Keeping the streets safe, at least for the walk to school

Photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune Staff

This morning, I saw a School Safety Patrol in action outside the Manzanita elementary school campus in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. The safety operation seemed to be working well enough, but it wasn’t until the volunteers had packed up and left the intersection (after the morning rush) that I realized how important their presence was.

Tony Smith recently said that when he visit schools, he sometimes takes a lap around Continue Reading


A boarding school novel, by an Oaklander

Phillip Wilhite wrote “Surviving Chadwick,” a novel about an African American teenager from West Oakland who goes to a wealthy boarding school in the 1970s — a story based on his own experience. Last week, he spoke to West Oakland middle school students about it, and he wrote the below essay. -Katy

Scared. Nervous. Excited.

Those were the words used by some of the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students all decked out in their maroon and blue uniforms last Monday inside a large assembly hall at the St. Martin de Porres Middle School Campus in West Oakland to describe what their first days felt like at their new school.

I told them that Isaiah Issacson, a young African American teenager from West Oakland and the main character of my new novel, Surviving Chadwick, felt that same angst on his first day at a predominantly white boarding school in Ojai, California in the 1970’s. Continue Reading


Public schools and the Parent Factor

A music class at Montclair Elementary School, taken in 2008 by Alex Molloy/Tribune

This morning I headed up the hill to Oakland’s Montclair Elementary School on a research mission.

It started with a story pitch about the PTA’s annual fundraiser, the Metrathon, and the school’s tied-for-first-place API score of 957. I don’t normally cover fundraisers — don’t get any ideas! — but after I hung up the phone, I decided to see for myself how the work of a powerhouse parent group can manifest itself at a school.

Let’s start with the front stoop. A large planter overflowing with greenery. Step inside, and you see a bulletin board with photos of families at the Back-to-School Coffee, the New Parent Party, and Play Dates in the Park. Next on the wall are a list of fee-based before and after school language courses: Mandarin, Italian and Spanish. Continue Reading


Smith: “This is our work over the next 10 years…”

There were more people than chairs last night in the library of Oakland International High School, the site of a District 1 town hall meeting with Superintendent Tony Smith. 

An air of agitation often accompanies well-attended meetings involving district administrators. But the mood of this event was decidedly optimistic, even warm.

Maybe it was the chocolate chip cookies that school board member Jody London baked for the occasion. That, and Smith’s earnest, reflective delivery, or the fact that the meeting wasn’t called to address a crisis or controversy.  Continue Reading