Governor signs bill to help foster youth

Big news today for foster youth: Gov. Schwarzenegger announced he has signed AB 12, a bill to extend services to those in foster care until age 21, California Wire reports.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 California teens “age out” of foster care each year when they turn 18 or 19; now, the state will be able to provide them with some form of support system — largely, by tapping into additional federal funds — for another three years, according to a fact sheet from the office of Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. (D-San Jose), who sponsored the bill with Assemblymember Karen Bass: Continue Reading


A safer, greener place to play

photo by Robert Mohr/STOCK OPTIONS

photo by Robert Mohr/STOCK OPTIONS

The playground at Roosevelt Middle School in East Oakland didn’t always have a smooth surface, planter boxes, or a shiny new playing field. You can probably imagine what it looked like.

the old Roosevelt yard (courtesy photo)

It was transformed by the Oakland Schoolyards Initiative, a partnership between the East Bay Asian Youth Center, The Unity Council and the Oakland school district. Roosevelt’s new principal, Cliff Hong (a former teacher and assistant principal at Edna Brewer Middle School), sent me a photo of its unveiling today.

The outdoor spaces of Garfield Elementary, Urban Promise Academy and the Manzanita schools have undergone similar transformations through the schoolyards initiative. Next on the list? Continue Reading


Bullet hits Oakland first-grader as she sleeps

We hear that 6-year-old Leslie Ramirez will survive the horror she experienced overnight.

Police say some 20 rounds were fired into her family’s East Oakland home in what might have been a gang-related attack. One of the bullets hit Leslie’s arm and went into her chest. As of this afternoon the first-grader was conscious and in stable condition at Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Leslie goes to Greenleaf Elementary, the East Oakland school I blogged about the other week. Her classmates made cards for her today, to cheer her up, and counselors came out to the campus.

Monica Thomas, Greenleaf’s principal, said most of her students live close to the school, which is on East 17th Street near 64th Avenue in East Oakland. Some of the parents told her they heard the shots that could have taken Leslie’s life.

Continue Reading


Intern teachers not “highly qualified,” federal court rules

The new Teach for America or Oakland Teaching Fellows teacher at your school may be stellar, but a federal appeals court has ruled today that she shouldn’t be deemed “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The ninth circuit appellate panel reversed its earlier decision and ruled 2-1 in favor of community groups who sued the U.S. Department of Education in 2007. The plaintiffs argued it was misleading to call California’s intern teachers — those who are placed straight into the classroom with little formal teacher training and pursue their full credential as they teach — highly qualified.

In the NCLB context (and I quote from the Department of Ed’s website), the term means teachers must have:

1) a bachelor’s degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach.

You can read the full court ruling Continue Reading


A new teacher still remembers

Dan Adiletta blogged for us as a first-year teacher at Explore Middle School in East Oakland. He moved across the country after Explore’s closure in June, but he’s kept in touch. Here’s what he has to say about his new position at a private school in Connecticut.

Dan AdilettaIt’s not fair how good I’ve got it now. Since I’ve left Oakland for Marianapolis Prep School, I’ve been continuously shocked by the changes. My bike, classroom and apartment are all unlocked at the moment. The students are well-mannered and always do their homework. If I want a new classroom tool there is one person I ask who will order it for me. I’m encouraged to customize the curriculum. Disciplinary action, when it’s necessary, is swift and harsh. But I have my concerns.

I’m afraid of going soft. Continue Reading


Meet Oakland’s new director for African American male achievement

Chris ChatmonLast night, Superintendent Tony Smith announced he had chosen Chris Chatmon, of 100 Black Men, for a new role in the Oakland public school system: executive director for African American male achievement, a position funded by private donors.

It will be Chatmon’s task to change the trajectory of the city’s black boys.

Let’s take the Class of 2008, the most recent data available from the California Department of Education. Continue Reading


OUSD makes deal with Chabot Space Center

Chabot telescope. Image courtesy of the Chabot Space & Science CenterIn 1999, three years before the Oakland school district realized it was millions of dollars in debt and might not be able to make payroll, the school board decided to loan $10 million to the Chabot Space and Science Center.

The center’s 86,000-foot facility, with its interactive exhibits and 100-year-old telescopes, opened in 2000 in the Oakland hills. The partnership worked, at first. But after a few years, partly because of ballooning interest rates (according to OUSD’s CFO, Vernon Hal), Chabot stopped making its debt payments. It still owes the district $8 million, Hal said.

After years of tense negotiations, the stars have begun to align: Chabot will lease its facility to OUSD for $1 a year. OUSD, in turn, will lease it back to Chabot for about $450,000 until that debt is repaid. It’s called a “Lease Lease Back Agreement.” If Chabot defaults on its payments, OUSD will (as before) be able to take over the building — though the land on which it sits is owned by the city.

As part of the agreement, Continue Reading


No Promise Neighborhood grant for Oakland

The U.S Department of Education today released a list of 21 communities that won planning grants to design a system of educational, social and health support services for children in poor neighborhoods.

Los Angeles and Hayward are the only two cities in California that received those Promise Neighborhood planning grants of up to $500,000. Cal State East Bay will be the lead organization in the South Hayward project, which will involve people from the city, school district, university and nonprofit sectors.

I wrote a story about Hayward’s news, which will be in tomorrow’s paper.

It doesn’t mean, for sure, that Oakland won’t have a Promise Neighborhood akin to the one created in Harlem; Superintendent Tony Smith said today, via Spokesman Troy Flint, that the city will definitely apply for the much larger implementation grants next year. But it’s probably safe to say that the districts that won the planning grants will have an edge in the second round.

Continue Reading


A revived DREAM Act, and what it would mean

TUESDAY UPDATE: The DREAM Act died in the Senate today:



A proposed amendment to the annual defense bill would give at least temporary legal status to people who were brought to the United States illegally before they turned 16. That is, if they’ve been in the country for five years, if they’re under 35 when the act is passed, and if they’ve earned a high school diploma or GED.

DREAM Act letter-writing campaign Sunday at Asian Law Caucus. Bay Area News Group photoMy fellow Bay Area News Group reporters Matt O’Brien and Matt Krupnick wrote a story about this legislative move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They interviewed Aaron Townsend, principal of Coliseum College Prep, about what it would mean for his students if it passed. Here’s an excerpt: Continue Reading


Oprah, Aspire and Waiting for Superman

At 4 p.m. (Pacific Time) today, James Willcox, CEO of the Oakland-based Aspire Public Schools, appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show along with Bill Gates and Director Davis Guggenheim to promote the much-hyped “Waiting for Superman” documentary by Guggenheim, who directed “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Oprah is giving $1 million awards to six organizations, including Aspire, which operates about 30 publicly funded, privately run charter schools in California, including seven in Oakland and Berkeley. Kids and teachers at Lionel Wilson College Prep, a middle and high school in East Oakland run by the charter management organization (API 797), are watching the pre-taped show at the school this afternoon. Here’s a quote from an Aspire news release:

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Oprah’s Angel Network as part of her call to the country to make sure every student has a chance to attend a high-quality public school,” said Aspire Public Schools CEO James Willcox. “The upcoming movie “Waiting for ‘Superman’” will challenge our country to do just that. Our success with the nearly 10,000 students Aspire serves across California is a tribute to our teachers and our team—and a reason to be incredibly optimistic about what we can achieve in every public school across the state and across the country.”

“Waiting for Superman” is about the failures of America’s public education system and why it should matter to the average American. Guggenheim makes the argument that those failures perpetuate societal ills, from national security and crime to poverty, and that it’s essential to “change the odds” for families who can’t afford a private education. He said the idea for the film stemmed from the guilt he felt while driving by his neighborhood school in Los Angeles while dropping his kids off to private schools.

It comes out on Friday.

From the clips I saw at the Education Writers Association conference in May, it promises to be compelling, provocative and heart-wrenching, if a bit simplistic. Continue Reading