First day of school!

photo of Washington Elementary in Alameda by Laura A. Oda/Staff

This morning, I tagged along with Oakland’s new superintendent, Tony Smith, as he visited Oakland High and Lafayette Elementary on the first day of the semester. Things seemed to be running smoothly at both schools; I’m sure Smith was relieved to see that Oakland High, which is undergoing major renovations and construction, was all cleaned up and ready for Day 1 — as he promised concerned teacher union leaders that it would be.

O High’s new principal, Alicia Romero, was busy making sure kids were showing their ID tags (most wore them around their necks) and, of course, getting to their next class on time.  “Look like you’re worried!” she told the stragglers.

What’s going on at your school? Got any reports for us?


So, how did Oakland’s charter schools do?

Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda

You wanted to know how the city’s independently run, publicly funded schools performed on the 2009 state tests. Here’s your answer, courtesy of the OUSD Charter Schools Office.

Of the 27 charters that were around in 2008, 15 made significant gains in both English and math.

The charters with the biggest up-swings were Continue Reading


School supplies drive on Saturday: Wanna help?

Tribune file photo from a drive in 2001

If you want to help needy families before the start of the school year and have a couple of hours on Saturday, you can head on over to the Lend A Hand Foundation at 8105 Capwell Drive, Oakland.

The foundation plans to stuff 3,500 to 4,000 backpacks with school supplies this Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. Lunch will be served around 12:15 p.m., and organizers expect to finish the assembly process by 2 p.m. At that point, volunteers will deliver the backpacks to schools and shelters in Oakland.

The backpacks will go to a number of schools, shelters and agencies, including: Continue Reading


Claremont’s band — here to stay?

photo by Aric Crabb/Staff

The award-winning music program at Oakland’s Claremont Middle School is a big source of pride; the band started up a few years ago with only eight students, and its ranks quickly swelled to over 100. I wrote about this success story last year.

That’s why some families were dismayed to see “music exploration” printed on their child’s class schedule last week, instead of band or orchestra. Some said they were told at orientation that band would be part of the after-school program from now on, instead of a class, but no one seemed to know what “music exploration” was. The Oakland teachers union got involved.

“Clearly, this is not going to stand,” said Betty Olson-Jones, the union president.

The 400-student middle school is undergoing some big changes this year: a new principal, Kenya Crockett, a new bell schedule, and  “houses,” or groupings of students within each grade-level.

So why mess with something that’s working?

The school’s leadership has apparently decided not to, according to a memo given out at Monday night’s PTA meeting Continue Reading


Culture shock! From Oakland public schools to a private college in the South

Robin Higgins graduated from Skyline High School in 2006 and attends a university in Atlanta, Ga. She writes about her transition. -Katy

I feel like I’ve been prepared very well by the Oakland Unified School District. Since my graduation from Skyline High School in 2006 I’ve completed three years of college and never felt disadvantaged or held back by my schooling. Culturally, however, the transition has been awkward, strange, and a little discouraging.

I have not had a hard time transitioning academically from Oakland schools to a private college, but I also got the very best of what the OUSD schools had to offer. My parents were my advocates, involved in a way that gave me the very best of a given school, and shielded me from some of the less functional parts. Teachers in my middle and high school ranged from inspiring individuals who shape every student they have in a positive way to so mind-bogglingly bad it’s a wonder they even bother to get up in the morning. Continue Reading


Tips on getting into — and out of — college

photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune

With the help of Matt Krupnick (and the quick thinking/typing skills of our guest, Cal State East Bay’s VP of enrollment, Greg Smith), I survived my first “live chat” this afternoon. We weren’t exactly overwhelmed with participants, but those who did join the discussion asked some good questions.

Sorry you missed it? Don’t be. You can read the entire thread Continue Reading


Board meeting moved from downtown to West O

If you plan to attend Wednesday’s school board meeting, I have two pieces of advice: Don’t go to the usual spot, and don’t show up at 5 p.m.

This week’s meeting will take place on the old Lowell campus in West Oakland (991 14th St., between Market and Adeline), which is now home to KIPP Bridge and West Oakland Middle School. The public session doesn’t begin until 6 p.m., and 10 tributes to various groups and individuals top the agenda.

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