Another new Oakland principal hire quits

Skyline is not the only Oakland high school that has watched a principal-select slip away. Debra Marker has apparently walked away from the top leadership post at Oakland High School.

OUSD spokesman Troy Flint confirmed that the rumor (which I first heard from a blog reader) was true. Marker — whose name appeared on a June personnel report — withdrew her name in the last week or two, before her employment was finalized, he said. He said he didn’t know her reasons for leaving. Continue Reading


On the Twitter train

I fought it for months, but finally succumbed to the tweet last week. I thought, heck – why not?

If you want to follow my tiny updates, you can find me here. I promise I won’t write about getting coffee or what I’m having for dinner.

image from szlea’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons



Here I am, living in Oakland, placed at Explore Middle School and wading through a frankly inhumane volume of employment paperwork. A lot has changed since my last post.

Right after I took the unbelievable drive from Cleveland to Oakland, interviews began to pop up. I was getting calls regularly from Oakland City Teacher Corps with new developments. But the arrangements puttered and stalled. The only one that made it through the flaky summer scheduling was at Explore. I was told that the principal was excellent, and it was indeed an energetic and enthusastic interview. Though humble, that school has all the potential to be an example in the small-school movement: a clear-eyed, active leader; a tight staff; and a willingness to try new ideas. Continue Reading


Skyline high has (fingers crossed!) a new principal

And I have no idea who it is.

I know, that’s probably of little use to you. I just thought you might like to know that the selection committee selected someone, that school district staff accepted that pick, and that the appointment will be made official at the Aug. 12 school board meeting.

District spokesman Troy Flint said a decision was made to keep the name quiet until then. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I imagine that’s to avoid what happened last time.

Until then, as always, I welcome any info. You can reach me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.


Brown’s clout comes in big for Oakland charter schools

Jerry Brown at the January opening of the new Oakland School for the Arts building at the Fox Theater

Carla Marinucci, a political reporter for the Chronicle, had a piece in today’s paper about the $9.65 million that Jerry Brown, California Attorney General and likely candidate for governor, has raised for his favorite educational causes since 2006.

The Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute — two independently run, publicly funded charter schools that Brown started while mayor of Oakland — received the contributions, according to the news report. Continue Reading


Senator pushes back against single college track

A career technical education bill that has gotten some bipartisan traction in Sacramento might check a college prep movement that’s sweeping through California school districts.

Sheilagh Polk, of the Oakland-based Education Trust-West, says she believes SB 381 is meant to have a chilling effect on districts that are thinking about changing their high school graduation requirements to include “A-G” courses — 15 classes needed for admission to a state university.

If this bill passes, all students in those explicitly “A-G for all” districts would have to take three career technical education courses in addition to the 15 college prep courses. (The bill would only apply to districts that adopted the policy after June 30, 2009, so Oakland Unified might be exempt) Continue Reading


School funding: How California stacks up

If you’re reading this blog, you have probably heard — or cited — the statistic that California schools spend less per student than schools in almost every other state. Comparisons published by Education Week’s research department usually place California in the 40s, at the bottom of the heap. This year, California ranked a lowly 47.

But a report released today by the U.S. Census ranks California 23rd out of 51 in per-student spending, though still about $500 below the national average. Table 11, in the above Census link, includes the totals for each state and Washington, D.C. Of course, these figures are based on 2007 spending levels, before the bulk of the recent state cutbacks.

Why the difference? Continue Reading


California lawmakers pass budget

They did it this afternoon, approving a $6 billion cut to schools ($8.8 billion, when you include the state’s university systems). The budget falls $1.1 billion short of closing the deficit.

You can read a detailed story by Contra Costa Times Reporter Steven Harmon here. He writes:

Hundreds of thousands of people who depend on government services — from college students and elementary school teachers to welfare-to-work recipients and sick children — will bear the brunt of a budget package months in the making.

Of the $26 billion in budget “solutions,” $15.5 billion come by way of cuts, with schools ($6 billion) taking the biggest hit. Continue Reading


Obama calls social promotion “a disservice”

In an interview with the Washington Post about his education agenda, Obama cited a controversial Chicago policy as an example of how his administration would raise standards.

In the 1990s, Chicago Public Schools stopped promoting students to the next grade — or graduating them from high school — just because they were a certain age. Obama said it is now “obvious” that so-called social promotion is a “disservice to students” and their parents.

(You might recall that high-level Oakland school administrators have taken the opposite tack, as seen in the student retention memo that I posted the other month.) Continue Reading


Ben Chavis’s new book: “Crazy like a fox”

It’s not yet for sale, but I recently received a book written by the (officially) former director of American Indian Public Charter School, Ben Chavis. It’s titled, “Crazy like a fox: One principal’s triumph in the inner city.”

The book begins like this:

Before I became principal, people called American Indian Public Charter School the zoo. …

The students smoked cigarettes, fought, drank, and broke beer and liquor bottles on Magee Avenue, the road lining the school. There were old, dingy mattresses nearby where they had sex. A staff member allegedly sold drugs to the students, some of whom snuck into a tool shed on campus to smoke pot. Students threw water balloons off the roof and computers out the class windows.

Continue Reading