Got questions for Tony Smith?

Oakland’s new superintendent will talk about the challenges ahead and respond to your questions and comments at a North Oakland town hall meeting at the end of the month. 

The forum takes place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30 at Oakland International High School, 4521 Webster Street. It’s open to the public, and you don’t have to be a North Oakland resident to attend, said school board member Jody London, who organized the event for her district.

“I think he’ll provide some great information about the state of the district — where we are, where we’re going,” London said.

London said other board members are planning to organize events with Smith in their respective districts. Read the Sept. 30 meeting flier here.

Tribune file photo by D. Ross Cameron/Staff


Gang fight by Oakland school averted

If you drove by the Fremont high school campus today and saw a gazillion squad cars, it’s because police were tipped off to a big gang fight that was supposed to go down near Foothill Boulevard and 46th Avenue at lunchtime.

Apparently, because of the police presence, the fight didn’t happen (then and there, anyway). I’m told the school district’s police department — which has grown to about 12 or 13 officers, and is now headed by Chief Pete Sarna — heard about it and brought in OPD.

Here’s how district spokesman Troy Flint described the incident, in an email: Continue Reading


Black colleges to recruit in Oakland tomorrow

Considering a historically black college or university? Admissions officers from more than 30 HBCUs will be on hand tomorrow at a recruitment fair for Oakland high school students.

The free event goes from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at the Oakland school district’s administrative office building — 1025 Second Avenue, near Laney College.

Some of the colleges will offer on-the-spot admissions and scholarships, so students should bring their SAT scores and school transcripts. Continue Reading


And the local National Merit semifinalists are…

Today, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation released the names of 16,000 semifinalists — less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors — who will compete for 8,200 scholarships. These students were recommended by their school principals and scored highly on the P-SATs they took as juniors.

All of Oakland’s semifinalists attend private schools, but that’s not the case in some other nearby districts, like Fremont: Continue Reading


Oakland’s API: Big gains, bigger achievement gaps

California’s 2008-09 API scores — that three-digit number commonly used to rate schools and districts — came out this morning. On a scale of 200 (low) to 1,000 (high), the Oakland school district scored a 695, about 19 points higher than last year.

photo by Hasain Rasheed, courtesy of the Oakland Small Schools Foundation

The good news: I counted 29 Oakland schools whose Academic Performance Index (API) scores went up by 50 points or more in the last year. Futures Elementary School, a small, redesigned school on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, pictured above, improved by a cool 118 to reach 701. East Oakland Pride on the old Webster campus made a 112-point gain. And Think College Now — a majority-Latino school in Fruitvale with an English learner population of more than 60 percent — saw is API shoot up by 80 points, to 848.

On the other hand: The “achievement gap” between Oakland schoolchildren of various racial/ethnic groups narrowed ever-so-slightly this year, but it’s still broad enough to comfortably fit a double-wide.  Continue Reading


More California teachers have got credentials

Tribune file photo by Mike Lucia

Credentials don’t tell you all that much about a teacher’s effectiveness, but experts from the Santa Cruz-based Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning say teachers who have them are more likely to come to the classroom prepared. 

In 2000-01, public schools in Alameda County had 1,704 teachers without a preliminary or a clear teaching credential; by 2008-09, that number dropped to 662, according to an analysis released today by the center.

Note: The report does not count intern teachers — those who go straight to the classroom without much teacher training and simultaneously earn their preliminary credential (at night) — as “fully prepared,” though they are considered “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind.

You can read a summary of the report below: Continue Reading


Chavis on CNN.com: Money won’t fix bad schools

Ben Chavis, former director of Oakland’s high-performing American Indian Public Charter School, surfaces again to promote his educational philosophy (and new book) — this time on CNN.com.

“I believe all the money in the world would not be enough to improve schools run by incompetent public school administrators,” he wrote in a commentary published this week. (Last month, he called to ask what OUSD’s total budget was. I gave him the figure I reported in June, a fact he attributed directly to me in the piece.)

An interesting assertion to make, especially at a time when schools are making such deep cuts, with more to come. In your view, is there any truth to his argument?


Masked Oakland teachers protest pay, conditions

photo courtesy of Craig Gordon, Oakland Education Association

Oakland teachers, who have been working without a contract for a year, gave a new meaning to school board drama last night; they greeted the new superintendent and the school board behind theater masks. According to union president Betty Olson-Jones, the masks were “a visual representation of the state administration from a teachers perspective.”

“Teachers have been treated like cogs in a wheel, like pawns on a chessboard,” she said, before adding that “A teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions.”

So, yes, plenty of familiar rhetoric, but there were a number of new voices, too. Teachers talked about larger class sizes this fall, the scarcity of special needs aides, new testing for kindergartners (timing how fast they can read the alphabet), Continue Reading


Nedir Bey withdraws Oakland charter school bid

Nedir Bey, a “spiritually adopted” son of the Your Black Muslim Bakery founder, Yusuf Ali Bey, wanted — and maybe still wants — to open a charter school in Oakland.

Yes, this is the same Bey who owes over $1 million to the City of Oakland and who was charged with abducting and torturing a man in 1994 (He pleaded no contest to a felony charge of false imprisonment). And, more recently, who was once a school site council leader at Fruitvale Elementary School.

Bey had proposed founding a middle school called the Marcus Garvey Public Charter School at 2628 San Pablo — a petition that he withdrew last week without explanation, via a one-sentence letter.

On the petition, he consistently spells his name “Nedar,” instead of “Nedir,” and he signs it that way, too. Another name change, perhaps? And, as one of my Trib colleagues pointed out, one of the members listed for the proposed charter’s board of directors was Natalie Bayton, who voted to loan Bey’s failed healthcare company the $1.5 million when she served on the Oakland City Council back in 1996.