Four Oakland, two Berkeley schools “exemplary”

Peralta Elementary School, Tribune file photo

Four Oakland elementary schools — Chabot, Montclair, Peralta and Thornhill — are among 484 schools commended by the state this year for their academic achievements and for narrowing the achievement gap. The winners have also agreed to share two “signature practices” with other schools. Chabot and Peralta are located in the Rockridge area, and Montclair and Thornhill are in the hills.

Jefferson and Oxford elementary schools in Berkeley also made the California Distinguished Schools list.

You can find the full list of California Distinguished Schools here. Below is a short summary of the selection process: Continue Reading


OUSD administration: no more bargaining

Oakland teachers union leaders were in for a surprise this afternoon when they were told that it wouldn’t be necessary to schedule contract talks for next week, as expected.

OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said the administration felt the fact-finding report wasn’t a good starting point for negotiations. “The fact-finding report acknowledged that we have an inability to pay, then asks for a significant financial contribution without indicating a revenue source, which is irresponsible and doesn’t provide the means to bridge the gap between the two parties,” he said.

He said the recommendations would cost about $5 million.

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Oakland parents strike, demand teacher’s removal

Lazear Elementary School strike. Photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News GroupUPDATE: The school district has placed the teacher on administrative leave while they investigate the latest complaint, which alleges physical abuse.

Parents at Lazear Elementary went on strike today, which meant they kept their kids out of school. Only 60 of about 300 children showed up in the morning.

The protesting parents said they’ve filed complaints about a problematic third-grade teacher for more than a year, and nothing has happened. They said they were tired of hearing about “the process.”

On the other end of the teacher firing spectrum, parents and teachers at Claremont Middle School last night expressed shock and horror that one of their star, go-getter teachers — a newbie, without job protections — received a dismissal notice. As is often the case with these first- and second-year teachers, she was apparently released without even knowing why. (Lillian Mongeau from Oakland North wrote about it in more detail.)

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The OUSD fact-finding report says…

It’s been a hectic day, and I’m off to interview Diane Ravitch before her 5:30 p.m. talk at UC Berkeley’s Sibley Auditorium. I’ll have some more thoughts on the report later, but for now, here is a copy.

Fact-finding panel Chairman Christopher Burdick recommends, among other things, a shortened work year for Oakland teachers (though the same number of teaching days); to give teachers a 5 percent boost at 28 and at 30 years of service; and a salary schedule increase of 2 percent, effective January 2012, in addition to any revenues generated by a parcel tax.

He also thinks the district should set aside 60 percent of all new, unrestricted state funding for pay increases or to keep class sizes smaller.

What do you think?


“Emerging Oakland businesses” to get a larger piece of school construction funds

The Oakland school board just approved a new (renegotiated) Project Labor Agreement for its Measure A and B-funded construction bond projects, a move that should give more jobs and apprenticeships to Oakland residents and businesses.

Under the old PLA, the school district was only able to earmark $400,000 of bond proceeds for small, local businesses, and contractors were allowed to use 10 of their own employees before hiring locally, General Counsel Jackie Minor said.

The new PLA increases the “carve-out”  — bond money the school district can direct to small, local businesses —  to $22.25 million. Another change is that contractors can only bring five of employees before hiring Oakland residents, Minor said.

It passed unanimously. “It was long overdue,” said OUSD School Board Member Noel Gallo.

Note: This is separate from the district’s local vendor policy.


Summer school in OUSD: still here

At tonight’s Oakland school board meeting, a staffer handed me a colorful guide almost the size of a newspaper on summer resources for kids. Despite the cutbacks, the district is still offering:

  • Algebra Academies for middle and high school students
  • Oakland Fine Arts Summer School (at International Community School/Think College Now this year)
  • Bridges Program, to help kids make the transition to the sixth and ninth grades
  • Early Childhood Education programs
  • Migrant/refugee summer program
  • Pre-Collegiate Academy, summer enrichment (co-sponsored by the East Bay Consortium and Merritt College)
  • an extended school year for disabled students
  • Summer Intervention Program focused on math and reading and/or high school exit exam prep
  • Pre-K camp (with First 5 California)

The guide also includes pages and pages of other local programs and classes. You can find it online here. Any recommendations?


A half-baked test prep question?

casseroles, from Cameron Nordholm's site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Last night, a mom sent me a reading test-prep stumper involving casseroles. I was SURE I’d be able to nail it. I grew up in the Midwest in the 1980s and early 90s, so I’m no stranger to cream of mushroom soup or Tater Tots. If anyone would know the answer, I thought, it’s me.

She writes:

My daughter brought home a “Practice and Mastery” book to prep for the 4th grade CA language arts standards. She was stumped at the following question in the Word Analysis section:

Read this sentence: She baked a very tasty casserole.

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Oakland teacher strike, rescheduled (again)

OEA rally, Tribune file photo

The Oakland teachers union has decided to push back its scheduled one-day strike for a second time. It’s now set for Thursday, April 29, not April 22.

The date is linked to the timing of the much anticipated fact-finding report, which a mediator is expected to release to both sides tomorrow. 

The report will officially be made public about 10 days later, after the union and the administration have had one last chance to come to an agreement before the strike. If I happen to get a copy before then, I’ll let you know what’s in it.

The union has also planned informational picketing at schools this Thursday to let families know about the upcoming strike.


OUSD’s budget hole

You’ve probably read that the Oakland school district is projecting a $37 million deficit in next year’s roughly $250 million general purpose fund.

What you might not know is that new state funding cuts — those expected to go into place for 2010-11 — only account for $8 million of the school district’s budget problem. Declining enrollment and/or attendance? Another million.

About $26 $28 million of the district’s ongoing expenses have been covered with one-time funds or transferred from one pot to another (such as adult education), CFO Vernon Hal explained.

“We have to get our expenses in line,” Hal said.

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A new Oakland teacher, no longer new

Dan Adiletta, Explore Middle School teacherI’ve got half the class laughing at a short, overzealous bit of direct instruction. I had just broken up a fight in the hallway, then comforted a crying teenage girl (don’t let that drama steal your future!). My students struggle with sitting still for more than two minutes, but here they are composing position papers on the Divine Right of Kings. I love my job — even with the headaches that come with it.

Time has certainly passed quickly since I first started in Oakland. I was placed as a social studies teacher at Explore Middle School with the help of Oakland City Teacher Corps, (OCTC).

It’s funny: At the training program they ran for us, accountability and teacher retention were repeated ad nauseam. I was brought in from Cleveland, Ohio to help a district that desperately needed highly qualified, committed teachers. So why, then, was I hired on a temporary contract? In my ignorance and naivety, I didn’t even bother to learn the difference. Now I don’t even get one of the pink slips being handed out — I’m let go automatically. While we were in summer training, we wrote letters of encouragement to ourselves that were to be mailed out later in the year. But OCTC was dissolved. I lasted longer than my encouragement letter did. I wonder what happened to those letters. It strikes me that there’s no accountability for that.

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