A long view of public education in Oakland

Steven Weinberg retired in June after a long career in Oakland’s public middle schools. His wife, Georganne Ferrier, also retired from OUSD; she taught English at Oakland High. (True story: They met in 1967, on their first day of student-teaching at McClymonds). Weinberg will share his insights with us, from time to time, as a guest blogger. -Katy

When someone retires after 40 years of teaching, it is only fair to expect that he be able to offer some insight into the changes that have taken place over that period of time. There seems to be a general feeling that things are getting worse in American schools, but when I look back at the really dramatic changes in the past 40 years, all of them have been positive:

When I began teaching in 1969, there were students in my regular eighth grade English classes who could literally (or illiterately) not read 10 words. These were students who entered school before President Johnson’s War on Poverty had set up the Head Start Preschool program and Title One funding for schools in low income areas. Although we still have many students who read far below grade level, the complete non-reader has disappeared from regular classes at the schools where I have worked.

In my early years of teaching, I would have to send students on a daily basis to the nurse’s office to have essence of cloves put on their gums to give them relief from untreated dental problems. Between the fluoridation of water and the Medi-Cal dental program, these problems no longer interfere with students’ abilities to learn.

In the late 60s and early 70s, our school had to call ambulances regularly (certainly several times a month) to take students to the hospital for drug overdoses. Continue Reading


An education reporter, on vacation in September

School just started Monday, and here I am, about to jet off to Chicago for the rest of the week. In fact, I don’t get back until Sept. 9.

Here’s the thing: I only have one sibling — my little sister, Bridget — and she’s getting married on Saturday. She has requested my presence mid-week, and who am I to deny her? I’m her “best woman,” after all…

I’ve lined up a blog post for tomorrow, and I’m sure I’ll be checking in to make sure you’re behaving yourselves, though not nearly as often as I usually do.

So if you’re a new commenter and your contribution is trapped in the “moderation” room for a little while, don’t worry — it’s nothing personal.

Have a good week. And please, try not to let any major news break until I return.

image from David Paul Ohmer’s site on flickr.com/creativecommons


Forum at City Hall: “Battle of the Budgets”

Oakland school district’s superintendent says the public school system will have to shave another $25 million from next year’s budget. The city is also struggling to make ends meet (See: Parking Meter Uproar).

What can Oaklanders do about it? What services should the city, the county and the school district attempt to preserve?

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a panel discussion on the topic on Tuesday, Sept. 15, featuring Tony Smith, Oakland’s new superintendent; Susan Muranishi, Alameda County Administrator; and Niccolo DeLuca, a lobbyist and former deputy administrator for the City of Oakland.

It’s from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3, and you’re all invited. You can find the flier here.


Obama’s upcoming address to students

President Obama makes a national address about the importance of education and finishing school at 9 a.m. (Pacific) Tuesday, Sept. 8. Do you know if any local schools or classrooms are planning to watch it?

If so, in addition to sharing your plans on the blog, feel free to send the details to me (kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com) and to my colleague Theresa Harrington (tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com), who’s writing a story about it.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is urging schools to participate. In a letter to school principals, he writes:

 …This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation’s school children about persisting and succeeding in school. Continue Reading