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Kaiser gives Oakland schools $7.5 million

Smith at Kaiser news conference. Photo courtesy of the Oakland school district.

When Superintendent Tony Smith was appointed to his post in 2009, his supporters said they expected he would restore interest, support and outside funding to the Oakland school district.

This fall — until today — the district endured some heartbreak on the funding front. Oakland lost its bid for the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods planning grant in September (despite accolades from the secretary of education just weeks before). And the district’s November parcel tax election was defeated by about 700 votes, less than one percentage point.

But this morning, the district announced it had received a $7.5 million gift from Kaiser Permanente. It is the largest corporate donation yet to support Smith’s vision for Oakland’s schools, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

The money won’t solve the district’s structural deficit or guard against deep mid-year budget cuts. But $7.5 million is still $7.5 million.

Most of the funds are — no surprise — earmarked for the district’s health and wellness programs. OUSD has expanded its school-based health centers in recent years; soon, it will have 15. This fund will keep them going and make sure there’s a coordinator at each clinic, said Mara Larsen-Fleming, a program manager for OUSD who supervises the initiative.

Tony Smith’s strategic plan for “full-service community schools” got a $900,000 boost, too, and African American male achievement initiative will receive $600,000.

All of these funds will be managed by the East Bay Community Foundation.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • teacher

    Thank you, Kaiser!

    I just read more about how the Kaiser money will be used, and much of it is to be used for Wellness Centers and the African American Male Achievement program.

    May I suggest to Kaiser, the board and Tony Smith, that they also use this money to help out Brothers on the Rise, an incredible program that works with middle school boys. I have heard that Edna Brewer won’t renew its contract with Brothers next year, not because it’s ineffective but because the principal wants to cut costs.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if an effective program like Brothers on the Rise could be saved — perhaps even expanded — with a sliver of the $7.5 million from Kaiser?

    I am tired of reading headlines about OUSD boys getting killed and killing. I get even more depressed to hear that programs already working to help these boys are endangered.

  • Christopher Scheer

    Katy, not sure, but I don’t think this has been reported beyond the Skyline paper:

    http://www.skylineoracle.com/news/2010/11/22/skyline-selected-to-share-6-2-million-in-federal-money/

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Christopher! Skyline has been restructuring for about two years now, hasn’t it? In what areas do you hope the funding will help the most?

  • Christopher Scheer

    Honestly, this question is above my paygrade to answer, Katy. And we are at the very beginning of this five-year grant and still really in the beginning of shifting the school to SLCs — small learning communities — so a lot remains to be seen.

    Last year, we shift the freshmen into “houses” and this year all sophomores entered “academies.”

    I do believe that if you want to transform a big, lumbering institution like this one, it will cost money to do so.

    Also, I think that while Oakland is dinged for having too many administrators (largely because of the small schools shift), these large campuses like Skyline are under-administered — and under-counseled, under-nursed, under-psyched, etc. Skyline, before this grant, had four administrators for close to 2000 students and maybe 150 staff and faculty.

    So if the $6.2 mill from the feds is going to bump up SLC administration at the Big Three, and the $7.5 from Kaiser will bump up health and psych interventions district-wide, both are all to the good, in my mind.

  • Hot r

    What’s ironic about the small schools movement at Skyline is that when I graduated MANY years ago we had four or five houses and Skyline was 10-12 because freshmen were considered “too young” for high school. Skyline also went to a “school within a school” format with a charter school feel for a percentage of its students to try to get a more collegiate feel to the school day. We keep discarding and then recycling the same ideas.

  • Ramona

    Great news for OUSD. That means they just recieved over 13 million dollars. What I wonder is why there are no union supporters or teachers talking about the corporatization of the public school system when OUSD gets money. Is not the Gates, and Kaiser Foundations corporations? Haven’t they given money to OUSD? Therefore its corporatization?

    Knowing that I am going to get bludegeoned by the union hawks who dominate this blog… there is certainly a double standrd and class system for poor mnority studen in this town.

    By the way…..another money pit idea!

  • JR

    Ramona,
    I’m no Corporatist, but I do respect the free market(when it is truly free,that is)and the idea that people choose to pay you for products and services. I also believe in some crucial government services(education,police,fire)and pay taxes for these, but what I don’t like, is paying what I consider to be excessive(perks and pensions)tax confiscation for services that are sub-par or even unnecessary or not even delivered to begin with. There is so much waste involved in the public education sector that the children end up with far less resources than they should have. It is so easy to be generous with other peoples money, and you just can’t figure it out until you actually work for your own survival(people who live off of tax money need to figure this out).

  • Ramona

    I agree with you JR. Money does not appear the true issue to me-its waste. By the time all of this “donated” money is spent, it will be out of the public’s mind and will result as most other money does, misspent.

    Other peoples cash describes politics and public sector, howeverit also decribes our economy and stock markets.

    Spending and waste is an American phenomenon and a sign that America has grown become weak and spoiled- Political correctness is also a a disease related of this.

    Kaiser must be expecting a payback or something?! That money will be tossed and lost.

  • Ms. J.

    Ramona,
    I am not sure what you are saying. Are you criticizing union supporters and teachers for NOT criticizing the donation by Kaiser Foundation to OUSD? Are you saying that the money will benefit only non-poor, non-minority students? What sort of “payback” do you hypothesize Kaiser might get from this?

    I am a teacher and I am very disturbed by the fact that Gates and other foundations are having such huge impacts on school policy, through their donations, and I am not the only one who has said so, as I’m sure most people who are active in the education ‘reform’ debate are aware. As far as who will benefit, I read in #1 that the money will go to the African American Male Achievement and Wellness programs, which I don’t think are directed only at non-poor, non-minority students–to the contrary.

  • Christopher Scheer

    Hot R,

    You are totally right about recycling. In the sixties the different houses even had student-led behavior “courts” — youth courts, which is now a trendy (and in Alameda County’s Mccallum Youth Court, successful) idea.

    Probably it was phased out because of it’s boarding school connotations of elitism.
    I have an original copy of the Skyline High student handbook from 1962, when the school was only 2-3 years old, which proudly notes:

    “Since there are neither traditions nor precedents of any kind at Skyline, the trial of a new type of [student] government,the House System, seemed appropriate.”

    There then follows a 5-page, 14-article constitution describing a student government as elaborate as that of the United States!