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Considering Oakland High

Nia Lozano, a middle school parent, tells us about a new group that’s building support for Oakland High School.

An interesting new group has formed in the Crocker and Glenview neighborhoods of Oakland. It was formed by some parents from Edna Brewer who would like other neighborhood parents to consider Oakland High.

This is truly the first time I have ever heard families musing about Oakland High, even among the die-hard, Edna Brewer, go public, local school advocates. The communities of Crocker and Glenview have been relatively silent about Oakland High, which is interesting given that the last time I checked their scores were only marginally lower than Oakland Tech and Skyline (and may have been better in some areas of math, I can’t recall right now.)

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Teacher: Oakland kids could be squeezed out of Alameda schools

Brian Rodriguez, a history teacher at Alameda’s Encinal High School, once taught at the old Elmhurst Middle School in East Oakland. Though he left the Oakland school district, he’s still teaching lots of Oakland kids. He worries that a “witch hunt” for out-of-district transfers is about to happen. -Katy

Encinal High School graduationI have taught at Encinal High School in Alameda since the 1996-97 school year, when I left Oakland following the teacher strike. I left reluctantly, because I loved teaching at Elmhurst Middle School, but like many union reps, I was the subject of illegal disciplinary action following the month-long teacher’s strike and left in disgust.

To my delight, I still was able to teach many Oakland students who also left OUSD following the strike, and to work with fine educators who left then, too. It’s estimated that 400 out-of-district students attend Alameda schools.

Encinal, with an enrollment of 1,100, is officially an “open enrollment” school, and as such has gladly accepted Oakland and San Leandro students.  This has made it a much more diverse high school. Over 40 different languages are spoken in the hallways.

My first Encinal principal used to joke that Oakland didn’t need a charter school because it had Encinal. Continue Reading

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Parent group proposes a “people’s takeover” to keep Oakland preschools open

Oakland preschool classroom. File photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group

At the end of the month, if nothing changes, seven of Oakland’s childhood development centers will close their doors because of massive budget cuts threatened at the state level: Manzanita, Jefferson, Golden Gate, Santa Fe, Piedmont Avenue, Sequoia and Hintil Kuu Ca childhood development centers.

Henry Hitz, the director of Oakland Parents Together, has another idea: staff the centers with volunteers (including some laid-off teachers) until the state Legislature approves a budget with preschool funding.

“Our feeling is if we allow the centers to close, they will never reopen,” Hitz said.

If you want to learn more — and vote — on this proposal, Hitz invites you to an Oakland Parents Together meeting at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Santa Fe CDC, 5380 Adeline St. in North Oakland. School district staff will be there, he said.

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Tired of acronyms, some Oaklanders “want Mack back”

Mack remained the name of the high school sports teams. File photo by Anda ChuOakland saw a flurry of new and redesigned schools in the last decade. Along with the more substantive changes came a slew of inventive names – many with acronyms for aspirational adjectives, nouns, verbs and phrases: BEST, EXCEL, ASCEND, EnCompass, Reach, United for Success, and EXPLORE, to name a few.

McClymonds High School, or Mack as it’s also known, was officially closed in 2005. The names of the two small high schools that opened on its campus were a mouthful: Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology (BEST) and Experience, eXcellence, Community, Empowerment and Leadership (EXCEL).  

BEST closed in June, though, and now that McClymonds will be a one-school campus again, a group of people — possibly, alumni — want to undo the name change. They’ve circulated a petition titled “Change the name back to McClymonds High.” Continue Reading

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American Indian center might close its doors

Hintil Kuu Ca in the early 1980s. (Courtesy photo)I drove up to the Hintil Kuu Ca childhood development center this morning (yesterday morning, technically). It’s name means “Indian children’s house,” according to this fascinating article about the center published in 1986 in Cultural Survival Quarterly.

Hintil opened in 1973; it was started by mothers whose kids — recently relocated from reservations as part of a federal government integration program — were struggling socially and academically in Oakland schools. In the late 70s or early 80s, it moved to its current location in the Oakland hills, near Merritt College and behind Carl Munck Elementary.

But Hintil is on the list of seven childhood development centers the Oakland school district plans to close at the end of the month in response to the governor’s proposed budget cuts. Continue Reading

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Adults sure are scarce in CA schools

teacher at Knightsen Elementary. File photo by Sherry LeVars/Bay Area News Group

Take a look at this June 2010 report by the California Budget Project. If you only have a minute, I suggest you zero in on Table 1.

The report ranks California 44th of 50 states in K-12 spending in 2009-10 – $8,826 per student, compared to $11,372 in the rest of the United States. And it found California schools had way fewer administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and librarians per student in 2007-08 than the national average.

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School finance in CA: Will it take a lawsuit (or two) to fix it?

Most people I’ve spoken to about California’s school finance system, regardless of their political views, seem to agree that it’s a mess. The researchers on the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence described it as “the most complex in the country, lacking an underlying rationale and transparency,” inequitable, inefficient, unpredictable, unstable and inadequate.

Mike Kirst, the Stanford University education professor emeritus I interviewed today, said he wouldn’t even call it a system. He did call it ”an accretion of incremental actions that don’t fit together and that make no sense.”

Will the courts finally force the deadlocked state Legislature to overhaul the complex, arcane formulas that dictate how California allocates money to its schools (and how much)? The nonprofit Public Advocates law firm hopes so. It filed suit today in Alameda Superior Court on behalf of a coalition of advocacy groups, students and parents, saying the status quo denies students the right to a meaningful education. (They also released a video to explain and promote the plaintiff’s case.)

The suit is very similar to an Alameda Superior Court case filed in May by the California PTA, California School Boards Association and an Alameda High School student, Maya Robles-Wong. Continue Reading

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Oscar Grant/Mehserle verdict protest, arrests: a teacher’s account

I’ve been out of commission the last couple of days, so you’ve probably heard this news already, but in case you haven’t:

Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Oakland school board memberThose arrested in Thursday night’s protest included Oakland school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge — who was playing chess at the intersection of Broadway and 14th Street and refused to stop, the East Bay Express reported — and Susan Harman, a former school principal and activist.

Pamela Drake, an adult education teacher who participated in the demonstration, wrote an account of what she and Harman saw and experienced on the Oakland Local blog. You can read it here.

Were you there? What did you see?