Oakland to offer new media program

Oakland International High School filmmakers (photo courtesy of KDOL)

This fall, Oakland students will have the chance to produce news magazine-style video journalism and documentaries about life and issues in Oakland in a new R.O.P. class supported by KDOL, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and local filmmakers.

Jeff Keys, the fine arts chair and new media teacher at Head Royce, will be coming to OUSD to direct the Media Enterprise Alliance.

To get a taste of the kind of projects they’ll do, check out this 12-minute piece about Oakland International High School. OIHS students worked with documentary filmmaker Pam Uzzell and UC Santa Cruz film program graduate Chris Guevarra to produce the segment.

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Two top OUSD staffers out the door

Laura MoranBrad Stam

As leaders came and went from Oakland Unified’s 1025 Second Avenue headquarters, Chief Services Officer Laura Moran and Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam stayed put, helping the state-run district weather one transition after another. They worked under Randy Ward, Kim Statham, Vince Matthews, Roberta Mayor and, now, Superintendent Tony Smith.

But soon they, too, will be gone.

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From cradle to college? Maybe not in CA.

preschoolGov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget would decimate the Oakland school district’s early childhood education programs, Chief Financial Officer Vernon Hal told the school board tonight.

We’re talking about a $16 $13 million cut for Oakland Unified’s childhood development centers — at least 80 70 percent of the current, $17.9 million pre-k budget — and 170-180 jobs lost. That would bring the district’s total deficit to almost $100 million, and its total full-time position cuts to 630. (Note: Updated figures from OUSD on June 7.)

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Big changes in Oakland’s special ed department

The Oakland school district’s special education department is about to undergo some serious staffing changes. Not only is its executive director, Lisa Ryan Cole, leaving, but so are elementary school coordinator Kimberly Noble and personnel coordinator Iris Wesselmann.

To top it off, all of the coordinators’ administrative assistants have been bumped into other jobs, according to Ryan Cole. (More on bumping — a huge issue right now — later.) “There are a lot of changes, and I want to believe they are going to be positive for the kids in this district,” she said.

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Off again: Contract talks with Oakland teachers

Not too long ago, the Oakland teachers union and the district administration were 23 percentage points away from reaching an agreement on teacher pay, with the union asking for a 20 percent increase to the salary schedule and the district proposing a 3 percent cut.

The two sides are much closer now. Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a resolution before the summer break, they’re not quite close enough.

THE OFFER: Yesterday, the union asked for a three-year, 8 percent pay scale hike, plus a shortened work year (no instructional days would be affected). The administration countered with a 2 percent raise and a 25-student class size cap for kindergarten through third grades, though those provisions would be suspended if the state’s per-student funding dropped by 1 percent or more.

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Expanded database shows Oakland school district employee salaries

Ever wondered what the people at the top — and at the bottom — of the Oakland school district food chain make? Two of my colleagues have added salary information for employees of the Oakland school district and other Bay Area public agencies into a searchable database.

Note: The data was requested from a calendar year, rather than a school year, so for those who worked in OUSD only in 2008-09 or in 2009-10, it would show just half their annual salaries.

You can find the story here and the database here.


School board meeting this week: at Lincoln

The Oakland school board holds this week’s 5 p.m. meeting at Lincoln Elementary School in Chinatown, 225 11th St. They’ll be discussing the district’s budget cut proposal, again (pages 3-4 of full agenda), and talking about the plan to support teachers — especially new ones — with far fewer funds, and considering a resolution to oppose Arizona’s immigration law.

You can find the agenda here.

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High school debate, alive and well in Oakland

Skyline debate team (courtesy photo)

EXCEL’s Tanesha Walker (back row, middle), and Top Speaker Rashid Campbell (back row, left) with the Skyline High School team. Campbell and Walker won the championship trophy at last weekend’s debate championships.

Christopher Scheer, a teacher and debate coach at Skyline High School, sent me a recap of the Bay Area Urban Debate League championships last weekend, which I’ve posted below.

My favorite quote:

I spoke with my martial arts mentor this morning, said Campbell, a senior at Skyline from East Oakland who will attend the University of Oklahoma on a debate scholarship this fall. “We talked about how I wasn’t scared to fail, I was scared to succeed. I decided to succeed.

For the full play-by-play of the competition, check out Scheer’s write-up below: Continue Reading


Dave Eggers’ idea to help kids pay for college

826 Valencia. Image from snickclunk's photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Dave Eggers is a famous author and publisher, but he’s also a teacher, an advocate and a philanthropist. His 8-year-old writing project, named after its address —  826 Valencia — offers free writing and editing workshops, a great books/”Best American Nonrequired Reading” class, field trips and drop-in tutoring. (And a pirate store, in case you ever need one.)

Eggers’ latest idea is to make donating college scholarships more appealing by making it more personal, a model used by DonorsChoose.

His new site, Scholar Match, launched a couple of weeks ago and features a number of profiles from students at Oakland Unity High School in East Oakland. They’re starting slow, adding new scholarship recipient hopefuls as donors register, but any college-bound (or college) student may apply to have their profiles posted on the site. The organization is giving preference to San Francisco and East Bay students.

I talked to Eggers about the project and wrote a story about it, which should appear in Sunday’s paper.


Hearing tonight on Oakland’s “persistently lowest-achieving schools”

Should Oakland Unified apply for a federal grant — money with strings attached — for its schools that made the state’s lowest-performing list? At 6 p.m. tonight, the school board is holding the first of two hearings on the subject. It’ll be held at United For Success Academy on the Calvin Simmons campus, 2101 35th Ave.

Explore Middle School, United for Success, ROOTS International, Alliance Academy and Elmhurst Community Prep are the five Oakland schools eligible for the money (an amount still undetermined). To get it, they have to do one of four things: shut down and send their students to other schools; close and reopen as a charter school; fire the principal and half the teaching staff; or fire the principal, extend the school day and make other changes. Principals who have been in place for less than two years are allowed to stay.

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