Sobrante Park cheerleaders bring it on

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the overused, early 2000s pop culture reference after watching this video of the Sobrante Park Elementary School cheer squad, taken last weekend by a very excited mother (who seems to bounce along with the music at times).

The Oakland team took the state championship in their division at the Spirit Club International competition last weekend. The team formed last year as part of the school’s after-school program run by Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corp. They are coached by Asia Williams.


Rally for Oakland teachers

Hundreds of people came out to Oakland High School this afternoon, in the rain, to support teachers throughout the district who have received layoff notices. While the potentially eliminated full-time positions total 538 (out of 2469), the number of people who received notices was much higher — 657, according to district spokesman Troy Flint.


One Oakland school’s outsized layoff threat

Uncertain state funding levels and the Oakland school district’s decision to issue layoff warnings to more than one-fifth of its teaching staff has created high levels of stress throughout the district. Hit especially hard were schools that have few teachers who have been in the district for more than four or five years. New teachers are — with some exceptions — the first to go.

At Futures Elementary, which opened in 2007 on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, every teacher could be replaced next year, according to the principal. I visited Futures yesterday morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:


Burglars leave no classroom untouched

OAKLAND PRIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BURGLARIZED. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffJacqueline Calderon said she and her fellow teachers were excited to come to school Monday. The school’s yard had gotten a makeover over this weekend — the four-square court was carefully painted.

Instead they found broken windows, missing equipment and a dismantled computer lab at East Oakland PRIDE Elementary School, a small school on the old Webster campus on 81st Avenue and Birch.

It was scary and upsetting for the students who came to school, too. You can read the full story here.

Since you always ask how to help: Teachers are already writing grants and DonorsChoose.org requests to replace missing items. I’ll post more information as it comes in.


About that 2 percent raise…

Here’s a real-world word problem for you:

The across-the-board salary increase Oakland school district staff have built into the second half of next year’s planning budget (the raise would go into effect in January 2012) would cost about $2 million in general-purpose dollars. For a full year, of course, it’s double that amount.

What if the district tabled that idea in light of the 500-plus March 15 notices it plans to distribute? How many teaching positions could it afford to keep?

Annual cost of a 2 percent raise in OUSD: $4 million

Average teacher cost, according to HR: $73,000

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A profound and unexpected correspondence

Life Academy students watching Dora Sorell. Photo courtesy of Annie Hatch.

Annie Hatch, a teacher at Life Academy, writes about a letter her class received from a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate. Above, the students listen to another speaker on the subject. – Katy

The letter arrived on a cold, rainy day in late January. I saw it sitting there, unobtrusively, in my box in Life Academy’s main office.

I examined the return address closely to make sure it was real. My heart started beating faster as I realized what had happened. My students had written letters to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel three months earlier, and he had written back.

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Wisconsin lawmakers cut union bargaining rights

The standoff is over, the New York Times reports.

Tonight, while the state’s Democratic senators were out of state in an attempt to block the vote on a proposal to curtail the rights of public workers, their Republican counterparts managed to push it through in less than 30 minutes.

Here’s how the Times summarizes the bill:

The bill makes significant changes to most public-sector union rules, limiting collective bargaining to matters of wages and limiting raises to changes in the Consumer Price Index unless the public approves higher raises in a referendum. It requires most unions to hold votes annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members. And it ends the state’s collection of union dues from paychecks.


Oakland principals get layoff counts

On Friday, I posted the districtwide list of potential layoff notices that will likely be delivered next week to more than 500 teachers.

Today, each principal learned how his or her staff would be affected, based on seniority lists provided by the district. I talked to one today who said all but one of his 16 teachers (a few are teaching on temporary contracts) will receive a March 15 notice. Yesterday, another principal told me Continue Reading


Aviation charter school does not impress OUSD

Based on a report I just read, I’d be mighty surprised if the Oakland school board renewed the charter of Oakland Aviation High School. The district’s charter school office came up with 32 reasons for (what amounts to) shutting it down, a decision the board makes on Wednesday.

The high school is not posting stellar test scores, that’s for sure. But take a look at reason #10:

The school API score (557) is equal to the median performance of Oakland district schools in 2009 serving similar grades.

Of course, if the Oakland school board rejects the renewal, Oakland Aviation can appeal to the Alameda County Board of Education. It worked for Cox Academy last year.


Aurelio’s redemption

Young Whan Choi and his students in front of MetWest High School

Young Whan Choi is a humanities teacher at MetWest High School in Oakland. (He also has a blog about teaching.) He started his career in Providence, RI, and recently heard from one of his former students. – Katy

The voice message began with “Wow, stranger!” One of my students, Aurelio, had called; it had been ten years since his graduation, since we had last smiled at one another.

Listening to the message, I immediately worried that something might be wrong. During my four years as his teacher, I was accustomed to bad news from Aurelio. Continue Reading