A pay cut for Oakland teachers?

To think that in January 2008, the Oakland teacher union’s first contract proposal included 20 percent pay raises and class sizes of 15 to 20 students.

Union leaders say teachers are now being asked to take a 3 percent pay cut and that the district wants to cap its health benefit contributions.

This news did not go over well. Hundreds of teachers left their schools at 2 p.m. and marched from Lake Merritt to the district office, demanding a better contract.

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Superintendent search: The Final Three

(Left to right) Tony Smith, Barbara Adams and Edward Velasquez

Tony Smith, deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice in San Francisco; Barbara Adams, former chief academic officer for Boston Public Schools and Edward Velasquez, superintendent — and chief of police — of the Montebello school district in Los Angeles County.

You can read the district’s news release, which includes each of their bios, here.

I also found a lengthy KALW interview with Smith, which might provide some insight into his views on education.

What do you think of this slate of finalists? Based on the little information you have (I promise to dig up more), who’d be your pick? You can meet them at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 20 at Oakland Technical High School’s auditorium.


The Plan? Just fire the teachers and start over

As you might have read by now, President Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, plan to encourage school administrators to close and re-open 5,000 of the nation’s worst schools — and hire a new slate of teachers and principals, or convert them into independently run charter schools  — with $5 billion in education stimulus funds as an incentive.

If that’s the secret to improving public education, Oakland is really ahead of the curve. I wonder if the district is even eligible for these funds; it’s already closed and re-opened most of its lowest-performing schools and converted some to charters. Continue Reading


New dropout rates: Big progress or screwy data?

The California Department of Education just released its latest dropout numbers — the second year of data for a new (and supposedly improved) data system that tracks individual students with unique ID numbers wherever they go in California.

If you take the data at face value, the Oakland school district is well on its way to solving one of its most serious challenges: From one year to the next, its estimated high school dropout rate fell from 36 percent to 28 percent.

So I called Karl Scheff, who manages the Educational Demographics Office at the California Department of Education, and asked what we should make of this swing.

“It’s a pretty big jump,” he said, after a pause. Continue Reading


Superintendent search committee: Who’s on it

After the May 20 public forum in which we’ll meet the two or three finalists for Oakland’s top job, a seven-member advisory committee will take a closer look and give the board a non-binding recommendation. The committee was officially formed this afternoon at a special board meeting (that I just happened to learn about while checking for Wednesday’s agenda).

Of the seven members, three once served on the Oakland school board. Here is the full list of appointees next to the name of the board member who chose them: Continue Reading


More stimulus funds flow to school districts

Oakland Unified will soon receive $9.9 million in so-called state fiscal stabilization funds — federal stimulus money to restore some of the state dollars that California schools lost earlier this year. Charter school amounts are listed individually, along with each school district, in this chart

In all, California released $2.56 billion today to public schools and colleges, and expects another $1.1 billion to go out in the fall. Of course, with the state’s budget in such a mess and the dwindling public support for Prop. 1A (which would bring in $16 billion in temporary tax revenue and cap spending), the state might end up cutting as much — or more — from its education budget.

This federal stabilization money is in addition to funds for Title I schools and special education programs. For OUSD, that amounts to roughly $28 million.


Matthews: One foot out the door?

State schools superintendent Jack O’Connell has been mum about the return of local governance to the Oakland school board, five months after OUSD passed muster with state auditors from the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team.

Maybe his Oakland appointee, Vince Matthews, knows something we don’t; he’s looking for another job. 

In fact, Matthews was recently one of six finalists for a school district in Reno, Nevada — the Washoe County School District. But he later withdrew his name (as did a few of the other finalists). He told me this afternoon that he was still job hunting. Continue Reading


Teacher union sues state for $12 billion

Capitol Alert, a Sacramento Bee blog, reports that the California Federation of Teachers sued Schwarzenegger and other state officials yesterday for $12 billion. The CFT says that money is owed to schools under Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment that established a mandatory minimum level of education funding.

This is all wrapped up, of course, in the campaign against Proposition 1A, a deficit-closing measure on the May 19 special election ballot that would establish spending caps and a short-term, $16 billion tax hike. (California’s larger teacher union, the California Teachers Association, has taken a different stance than the CFT. It is backing 1A.)

The latest polls show support for these ballot measures is eroding, as my colleague Josh Richman reported in his politics blog.


Swine Flu/Disease Project

Hey everyone!

I haven’t been posting anything lately because the school year is close to ending and everyone we’re trying to finish their end of the year projects and such.

The Swine Flu has been dominating the media for the past two-three weeks. Coincidentally, the 10th graders at our school are doing a project about different diseases. It’s actually amazing how our project fell into perfect synchronization with the outbreak of the swine flu.

One of the first things we learned was how to prevent the influenza from spreading. However, some students are reacting strongly about the swine while others aren’t worried at all. We’ve had students go home early on school days because their parents were afraid that they can catch the flu, we’ve had students wear masks to school, etc. If anyone shows a symptom of the flu last week, they were usually sent home and stayed home until the symptoms are gone regardless if they had the flu or not. Continue Reading


Update: No internal candidates made the cut

I just spoke this afternoon with Stan Paz of Ray & Associates, the firm hired to help find Oakland’s next superintendent of schools.

Paz wouldn’t tell me much, but he did say this: None of the four semi-finalists selected by the board were internal candidates. So much for the hopefuls presented here thus far…

These four people will be interviewed by the school board next week. Continue Reading