The skinny on OUSD’s leaner-than-lean budget

The Oakland school district on Wednesday night unanimously passed a budget for the upcoming school year — a conservative plan that included deep cuts and extra cash reserves to help cushion the district against the state’s volatile funding stream.

The school district’s total budget for 2011-12 is projected to be $472.8 million, down from $650.5 million in 2010-11. More than three-quarters of the decline — $136 million of the $178 million drop — is construction related. That’s because the district has used much of its voter-approved bond money. So (Can you tell where this is going?) board members are already talking about asking Oakland taxpayers to support another levy, possibly next year.

The school district’s general fund is smaller, too, without federal stimulus funds to mitigate years of state cutbacks: $376 million, down from $412 million in 2010-11.

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Should Oakland restore funds to GED, family literacy?

The Oakland school district can keep family literacy and GED programs at 2010-11 levels next year if the school board gives back $900,000 that the school district administration has proposed taking away, Deputy Superintendent Vernon Hal told school board members in a memo posted on the Wednesday night agenda.

They could do that in two ways:

1) Reduce the district’s cash reserves from 3 percent to 2.8 percent, which would still be above the 2 percent minimum the state requires (earlier this month, a version of Hal’s proposal included a 2 percent reserve, but the state trustee recommended 3 percent, and so did some board members).

2) Take $900,000 of the $2.5 million (swiped) adult ed funding that has been set aside to pay off the district’s early retirement incentive in one fell swoop (along with other funds; the early retirement plan will cost OUSD an estimated $10.4 million). This option would mean the remaining $900,000 originally earmarked to pay for the plan would have to come from future budgets.

Hal made it clear in the memo, however, that he doesn’t think the board should make any changes to the budget. He says it wouldn’t make it to the county superintendent by July 1, and that the state trustee doesn’t recommend changes. But he suggested such changes — in funding allocations — can occur after the budget is submitted, saying the budget is “a living document.”

Do you agree with Hal? What should the board do?

You can read his entire memo here: Continue Reading


A pending budget deal, but no change to OUSD plan

UPDATE: California’s main budget bill has passed both houses of the state Legislature, John Myers of KQED reports. (He’s posting live Twitter updates here.)


This might be the first time in the history of my education reporting that California lawmakers pass a budget before the Oakland school district (or any school district) does.

The proposal includes flat funding for k-12 schools, but only as long as some rosy state revenue projections — an extra $4 billion — bear out. If not, look for midyear cuts and a shortened school year in district’s throughout the state.

The OUSD budget proposal, which is up for approval tomorrow night, wasn’t yet posted online as of a few minutes ago, but I understand it will be very similar to recent ones.

Here’s what spokesman Troy Flint had to say this afternoon: Continue Reading


Notes from a long and eventful board meeting

Tonight’s — or should I say, last night’s —  5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting went till midnight. I observed so much from my ergonomically incorrect wooden seat:

The NAACP‘s Oakland branch showed up in force to register their concerns about complaints they’d heard from students and alumni about problem teachers, institutional racism and African American students’ opportunities for success at Skyline High (where a transcript review last fall revealed a whole bunch of students who weren’t on track to graduate), McClymonds and Castlemont high schools.

Teachers showed up to voice their support for retired teachers whom the district hired to coach them when they were first starting out. The retired teachers said they were told their services would no longer be needed. Superintendent Tony Smith said he had known nothing about this — and that he wished he had been informed of this development by his staff, rather than at a school board meeting. (Sounded to me like the program would be restored.)

Nikita Mitchell, one of the school board’s student directors, gave a rousing, seemingly extemporaneous end-of-term speech about education in Oakland, the “two Oaklands,” and how she and other students had been saying for years what members of the NAACP reported on Wednesday.

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School’s out: A series about the summer


As an education writer, I like the summer — and not because I get to file all my stories poolside (though that’s not a bad idea…). I like it because it sometimes gives me a break from breaking news, which means I get to work on projects.

I have a few up my sleeve, and I’m especially excited about one of them: a print and multimedia series about the summer, itself.

You can find the first story (print only) here.


A OUSD board member’s proposal: No further cuts to adult education

David KakishibaDavid Kakishiba doesn’t think the Oakland school district should swipe another $3.3 million from the adult education fund. Such a move would all but shut down adult education in Oakland, leaving only about $1 million in ongoing funds for a program that once had a budget of more than $11 million.

Kakishiba will suggest that change — and others — to the superintendent’s budget proposal at Wednesday’s 5 p.m. school board meeting. His four “adjustments” (See full document below) were discussed by the Finance and Human Resources Committee this week and unanimously forwarded to the full board for a discussion.

The 2011-12 budget is up for approval the following week, on June 29. The most recent OUSD proposal to date is posted below.

THE CASE FOR LEAVING ADULT ED’S REMAINING FUNDS ALONE: Kakishiba said he believes Oakland’s adult education programs will help the district realize its vision of “full-service community schools,” especially since adult ed’s services — GED and school-based family literacy — line up so closely with OUSD’s mission.

Besides, the board member said he wasn’t convinced the administration’s plans for spending that money on high schools line up with the strategic plan the school board is about to vote on tomorrow. He said the idea of launching a centralized academic counseling team (one of the proposed expenditures of the adult ed money) “makes no sense to me.”

The other items on which the funds might be spent, he said, amount to “very small investments in big issues.”

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Plan for Oakland schools up for approval Saturday

On Saturday, the Oakland school board is scheduled to vote on the superintendent’s five-year strategic plan — the product of 14 task forces and, according to the document, some 350 task force and community meetings.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the board room at 1025 Second Ave. It’s supposed to run about two hours.

How did you take part in the process? Does this document reflect your ideas for improving OUSD? What will it take for this plan to materialize?

In case you missed it:

OUSD’s strategic plan

The Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network sent out a news release saying it expected all four of its recommendations to make it into the final plan. They are:

  • Adopt and follow standards for family engagement to make meetings and events more accessible and parent-friendly
  • Improve training for parents who serve on school site governance councils
  • Establish a Family Engagement Advisory Council to give regular feedback to the district on ways to better involve the community
  • Hold monthly meetings with parents and youth in each of OUSD’s three regions to improve communication.

On the agenda: a $742,000 contract with WestEd

I keep hearing about WestEd and its prominent role in the new direction of OUSD, but until today, I hadn’t seen any big-ticket agenda items related to the San Francisco-based organization.

The school board has been asked to increase an existing WestEd contract from $62,000 to $742,000. That’s right, an increase of $680,000. This is for a 7-month period that ends in two weeks. (Funding source: English Language Program)

The item is on Wednesday’s Finance and Human Resources Committee agenda:

Approval by the Board of Education of Amendment No. 1, Professional Services Contract between the District and WestEd, San Francisco, CA, for the latter to provide a series of professional development to 101 principals, 50 instructional coaches and up to 400 teachers and 30 central office administrators and also develop up to 20 District employees to be trainers for the professional development seminar, in an additional amount not to exceed $680,000.00, increasing Contract not to exceed amount from $62,000.00 to $742,000.00, for the period November 15, 2010 through June 30, 2011. All other terms and conditions of the Contract remain in full force and effect.

Has anyone attended these trainings?

Teacher convention delegates and task force members: Is this what you had in mind for professional development? Did you weigh in on this contract?


New management positions, contracts in OUSD

The Oakland school district administration wants to create or eliminate a bunch of positions as part of its central office reorganization. I’ve been asking for a new organizational chart, but until I see one, I guess I’ll have to settle for the tidbits of information sent to me by insiders or posted on committee agendas, such as Wednesday night’s 7 p.m. special meeting of the Finance and Human Resources Committee:

Adoption by the Board of Education of Resolution No. 1011-1124 – Creation of Classified Management Position – Intermediary, School Services – Office of the Regional Executive Officers, Department of Leadership, Curriculum, and Instruction and authorizing an FTE as specified herein: Create: Position Title/FTE Salary Schedule/Range Intermediary, School Salary Schedule, ADCL Services (1.0 FTE) Range 13: $64,392 – $82,172 12 months, 261 days, 7.5 hours and further authorizing the Superintendent of Schools to fill said position pursuant to applicable District employment procedures.


Approval by the Board of Education of Resolution No. 1011-1125 – Creating Certificated Executive Management Positions – Associate Superintendent, Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction and Associate Superintendent, Family, School, and Community PartnershipsContinue Reading