Oakland teens reach out to day laborers

free breakfast for day laborers
photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune staff

If you drove down High or San Leandro streets between 6:45 and 8 this morning, you probably saw a group of teenagers on the high-traffic corner behind a table of pastries and coffee.

This is the second Monday in a row the youth have rolled out of bed an hour or two early to serve breakfast to the day laborers, or jornaleros, in East Oakland. Most of the students go to one of the small high schools at Fremont Federation, but there was at least one middle school student there: an eighth-grader at United For Success Academy at Calvin Simmons.

The group is new; it grew out of a popular after-school Latino history class offered (not for credit) twice a week Continue Reading


Board meets tonight to discuss budget cuts

Even if you can’t make it to the 6 p.m. special meeting tonight at the Oakland school district office (1025 Second Ave.), you might want to take a look at the presentation district staff have prepared, which will likely be the basis for the board’s discussion.

Much of the information has already been out there; I believe this is an opportunity for board members to weigh in on budget cuts for next year.

In the appendix, you’ll find the average class sizes and total number of teachers at individual schools — as well as the money that each school might gain or lose if the district decided to tie the school funding formula to certain class sizes.

This is all leading up to two big meetings: Continue Reading


An Oakland science teacher’s message to Obama

Katie Noonan, a science teacher at Oakland High School, puts national education politics into a local context.

Oakland High School students

I heard about President Obama’s Educate to Innovate science initiative yesterday while driving 13 tired students back from a four-day intensive workshop in geospatial technology in Sacramento.

My students gave up four days of their Thanksgiving vacation, slept on the floor in classrooms, ate cheap food we cooked ourselves, and put in 15-hour days in the field and computer lab to develop real science technology skills. They collected GPS waypoints and created a computerized map of River City High School. They produced seasonal climate maps of U.S. cities from data they collected on the Internet — original products that took up to eight hours to complete. Continue Reading


The charter movement: 5K schools in 18 years

Via my inbox this week, I’ve been informed (and reminded) about the continued growth of independently run, publicly funded charter schools since 1992.

A news release from the Center for Education Reform, which advocates for school choice, celebrated a recent milestone: more than 5,000 charter schools now operating in the United States.

At a time when states are scrambling to compete in President Obama’s signature ‘Race to the Top’ effort, they really only need to look in their own backyards to see one reform that continues to make a difference in the lives of millions of kids. Today, 5,043 charter schools in 39 states and the District of Columbia are providing nearly 2 million families the option to break away from schools that are failing students and into schools that are serving them. Tens of thousands of others are on waiting lists for the same opportunity.

Nuance is scarce when it comes to the public debate over charters Continue Reading


A commercial for Oakland’s public schools

The Oakland school district is exceptionally diverse, its state test scores are rising and it is preparing more and more of its students for college, is the gist of a new video for prospective families, “Take Another Look at OUSD.”

“If you look and you’re open, you can see a lot of wonderful things that happen here,” goes one woman’s testimonial.


Do you know many people applying to both private and public schools for next year? Think this commercial might sway them?

You can find a school tour and open house schedule for Oakland’s public schools here.


Kakishiba to stay on Oakland school board

David KakishibaDavid Kakishiba will remain on the Oakland school board for the rest of his term — which ends in December 2010 —  rather than step down, as he had initially announced, he told me today.

“I believe my obligation, my responsibility, is to serve out my term,” he said.

Kakishiba’s original announcement, that he would resign from the board at the end of October, came in response to a conflict-of-interest opinion by Oakland’s general counsel, Jackie Minor. Kakishiba is also executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, which does lots of work in Oakland schools.

But Kakishiba said most of his board colleagues — who rejected the legal department’s recommendation in a 5-1 vote last week Continue Reading


Juvenile court school and Game Show Friday

Lauren Bishop
photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

This morning, after countless e-mails and security clearances, I finally stepped foot in a maximum security classroom at juvenile hall. It was for a story about Lauren Bishop, a 2009 Alameda County Teacher of the Year (and an Oakland Tech mom).

As I walked into Bishop’s science classroom and scanned the young faces sitting before her, I knew that most of them had been charged with a “707 B” offense: one of 23 crimes including murder, kidnapping, gang activity and discharge of a firearm.

I also learned from one of the supervisors that more than half of the boys in Unit 2 might eventually be shipped from the center to a prison — quite possibly, on their 18th birthdays.

Whatever their histories, Bishop said, she sees each kid as just that — a kid. Continue Reading


So they said senior year was going to be easy…

jonathan trinh…But it turns out to be quite the contrary. All of the hype and raving energy that past seniors exemplified and boasted to the underclassmen turns out to be a false misconception — at least from my current experience.

Walking from the World Affairs Council building in downtown San Francisco the other week testified to my growing understanding that Senior Year is not as fun, exciting, or easy as others had told me. I find myself more occupied and stressed than any other year of high school, in fact. How can a senior high school student find the time to really focus and excel in every facet of academics when college applications and extra curricular activities are beckoning for attention? That isn’t the ideal definition of “the best year of your life.” Continue Reading


Bigger classes, fewer teachers, higher pay?

kindergarten class at Melrose Leadership Academy
Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda

That seemed to be the thinking of the Oakland school district’s administration, at least during a special budget meeting in which the school board began to figure out how to reconcile its priorities with a $27 million budget cut (which equals more than 10 percent of the district’s general purpose funds).

Using an interactive Excel spreadsheet — which is supposed to be made available to the public soon — CFO Vernon Hal plugged in various average class sizes and teacher costs and, boom! Out came the number of students that school would need, overall, to cover its fixed costs (principal, clerk, utilities, etc.), and vice versa. Continue Reading