Oakland teacher layoffs: the breakdown

More than 500 Oakland school district teachers — temporary, tenured and probationary — will receive pink slips this month, according to a resolution posted on the March 9 school board agenda.

The list is staggering: 538 full-time positions, including 231 elementary school teachers, 41 English teachers, 45 social science teachers, 28 sixth-grade teachers, 25 P.E. teachers, 13 social workers, and the entire adult education staff.

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Academic might in OUSD

Oakland High School's Sea Lion Bowl team. Photo courtesy of Katie Noonan.

As she sent me the news of her students’ success in a day-long ocean science contest, Oakland High School teacher Katie Noonan invoked President Obama, who said in his recent State of the Union address: “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.”

How could I argue with that?

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Will Oakland’s teachers union stand against the tax extension?

UPDATE: Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, said the OEA executive board’s anti-tax extension position has since been revised to a more neutral stance. The union’s official position will depend on how the representative council votes Monday evening.


The fate of a proposed ballot measure to extend temporary sales, vehicle and income taxes in California could mean the difference of $330 in state funding per public school student. In Oakland Unified, that amounts to about $12 million — or $15 million, if you include the city’s independently run charter schools. But it might not even make it onto the ballot.

The Republican lawmakers’ opposition to the tax extension is widely known, but it’s not only the right that’s against the idea. Some of the far-left members of the Oakland teachers union have taken the same position, saying the state should be taxing the rich instead.

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Berkeley-based National Writing Project in jeopardy

The Berkeley-based National Writing Project, a 37-year-old program to help teachers of all grade levels and disciplines teach writing, received some tough news this week. It lost all of its federal funding for the upcoming school year in a temporary spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Wednesday in an effort to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Ed Week’s Alyson Klein reports that the writing project was one of more than a dozen educational programs that will lose federal funding temporarily, if not permanently. Support for such programs is technically defined as an earmark, since it is a non-competitive grant, though some of the organizations — such as Teach For America — are national in scope.

The National Writing Project’s network receives more than $25 million from the U.S. Department of Education; it encompasses 200 programs at colleges and universities in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Bay Area Writing Project, anchored at UC Berkeley, is the oldest one.

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The best of Oakland: Oratorical Fest

Kristen Caven, an OUSD parent, volunteer, and author of Perfectly Revolting: My Glamorous Cartooning Career, tells us about a festival that’s become an institution in Oakland. The final competition is March 18 and 19.

Do you want to see the best of Oakland? Come to any round of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Fest, at any school, now in its 32nd year. Private, public and charter school students perform famous or original speeches, poetry, and songs about peace, freedom, justice, beauty, human rights, personal struggle, and triumph, or just being a good and authentic person.

I attended the regional competition for middle and high schools on a lark today, helping out an English newcomers teacher, Ms. Colt, who’d had two teachers and three parents call in sick, and could not otherwise take her the 21 kids from our school. But my sacrifice was not entirely altruistic. I’ve often gone out of my way to attend the festival at my son’s elementary school, always a memorable, many-tissue day filled with poetry, inspiring words, and adorable, brave kids.

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