Oakland Unified’s next state trustee? Probably a part-timer.

Vincent Matthews, OUSD trustee and future superintendent of the San Jose school districtWhen State Administrator-turned-State Trustee Vincent Matthews leaves the Oakland school district in July to take charge of San Jose Unified, the financially struggling school system could find itself with a $100,000-plus windfall (my estimate — nothing official). 

Matthews’ replacement, whoever it is, is likely to be part-time, Hilary McLean, the press secretary for California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, told me today.

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A new teacher … again

Dan Adiletta, a first-year teacher at Explore Middle School — which is closing at the end of the year — is leaving Oakland. He tells us why. -Katy

Dan Adiletta, Explore Middle School teacherGoodbye, Oakland.

I stand up to and for your students and see to their learning with all the energy I can muster. I manage to stretch paycheck to paycheck while providing many of my own class supplies. I shoulder stress and come back for more. But despite having managed to drag myself this far, I’m being put into the very category I’ve struggled to avoid: the one-year teacher.

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A giant PTA for Oakland schools

Remember the discussion last fall about fundraising inequities in Oakland schools? Some, including Oakland school board member Jody London, said they thought there should be a better way for parents and other interested Oaklanders to support public education in a broader sense (rather than just school-by-school). 

Inspired by those discussions, a new group aims to bring together families, parents and businesses from all neighborhoods to share resources and know-how. The group has also created a wiki, a website where you can post events, resources and emergency needs yourself. You can find it here.

Want to learn more about it? The first meeting takes place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Sequoia Elementary School, 3730 Lincoln Ave. Babysitting and translation will be provided; organizers ask that you RSVP with those details at sowingseeds@hotmail.com.

In what ways do you think a coalition like this holds the most promise? How would you like to see it work?


California’s schools, ranked again

Test prep. File photo by Cindi Christi, Bay Area News Group

In case you’re not already having dreams (or nightmares) about No. 2 pencils and bubbles, I’m here to bring you data on last year’s state tests. Hey, don’t blame the timing on me! The state settled on the release date.

The California Department of Education sorted schools of each type, statewide, and gave them a rank from 1 (low) to 10 (high). Those whose API scores were in the lowest 10 percent (of all elementary schools, for example, or of all high schools) are ranked 1; those in the highest 10 percent are ranked 10. About 77 percent of Oakland’s public schools, including charters, fell in the bottom half, receiving ranks of 1-5.

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How much do school districts in California spend on teachers?

pie chart, from blprnt_van's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsThroughout the contract dispute with the school district, Oakland teachers have pointed out not only how well (or poorly) they are paid, but how much of the district’s budget is devoted to their paychecks.

By law, unified school districts in California must spend at least 55 percent of their expenses on the salaries and benefits of classroom teachers and instructional aides. For elementary school districts it’s 60 percent; for high school districts it’s just 50 percent. 

Oakland Unified fell short in 2008-09, as the union was quick to note. The data originally submitted to the state erroneously showed 56 percent, which is above the requirement, but it’s actually just below 52 percent*, said district spokesman Troy Flint.

According to this spreadsheet of unaudited data I requested from the California Department of Education (which reflects the inaccurate, higher number in OUSD), about 17 percent of all school districts in the state spent a smaller portion of their budgets on teachers than state law requires. Continue Reading


Oakland honors high-achieving black students

African-American Honor Roll (courtesy photo)
photos courtesy of the Oakland Unified School District

Each year, African American students drop out of Oakland’s public schools with disturbing predictability, a phenomenon that Superintendent Tony Smith has decried in his speeches and vowed to “interrupt.”

An annual event held at an East Oakland church calls our attention to those who are thriving despite a dropout crisis in which more than one-third of the city’s black high school students quit early.  

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As bargaining begins (again), Oakland teachers to “line the lake”

Lakeside Park

The Oakland school district administration and the union bargaining team return to the table again on Thursday to see if they can work out an agreement in these tense, post-contract imposition times.

To build momentum, on Wednesday the union plans to celebrate Day of the Teacher with a 3:30 p.m. rally along the north side of Lake Merritt (on Lakeshore, near Lakeside Park) and a march to the district office. I mean, what celebration would be complete without a school board meeting?

You can find the OEA flier, with more details about the event, here.

UPDATE: The OEA and OUSD put out a joint news release on bargaining with a decidedly hopeful note. You can read it here.


On the agenda: Layoffs, recruiters and preschool

Military recruiters in Illinois. Tribune file photo (Associated Press)

At its 5 p.m. Wednesday meeting, the Oakland school board will consider:

  • making it easier for high school students to keep their personal information away from military recruiters, by including “opt-out” forms as part of the student emergency card, among other measures – Page 3
  • a proposal to more closely link preschool — academically and administratively — with kindergarten through third grades. At seven schools, principals will supervise the pre-K program on campus, as well. (The initiative is called P-3.) – Page 4
  • creating a Promise Neighborhood, a la Harlem Children’s Zone. – Page 6
  • eliminating 121 positions, including 38 from adult education programs (still waiting on more details/explanation, which I’ll post soon; apparently the number of teachers who actually received layoff notices is much lower). -Page 7
  • “temporary fund-borrowing,” to be repaid within 90 days, to weather another deferred payment from the state. – Page 17

Any thoughts or questions about these proposals? Some of those files were too large for my wimpy blog to handle, but you can find the agenda here. Maybe I’ll see you on Second Avenue.


For hungry kids, teachers chip in for takeout

school lunch trays. image from back_garage's photostream at flickr.com/creativecommonsWe all know how common it is for teachers to dip into their own bank accounts to buy classroom supplies. How about buying takeout for kids when the school lunch isn’t served?

A group of Tilden Elementary School teachers wrote to tell me about a memo they received this morning (dated yesterday) from their principal, informing them that “as of today,” lunch would not be served to the preschoolers.

It turns out that the newly enforced lunch policy, which came from the district (via state guidelines), is only supposed to apply to preschool children whose program lasts less than two hours. But some of the children in Tilden’s Pre-K program are there for five hours, so today — amid the confusion and apparent lack of notice — the teachers chipped in for a pizza.

Here’s the memo:

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In the midst of a local contract dispute, some Oakland teachers, students turn to Sacramento

About 40 Oakland parents, teachers and staff will ride their bikes to the state capitol on Saturday — in part, to call attention to the declining support for public education in California. Michael Barglow’s history class at Skyline also headed to Sacramento this week. His brother, Raymond Barglow, tells us how it went. -Katy

It’s one thing for California high school students to read or hear a lecture about how government works. It is quite another for them to experience this in person.

Shortly after 8 a.m. on May 4, a group of 45 students in Michael Barglow’s history class at Skyline High School boarded a charter bus headed for the state capitol.

boarding the bus to Sacramento

Michael’s students had been preparing during the past week to meet with East Bay political representatives: Assemblymembers Sandre Swanson, Nancy Skinner, and Senator Loni Hancock.

The students, accompanied by several adults and student volunteers from UC Berkeley, arrived at the Capitol Building in downtown Sacramento, ready to present some challenging questions to their representatives.

First on the agenda was a discussion with Swanson. The students packed into his office and were greeted first by Swanson’s aide and then by the assemblyman himself. Continue Reading