Video of Oakland bank protest, teacher arrests

Oakland teacher and union leader Craig Gordon took this video of a demonstration this evening at a Wells Fargo branch at 12th Street and Broadway. Gordon reported in a mass email that seven teachers were arrested during a sit-in to demand that the rich pay higher taxes. I’ll post those names once I’ve been able to confirm them.

By 10 p.m., at least one of the teachers had been released, and a welcoming committee awaited the others at the downtown jail.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, California Teachers Association President David Sanchez and about two dozen others were arrested today during a sit-in at the offices of Republican legislators Connie Conway and Bob Dutton, who are fighting the tax extension ballot measure, Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones has reported.

Here is a link to the Sacramento Bee story.


Next week at the Grand Lake: An Acquired Taste Film Festival

A Beautiful Thing. Image courtesy of Jake Mulliken, Bayhill High SchoolRomantic Comedy. Image courtesy of Jake Mulliken, Bayhill High School

An Acquired Taste Film festival — noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 24 at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater — will showcase an eclectic group of student-produced films: noir, horror, romantic comedy, comedic spoofs, surrealist films and documentaries.

You can check out the trailers for yourself, on the festival’s website.

Jake Mulliken’s film students at Bayhill High School, a nonpublic school in Oakland (off Lakeshore Avenue, near Lake Merritt) for students with language-based disabilities, made the movies and designed the festival, itself.

Continue Reading


Layoff update and Oakland teachers of the year

May 15 is upon us, and it doesn’t look like the Oakland school district plans to rescind any more layoff notices of teachers and counselors than it already has. (See my April layoff update here.)

Here is the latest layoff resolution, which the board votes on tomorrow night.

You can find the full agenda here.

On a happier note, I have news about the Oakland teachers of the year. One of the pink-slipped teachers I wrote about, Lissette Averhoff, is one of them. Lissette has informed me that she will be back at ACORN Woodland Elementary in the fall.

The other Oakland teacher of the year honoree is Lisa Hiltbrand, from Urban Promise Academy. She teaches sixth-grade humanities. Here’s what her principal, Mark Triplett, said about her to OUSD (as reported in the resolution): Continue Reading


New rankings for Oakland schools

Yesterday was so hectic that I neglected to post a link to the new statewide and similar schools rankings. You can find a list of all schools in Alameda County and their API ranks, from 1 to 10, here.

Here’s a (hopefully) functional, but not very pretty spreadsheet that breaks out the data for Oakland schools. There are several tabs — some are sorted by school name, ranking, and/or type of school and ranking.

You can find an explanation of the two kinds of rankings in this story.

Do the statewide and/or the similar schools rankings matter to you?


Oakland student newspaper takes fourth place in national contest

Jack Mejia-CuellarPHOTO CAPTION: Gloria “Jack” Mejia-Cuellar, a junior at Media Academy, won “Honorable Mention” during the National High School Journalism Convention’s write-off contests in editorial writing. Thousands of high school students from across the country attended the event, which was held in Anaheim last month.

Student newspapers are few and far between in Oakland, but one of them — Media Academy’s Green & Gold — is thriving. Last month, the paper took fourth place in a national journalism contest of the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association, which drew thousands of student-journalists nationwide.

Lisa Shafer, the paper’s advisor, wrote to share the news, saying, “It beat out schools that have APIs in the 800s and 900s and private schools whose students pay $35,000 a year in tuition to attend.”

Shafer said Kim Mejia-Cuellar, a junior, was one of 15 students at the convention to receive an “Excellent” ranking or higher in the newswriting category of the write-off contest. “In my 10 years of newspaper advising, including five at a suburban school, I have never had a student win an “Excellent” in this competition,” Shafer wrote.

Kim’s twin, Gloria “Jack” Mejia-Cuellar, received an “Honorable Mention” in the editorial writing category. Both sisters are members of Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia’s writing program and their school’s debate team.

Both girls wrote their pieces about the “Parent Trigger” proposal, which would allow parents to force the conversion of a public school into a charter school if it fell below an 800 on the API.

You can read the winning edition of the paper yourself, here:


Rethinking the seniority system

Annie Hatch, a first-year humanities teacher at Oakland’s Life Academy, offers her reflections about the last-in, first-out layoff system. Her pink slip has yet to be rescinded.

Annie Hatch, Life AcademyAs more and more layoffs are being rescinded, the fury that was driving a lot of healthy debate has seemed to subside. When the district initially announced that over 500 teachers in Oakland would be receiving pink slips, I heard a lot of people arguing that the district should rescind them all—that no teacher ever deserves a pink slip. But, the unavoidable reality is that some teachers will be laid off—this year, and in the future. And while this remains the case, we desperately need to rethink the seniority system.

Like a fine wine, I believe a good teacher gets better with age. There is a steep learning curve when it comes to the craft of teaching, and, I won’t lie, I am looking forward to not being a first-year teacher. Throughout the course of this first year, I have seen my classroom management skills improve exponentially. I can plan a lesson in half the time it took me in September. I am more efficient, more capable, more confident. I am better at prioritizing what matters, strategizing intervention, managing group work, and finding the essential question I’m hoping to teach through each lesson.

My more experienced colleagues are incredible and I feel so lucky to be able to draw on their professional expertise. I often consult them on issues I am having in the classroom and I am so thankful to be able to tap into their wisdom.

But to assume that ALL teachers improve with time is a dangerous fallacy. Continue Reading


An OUSD survey on working conditions

Staff meeting. File photo by John Green/Bay Area News Group

Oakland teachers, counselors, principals and other credentialed school-based staff: Friday is the deadline for completing an anonymous online survey about what it’s like to work at each school in the district.

How much time do you spend on various tasks during the school day? Outside of the regular school day? Are efforts made at your school to minimize interruptions, or routine paperwork? How much time do you have to collaborate with other teachers?

The results will be published online, by school, in June — that is, as long as the response rate is at least 50 percent for a given school. If not, those schools will be omitted from the results. Continue Reading


The competition was tough, and they loved it

Oakland debaters in NYC. Photo courtesy of Christopher Scheer

Four of the top debaters from the Bay Area Urban Debate League went head-to-head with some of the best in the nation in New York City last month. The league’s coaches sent me the below news release about the experience. My favorite quote was from Skyline student Zach Seidl: “Getting absolutely destroyed by an opponent was actually the high point of the trip for me.”

Four Oakland public high school debaters representing the Bay Area Urban Debate League returned from the Big Apple with a renewed belief in themselves and the power of debate to carry them forward in life.

“It changed the way I see myself, because I saw how far I have gotten and how much I have improved,” said Diego Garcia, a sophomore at Media Academy on the Fremont High campus Continue Reading


OUSD could cut 150 staff positions

UPDATE: The school board tabled the discussion on layoffs Monday night. They take it up Wednesday night, at a 6 p.m. special meeting.


More bad news for Oakland’s public schools and the people who work in them: At least 150 clerks, school security officers, technicians and other support staff could soon lose their jobs.

A resolution detailing the layoff of school support staff was added to the agenda of a 6 p.m. special school board meeting (originally about Race to the Top grant applications for two middle schools: ROOTS and Alliance Academy) tonight at ROOTS International, a middle school on the Havenscourt campus.

You can find the resolution here.

These layoffs, of course, will have all kinds of ripple effects on schools and employees across the district — just like last year.


A teachable moment

discussion at the Oakland Military Institute. Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group

Social studies classrooms were abuzz today with debate and analysis of Osama bin Laden’s death. (See Tribune story here.)

Some teachers asked students to compare media coverage of the development. Others supplied basic facts about the raid and the broader conflict with terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. They touched on a wide range of issues, among them: patriotism, war, sovereignty, the celebration of death, politics, justice and vengeance.

Brian Rodriguez, an AP history teacher at Encinal High School in Alameda, wrote this to me, in an email: Continue Reading