Oakland teacher wins national TFA award

Meg Stewart, Bret Harte Middle School teacher and Teach For America corps memberMeg Stewart, a second-year special education teacher at Bret Harte Middle School (East Oakland’s Laurel neighborhood), is one of four Teach For America members in the United States to win the Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Go Ms. Stewart! Way to represent Oakland.

Here’s the news release, which has more background about her classroom and the other TFA winners: Continue Reading


Former Oakland principal, Hayward supe are finalists for San Diego post

Dale Vigil retired a few months ago from the Hayward school district after almost five years as superintendent, but I guess he’s not ready for a life of leisure quite yet. He’s in the running to lead San Diego Unified, reports Emily Alpert of Voice of San Diego.

Debbra Lindo, former principal of Oakland’s Castlemont High School and the CEO of College Track, is another of three finalists for the superintendency.

Interesting that two of the three finalists hail (at least recently) from the East Bay. I don’t recall either of them applying for the Oakland post last year, though.

If you were San Diego’s school board, would you pick either one?


Teacher union hunts for `hidden vacancies’

scavenger hunt sketch from ryanrocketship's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsLet’s say a teacher announces in April she’s retiring at the end of the school year. The teacher tells the district’s HR department, and if that position needs to be filled, the HR department tells the teachers union, which tells its members they may apply for that job.

Teacher contracts in many districts allow displaced teachers (usually, the most junior teachers from schools that have eliminated positions, teachers from shuttered schools, or those returning from leave) to choose another job from the list of openings, based on their credentials and seniority. 

The process is called “priority placement,” and it ended June 4. As of today, however, at least 18 of the teachers need to be placed, and the district is obligated to find jobs for them before hiring outside the organization, according to the union president, Betty Olson-Jones.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Principals hate this process — not because the displaced teachers are bad, but because they have no say about who will be joining their staffs. Continue Reading


Should CA keep 4-year-olds out of kindergarten?

Kindergarten. Image from woodleywonderworks' photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

Senate Bill 1381 would phase in a Sept. 1 birthday cutoff date for kindergarteners, making sure the students are 5 when they start school. (The cutoff would be Nov. 1 in 2012; Oct. 1 in 2013; and Sept. 1 in 2014.)

Proponents say many 4-year-olds can’t compete with children who are up to a year older, and that they have a hard time keeping up with the new rigors of kindergarten, reports Jill Tucker of the Chronicle, who visited Oakland’s Thornhill Elementary School for the story.

The other advantage for the state is the estimated annual savings — about $700 million a year until the first group graduates from high school, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Half of the savings would be redirected to the state’s preschool program (though this might refer to the 3-hour preschool, rather than the full-day program that’s under threat).

What do you think?


Next on the CA chopping block: opportunity?

Girl reading at Highland Childhood Development Center. Photo by Laura Oda/Oakland TribuneYesterday afternoon I visited two East Oakland schools that offer hope, support and opportunity to people who are trying to make it in urban America.

I wish I was out on a feel-good story, but I wasn’t. I went because both schools might close, depending on the priorities set by our state government (and, by extension, the Oakland school district) in the context of a deep fiscal crisis.

The Highland Childhood Development Center and Edward Shands Adult School serve the youngest and the oldest public school students in the city — people under six and over 18.

Age differences aside, Oakland’s adult school and preschool programs bear striking similarities: Both make it possible for people of very modest means to earn degrees, hold jobs and create a better life for themselves and their children.

Continue Reading


Andy Kwok says goodbye to Mack, CA and you

Andy Kwok, a high school science teacher who let us shadow him during his rookie year (2007-08) at EXCEL High School at McClymonds, is leaving his West Oakland classroom and heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan. -Katy

Andy Kwok, EXCEL High School teacher, in 2009

Salutations readers,

It has officially been three years since first allowing the Tribune access to my initial journey into life as a teacher and all the mistakes that subsequently ensued. Having moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest, I was bright-eyed and idealistic after graduating college. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend what I had gotten myself into, but in retrospect, I do not regret my experience with the Tribune one bit. I have enjoyed this opportunity to share a glimpse of my life, so that readers would see the difficulties that are present within schools while shedding light on an educational system that will continue to need help.

After three years of teaching, I have made the decision to leave the classroom and attend graduate school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, my Alma Mater. Continue Reading


Epilogue to the Skyline prank story

Some new intelligence has surfaced in the whole senior prank/commencement punishment flap at Oakland’s Skyline High School.

The Skyline staff member who allegedly conspired with the flour-and-water pranksters? Well, that same person allegedly (somehow) had a hand in Friday’s lunchtime car display as well, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

I’ll bet you can guess the conclusion: The lunchtime drivers will be able to walk the stage at tomorrow night’s commencement ceremony, after all. Flint said the school administration wanted to apply the same standard to everyone.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.