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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.

Smith is about to unveil a new (much leaner) organizational chart, and while Moran wouldn’t discuss the details, she said it didn’t include her cabinet-level position. Moran will stay on, at 20 percent time, for at least six months through an arrangement with Pivot Learning Partners in which OUSD will pay 20 percent of her salary.

Stam resigned, and has another job lined up with ConnectEd, which works with high schools to help more kids graduate with college and career options.

Network Executive Officer Geri Isaacson has also given notice; she’s heading to New Haven Unified to work with Chief Academic Officer (and former Oakland NExO) Wendy Gudalewicz.

If you hear anything, e-mail me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Katy Murphy

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

  • harlemmoon

    And so it goes: How far the mighty have fallen.

  • Jenna

    I asked Geri Isaacson point=blank in a meeting in the fall if she would stay. She looked me square in the eye and said she had no intention of leaving. I specifically asked her this AFTER she had worked with Tony. She assured the group she was staying.

    At the time five parents said “She’s not telling the truth.” Now we know.

  • Chauncey

    There will be blood…..I man, there will be more!

  • Susan

    Pivotlearning huh? You know for all of the hype surrounding the hiring of Mr. Smith, this latest move shows just how engrained the Old OUSD establishment really is.

    For those have been in Oakland long enough, guess who is the head of the district re-design for this organization?

    Mr. Steve Jubb of course…..who once again, has found a way to milk OUSD’s power and money.

    You know, so much is always stated about the charter schools and money grabs and dramas, but this goes to show the saviness and such higher levels of the district ability to conceal (or attempt too)the grab.

    Perhaps Mr. Smiths’ wife, a former co-worker/employee of Mr. Jubb will arise there as well; under a different guise of course.

    I so much want to believe in OUSD but then this! This is the system that charter school will want to become when they grow up!

  • harlemmoon

    Steve Jubb, co-creator of the spectacular failure that was Expect Success? The highly touted OUSD/community program to engage more support while increasing academic rigor. That Steve Jubb?
    The man who left bodies in his wake as he made a maddening power grab for district control. That Steve Jubb?
    The man who attempted to replace OUSD staff with his own, muzzle community voices to allow only his own.
    That Steve Jubb.
    Heaven help us.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Alice Spearman

    Does someone know something we all should know?

  • seenitbefore

    Yes! The district hasn’t changed… it’s just been hijacked by a different gang of self serving educrats. And you guys just keep giving them the keys to the kingdom.

    Get ready for more packaged curriculum. More outside agencies with their hands in the OUSD kitty. And a big push towards “cheaper teachers” who will just do whateva Mas’ser say while the “expert coaches” who are part of the new machine that runs OUSD continue to be paid 75-100K/year or more! And union busting and teacher bashing (especially those “old” teacher who might actually know a thing or two) like you’ve never seen it before.

  • harlemmoon

    C’mon, Alice, you know Jubb. You were around for Expect a Mess, uh, Expect Success.
    Are you willing to tell your constituents that you know nothing of the man who is pulling the strings of the puppet administration?
    Allow me to rephrase your question and redirect for your consideration: How can you NOT know?

  • J.R.

    The layers and layers of bureaucratic budget busting have been around for years, thats nothing new. The faces change, but the result is the same(high paid specialists and management, and kids in the classroom remain under-educated). The education system was set up to be far too complex, and was made even worse by mandates for all the services that they provide to children. The education system is like an onion, but we need it to be like an orange.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Ah, the good ol’ days.

    How far back do we have to go to these mythical days when teachers were allowed to teach and Oakland students were wildly successful?

    To hear some folks here, education needs no reform just a return to some yesteryear that was clearly before my birth.

    Would someone care to throw out a year, so we can do some research into this wonderful historical period?

  • Come on!

    Since OUSD is the most improved, large urban district in CA over the last 5 years and Expect Success (as well as Brad Stam and Laura Moran, who will be sorely missed) played a tremendous role in making this happen, I don’t understand how it could be called a failure.

  • J.R.

    Since OUSD is the most improved, large urban district in CA over the last 5 years……..I don’t understand how it could be called a failure.

    When you are near or at the bottom it just looks like progress. Look at this link and read it, and then see if you feel the same way. Note: this is a year old but things have not changed so the data is valid.

    http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_12425498

  • Alice Spearman

    Harlemmoon,
    Yes I know very well who you are talking about. However I have no knowledge that he is in anyway now connected to the district administration’s plans. And as The Truthhurts Says, “We Need to Return To Methods We Know Work! Believe me when I say this board is really trying to ensure things are different. It does take time to remove bad practices, especially when many political organizations still control many decisions. I truly wish many of you would attend board meetings, this type of pressure seems to get noticed by those who make the recommendations to the board.

  • harlemmoon

    Come On! Many urban school districts make the same claims to improvement. You know what they say about statistics, right?
    As J.R. astutely points out, what is touted as progress, when looked at up close, is really little more than smoke and mirrors.
    Honestly, can you look at OUSD and say the word “success” with any measure of integrity?
    Black students are dropping out by the THOUSANDS. ESL students are not far behind. Administrative issues – top to bottom – are sorely in need on attention. And the physical conditions under which “learning” occurs are, in a word, horrendous. Ever walk the hallways of some of these schools?
    Come on! Come On! Let’s have a real talk.

  • harlemmoon

    Alice –

    If you were to discover that Jubb is indeed connected to the administration’s plans, would you take issue? What would be your response?
    And exactly what political organizations still control many decisions? Is the board powerless in the face of these political organizations? And if so, how ever will you “ensure things are different” if your authority is diminished by more powerful entities?
    Inquiring minds want to know -

  • Chauncey

    Perhaps Alice means unions and the state?

    Anyway, what do you all expect? The education establishment does not know how to think differently!It is so predictable isisnt it?

    Soon the state will be back, Mr. Smith gone, the union arguing for less time-more money,and charters being attaccked and so forth.

    With all due respect to theboard, perhaps they should go first?

  • Alice Spearman

    Harlemmon,
    YES I would have a lot of issues, many other people also. Watch and see if what you say is true, it will be newsworthy.
    Chauncey,
    I promise you the state will not be back as before. The board is here to stay! As far as political organizations, look carefully at those who state they “Represent Parents in Oakland”, there are a few.
    Changing government systems is really hard, you have to chip away at the rock, win battle after battle. I know everyone looks at things that bring attention to the worst, but There Are Many Many Success Stories.

  • J.R.

    Here is a wonderful debate that covers the education issues quite nicely, so people can be informed:

    http://intelligencesquaredus.org/index.php/past-debates/dont-blame-teachers-unions-for-our-failing-schools/

  • harlemmoon

    Thank you for your candor, Alice.
    Looking forward to discovering more in the days and weeks ahead.

  • Chauncey

    Im glad you said that Alice. I did go on to the link Katy put out for that group, and yes Jubb is the person identified for district redesign.

    Being a slanted school reform believer, I had to check and I was floored. I bet alot of these people in this orgainzation and the others contracted through with OUSD are all connected.

    Alice, I hope you’re right cause It dont look good. I agree with Susan, and with my lean to school reform, charters get blasted on this website and throughout the state for financial matters. The districts however, do stuff like this and many more.

    OUSD owes 100 miliion to CA-Where did all that go? C’mon man! Alice you keep it real off the stage, BUT keep it real on that stage too! Parent Involvement is a hustle by the unions and middle class parents-so I agree with you on that.

    As I see it, you and other board members aint their for the district- you’re their for us. Dont let them do it again! Some mebers though, need to go.

  • harlemmoon

    Your move, Alice.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Before Springboard Schools became branded as Pivot Learning Partners in 2009 its governing board included former OUSD Superintendent Carolyn Getridge. But, the Pivot Learning Partners website does not list former Superintendent Getridge as having a role with the company. And, Steve Judd was not listed as on the Springboard Schools staff as he is listed on the staff of Pivot Learning Partners.

    Finally, going forward I have a transparency concern that it is clearly understood by OUSD decision makers that Pivot Learning Partners includes a partnership with publisher Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Alice Spearman

    Chauncey and Harelmmon,
    The Board does work for you, you are absolutley right. Now the $100M, under state control, the district utilized much of the money to advance their “reforms”, pay consultants to train distric staff on how to utilize “what the research says” and to pay back the state negative audit findings. The negative audit findings were a direct result of the then administration not following there own rules. The Board Finance Committee and the Audit Committee has recommended and a leter was sent to O’Connell’s office requesting the state to “forgive” this debt since they the state leaders incurred it. As of Friday, there has been no response. The debt amounts to approximatley $35M, one would wonder. For the last 2 years David kakishiba and I have tried to push the state around this issue, the Board as a whole supports this. Also of note, the back audits, required by the state, which we pay the state controllers office in excess of $200K per year, is still behind in the audits, I believe they are now beginning school year 2007/2008, and there still will likely be a lot of negative findings also. I recommend you all look at this past years Finance and Human Resource Committee also Audit Committee meetings, which are on the district web, you may be amazed at what is discovered when it comes to Audit reports from the state.
    As you all see, I and many other board members keep their eye on all conversations regarding education and we do take all of this into considersation, I take them very seriously even when we have those that are just here to “complain”. This board is at a critical time right now, we have a chance now to make the difference, I think we will make the right decisions. We now have guarded “trust” in recommendations, more over we have the knowledge now to make the right decisions, regardless of what recommendations are given to us. Continue to challange us, but also support us to do the right thing when we face the regular “opposition”.
    Again, thank you all for your perspectives, God know we need it!

  • Cranky Teacher

    Thank you for engaging with the community, Ms. Spearman.

  • Chauncey

    I appreciate the back and forth Alice. I wont take no mind if and when you dont respond any further; you have a diffcult position. Public service takes guts, but doing the right thing when the heat is on and you stand alone in a public forum, now that were soldiers are made are made- right!

    Werent some of the same current board membrs around back when OUSD sank ? Now we should trust them again?!

    No disrespect, but Nah that is not good enough anymore One day a school different style of reform thinker will make it to OUSD and then the meetings will become interesting. There needs to be a push to enter the entrenchment and preach a diffrent gospel to end the cycle for our kids. I mean I aint waiting for a messiah, but I have been praying for ghetto kids for far too many sundays, while Oaklanders fight for teachers rights and parent rights? They obviously aint never ben to 83rd and International at night!

    It aint good enough to try and do the same old anymore Alice, it aint the affluent , anglos, or Asians dying right? You know what I am saying. I could care less if a martian landed and ran a school based on Martian history- if its academics and scores are great, and safety and disicpline rule-my kids are there, right?

    If a charter, or magnet school can change a small pocket in the ghetto, than so be it. I suggest working with other non-OUSD schools who understand how to work in ghetto schools to see what is that can work.

    I guess im just tired of listenting to blames of the [past and present, while OUSD’s new plan, is old school OUSD.

    Thats enough of my a**!

  • harlemmoon

    Thanks for the insight, Alice.
    I trust that your diligence and desire to do the right thing will prevail.

    In the meantime, as yet another district reorganization unfolds – and I hear there will be a few more surprises; NeXOS, for example, will be fewer and some will be offered teaching jobs – transparency is crucial. Tony Smith must be required to share his plan publicly – not so much for community sign-off, but rather to engage families, teachers, administrators and others in hopes of gaining a modicum of support.

    I understand the hallways and offices at district headquarters are full with fear. Some are anxiously awaiting the drop of the ax, while others are hastily looking for other jobs. Longtime administrators are all but being told to pack their bags while a few “chosen” principals have been all but assured of new posts at district headquarters.

    I’d like to think this will end well. But……..

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon Higgins

    Now for something off-topic, but worth sharing because it gives an idea of the behind-the-scenes activities of the power players who are making decisions and pulling strings at a level undisclosed to any of us here.

    1. Curious how OUSD’s state takeover past might get played out during the upcoming mayoral election? I just stumbled across this site this morning: http://notdon.org/perataandtheschooltakeover.html

    2. A few weeks ago Jerry Brown held his annual celebrity fundraiser for Oakland School for the Arts. Last year’s fundraiser featured Sean Penn. This time Brown’s wealthy developer/venture capitalist connections were given an opportunity to meet Robert Downey, Jr. (Ironman) at the mansion of Ann and Gordon Getty (heir of oil tycoon J.P. Getty).

    I have since learned that that the Brown (Pat and Jerry), Getty (J. Paul, Gordon, and Billy), and Newsome families (William I, II, and Gavin) have close, multi-generational connections based on private schools attended, friendships forged, business favors, etc. The Pelosi’s are also part of the pack (Gavin’s aunt married Nancy’s brother-in-law). It won’t be news to some people, but it was to me, and is especially interesting in view of the upcoming state elections.

  • Mr. R

    It’s easy to point fingers, to place “the problem” elsewhere (the board, the state, OUSD leadership, poverty, etc.). But what are you and I going to do about it?

    Anyone can complain, but what we need are solutions. And if we wait for those “in power” to make them, then that’s a cop-out, as we sit back and absolve ourselves of responsibility and abdicate power we actually hold now.

    Is “the system” really that all-powerful and oppressive, such that we can’t do much to change it, save complain? Baloney.

    Come on. Get involved in the PTA. March into the principal’s office next week and find out what you can do to help.

    Public education is THE civil rights issue today, and all of us must do our part to make it work.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Thank you for an interesting posting, Sharon. On the subject of the June primary, I hope most readers will join me in voting for Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Torlakson’s major opponent has been a consistent spokesperson for the Eli Broad style of educational “deform”–more charters, closing regualar schools, and punishing those who work with the most needy students. Torlakson has supported greater funding for schools and sensible improvement programs, such as the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), which is helping 19 schools in Oakland, many of which showed large test score jumps last year.

  • Chauncey

    Tom (Double T) Torlakson is more of the same. I mean, he is a politician who is supported heavily bu unions who is against state testing and by the way, exteremely dull!Spent too much time in unrealistic clouds than in the streets in my opinion.

    Once again, public education is NOT the biggest civil rights issue of the day for all people. Whites, Asians, affluent, etc, at least in this state, are OK.

    Its the ghetto rats like me that are the problem. I agree-we cannot sit and complain- we need to leave the tradional schools in mass numbers until they are forced to deal with the mass exoudus of families trapped in union land- By the the PTA is a union tactic for a parent base for their efforts. Doubt it, compare their rhetoric on their website with the CTA. At times, its a mirror.

    Raising kids in the ghetto as a consious father requires research!

    Relying on the same old way of schooling will not work any further ladies and gentlemen.The Civil Rights issue of the day has much more too do with dollars than it does with sense.

    Politics. and the entrenched established connections (such as democrats with unions) is a problem. Spending on social problems while over taxing the wealthy, is what has eliminated the middle class (who creates jobs-the poor?)and I know the bay area will not support such a “radical” idea, but we ned to vote the “anti school reform” politicians like Sandre, and other lifetime politicians, back to the real world-see if they can get a job themselves in this economy.

    Yes Mr. Weinberg-lets find creative ways to give more money to the failing schools, who will misspend it and send many more blacks and browns to the street with a dismal education. Been there , heard that already! Its like that Groundhog Day movie. Same stuff over, and over, over.

    How many of these bloggers must raise their children in the deep East Oakalnd with sideshows on the corner of the block?
    Blacks and browns in prison is the gheott version of Groundhog Day!

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon Higgins

    Chauncy: Are you sure?

    Arne Duncan: “I believe education is THE civil rights issue of our generation, the only sure pathway out of poverty, and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society.” (Facebook, Info page on May 20, 2010)

    Michelle Alexander (author, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”): “I believe that the mass incarceration of people of color in the United States is the most pressing racial justice issue of our time. And that it is a tragedy of as great proportions as Jim Crow was in its time.” (Bill Moyers Journal interview, April 2, 2010 — you can watch her being interviewed with Bryan Stevenson online)

    - The number of incarcerated African Americans has increased 800% since the 1950s.
    - Despite only small fluctuations in the violent crime rate in the past 35 years, we’ve gone from 300,000 people in jails and prisons in 1972 — to 2.3 million today, with an additional 5 million on probation and parole. This is primarily due to the extreme escalation of the incarceration of African American men for non-violent drug offenses.
    - The drug war “serves an important repressive function that no state is eager to abandon.” http://www.counterpunch.org/drugwar.html

    Is it possible that a major reason urban schools are having such difficulty completing their mission today is because they have been left to deal with the consequences of now decades-old mass incarceration policies (not to mention labor and economic policies) which have devastated families and communities in places like Oakland? If so, do you really think that schools (which in actuality are clusters of educated, socially-conscious, child-loving, poorly-compensated, overloaded, middle-class people who work in a building together) can really be expected to correct this massive dire situation on their own?

    Please consider the possibility that the current national fixation on schools as the cause/cure-all for inner-city woes may simply be a red herring that was introduced in order to 1. distract people from what is really going on, 2. serve as a tool for advancing the privatization of public education, and 3. to undo one of the largest remaining worker unions so as to further erode the power of the middle class.

    Do you really trust that, when urban education is privatized, the main goal of the CEOs (who live in gated communities elsewhere) will be to make all things in your neighborhood well and socially fair? I am highly skeptical of that.

    My conclusions are based on my investigations into who originated today’s ed reform (Ronald Reagan’s buddies), who is sustaining it by pumping their millions into it (corporate CEOs and venture capitalist-types), and how they are connected to the people spouting its rhetoric from the top (purchased politicians, et al). I am skeptical that any of these people care more about the lives of ghetto kids than the people who spend day in and day out caring for them, who get inadequate levels of public respect, minimal support from their students’ families, and relatively low pay as they cope with trying to do their best in a very difficult work environment.

    PS: As I understand it, the evaporation of middle class jobs in the inner cities had nothing to do with the wealthy being taxed too much, and lowering their taxes even more won’t bring jobs back because it’s too easy for them to make higher profits by hiring poor people who live elsewhere.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: My conclusion to the education problem is pretty basic. Government operated education is bad, private operated education is better.

    Government cannot maintain standards because of constitutional fantasies (“rights” without responsibilities, entitlements) and political correctness. Private education tends to have less regard for fantasy “rights” and political correctness is only applied with a profit motive (which is still a problem but less so).

    The reason our public schools are failure factories is the same reason the USA and CA are becoming failed states – decadence perhaps.. At this point in history the only way to salvage the education of the proletariat is probably to destroy and close the public schools.

    And that is what’s happening.

    Brave New World.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Chauncy, why does the biggest corporate employer in America pay poverty wages? Overtaxed? Give me a break. The height of corporate taxation was fifty years ago.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Torlakson deserves the support of teachers and parents who are commited to public education, and it is important that such people vote June 8.
    With most of the contested primaries on the Republican ballot and almost no contested local races, some progressives might be tempted to sit this one out, but the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction is vital. Public schools will need a strong voice in the coming years. Both the Republican candidates would like to cut funding for public schools, and Jerry Brown has never been very devoted to non-charters, as his terms as Oakland Mayor showed. Only Torlakson will serve as an effective defender of public schools.

  • J.R.

    State superintendent defend who? He has no such power over finances or things that really count, The “SSPI” is merely a highly paid bureaucratic paper pushing cheerleader and a figurehead. Layers and layers of bureaucrats we don’t need, it’s quality teachers that we need(keep the best and dump the rest).

  • Chauncey

    How many of you come to the East at night?

    Say whatever statistics you want, and fly any excuse you want cause us in the deep East folks have sent too many of our kids 6 feet deep and to the joint than anyone of you bloggers.

    Torlaskson is good for schools? No-he is good for those who are excelling in schools already.Problem is, all of the candidates are slaves to a higher poltical master!

    Parents and families in the ghetto do not vote so we are at the mercy of you folks who have no benefit nor neccessity to change the system of public ed.

    Yeah- do you know how many of my neighbors spill beer today to honor street soldiers killed by rival neighborhoods. There is no hope in the present system. Its glorified- and Torlakosn and the union will solve thise?!

    Pleeeeease!

    By the way-charters are public- but it dont matter. Like I said if martians would come and do something better–lets do it cause american minorities are trouble.

  • Chris

    Amen Chauncy, amen!

  • localed

    Chauncy, why don’t you vote? You don’t really have any right to comment or complain unless you vote. Democracy works well only if everybody participates.

  • Chauncey

    Local ed-

    So no you want to say a black man cant speak his mind? Only when I rasie a bullhorsn and chant what you want me to chant and be pimped by your causes right?

    A quick lesson about democracy in the ghetto for you activists- felons cant vote! And even if I could, do you think my folks, who hang out on the corners and grind dope all night are going to vote for your democracy? How many blacks and browns are cons in this city in comparison to the whites and Asians?

    You aint got no right to questions ghettoness little kid. Some of us have got to deal with the streets at night, and miseducation by day. Have you hung the eighties at night? What did you learn? Why dont you and your union buddies and bullhorned activist buddies go into the projects at night for voter registrations?

    You want me to vote my way out of the ghetto?

    No wonder kids dont believe in you guys after elementary school. Its all a disconnection bewtween your little movements and the streets.

    Civil Rights issue? Ha! -even that language will make most ghetto teens laugh.

    You’ll never get it til tables are turned. Perhaps thats why many do not want education to change?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Chauncey:

    CALIFORNIA / Voting rights restored for thousands in state on …Dec 28, 2006 … A state appeals court has restored voting rights to as many as 100000 … “We’re a state that is very protective of the fundamental right to vote. … Lockyer’s opinion said any convicted felon behind bars should be …
    articles.sfgate.com/…/17324848_1_felony-convictions-election-official-probation –

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Unfortunately,
    The only tried and true “legal” way off of the mean streets is education, and even that does not always succeed 100% of the time. The ghetto will never change unless the people that live there, change it. The entire community has to want to take it back from the punks,pimps and perverts.

  • Chauncey

    Mr. Mordecai

    Thanks for your infor, but I hate to say there is way more convicts in the state than that. I did not make the list man!

    Anyway, voting for what and for who again?

    I just want schools changed for y kids and theirs- you guys in your union rhetoric will never get it. Black kids do not succeed in the present educational program.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Chauncey, Have you had some positive experiences with charter schools? If so, please share them with us.

  • Hopeful Mom

    A very late but compassionate response…

    This is GREAT news! Hats off to Tony Smith.

    My personal experience with Brad Stam and Geri Isaacson was something from the movies. It was hard to believe the horrific things they pulled on parents at our school who were advocating for their children at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. I also learned they had not limited their dirty tricks to our school.

    Brad Stam and Geri Isaacson blocked parents from a board of education meeting, called the police on us when we were picketing, came to our schools and lied to 100 parents and teachers and told us we would be able to select a teacher and then sent a random teacher to us the next Monday who was not qualified to teach our student population and was quite abusive to our children. They also used one of our open teacher positions to deal with a district legal issue, which took PE away from children. When we asked them to do the work to move this individual to another school where her skills could be utilized, they told us we would have to call around schools and find a place for her. We did so but then she would not move.

    There are many more incidents that these two and others at the district level pulled on parents as we attempted to advocate for children.

    When Tony Smith came into office, I wrote him an email with details of dates and times and violations of these individuals. He never responded to me but when I heard these individuals were gone and learned that he moved our principal into a NEXO position, I was satisfied that he was on the right track of cleaning house of those who do not have children’s best interest at heart and putting those who do into positions to make something happen.

    Because the district is structurally set up like a corporation, it takes time to make these things happen from a legal and operational perspective.

    That being said, I am still working to remove my children from the public school system and put them into a private school for the 2011-2012 school year. Why?

    I have seen my oldest sons self esteem drop to frightening levels largely due to challenges functioning in a standards based educational environment that is trying to process so many children through the system and can not possibly consider his own special needs. This has happened at a small school that is in the 900 club with a lot of parent involvement and many wonderful enrichment programs.

    Structurally and operationally schools are set up for mass production. If your child does not fit into the mold, they will come out on the defect list.

    There is so much written about the quality of teachers (or rather the lack there of) and how they are the key to a child being successful in school.

    I ask, “How can we expect teachers to meet the needs of children when they are single handedly trying to do so for 25-30 kids?” Have you ever had 30 kids for just one day and tried to do something with them? Ok how about even 20? 10? 5?

    No wonder some teachers are cranky and mean. While it hurts terribly to see teachers being cruel to students verbally and I do not condone it, I can understand how it happens.

    It is very sad to see children getting lost in the system and labeled as problem children and poor performers. At times it feels like I am not doing enough for my son but I know in the end he will be just fine because I will continue to be there to advocate for him and find resources and learning environments to help him.

    But there are many children who do not have a parent that can or is there to advocate for them. Furthermore even if there is an advocate, the system is seriously flawed so the help a parent ends up providing has limited success. It is like trying to build a skyscraper with only the tools in a tool belt.

    Until schools, public and private, move to a style of education that TRULY recognizes children as unique individuals who learn at different rates and in different ways and have different strengths and challenges (in learning and life) that must be incorporated, we will be operating in mass production mode.

    Also until school districts start using meaningful metrics to determine what a successful education looks like, instead of State test scores, then nothing much will change in terms of what is taught (and NOT taught) and how it is taught in the classroom.

    It is a dream but one day I hope to see children have individual growth plans and regular assessments as part of their education to teach them about who they are, how they fit into the world, how they learn best and to track their INDIVIDUAL growth against themselves and their goals (not the district or the state/fed govt goals).

    I also hope to see schools focusing on using metrics that indicate children are engaged, inspired, resourceful and able to solve problems (both their own and the problems of the world around them).

    Chauncey – I hear the pain, anger and frustration in everything that you have written as you advocate for east oakland youth. It seems like Tony Smith’s community school idea is an attempt to bring in services to each school that are needed by that population by partnering with outside organizations. Hopefully he is able to move forward with this idea and he focuses in the services that are most needed immediately.

    I am also working with a group who are committed to youth in east Oakland. These are individuals who have lived in east Oakland their whole life and have personal reasons and experiences for wanting to do something for their community. We hope 2011 to be a year of great progress in bring services to east Oakland youth that will change their lives and the community around them.

    I hope 2011 is a year that inspires hope in us all…a hope that is lasting and promotes thoughtful, compassionate engagement from the heart by many.

    Lynne