Part of the Bay Area News Group

And Oakland’s next schools chief is…

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 11:25 pm in superintendent search.

Tony Smith.

UPDATE: You can find the full story about his selection here.

Board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge said the board spent hours deliberating about the finalists and that, after 10:30 p.m., it finally took a unanimous vote to tap Smith for the post.

“We’re really proud that the superintendent search taught us how to be a team,” Hinton Hodge said, describing the end of the intense meeting as “a love fest.”

“I think he’s willing to take risks around some of our big issues,” she said, referring to the district’s achievement gap and other challenges.

Those involved in the small schools movement were pulling for Smith, an Oakland resident who once worked for the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, one of the organizations central to the reform (His wife worked there as well, and she still might).

Smith, 42, said at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting that he was “a pretty big fan of the charter movement,” but he also said non-charter schools should have the opportunity to enjoy some of the same freedoms as charters. “If you don’t trust people in schools, then you’re going to centrally manage, you’re going to say, `I know better than you.’”

I’ll write more tomorrow. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this pick and your hopes and expectations for the school district under Smith’s leadership. If you’d like to share your opinions for the news story (attributed, of course), call me at (510) 208-6424, or send an email to kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

photo of Smith before Wednesday’s town hall meeting by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group Staff

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  • Catherine

    Oak261: Often in hills schools where the money per student is much lower than in a Title 1 school, discretionary funds are not used to tutor underperforming students. Please look at the test scores between those students who are “African American” “Latino” “English Language Learners” and something like Low Socio-Economics or something similar. If your school is like our schools, you will find a difference of 100 points or more in test scores. These underperforming students are working far below basic or below basic when they should be proficient.

    Hills schools often do not want to use our discretionary funds for tutoring the kids to become proficient, so we are sacrificing the education of the lowest performing students to use the funds for extra art supplies, field trips, computers in the classrooms. That is where sacrificing comes in. Also, in my son’s middle school, it is only in the past two years that we have actually used the GATE money for GATE identified students and teacher training in the area of meeting the needs of GATE identified students. Prior to that, those funds were used to benefit the whole student body even though those funds are allocated by the state and the district specifically for GATE identified students, in this case the funds were used for a school newspaper published by students.

    In that example you are sacrificing the needs of the GATE students for the students interested in having and working on a school newspaper.

    As to feeding kids: Kids who are hungry can’t learn; and they disrupt the class. Title 1 funds are designated partially on the percentage of student below the poverty line. Title 1 funds are designed to feed the entire student body of a designated school.

    In response to paying for the needs of the students, if these students drop out of school then we as a society will support them as welfare recipients, single parents (usually single mothers) with children and/or prison inmates. These are just the simple facts.

    We can choose to look at the short run or the long run. Even though I believe something must be done, I do not believe it should come out of PTA funds. And I do believe schools should require parents to give back to the school. Charter Schools, which are supported by Tony, our new Superintendent often require parent / student / school contracts that outline performance standards, behavioral standards and required volunteerism.

  • Jill

    I’m not a lawyer, but I was always told that if I made a donation for a specific item or purpose that legally the organization has to use the money or item for that purpose. So if I donate to the Red Cross but write “SF/Bay Area Only” then my money can’t be sent to the National Chapter even though the National Red Cross normally takes a percentage of a donation. So if a PTA or any other parent organization (or donor) donates something to a specific school or purpose, it would be illegal to use that money or item elsewhere or for any other purpose. The real issue is that too many schools don’t have the benefit of a PTA-type organization. I’d rather see the new supe pledge to work to put these into place and make building that type of “support community” a priority for every school, even if it means some creative “outside-the-box” thinking about how to do that in some communities.

  • Debora

    I have hesitated to jump in until now. PTAs do make money for a school, sometimes a lot of money, sometimes not so much money.

    At my daughter’s school for every $10 raised there seems to be about 2 to 4 hours of labor from parents, guardians, neighbors, friends, teachers, school employees, before/after care employees and grandparents.

    Our school, yes, a “hills” school has often spoken of “adopting” a school to help them establish a PTA of their own. We believe and have parents willing to commit three years to growing that PTA into a strong and accountable organization.

    There are many students in Oakland who need help. Our school has students who need help as well, whether academic, monetary, clothing, school supplies or help with transportation to get to and from school. The needs seem to be endless. Yet I believe that we can succeed in making Oakland schools meet the educational needs of all of our students. Money is only part of the solution. That seems to be the focus of the past few entries.

    However, I also heard Tony speak last week. He spoke of tutoring Oakland Tech students while he was a student at UC Berkeley. There are teachers, working and retired who volunteer their time and resources. Our families donate books to schools where students may not have books in their homes so that each student has their own books to read over the summer.

    Perhaps there can and should be a clearing house in Oakland for the needs of our students such as http://www.donorschoose.org which is a non-profit organization that puts specific needs out to the public and requests funds, or in-kind supplies.

    We are a community rich in resources. Together we can find a way to help all our children learn.

  • oak261

    Catherine: Regarding your 2nd paragraph: If the underperforming kids are being sacrificed for art supplies instead of tutoring (I don’t buy that at all: I was a parent at Montera and saw first hand that there was A LOT of tutoring available — I helped with it too) then are you saying they’d be better served at a school with more title 1 funding and therefore more spending per pupil? I don’t see their parents voting with their feet in that direction.

    I agree with you that kids should be fed. However, it confuses the issue to call this part of education and education funding. It is welfare or health care, but not education in the usual sense. Kathy’s link to the data would probably show that spending per pupil at the high achieving schools in Oakland is on a par with some of the poorest states in the nation, while spending per student at the schools with more struggling students ranks considerably higher than California’s middle ranking among states.

    So there is a considerable redistribution of resources going on already.

  • Catherine

    Oak261: You keep referring to a link from Kathy. If you are referring to the per school spending, that is a link I put on this blog – refer to entry #22.

    I know about the tutoring from Montera. I believe, but I once again could be wrong, that the tutoring is optional. The problem in a number of Title 1 schools is that the parents want the students home to care for younger siblings, older adults, to clean the apartment or house or to work to contribute the the family income. This begins as early as second grade.

    Yes, I believe there is a distribution of funds already. However, does Montera have two full time security guards? Most Title 1 middle schools do have 2; Title 1 elementary schools have at least 1 guard.

    As far as voting with their feet. You should look at the statistics of those parents of Title 1 school students requesting “hills” or other schools. There are hundreds of them. More requests than spaces. Look at your own school(s) of your children.

    By the time a student gets to 6th grade with a third grade reading level, what do you think the odds are of graduating high school? Of getting a job? Of going to prison?

  • TheTruthHurts

    There has already been too much written on the topic. I just hope people remember this is not a one man job, nor a one year job, nor a job under local control. I’m sure Tony is great, but WE ALL have a great deal of work to do.

    Let’s help this leader lead us down the path that will turn around our ineffectiveness to deliver on behalf of our kids.

  • Catherine

    TheTruthHurts: If the job is not under local control, then whose control is it under? Didn’t our school board unanimously vote in Mr. Smith and didn’t our board get their Superintendent recommendation from the advisory council that they themselves put in place? And finally, doesn’t Tony already have more than 5 years working with our district?

    I would not expect a one year turn-around, but Tony’s plans are already in place, he said so during the candidates’ discussion last week. However, one would expect to see major progress over the next two years, which would be seven years’ of Tony’s influence in the district.

  • oak261

    Catherine,
    thanks for the correction about the link — and thank you for posting it!

    Montera had 3-4 security guards last year.

    Montera is a good school. Parents like it because there is a reasonable fraction of kids who attend who know that learning is important. Its not because it gets more money, because it doesn’t.

  • harlemmoon

    Katy:
    Do you know what happens next to Vince and Roberta?
    Is Tony cleaning house upon his arrival?
    Can we expect greater parental input?
    How is his approach to the politically entrenched Board going to effect his decisions?
    Just asking….

  • Chauncey

    Katy

    Have you ever reserached the connection between BAYCES and OUSD? Are they the same? Why do they switch leaders to each organization so often> All the way back to Chaconas has this been going on.

    I find it interesting that so many leaders have jumped back and forth.

    If this would have happened between a Charter School and another Non Profit? This is a precedent for that scenario right?

    I think this guy is a good choice, but he is doomed by the city ingnorants.

    By the way- Charter schools are public schools arent they?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Chauncey:

    The District webpage search engine lists BAYCES (Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools)with a contract with the District starting back 4/2/03 for $160,000. This contract was connected with New Small Schools incubator.

    There are many contracts listed up to and including this year. However, the number of contracts has lessen so far this year with 4 contract only totaling $76,000.

    I find interesting how the acronym BAYCES is worded. I assume equity is the goal and not that equitable schools formed a coalition as might be one interpretation.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jim Mordecai

    Chauncey:

    Charter schools are publicly funded and privately managed as the first legal act of a charter is to take out papers making the charter school a legal corporation.

    The public tax money charter schools received has few limitations and it can be spent for ways that taxpayers may not approve. For example, taxpayer money can, and is paid to charter school associations that use the money for political lobbying to get more money for charter schools. There is no law against this practice.

    Because the public does not have a right to records indicating how corporate charter schools spend their money, I hope that charter school law will be changed to make transparent how charter school money is spent. I hope that some day the public will have as much of a right to inspect charter school records as the public has to inspect state and local government records as both spend the public’s tax dollars.

    During this recess charter schools should be evaluated as to whether charter schools laws need to be reformed to insure that public money is being efficiently spent and a hard look should be taken as to whether it is wise to continue to grow charter schools without proper oversight. And, if there is not additional dollars to see that the public’s money is properly spent, then maybe the charter school experiment should be abandoned for lack of funding to do the job right.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Debora

    Jim Mordecai: BayCES is short for Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools. Makes more sense.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Debora:

    You are correct regarding the meaning of BAYCES. However, the discussion indicates that everyone does not have the same definition of equitable. If BAYCES was the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools, then there would be models to refer to as what is an equitable school.

    Jim Mordecai

  • oak261

    For an intriguing and disturbing view of the small schools movement, with the support of BAYCES, at Berkeley High, see “Separate and Unequal at Berkeley’s Small Schools” at http://www.eastbayexpress.com/news/separate_and_unequal_at_berkeley_s_small_schools/Content?oid=941265

    where the article closes with:
    “…BAYCES wants to keep Berkeley High on the reform track so it can keep its organization in business. Evidence suggests that the improvements to date are dubious, at best…”

  • John

    Consider this penetrating insight from Obama’s Latina Supreme Court pick:

    “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

    The comment was made by this nominee long before she got Obama’s Presidental nod to wear the supreme black sheet. Perhaps Obama has insights the Oakland school board lacks in making a top slot candidate selection choice?

    Unfortunately my male white soft skin limited life experience compromises the correctness of my speculations and conclusions, Tony’s too?

  • harlemmoon

    Cut the race-baiting, John.
    That comment, if read in the context in which she meant, is hardly the racist diatribe that dunderheaded media types make it out to be.
    Male white soft skin, indeed. Sheesh.

  • Nextset

    Actually, Obama could have made an appointment more overtly leftist. He won the presidential election, what do the critics expect? Sonia S will be confirmed. I may not agree with various things, but She seems to be a reasonable appointment under the circumstances. Would we rather have Hillary?

  • Catherine

    Yes, on Hillary. Yes on Sonia. If we get them both, someone else will have to leave.

  • turner

    Yeah, John. Stop nitpicking. Read the comment in the context within which it belongs.

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