father types retreated and democratic machine candidates took over school boards. Back then the urban school boards were stepping stones to higher office. While the boardmembers were stepping they introduced pacification to the largely ethnic contituiency with lots of feel good measures that served to drive the white and republician families out of public schools and the urban areas. Eventually the disidentification with public schools were so great the town father candidates didn’t even want the school board seats and districts such as OUSD, LAUSD, Detroit School District, Cleveland School District, etc were turned over entirely to lower class & minority candidates as well as left wing/social worker types.

    It may also be seen that from that time manufacturing and industrial production started moving to Taiwan and other parts east, Town Father types became disinterested in hiring public school products and politically abandoned the public schools to the social democrats.

    The Rotary Crowd today run smaller businesses and are only interested in hiring University Graduates for their (smaller) law firms, banks, consultancy businesses and political offices. So they are still great movers and shakers in college boards. You no longer see the owners and operators of a local soft drink bottling plant, steel mill, factory etc at Rotary. The industrialists are just gone and the ruling class of the Brave New World no longer seem to need the public schools.

    When I continue to refer to BNW I’m thinking of that state where you are born into your class, live, associate, school and date only within your class, and take occupation based on your class and social position with little upward mobility.

    This is the opposite of what we had in the mid-20th Century where with public school education (and a military stint?) one could come from a farm or a trailer park and still reasonably expect to move into medicine, law practice, or senior positions in industry or civil service. Black or White.

    Many of the highest civil servants in the East Bay from the previous era – Black and White individuals – came from poor families in rural areas of the USA, relocated here for WWII jobs. I am thinking of specific Superior Court Judges and Police Chiefs. That kind of social mobility is what we are destroying with schools such as OUSD. By the time a lower middle class student at OUSD reaches 18 they are so far behind in education, training, and Deportment (most important) that such students for the most part are unable to survive the cut-throat competition from the private school (professional class) students and may not even want to compete because they find the new experience of competition unpleasant. I saw this at UC Berkeley and at Law School where the black public school students seemed to be shell shocked at the way things were and just fell away. (The UC Berkeley black drop rate is pretty notorious. The black bar pass rate is published every 6 months on the state bar website.)

    I believe the mortality rates of these kids are worse because they weren’t stressed enough previously.

    I want OUSD to run a tougher school, and that takes a far tougher school board than we have here.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    So this would explain the tremendous drive by the venture philanthropists to wipe out local control (i.e. publicly elected school boards), but ONLY in communities with school districts that that are majority low-income, and thus with less educated parents.

    The school districts in middle-class, more affluent communities are considered capable of managing themselves, so they won’t be challenged by the “reformers” in the same way.

    Someone I read described this new method of school reform as an upcoming American apartheid system of education. Someone else who personally experienced Africa in the late 1950’s told me the direction we are heading reeks to him of Africa’s days under European colonialism. Of course it all is a result of our continuing desire for class, and to a lesser extent, racial segregation. Having actual ghettos in our cities makes this easy to do.

    I know that in Chicago, mayoral control of the school district has resulted in his appointing a set of millionaires to the school board, where they work with the appointed superintendent to manage things. (http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=668)

    In NYC, billionaire Bloomberg took control of the school district, appointed Joel Klein, a former US prosecutor, to be the schools chancellor and has given him complete authority to do what he pleased. There is some sort of fake community panel that was created; it has no teeth and goes along with whatever he says. The general public voice is pretty much totally ignored.

    In DC, Mayor Fenty has done the same thing as in NY; he appointed Michelle Rhee to run the district.

    In each of the cases above, there is a set of behind-the-scenes high-level operatives, people like billionaire Eli Broad, and others. Some are local, but many are not.

    From what I’ve been told, the stealth group here in Oakland was led by Gary Rogers, father of Brian Rogers. I know of at least one instance of his group meeting with Ward early on to give their two-cent’s worth for how things should go. This is all going on under the public’s radar, and this is how these people want it to be. They won’t like this post.

    I suppose there’s always been someone managing the “ignint” masses, but it seems like it is getting to be more and more. I definitely think these elites are going about this public school reform-business wrong in two very important ways.

    First of all, they are too alienated from the local community and therefore, can’t be trusted. Good leaders need to be in touch with the masses and consider their needs and views, otherwise it is simply strong-arm imposed fascism. As far as I know, we are still a democracy and people — even poor, uneducated people — should be able to have a say.

    Everyone wants a good school in their neighborhood, and no family wants to see a school they are fond of and has a history and connections with, be labeled as “failing” and then get “disappeared.” The ram-it-down-their-throats method used by this current group creates a lot of hostility and is going to backfire once people catch on.

    The second problem is the way that all these business people, and the people they hire to do their bidding, are products of a specific, relatively newly emerged MBA culture (just since the 1980’s). This group believes that anyone with an Ivy League MBA can manage anything, even though they have no “domain knowledge.” Learn more about this mentality by listening to http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2009/03/bbg_20090329.mp3.

    I’ve written more about it @ http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2009/05/its-time-to-drive-these-people-out.html.

    This is the same same mentality that brought us Enron and the financial meltdown. It is well-described by Malcolm Gladwell @ http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_07_22_a_talent.htm

    At the end of this article, Gladwell cites the success of Southwest Airlines, who uses a different management model. That company’s “secrets for success” are described @ http://www.wired.com/cars/futuretransport/news/2008/07/portfolio_0708.

    It seems to me we here in Oakland could learn something here. Shouldn’t we be having some sort of city-wide task force or forum?

  • harlemmoon

    Thanks for that breath-taking analysis, Sharon.
    I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. Indeed, there are those who pull the strings and those who are the puppets.
    Rogers isn’t the only suspect, however. Look at the list of donors on the spectacular failure that was/is Expect Success (it’s actually referred to by the community as Expect A Mess). That list is a who’s who of monied financiers who ponied up major dollars for OUSD based on the MBA model you referred to. Peek in the halls of the decrepit Administration building and you’ll see a bunch of Eli Broad-backed, MBA types who are (or were) running the district like it is a science project. But none of them, not a one, knows a darn thing about the people they profess to serve.
    Feels like we’ve only moved to a bigger plantation.

  • Nextset

    Sharon & Harlemmoon: There is something going on all right. I agree that education is being taken over by starry eyed elitists and the locals are being pushed out. To the extent that the locals look like the OUSD board they should be pushed out. These locals can’t run a school system and get any results.

    However the elites such as Bill Gates cannot produce improvement either. They don’t get it – they can’t understand how to manage the lower classes. Fundamentally they believe everybody thinks and behaves like they do. They are no different than the elites that give us open borders and welfare on demand then wonder why single mother are producing all these unsocialized kids and druggies. They thought Scandanavian welfare policy would have our underclass magically act as if they were Scandavanian too.

    And we get more Brave New World.

    We’d be better off if the locals who had a stake in the property values and economic vitality of the locality ran the schools. That means your property owners and business owners, not the social workers. Our landed society has moved it’s equity from the local factories to the stock market to Switzerland and Taiwan. They’re just not around to cultivate the place anymore.

    Meanwhile the professional class/upper class have become hereditary and have their own schools, neighborhoods and occupations. Outsiders need not apply, although foreign nationals of the same class are welcome. Hopefully I’m ahead of myself and things aren’t really this bad.

    The private school movement, the Charters, the closed neighborhoods are all incidents of people drawing the line about who they are willing to tolerate around them. Now we have Megan’s List and Credit Scoring which is just the beginning of the use of computerization to blacklist undesirables. This trend will grow. From occupational licensing to “certification”, the hoops are going up to limit movement socially, vocationally and economically.

  • Catherine

    Sharon and Harlemmoon:

    What is happening now in Oakland is not working. Parents are not parenting, helping, feeding or getting their children to school on time in poor neighborhoods. In years past, there were fewer of these children and fewer of these families. This is the reason that schools had a long lag after changing the makeup of their school board before the educational “gap” showed up.

    When we have a school board that has agreed to not hold parents and students accountable for behavior, then we have a failing school board. Students, both in the hills and in the flat lands need to get their kids to school on time, ready to learn. When they don’t they need to be held accountable. I know there are just as many hills parents who don’t want to deal with the traffic, don’t want to rush their kids to get them to school on time as there are in the flatland schools. The difference is that the hills kids are testing well. We need to create a system that keeps all parents of tardy (after the bell rings not 31 minutes later) students at school on Saturday. Period.

    We need to have students fed in the morning. Period.

    We need to have kids at school, not taking care of infants, siblings or the elderly. Period.

    We need to create a homework policy that is supported by research. Research states homework creates ZERO effect in elementary school. But teachers, administrators and the undereducated, under informed, uncaring, unaccepting of research from following their own principles. The school board does not want to follow their own advice on using research to guide their policies.

    In the past, industrialists held the communities and institutions together by a set of beliefs and regulations that were designed to get the results defined by the industrialists.

    If we want our schools and our students to succeed, we need to establish a common set of beliefs, activities and regulations that promote the results we desire. If that offends people so be it. You don’t lend money to someone who has NEVER paid anyone back. Why? Because he or she won’t pay you back. For the person who wants the money to bury a deceased relative or put food on the table because they’ve run out, the situation is sad, but the individual created a trust, or lack thereof and must live with the consequences their own behavior, even when the outcome is sad.

    If we want a functional school board, we need to have policies that create function. We need a daily, weekly and annual start and stop time; a curriculum that creates learning of material demonstration by the student of such learning; we must have orderly work areas; we must have a functional backpack for children to transport school items home and back again; we must not have distractions such as cell phones, iPods, video games. If such distractions are brought to school they should be labeled and placed in a closet until the end of the school year at which time the item is claimed.

    The best, most functional, most educated, most creative, most desirable and least violent societies are the ones where there is an expected standard of conduct in which we all agree to the consequences. Expectations are met and consequences (positive and negative) are carried out.

    OUSD does not have that type of society. We have not agreed to the expectations that we are willing to hold ALL individuals accountable for demonstrating. We do not hold students and adults accountable for the rules, responsibilities and expectations. We make exceptions for race, language, socio-economic class, parental or family history, single parent households, nationality, religion, personal choice, personal preference and just simply bad behavior.

    Montera Middle School used to have a huge problem with kids acting out in the hallway, intimidating and bullying students, showing up late to class, kids not completing assignments. When we started accepting the short run loss of the Average Daily Attendance, we EARNED the long run school pride, respectful behavior and academic advancement. We also saw an increase in the number of strong academic students who wanted to attend the school. The same thing happened at Edna Brewer. It’s time that the School Board takes that sort of stand and holds accountable every individual, every school, and every day. The school board has a choice, in the past they have made the wrong choice. Let’s hope they have learned their lessons.

  • Public School Fan

    Bravo, Catherine.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: You are right.

    But you presuppose OUSD is actually running a “school”. They are not. What they are doing with the students, the teachers and the money is something else.

    San Ffrancisco Unified does have a School. It’s called Lowell High School. Despite racial quotas, it still functions as a school and people reportedly can’t stick around if they aren’t going to function as “students”.

    It’s high time that OUSD gave SFUSD a run for their money with at least one academic high school that’s run on the same lines as Lowell. One school with districtwide enrollment that is strictly competitive.

    And if OUSD doesn’t get with it, the Charters will do it for them.

  • Sara

    Montera still has the same problems, they just aren’t in the hallways. Kids have an huge sense of entitlement at Montera. One can tell a class to be quiet using the word “please” but the 10th time they are told to be quiet and the word “please” is not used, there is an outcry of “You are rude!You didn’t say please!” I think any parent would be astonished to hear what comes out of the mouths of the students there and how they treat their teachers. It is the same students whose parents blame the teachers for their child’s grades and lack of achievement, even though the child talks all during class and does neither the classwork nor homework. It is true that teachers are afraid to send students out with referrals for fear of getting a bad review – after all, every student is passed to the next grade, even if they have a 0.0 GPA, and they know it so why bother to behave and do any work? It is amazing the teachers actually continue to work under those conditions. Those students who can’t control their mouths and actions need to attend Saturday school and be held accountable for their actions. At the end of the year, if they couldn’t manage a 2.0 , send them to a school where those who don’t want to learn can all be together and let the Teach for America newbies and Project Pipeline and Oakland Teacher Corps teacher traineescteach them.

  • Nextset

    Sara’s Montera post is exactly what I’ve been describing with OUSD. This is not a “school”. It is a holding pen. And the minute the teachers are “afraid” it’s game over. The only people who are supposed to be afraid of anything in school are the students. Students must be afraid of the consequences of failure.

    OUSD is not in the business of operating “schools”. Maybe the Charters are, I know the private schools are.

  • Teri

    In a school district as large as OUSD’s, I have always wondered why there are only 5 elected school board members. My district, which is substantially smaller, also has 5 elected members. Yet, in NJ, in the districts where my brother teaches and my sister-in-law used to teach, their boards have at least 7 members. I often wonder how a board can function with so few members. It is not their full-time job, and I wonder what training board members get once they become elected. Does anyone know?

    In general, I haven’t been impressed with the school board at my district down the freeway which just rubber stamps the superintendent’s desires. Since OUSD’s school board has only recently had some power granted back, we are in a different position to create a more pro-active school board. I agree that it is important to have a vision, a plan, and systems set in place to realize the plan and the vision. But all parties must be part of this: all unions, parents, students, and administrators.

    Some of what people are describing is work that should be done by site administrators. Although all schools should follow the rules and policies established by the school board, site administrators should be held accountable for what is happening at their sites. If a school is lacking a principal, teachers, enough substitutes on a given day so that classes aren’t doubled up, etc., then it is the school board’s responsibility to rectify that situation. It is not the job of the school board to monitor parental behavior and whether they get their kids to school on time, fed, and with homework done. The school board can have a policy on that, but ultimately, they are not CPS and don’t have unlimited resources to make that happen.

    What they can do, though, is offer more support to the sites, hold district administration accountable, scrutinize the policies handed down by the superintendent and other administrators, mind the money, and listen to the complaints of teachers, other staff, parents, and students and then do something about them. Too often, school board members don’t take the time to know what it is they need to know, to read, understand, and think about what it is they are voting on, and to spend time at the various school sites seeing what teachers are teaching, students are learning, and what the bathrooms and the play yards are like, and whether the principal is going around and observing and evaluating teachers. I would venture a guess that most of our school board members do not routinely visit the schools they are supposed to be representing. How can they possibly know what is going on if they don’t do even that?

    I don’t believe we need more corporate types running our school boards. Look what they’ve done to our economy? I agree that schools in so many ways were better in the past. But I don’t know if that’s because the school boards were better or if because our society’s support for public education was far stronger. For one, there was a lot of support for arts programming. Schools were funded and we didn’t have to beg for money or decide whether we will fund toilet paper for the bathrooms or photocopy paper for the classrooms. When I was a kid in the 60s there were far fewer two-working parent families and single-parent homes so kids weren’t home alone after school or spending hours in after care. And we weren’t taught to the test and the tests didn’t have the high stakes they have now. And don’t even get me started on California’s ridiculous and often developmentally-inappropriate standards. When I was a kid, there were no standards that teachers had to teach.

    It is really easy to lay the blame at someone’s feet, such as the school board or the teachers or even the parents. But is it really useful?

  • Katy Murphy

    OUSD has seven school board members: Jody London, David Kakishiba, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Gary Yee, Noel Gallo, Chris Dobbins and Alice Spearman.

  • Teri

    I stand corrected. Good to know. But what kind of training do they get to be good stewards of the district? Would any of them care to describe it? And is there a limit to how may members a school board can have? Is 7 enough in a district as large as ours? Would more be a good thing or a bad thing? Do they have aides or secretaries or something to help them? What exactly is a day in the life of a school board member like?

  • Catherine


    I clearly understand that the schools are not CPS and cannot act as such. But the principals and even the school board has required that teachers not call CPS directly, but go through the principals. If the principal does not see or hear of physical or sexual abuse, only absenteeism, they do not call CPS to get the child back in school.

    Also, it is not my intention to lay blame. Only to state that as a district our policies, everything from the simple annual school calendar to the complicated closing the GAP is given the same bureaucracy levels (only one year calendar used as a bargaining chip and the rigid teaching of page 137 on school day 38 whether the child has advanced past the material or is two grade levels behind.)

    The school district needs to accept responsibility because their words have stated one objective and their deeds match another. If a teacher were to say in fifth grade we will study the American Revolution and you must read a novel taking place in that time period, then assign Little House on the Prairie, there would be a disparity. Students would be confused, parents would be confused, the students would not have learned the fifth grade standards and it would not be placing blame on the teacher to say, you said we were studying the American Revolution, yet your reading material did not support that and we did not learn what we were supposed to be learning.

    I agree about two parent families. What I have found is that often in after school, library and tutoring programs the individuals are better equipped than parents to help with homework and assignments. On the lower end of the socio-economic scale, parents believe it is the school’s job to make their children learn the material. Often, teen moms are simply not equipped to help with their children’s educational needs.

    The school board members need to be willing to put in the time and effort to read the studies, understand them and make decisions based on them. I know the school board members have other jobs. I know their compensation is low. But they have a contract to do a job for a certain amount of pay to the best of their ability. I am not sure that each member has fulfilled that contract.

  • harlemmoon

    Teri please also consider that the OUSD school board is comprised of a number of self-centered, egotistical, narrow-minded members. What you describe, though idyllic and quite desirous, cannot happen under the current leadership for the reasons described in the first sentence.
    If OUSD were to be blessed with competent representation, dedication to the students, visionary leadership and a willingness to work together, then, and only then, will we have the picture you so brilliantly painted.
    I agree: it really isn’t useful to finger point. What you are seeing are the frustrations of some members of the community who are fed up with the evident lack of leadership and are merely pointing the direction these pathetic board members must take: OUT!

  • Nextset


    A teacher is a mandated reporter of child abuse/neglect. That duty to report cannot be countermanded by the school district, and cannot be restricted. Any OUSD attempt to do so should be addressed quickly by the Teacher’s Union, with an injunction if required. Teachers who improperly obey the district’s orders not to comply with the reporting law subject themselves to criminal and civil liability.

    It doesn’t surprise me that OUSD would do such a thing. I am not surprised they would flout the law, that they would subject the teachers to liability, or that they would create ambiguity that would expose students to danger and risk of harm. The reason I’m not surprised is that I seriously doubt OUSD cares a whit about the safety or well being of students they don’t provide “schools” for. If you cared about the kids and their futures you wouldn’t raise them in the schools to be undisciplined, unemployable, uneducated people at age 18.

    And than blame the results the school board created on bad teachers or bad parents (not bad OUSD Schools).

  • ProStudent


    Something is clearly wrong with you.
    1. If you know that the district has been under state control for the last 6 years, why would you blame the current school board for what is currently wrong with the district fiscally? Shouldn’t you blame the state? There are many reasons that we got in this predicament. One of the reasons is that Chaconas attempted to give teachers a pay raise (that would raise Oakland teacher salaries from being at the bottom to somewhere in the middle). Unfortunately (or fortunately) when you raise salaries, you also increase retention rates. As more teachers stay, their pay increases. I suppose too many teachers stayed. Don’t worry. We don’t have that problem anymore. We run on cheap new teachers now. The state takeover had nothing to do with student performance–it was pretty much just about money. The dropout rate is still high, students still perform poorly and we’re $15M in debt (the state in six years couldn’t figure out where the money was) but all of a sudden we start to get local control back and in a few months, we finally figure out where the money is . . . hmmmm . . . coincidence? who knows?

    Re: Open Court. I’m not a fan (trust me) but it (supposedly) has helped with more students learning to read and helping with decoding for the students that started out with the lowest skills. Can we do better? yes and we should. Our problem is not necessarily an Open Court problem.

    Re: charter schools. Yes. The number of students in charter schools is going up but not at the same rate that numbers in OUSD are going down and the numbers are private schools aren’t going up either. So where are the kids? Some say that many families can’t afford to live in Oakland. The housing boom pushed many families to Pittsburg, Vallejo, Stockton. Many of the new Oakland residents are childless (just their dogs). Why don’t you work on those stats and get back to me.

    Closing the GAP at the expense of the highest performing students: Are you serious? You’re not really serious, are you? Would you suggest that we raise the scores of the high-performing students at the expense of low-performing students? Why are you so interested in test scores for high-performing students anyway? That’s not education!!! I have high-performing children. I care about them being kind, caring citizens who are creative, thoughtful, critical thinkers. I want them to be socially aware, well-rounded, culturally aware, multi-lingual. There are a lot of things I want my sons to be . . . high-scoring is not high on my list but if that’s what’s important to you. Don’t worry the gap is going anywhere so don’t worry.

    Not holding students accountable for their behavior: If you see that happening at a school, you should speak to that teacher (and offer support) as well as speak to the principal (and offer the support). It is unfair and inaccurate to offer a sweeping generalization. Are you basing this on some kind of data or what you have seen in individual classrooms. Do you have data (or even anecdotal evidence beyond “when I was a kid” to show that suspensions and expulsions work to improve student behavior? No, you don’t. Why? Because that’s not true! What about if teachers worked closely with parents and communities to support children. What if when a student acted crazy, the teacher went to their house and sat down with their parents to figure out how to best support that child? What if the teacher lived in the same community and saw the parents at church or temple, at baseball games, and baby showers? Do you think you would see different behavioral outcomes? I think so. I would imagine that a teacher would get a negative performance review not for one referral but a teacher who everyday turns in a stack of referrals is a poor teacher (I’m not saying that they can’t become a good teacher but clearly there are classroom management issues going on that need to be addressed . . . by the teacher). Show me a teacher giving a stack of referrals to the principal and I’ll show you a teacher who is unorganized, inexperienced, and incompetent of teaching in that setting.

    Not holding parents accountable for their behavior: You must be the perfect parent. I love when parents just KNOW they know it all (that sounds like a parent who’s never had a teenager). Humble yourself for a moment and reflect on the resources that are available to you as a parent that maybe other parents don’t have. Let’s not even talk about parents with addictions. Those are sicknesses (I personally advocate for treating drug addiction as a public health issue and not as a criminal issue but that’s me). Besides, there are some things that teachers can’t change–parents are one of those things. There are some things that teachers CAN change though (sphere of influence): educational outcomes. A child with really bad parents can still learn to read and write and do math. That child can also learn to sit still and raise their hand and wait to be called on. It happens all the times in classrooms and schools across the country.

    CPS: This was already addressed. Did this happen at the same school with the same principal or different schools? I can tell you that this is not widespread. Unfortunately, children taking care of younger siblings or the elderly is widespread. Why don’t we start thinking of ways to address that issue? Like affordable childcare and healthcare for our elderly?

    Your studies: You look at a couple of studies that fit what YOU want and decide that the board is incompetent. Really? Honey, that’s not how data works. Why don’t you talk to your school board representative to find out what data they are looking at? Maybe they would be very interested in your data and you can actually make a difference instead of complaining. These people are human beings (I don’t know any personally but they appear to be human beings). Does the job even have a paycheck attached to it? They are PUBLIC SERVANTS. They work for us so we should be just as involved not waiting for them to FIX everything.

  • ProStudent

    and I’m an Oakland parent just like you are.