A new teacher, a new year

Dan AdilettaOf all the things going on at Explore College Preparatory Middle School, I’m least inclined to spend my free time writing about the big headline: We will be closing at the end of the year.

Perhaps it’s spite. All of our bruises and scars have made the staff a strong team that can hold its own with so few resources. And despite that (or rather because of that), we’re being split. But maybe it’s numbness that keeps me from writing. After all the curve balls slung at me this year, the closing hardly seems surprising. And there are more important topics.

I’ve gained ground, damnit. Continue Reading


Will Oakland lose another Catholic school?

St. Bernard School
file photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune

Imagine being called to a parent meeting days before winter break and hearing that your child’s elementary school is running a $38,000-per-month deficit and will be closed for the spring semester. That, with a successful, parent-energized enrollment drive, it will re-open in the fall  — but no guarantees.

This is what’s happening at St. Bernard’s, a K-8 Catholic school on 62nd Avenue near International Boulevard whose enrollment has dropped to a mere 75 students (an average of about 8 students per grade). Continue Reading


OUSD’s former special ed director dies at 64

Phyllis HarrisAs some of you might have heard, Phyllis Harris, the Oakland school district’s former director of special education, has died. She was just 64, and passed away Dec. 15 “after a year-long battle with cancer,” according to her obituary, which was published last week.

Harris left OUSD in October of 2007 to become the Deputy Chancellor of Special Education in Washington, D.C. In September of 2008, she took a leave of absence. I believe she moved back to Oakland, where she died.

My condolences to her family.


Happy holidays, blog readers!

floridaI’m heading to Florida tomorrow for some quality time with my husband’s family. This basically means a week of playing cards, reading novels and watching grown relatives play chicken in the pool of a retirement complex. Very entertaining.

This also means, of course, that the blog will sort of be on vacation, too — but only for a week. It’ll be back in full swing on Monday, Dec. 28.

See you then!

photo from Skirsner’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons


Teachers, vacancies, rights and seniority rules


If the hectic holiday season leaves you any time to engross yourself in a fine piece of in-depth education reporting, I recommend “Insert Teacher Here,” a three-part series about teacher placement by Emily Alpert, an education writer for Voice of San Diego.

The series doesn’t oversimplify the problems of the bureaucratic system (and, in fact, includes a short piece about the roots of seniority-based hiring policies) or its solutions.

It touches on the realities of principals having teachers on staff whom they don’t want or had no choice in hiring Continue Reading


A moment of near-silence

Antonio NunezStudents from all four high schools on East Oakland’s Castlemont campus — Leadership Preparatory, East Oakland School of the Arts, Castlemont Business and Technology School, LPS-College Park — crowded outside the new auditorium this afternoon to honor their classmate Antonio Nunez and all of the other Oakland students who have died violently this year.

By my count, at least seven OUSD students have been fatally shot in 2009 Continue Reading


Oakland middle school to get a plug on the “Today” show tomorrow

Urban Promise AcademyUrban Promise Academy, a small middle school in East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, will be one of three schools in the nation to be featured tomorrow morning on NBC’s “Today” show for a segment on innovative schools in low-income communities.

Because the show will be filming live from UPA for its East Coast broadcast, a group of teachers, parents and students will get to the school by 5 a.m. Mark Triplett, the school principal, said he’ll probably be there by 4.

Hey, if tonight’s board meeting goes late enough, maybe I can pull an all-nighter! (That was actually Triplett’s suggestion. I’m SURE he was only half-serious.)

It is scheduled to air after 8 a.m. Pacific Time, likely around 8:30, Triplett said. Continue Reading


A class for Oakland families: School Options 101

classroomThree years ago, when I started reporting on Oakland’s School Options process and the confusion families experienced when trying to get their kids into certain schools, I quickly realized the task required a far greater degree of expertise than I possessed. If only there had been a class…

But, wait! Now, there is!

This year, the school district scrapped its annual Options Fair, which principals disliked and the administration found to create an overly competitive environment, pitting one school against another, Spokesman Troy Flint explained. (But isn’t what the Options process — for better or for worse — does anyway, by letting families “vote with their feet”?) Continue Reading


Oakland’s adult ed programs take a big hit under superintendent’s budget proposal

adult education/ESL class

Oakland’s adult education programs would be slashed by nearly 40 percent in 2010-11 ($4.5 million of the $11.5 million they currently receive in state funding), if preliminary budget recommendations made by Superintendent Tony Smith are approved by the school board in January.

The recommendations, to be discussed at Wednesday’s school board meeting and voted on Jan. 27, contain few specifics, such as which services (aside from adult ed) would be cut and by how much. But the presentation does give us an idea of how the pain of a $28 million cut — Oakland Unified’s projected deficit for the 2010-11 school year — might be shared across the district.

K-12 schools would absorb $9.3 million of the $28 million reduction, which means Continue Reading


Oakland’s Lincoln Elementary nominated for National Blue Ribbon

Lincoln Elementary School kindergarten
Tribune file photo by D. Ross Cameron

Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland’s Chinatown has just been nominated for the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award, which honors schools for high academic achievement.

Lincoln was one of 35 public and private schools statewide to be nominated for the 2010 award by the California Department of Education, and the only one from Oakland. The school has an API of 933 out of a possible 1,000 points, one of the highest in the district.

About 78 percent of Lincoln’s roughly 600 students  Continue Reading