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Welcome to Oakland Unified, Dr. Smith

The “love fest” on the Oakland school board over its new hire — as described by Jumoke Hinton-Hodge on the night of Tony Smith’s unanimous selection — appears to be over.

Tonight, three of the seven members voted “no” on the future superintendent’s contract for various reasons — but mostly, because of the compensation. (It sounds like Smith was a formidable negotiator.)

“It’s just really difficult for me, as cheap as I am, to accept the terms of the contract as they were written,” said board member Gary Yee.

The juxtaposition of Smith’s lucrative contract with the previous agenda item — the grim budget outlook, and the prospect of closing schools, laying off staff and increasing class sizes in the next year to make ends meet — was hard to ignore. Continue Reading

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Ink-free, 21st Century cheating

When I was in school, the kids who got busted for cheating on tests usually had smeared writing all over the insides of their hands. In this era, cheating is much neater – and, potentially, much easier. 

It’s also quite pervasive, according to a new report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that advocates a safe and sane use of media and entertainment.

Here are the key findings from a recent poll: Continue Reading

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The salary and benefits for Oakland’s new supe

The three-year contract for Oakland schools superintendent-to-be Tony Smith includes a base salary of $265,000 plus health coverage, a retirement contribution, and five weeks vacation. (On the agenda, the salary is listed at $275,000.)

The contract hadn’t been posted online as of a few minutes ago, apparently because of technical difficulties, but the board secretary sent me the attachment. You can read it here.

This is on tomorrow night’s agenda, along with the 2009-10 budget. (Although the agenda says that Vince Matthews will adopt the budget tomorrow night, spokesman Troy Flint checked and said that it won’t, in fact, be adopted until the June 24 meeting.)

What do you think about the contract?

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A message from the kids at PS22

I know, these kids are from New York, not Oakland, but someone told me about this video and I couldn’t help but post it. The fifth-graders in this public school choir sing everything from Coldplay to Lady Gaga — and Journey — with so much gusto. Wait till you hear the soloist.

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California’s high school exit exam: out the window?

The 10-member Legislative Budget Conference Committee, which is reviewing Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals, voted yesterday to suspend California’s controversial high school exit exam requirement through 2012-13.

This is not set in stone — the budget still has to make it through the Assembly and Senate — but it’s unlikely that a cut already agreed to by the Dems (six of the 10 budget conference committee members are Democrats) will be restored under these fiscal conditions.

This means, of course, that next year’s juniors and seniors who have yet to pass both portions of the test would be off the hook. Sophomores would still take the test, but if they fail, it wouldn’t count against them, and they wouldn’t have to retake it. Continue Reading

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School dropouts and outrage (or lack thereof)

I’m in New York for a summit organized by The Maynard Institute and the Committee of Concerned Journalists about the nation’s dropout crisis. (My editor couldn’t go, so I graciously agreed to step in.)

“Where is the outrage?” the moderator, CCJ Director Mark Carter, kept asking the journalists.

Carter wondered whether we thought readers might care more about the largely uneducated populace if the problem was linked to broader issues connected to it, such as America’s global competitiveness, the regional economy, taxes, or crime. Continue Reading

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No more magic tricks: meeting Thursday on Oakland school cuts

The state’s budget crisis has put the Oakland school district in a bind; CFO Vernon Hal announced last week that he had “run out of magic tricks.” While federal stimulus funds have helped avoid catastrophe, the district’s working 2009-10 budget is still a half-million in the red.

At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, the board and state administrator hold a public meeting to discuss what to do before the final budget is adopted on June 24. Should the district…

  1. Close schools targeted for a gradual phase-out? Estimated savings ~ $1 million Continue Reading
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First-year Oakland teacher up for award

Emily Orologio has only just finished her first year teaching, but her hard work and talent might earn $10,000 for Frick Middle School in East Oakland.

Orologio is a seventh-grade science teacher at Frick, and one of five Bay Area teachers nominated for Comcast’s 2009 All-Star Teacher Award. You can watch a video of this star rookie and vote for the winning teacher here.  

Members of the public can vote – once! – through July 8.

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Latinos and the future of America (and Oakland)

FLYP recently published a forward-looking piece, Bienvenidos to the New America, about how the future of the United States may hinge on the education and well-being of the growing Latino population. Here’s an excerpt:

In 2050, according to census projections, 63 million Americans will be of Hispanic origin, accounting for more than one-quarter of the total population.

Now, consider two alternative trajectories offered by Henry G. Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio and former housing secretary under President Bill Clinton. In the first, Latinos become solidly middle class, “contributing new creative energies and youthful skills, engaged in building a new American future.” In the other, Latinos remain a “large, undereducated, under-compensated, alienated and divisive force in American society.” Continue Reading

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Happy summer!

Today was the last day of school in Oakland (making me wonder, yet again, why the schedules of education reporters don’t adhere to the academic calendar). Did you do anything fun with your class?

This summer, free meals for kids under 18 — students and non-students — will be served at these Oakland schools.

photo from basheertome’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons