Oakland Unified’s strategic plan: It’s here.

Futures Elementary School, 2011. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffI plowed through a draft of the Oakland school district’s strategic plan today — all 50 pages of it. It’ll be discussed at a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday (tomorrow) at the district headquarters. You’ll find links to the report below.

I won’t be surprised if long-time observers of the school system remind us all of the Five-Year Plans of OUSD Past — enthusiastically presented, but long since forgotten. I wonder how this plan compares to former superintendents’ visions for Oakland Unified. It certainly contains some provocative ideas, such as “risk screens” for African American male students at certain transitional points, and school quality reviews that go far beyond the API score.

The plan describes various school funding formulas that the district might adopt — but it doesn’t recommend any. The current system, Results-Based Budgeting, allocates funding based on each school’s average attendance. And unlike schools in most other districts, Oakland schools must cover the actual salaries and benefits of their teachers out of that budget. Schools with lots of teachers who are high on the pay scale typically have a harder time making ends meet in this system, as do those with low attendance rates and/or declining enrollment.

Those schools might find the below statement interesting:

The critical factors of enrollment and teacher salary and benefits do not universally allow for a balanced budget, requiring subsidies based on school size and salary/benefit costs, rather than student needs. While the definition of an adequate core program may change as district‐wide priorities and financial position change, it is the main responsibility of the school district to provide a basic educational program to all students.

The strategic plan is posted on the meeting agenda, in multiple parts. Click on the hyperlinks below to find each section:

Part 1: Overview

Part 2: Safe, healthy and supportive schools; Success in college and career (includes African American Male Achievement – Page 27)

Part 3: Effective teaching; Building a full service community district (includes budgeting systems on Page 40 and facilities and asset management on Page 43)

Part 4: Ensuring quality schools (school quality standards and conditions are listed on pages 50-51)

Thoughts? What would you add or change? What surprised you? What were you glad to see?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Some of that was a fun read. I went to the part about the Black Boys. It’s the usual nonsense. They presumably want to spend a lot of money on “consultants” who are carefully selected to not tell the school board the truths they don’t want to hear. And I bet they pick up the travel, hotel and meals tab for the consultants also.

    I could insert my take on what’s wrong with the black boys and their teaching – why the basement level failure rates. And what usually works on improving things. Maybe later.

    Suffice it to say I don’t support increased graduation requirements. We should only require basic skills to graduate high school. Those skills needed to acquire entry level jobs or military enlistment. We should not be requiring college prep to graduate high school.

    And we should physically segregate college track from vocational track to make sure this point is made. College prep is nice, but it’s purely optional.

    In my opinion a lot of the trouble we are having with the black boys is confusion over what we require from them to grow up, graduate and get a life. We do not require more than the average student can give. Having said that we should be ready to help them quit or flunk out if they refuse to toe the mark otherwise. The black drop rate is artifically high because of missmatching students to programs.

  • JustTeach!

    Beautifully written by overpaid consultants. Tony Smith will preach that he engaged all stakeholders, but let’s be real. This document was conceived in the minds of a few non-Oaklanders, like Maria Santos, last spring. We just spent an entire year talking and “listening” in 14 isolated task forces so that an outside consultant could “synthesize” the “learnings” into a pretty package for those same few to admire.

  • Katy Murphy

    NOTE: The meeting was originally scheduled to start at 5 p.m., but the agenda has been revised. It’s now scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

  • Jennifer Dannenberg

    The most astounding and discouraging district decision to date is their idea about having a counselor “pool” that will rove among secondary schools, delivering services – sort of a counseling “meals on wheels.” I wonder how I will tell an anxious Skyline High School student that we no longer have counselors on site, and since their roving counselor won’t be back until next week, I hope their problem (which needs the attention of a credentialed Pupil Personnel Services employee with a Specialization in School Counseling) will wait. I would not attempt to “fill in” which would be like me hoping to get some help for chest pains from the valet who parks my car at the medical building. Or like a school counselor trying to help my student write an essay on character motivation in Julius Caesar.

  • Oakland Teacher

    They must not know 14-18 year-olds very well. Kids that age are not going to put in a request for a roving counselor whose name/face they don’t know. They need to know their counselor, have a relationship with them, and have easy access in order to even make an appt. In reality, most high school kids need to be able to just “drop in” to see their counselor. The analogies above are very sad, but true. How is this part of the “Full Service Communities” that have been named as a district goal?

  • Nextset

    These consultant’s reports are all about their own cash flows and do not result in actual improvement in student outcomes. I’d be more interested in what teachers/admin staff want changed in order to get better results from the students.

  • skyline Mom

    Are all high schools losing their in house counselors? I thought that Tech and Oakland High were keeping theirs and that the decision to cut Skyline’s counselors was made by the principal, not the District.

  • J.R.

    You are correct, money IS the main factor here, and always has been. The taxpayers are seen as a never-ending pipeline of money, and this assumption is blatantly false. There are limits education was 50% of the budget and now it is 40%. The real problem is the layers of bureaucracy and their cost(Dept. of education at the fed and state level, superintendents at fed state and local level, Board of eds at state and local level)there is just too much unnecessary redundancy. I am so glad Governor Brown rid the state of sec. of education, and I hope he gets rid of more figurehead positions and the staff that accompany them.

  • harlemmoon

    As a black person, I am deeply offended by the notion that young black men are in need of “special” attention.
    This is a loaded assumption, one borne of the myth of black inferiority. This “special” office legitimizes the stereotype of the brute, the nonhuman creature who is characterized by neither intelligence nor reason.
    Part of the mechanics of oppressing people is to pervert them to the extent that they become the instrument of their own oppression; That a brother who should know better is running that office is beyond shameful as this office brands every young black man in that school district as the wild, undisciplined, irresponsible, uneducable thug that we “see” in our warped mind’s eye.
    Has it really come to this? Really?

  • J.R.

    In the U.S. wherever there are struggling communities that have taxpayer funded social programs(homeless outreach,war on poverty etc)you will invariably find “poverty pimps” who suckle the public dry in their battle to help lift the disenfranchised. No one ever really gets helped except the “pimps” bank account. People have to learn and earn by themselves, no one can(or should) do it for them(the welfare system is a prime example of how a bad situation was made much worse). We have multiple generations of people who would not know what to do if they weren’t surviving on public assistance and or section 8. These kids don’t want to learn and you will never force them, and it’s far easier to take what you want than earn it(even if it is a gamble).

  • Mary Hill

    Harlemmoon, I agree with you in the sense that we should not need a special task force for our young men. In reality, however, there is a crisis with AA males that has to be addressed one way or another. You can’t ignore the statistics, and, if you live in or travel through a depressed area of Oakland, you can’t deny what you see. This is the reality, not someone’s warped idea. I give Tony Smith credit for at least realizing something needs to be done, and coming up with an idea on how to get things started.

    My belief, as an Af-Am teacher, parent, and grandparent is that the most significant improvements will occur when schools (and families) start requiring our youth to behave responsibly and respectfully. A lot of well-meaning people don’t want to promote it, but strong discipline is one of the keys to the success of black youth, and its absence in many of our schools (and homes) is a huge contributing factor in low achievement among Af-Am males. You and I both could name many other factors, HM, but changing the culture of low expectations for BEHAVIOR would not cost a lot and could do wonders within our district.

  • Nextset

    Harlemmoom: It’s come to this because it looks like we have a problem with “the wild, undisciplined, irresponsible, uneducable thug” as you put it.

    We can look at the stats – VD, Crime, Bad Credit Scores, Traffic Tickets, Driver’s License Points, Drug issues, school failure, literacy, bad dress and grooming, whatever you want to measure in Oakland. There’s a problem and it’s not with Ken and Barbie.

    Granted the black boys are more likely to be from broken homes. Granted coming from a broken home/single mother creates the higher odds of rogue elephant behavior. What’s the school district supposed to do about it? Not make things worse perhaps by normalizing rotten behavior.

    Oakland black boys are in need of special attention. Maybe that’s not the same as black boys at Travis AFB (or other military base populations) – but it is in Oakland. If the school board wants to create a special office, it’s their school district. Something does need to be done to try to break the cradle-to-prison cycle. I doubt they have any real intention of doing what needs to be done – but as I said, it’s their school.

    Anyway we’re just killing time till the Mexican takeover of the district (it’s administration and board)is finished. Then dealing with black boys will be the Mexican-American politician’s problem and I think you will see a new resolve to get rid of problem children.

    As far as you being offended, that’s ok. Be offended. That will change nothing. Get a harder shell, you’ll wear better.

  • Katy Murphy

    If anyone cares to listen to the board discussion on live video, here’s a belated link: http://ousd.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

  • Zinnia

    Well put Jennifer and Oakland teacher re: the counselor situation. Who concocted that scheme?
    Can we all get parents and staff to come to the next Board meeting to make a fuss?

  • Oakland Teacher

    I believe “that scheme” of moving the counselors from Skyline was concocted by the new principal. I do think that parents, staff, students and community should band together to attend the next board meeting to publicize what the new “full service community schools” will look like.

  • Zinnia

    Actually, now that I think of it…the scheme (the Skyline principal disclosed this last night) was part of an ongoing discussion with NEXOs, The Board, Tony Smith, and the College and Career Readiness office.
    It strikes me that this is another step toward eliminating counselors all together, forcing teachers, TSA’s, admin, secretaries, anyone, into “advisor” roles.
    Also, another step toward being data driven and devaluing the human element and relationships with families, students and teachers.
    I agree that any teacher who is concerned that they won’t have a place to refer students with counselor questions and concerns, should speak out now.

  • Can’t believe it

    I remember going to Skyline when there was still money, and counselors didn’t have a big workload. My counselor still didn’t know me, didn’t know what colleges I applied to, never spoke to my parents, or told me what tests to take. Of course I went off to college anyway, just as my classmates went off to Vietnam or sought their way in the world. Counselors with huge workloads don’t get to know too many kids today, saddled as they are with test administration or registering kids for classes(all of which could be done online). counselors are not the key to improving education. I’d rather have a librarian and smaller classes. But increasing a teacher’s workload by adding counseling duties is a ridiculous approach. we are way past the tipping point.

  • J.R.

    Financially speaking, our options are limited, and we need to keep focused on what is most necessary, and what is beneficial for the majority of students. We can’t print money, and those people(who happen to be the people who actually affect fiscal policy) drawing big salaries and pensions are not about to decline even some of the money for the sake of the kids.

  • Support Counselors

    The work of counselors is often behind-the-scenes at schools, but as such it is no less critical than classroom teaching. Counselors’ duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
    •advising and programming classes for all students;
    •senior graduation evaluations;
    •transcript evaluation;
    •college admissions, financial aid, and scholarship advising;
    •summer and adult school advising and applications;
    •ELL and Special Education course programming and monitoring;
    •attendance at SART, IEP, and 504 meetings;
    •student contract monitoring; and
    •behavior interventions/socialization for struggling students.

  • del

    “support counselors” has it exactly right, those are the critical duties counselors need to perform. Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t happening at Skyline. This year, someone just happened to notice that there were seniors in their honors classes that had never cracked a 1.0 gpa their entire high school career, and were no where near graduation requirements. Turns out that there were hundreds and hundreds of students who were no where near the track for graduation and had been taking classes assigned all willy-nilly with no oversight from the counselors. Additionally, they saw hundreds of students (and teachers) with errors on their schedules… which weren’t available until the first day of school. As we use “results based budgeting” in OUSD, that is a lot of lot of money spent for results that actually IMPEDE student success. Counselors are an important part of many schools and should ideally play an incredibly important role in the development of a school’s program—but if that is not happening there is no recourse and no time to waste in finding solutions.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Counselors are needed in the schools. If anything, there are not enough counselors in each school. 700:1 ratio’s and perfection is expected! Counselors have done their job, but often take the brunt of everything wrong in a school. Please note that Skyline counselors didn’t create the student programs for this year and they certainly weren’t allowed to make changes this year, but look at the errors.

  • Oakland Teacher

    While I certainly agree with #21 above, I wish the poster used identifying info that was different from mine. Even an “OT #2″ would be great!

    Sorry for being the grammar/spelling police, but “ratios’ does not need an apostrophe. I would not do editing, except that I don’t want errors made under my “name”. It is just a plural, not a possessive.

    700:1 is far too high. Berkeley’s is about 400:1. We can only guess what other districts have, but chances are it is nowhere near 700:1. Katy, it would be interesting to do a follow-up next year at SHS to see how the counselor situation falls out, and how the administrative programming for students works.

    On another note, I just heard that the only female PE teacher at Skyline was being eliminated as well. There will only be 2 (down from 4) PE teachers next year, both of them male. You would think that this would violate the Title 9 provision; at the very least it seems to be ridiculous to eliminate all the female coaches. How would parents feel if all the male coaches were eliminated? What kind of model does this send to young women about fitness? Who the heck is going to be with the girls in the locker room?

  • Cadnerd

    Oakland Teacher (the original)
    Are the counselor ratios you cite for all types of counseling including psychological, academic and college admissions? Is college admissions a separate thing? I can’t imagine how a 700:1 ratio for college counseling would be sufficient to even get the basics done.

  • del

    For the 1st person above who called themselves “Oakland Teacher”: your statement is factually inaccurate. Scheduling was done by the counselors, who failed to do it accurately or in a way that would allow students to graduate. It was then taken over by the administration and other people familiar with OUSD’s graduation policy.
    Again, I know very well the impact a counselor can have and does have on students. But if the impact isn’t there, or it is negative, why have them? Would you favor cutting an equivalent number of teacher positions? Where will the cuts come from if they can’t come from something that is not helping the students? (Due to union rules, it would not be possible to simply hire effective counselors for next year).
    In terms of ratio, 700:1 is a very high ratio… but where is the money for more??? And what exactly do we expect from the counselors? And as citizens, how much are we willing to pony up to have our expectations met?

  • Zinnia

    to #23
    The ratio is for PPS counselors with an MA in School Counseling. Other support service counselors with nonprofits and county social workers have an entirely different arrangement.

    The counselor position has become increasingly data/technology oriented over the years as counselor positions and clerical positions have dwindled and everyone is doing 3 or 4 people’s jobs. So the counselors strong suit, counseling, is maybe not the best combo with many of the tasks that the counselors end up doing which could easily be done by a lower paid employee.

    The point is that the schools need PPS School Counselors who counsel to help guide students on their academic path, to have an adult who is familiar to talk to, to be familiar with options for them, to assist the parents with academic and developmental concerns regarding their children, and to help parents navigate the system in a supportive manner. The absence of this figure at schools will be a tragic loss to all.

  • Kipsych

    Wow! Talk about factually inaccurate!!!!! I object to Del’s quote from entry #24:

    “Due to union rules, it would not be possible to simply hire effective counselors for next year.”

    I think that if it weren’t for that pesky teachers’ Union, we would probably have about 500 fewer teachers for next year!!!!!

    Neither OEA nor any other Union tells the district who to hire. They have negotiated on rules to follow for tenure and seniority amongst members, but they certainly don’t just opt for lowest grade of worker… I think that librarian teacher positions, counselors, school nurses, school counselors and other “support services” in the schools make the teachers’ work more efficient because then we actually have time to do what we have been trained to do: teach.

    And I still go back to my increasingly popular mantra: “School Sites should be closed shop.” Period.