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The belated scoop on OUSD task forces — and meetings you might want to attend

By Katy Murphy
Friday, November 12th, 2010 at 5:06 pm in Tony Smith.

I didn’t blog about the Great Oakland Public Schools workshop the other week on the new task forces that could play a major role in shaping district policy. Sorry about that. But it’s not to late to get involved, so better late than never, right?

The workshop was organized to give people — namely, those who hadn’t been tapped to be on a task force — a better idea of how they could participate. There was no lack of interest; the room at the Jack London Aquatic Center was packed. Halfway through the meeting, people split into groups, arranging themselves around various tables to learn more about committees that piqued their interest.

It was interesting to note `the popular tables’ — e.g. teacher effectiveness — and the empty or missing chairs at others, most conspicuously the one for eliminating the district’s structural deficit.

I’m still not clear on how the members were selected, or why the membership list for the effective principals task force was two pages long and didn’t include a single teacher. (The answer I got was that the work of that task force would overlap with the teacher task force. But the latter has principals on it, so go figure.)

But GO Public Schools organizers seemed happy that a) district administrators turned out in force, b) the district published a calendar listing upcoming task force meetings, and c) CFO Vernon Hal announced that these meetings would open to the public, and that anyone could participate (with regular attendance encouraged, as opposed to dropping in here and there).

So, in case you missed it the first time, here is a link to the calendar.

Next week’s task force meetings: school choice, full-service community schools, standards and curriculum, healthy kids, and teacher effectiveness.

This isn’t on the calendar, but the district’s Quality Community Schools Development office — whose task force will be defining what it means to be a high-quality school in Oakland — is hosting an event next week to explain the process and how to get involved. It’s from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Tilden School, 4551 Steele St. I hear from a reliable source that the first meeting had child care, snacks and translation services.

I have to admit I’m confused by the orientation flier, but I’m sure it’ll all be made clear at the meeting.

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  • http://www.skylinehs.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=77763&type=u&rn=6808095 David Orphal

    I’m trowing stones in a glass house here, since I was not in attendance at the Jack London Aquatic Center. I am also not on any of the task forces for Oakland, although I am helping the Teacher Effectiveness and Common Core groups from the sidelines. Nonetheless, it is disappointing to read that so few people felt that they could contribute the perhaps OUSD biggest problem, namely the deficit.

    Any and all of the reforms and changes that come from the various task forces will require money. It remains to be seen who will shoulder the burden. It may be tax payers in the form of a new parcel tax or even higher debt loads for future tax payers to remedy.

    Alternately, it could also be classroom teachers, who will continue to work ten and twelve-hour days doing the ever expanding demands of teaching Oakland’s children.

    Perhaps we will be able to beg funds from the nation’s rich, in the form of grants and Donor’s Choose support.

    Ultimately, it will be Oakland’s children. Who will either be shouldered with debt to pay in the future when they are struggling to make ends meet, or subject to underfunded classrooms taught by exhausted teachers. Our teachers, despite their heroically big hearts and herculean efforts, simply will not be as effective as they could be if they could spend their professional time focusing on their children rather than hunting for grants, or working a second job to pay their rent and supply their classrooms with the materials their children need but OUSD can no longer afford.

    This is not a call for another few thousand voters to switch their support so that we can pay the next parcel-tax effort. Struggling communities, such as Oakland, typically tax themselves at an even higher rater than their suburban counter parts. In terms of a percentage of their income, urban residents give far more and still raise fewer actual dollars than wealthier communities.

    This is a call for California to re-think Prop. 13. Billed as a way to save retirees from being taxed out of their homes by raising property values, the propositions real winners were wealthy and corporate landlords who own vast swaths of California. The unintended results was a disastrous defunding of public education.

    It is time to repeal Prop. 13 and find a smarter way to protect home owners who are on a fixed income. Perhaps, we can allow individuals to file for a property tax freeze on their primary residence, if they are on a fixed income or living in poverty, allowing all other property to be taxed at its real value.