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Oakland’s new Tonys and the city-schools divide

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 7:38 pm in community, crime, safety, Tony Smith.

At an Oakland school board meeting last night, while Jody London spoke of the need to strengthen ties with the city, it was announced that the new schools chief, Tony Smith, would join the city’s even newer police chief, Anthony Batts, and Mayor Dellums at a town hall meeting Monday night at Prescott school in West Oakland.

Given the number of shootings — fatal and non-fatal — that Oakland public schoolchildren have suffered since August, and the tragic death of 11-year-old Alana Williams, who was struck by a car Oct. 16 while she was in a crosswalk right by her school, it seemed like a good start.

Smith speaks often about the need for everyone to come together to solve Oakland’s seemingly intractable problems, including the perils facing children and families in some neighborhoods. So who better to work with — at least, outside of the district — than Batts?

Maybe that will eventually come to pass. I understand that Smith plans to attend the 6:30 p.m. town hall meeting at PLACE at Prescott (920 Campbell St.), but I’m not sure what his role will be, exactly. He’s not mentioned in the promotional flier put out by the mayor’s office about Chief Batts’ introduction to the community.

In any case, maybe I’ll see you at the meeting. There’s another one Nov. 9 at the Cesar Chavez Educational Complex, if you can’t make it on Monday.

In what ways do you think the city and school system can better work together, especially around public safety issues? Do you sense a divide?

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  • localed

    I do not sense a divide. In fact, I sense a bridge filling a gap. The police have to deal with the after effects of a lousy educational system and a less than ideal home life (among other things). I think OUSD can bridge the gap by helping families to educate our populace (the root of many problems), including adult education. We know that student learning is 50% dependent on what happens at home (I believe the stats say 40% is quality instruction and 10% is class size). Therefore, we need increased parent education programs and targeted adult education programs to support the 50% variable.

  • Nextset

    Localed: For the forseeable future we are going to have less money in real dollars for public school education, not more money.

    Increased programs are not on the drawing board.

    Any proposals to deal with disasters such as Richmond Unified and Oakland Unified need to start with triaging the budget you already have minus at least 10 to 20% and I hope the cuts are only that small.

    I suggest the money would be more effective if you stop wasting it on those “students” who have no interest in education. We need to create lower cost programs for the less functional (not more expensive) and get what economies we can on the rest of the herd. With some students we need to discontinue traditional schooling and assign them to warehouses pending aging them out at 18 (alternative schools). And we could get better reading scores out of some of the lower functioning kids if they were in a warehouse reading aloud newspapers all day.

    On a crash basis the schools are going to have to automate. That means internet classes and lots of them. And contracting out grading and test scoring. You can learn a lot working in a factory. The schools can move to a factory model (uniforms, silence, programmed work) and do better than now, with less funding.

    I have an idea for Richmond Unified: have a module where the students copy the CA Penal Code sex laws by hand and the related appellate cases, then calculate sentences for a month from written factual statements (probation reports). This would be difficult – CA sentencing laws are extrordinarily arcane – they’d be doing extremely well to grasp the rules in only a month of training.

    As far as working with the parent(s) – that’s not going to happen. They have jobs or they have drugs or they are otherwise busy and not your students. We need to stop fantasizing we can make the parents over and manage the students the schools are responsible for.

    As far as Adult Ed, The public school districts as far as I know are not in the business of providing any services to adults. That is optional and will likely be the first thing to go in a budget crisis. Adult Ed is properly the province of colleges, welfare departments and social service/rehab agencies. The issues are different and are best handled & funded by specialists in rehab/social services.

    Brave New World.

  • localed

    Nextset: It’s difficult to disagree with you, however, the “triage” method won’t reduce our community problems. Americans are famous for the band-aide approach to solving problems. If we don’t address home life, we’ll continue to produce problems, i.e. low expectations and student drop-outs that later fall into the hands of law enforcement. It is absolutely not the responsibility of schools to “manage” students. That falls to parents. The school needs to provide a solid foundation in critical thinking and problem solving skills. It’s not a new world, and it’s certainly not brave to leave students behind, and expect schools to do everything.

  • Nextset

    I do agree that the school needs to provide a solid foundation. Mine did. The current public schools certainly do not. Their products don’t have the foundation to take care of themselves the way my cohort learned to at school. I believe my generation was better prepared to hold an entry level job.

    As far as the Brave New World thing – as you have heard I believe we are now entering a fundamentally different socialization in the USA where we have far less social and economic mobility and people’s fate is more determined by birth. And like goes with like. This is very different from those born in the 1920s-1950s. Also racial factors now determine life and death to a far greater degree I believe.

    That may sound odd to the current college aged crowd (or worse – high school). I have met and worked alonside too many people (black) who came from dirt floors and outhouses to professional degrees, military rank, high office and a really good (double dipping) pension setup. I just don’t see that happening now, that kind of social mobility has been arrested. And the segregated schools of the 1950s were clearly better than the segregated schools of 2009.

    The kind of school environment (and I don’t care a fig about the “parents”) that resulted in the Richmond High School Gang Rape situation is a product of amoral schooling (and I include the girl’s behavior as well as the boys, and the conduct and excuse-spouting of the adults who run the school).

    Our public schools have a “divide” because the adults running the place are so overwrought that the chillun’ be comfortable they won’t lay down the law and teach the kids how to think and how to be. So the students grow up feral, self centered and kind of stupid too.

    All this can be changed. If we have to turn the schools over to the military, it can be changed.