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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”?)

Instead of the fair, the district’s Family and Community Office scheduled workshops at various schools between now and Jan. 14, the eve of the application deadline. Flint says parents learn how the process works (such as the relatively new siblings-first priority) and what kinds of questions to ask of principals and parents at prospective schools to find the best match for their kids.

“A lot of people don’t even know what Options is, and even those who do know don’t understand all the nuances,” Flint said.

I’ve posted the schedule below. For more information about these classes, call Suzanna Mori or Anne Hamilton at 434-7771

Tuesday, Dec. 15 (tonight!)
Urban Promise Academy, 3031 E. 18th St.
5:30 – 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 16
Jefferson Preschool CDC
8:30 – 10 a.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 5
Markham Elementary, 7220 Krause Ave.
5:30 – 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 6
Howard Elementary, 8755 Fontaine St.
6 – 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 7
Harriet Tubman CDC
4 -5:30pm

Thursday, Jan. 7
Roots International (Havenscourt), 1390 66th Ave.
5 – 6:30

Monday, Jan. 11
Yuk Yau CDC Main
4 – 5:30 pm

Monday, Jan. 11
Howard CDC
10:30 – noon

Tuesday, Jan. 12
Manzanita CDC
4 – 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 12
Cox Elementary, 9860 Sunnyside Street
10:30 – noon

Thursday, Jan. 14
Webster CDC
10:30 – noon

Thursday, Jan. 14
Webster CDC
2 – 3:30 pm

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Caroline

    Hey, everyone, look across the Bay. San Francisco Unified is an all-choice district. It’s true that parents complain all the time about how complicated the process is and go through intense stress while they’re in it. But what that’s about is that our district has many popular, oversubscribed schools, That means parents either launch themselves into a lottery for schools that have several applicants per opening, or look for school that are on the cusp — those that are reasonably successful but not on the popular radar.

    Despite the many complaints about the process, it’s an undeniable fact that our district is the state’s highest-performing large urban district. Also, since the all-choice lottery has been in place, more and more schools have turned around, going from struggling and unpopular to highly sought after. And it appears that more and more middle-class families, the demographic that would have gone private without a thought 15-20 years ago, are now choosing SFUSD schools.

    Interestingly, SFUSD’s annual School Fair is definitely popular and successful. The first one was run in 2000 by Parents for Public Schools (www.ppssf.org), and then the district took over running it every year since. My theory about why Oakland’s has a different tone is the plethora of charter and maybe other “school reform” models in Oakland, all out there vigorously (and destructively and dishonestly, not to pull punches) touting themselves as superior to public schools.

    By contrast, SFUSD has not been a particularly fertile ground for charter schools; we just have a few low-key and not strikingly successful operations. Even the two KIPP schools have trouble attracting enough applicants. So the charters aren’t in much of a position to pound their chests and lift their legs, and the public schools don’t seem to have a heated competition going among themselves. Maybe that’s why our school fair is a pretty benign and successful event.