Four more years for Tony Smith?

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Oakland school board unanimously extended the superintendent’s contract through June 2015.

Oakland Superintendent Tony SmithThe Oakland school board votes Wednesday whether to extend the current, three-year contract for Superintendent Tony Smith (which expires in June 2012) for another three years. No changes in pay — $265,000 salary — or benefits.

You can see the full document for yourself, below.

How well do you think Smith has led the district?

Contract for Tony Smith

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jesse James

    Business as usual is what I’ve seen from Dr. Smith. Despite talk of community involvement, principals are and will be placed into schools without selection committees. There is a budget for task forces but apparently little for teacher summertime trainings. Because of my 20 years in Oakland & my high salary, I have been unable to transfer to a more high need school. My salary vs. an inexperienced teacher plus special programs becomes the deciding factor.

  • Michael L. Moore, Sr.

    Dr. Tony Smith is providing the best opportunity for excellence and 360 degree achievement in the Oakland Unified School District since Marcus Foster.

    He deserves the opportunity to complete this transformational work.

    Michael L. Moore, Sr.

  • Ms. J.

    I think it would be good to hold off on offering such a longterm extension until we’ve seen a bit more the results and follow through of some of Tony Smith’s plans. The current contract has more than a year left in it.

    Also, I just have to repeat that it really sticks in my craw that he is taking $265K a year (plus benefits). No one needs that much money. If he took a paycut, like the mayor, he could hire a counselor for a school with great need. Of course one counselor will not make a difference to the whole district but s/he sure could for the school and the students where s/he was placed. And symbolically it would be a powerful gesture–Smith putting his money where is mouth is!

  • J.R.

    Tony Smith has not changed the fundamental way in which the district functions, most of his changes are cosmetic in nature. The structure of the system needs to be changed(and will not be anytime soon), and students and their teachers must have unquestioned priority over administrative bloat.

  • advokid

    I tend to agree with Ms. J regarding Tony Smith’s salary. If he took a paycut as a gesture of solidarity with what he is asking of his schools it would send a clearer message of support. School sites have been asked to cut programs, eliminate teachers, increase class size, get rid of counselors and so on. Meanwhile he continues with his yearly $265K. What sacrifices is he making for the students of Oakland? He should be leading by example otherwise he fails to walk the talk. With a 10% cut in his salary, Tony Smith would still be making $238K which is no small change. He has compromised his credibility by failing to step up!
    Four more years of what? All I’ve seen is a plan with no measurable results. The bottom line is improved student achievement and where is there evidence that it’s happening. I encourage the board to look at the data.

  • Jenna

    Although Tony would not follow through with excellent quality in every classroom under my conditions I would love it if Tony Smith allowed the district to ONLY hire credentialed teachers or those in teaching credential programs to be allowed to substitute as the more high performing districts do.

    I see the most needy students with more substitutes than any other students. By making all substitutes be credentialed or currently ACTIVELY enrolled in credential programs every student would have access to a teacher that knows the curriculum, has knowledge of the minimum requirements of each grade and has had some training in classroom management beyond yelling and threatening.

    I do not think Tony will do this because he is of the mind that the tests of curricular knowledge are biased by race and socioeconomic status. As it is now the vast majority of substitutes I see in the four schools in which I volunteer cannot speak standard English, cannot teach math beyond third grade, do know the background knowledge for most grade level science and cannot edit writing. Many of these substitutes are in place for a week or more at a time. It costs the poorest students their legal right to a high quality education.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I wouldn’t say he’s done any instant magic, but I hardly think Oakland is going to do better — and we have certainly seen a lot worse. He seems competent, straightforward, not unduly condescending or combative, and seems at least superficially independent of any one pressure group.

    The district certainly feels a lot less “Queen of Hearts”/Alice in Wonderland under him, and that is something.

  • Jesse James

    I have felt ABSOLUTELY no difference with him at the helm. He has never visited my classroom as have all previous super’s in the past 20 years. I absolutely see no diifference. Mr.Moore, what tangible differences has he made? Please tell me. I don’t see any. The African American task force is an awesome idea but at my school is never discussed. At my school the proficiency rate of AA students is the same as special needs kids. Yet, we don’t discuss it or talk of ways to bring kids up. I just don’t see leadership from Dr. Smith, just talk.

  • Alice Spearman

    My question to the community:
    What do you want me to do? Look for another Superintendent? Then what waste another two to three years doing the same inquiries? There has to be some continuity or nothing will get done. Atleast we can hold him to his word. It is now up to your Board of Education to ensure things are done as promised. Make no mistake, all of his Stratagies will not be worked on in one year, I am looking for two priorities lifted out that will be done. I am listening.

  • jesse james

    Hold him accountable to make things happen, really hold him accountable. What has he done? How does he manage the Regional officers? How does he have them manage the principals? How will district staff, principals and teachers and district staff be held to the reforms?
    Which priorities? I would say bringing AA students and closing the achievement deficit, just the one.

  • Catherine

    Alice: What I would like to for you to look at the feasibility of Jenna’s suggestion. Since it is the Title 1 schools in the district who are most often without a regular classroom teacher as compared to the hills or slope schools, it would be great to at least have a credentialed substitute.

    Do not offer Tony Smith anything more than a two year contract. He has set goals for himself and his administration. In two years you will see whether he has met them. If he has not you can reduce his regular compensation and tie additional money to meeting the goals that he and his administration set.

    Talk about school safety. Eighteen lockdowns on one campus, sexual assaults that go unreported to avoid making Oakland and the district look bad, and students who saunter and dance in the middle of the streets and crosswalks adjacent to OUSD middle and high schools – all unacceptable behavior by students, parents and administration who do not do their jobs. Hold Tony accountable.

  • Catherine

    Also, Alice, one more thing. The district must begin to look at African American parents who have cultural and family behaviors that are counter productive to learning. Many of these are not having children to school on time, not helping with homework, not reading to children or listening to children read, hitting and spanking children as punishment and then expecting those same children not to hit others when they are in conflict, not teaching children how to prevent pregnancy and tying expectations to middle class values.

    While there are many, many ethnicities in Oakland, the vast majority of my students who misbehave are African American boys and girls. Schools are becoming more and more segregated as white, Asian and Hispanic parents and grandparents help in the classroom and witness disruptions up to 25% of class time. The parent/grandparents then move their children to other district schools to be with students whose behavior is more in line with their own youngsters.

    This may sound racist – it may feel racist, but it is the reality in my fourth grade/fifth grade combination classes six years running.

  • Yastrzemski

    What do you mean by “credentialed” substitute? Don’t all OUSD subs need AT LEAST a 30-day sub permit, which is only acquired by taking the CBEST and applying to the school district?

    I’m not sure what you are asking for, anyone with a clear single or multi-subject credential is going to work in a classroom for regular teacher pay, not the $118.00 (before tax) that we substitutes make.

    Are there substitutes that are working without the minimum 30-day permit?

    I’m just asking because I don’t know any subs working that have less than a HS diploma and a passing CBEST score.

  • Zinnia

    I simply cannot comprehend the contradiction posed by creating an expensive strategic plan document emphasizing community and “whole child” and then getting rid of adult ed and counselors. In addition to Tony taking a pay cut, we probably could get some Adult Ed and counselors for the money paid to put that document together.

  • Nextset

    CAtherine: All I can say to your story of how bad things are with the (problematic) Black Students is that if the troublemakers were written up and transferred to ditch digger schools, the remaining OUSD schools might be good schools where people of all colors wold be willing to send their kids. Like they used to be many decades ago.

    It’s wrong to mix bad children in with good no matter what the racial balance issues are. If the kids and their families don’t toe the line on behavior and deportment – get rid of them, don’t try to fix them. There is no other way to protect the school physically and it’s reputation.

  • JustTeach!

    Jesse- he doesn’t manage Regional Officers. He is the visionary. Maria Santos is the one calling ALL the shots. Alice, PLEASE have the board take a closer look at what she is doing. Do you ever ask the many talented people who leave the district why they are leaving? I personally know five people who have left specifically because of Maria Santos. Look at how many jobs she is creating centrally. Look at the outside consultants she brought in, specifically WestEd. Please. Schools are drowning and cental just keeps on growing. HELP!!!!

  • Teaches at Oak land School

    The CBEST is a joke. Anyone with a college education can pass it and any one with a high school diploma, assuming their high school diploma meant something, can pass it. Subs can teach any subject at all, no matter if they know anything about the subject or not. You can have a sub teaching science for 30 days who hasn’t had science since 10th or eleventh grade and who may have flunked it. You can have a sub with horrible grammar and spelling and no writing skills and who just barely passed the CBEST on the 5th try, teaching English to 6th graders for 30 days.

    I was a credentialed teacher who worked as a substitute for 10 years, 5 of them after receiving my preliminary credential because I could not compete with TSA and all the other special programs that put uncredentialed teachers in the classroom instead of teachers who have preliminary credentials. A teacher with a preliminary teacher these days has passed the CSET or MSAT so they are highly qualified. However, one can’t get a clear credential unless one can get a job.

    A sub starts at $118 a day, it goes up to $138 after 30 days and to $152 after 60. The sub pool is so big that unless I had teachers specially ask for me, I didn’t get the automated phone calls. There was no seniority system so we were vying with subs who had just started out. Catherine is right, subs should be credentialed teachers if the schools are going to do right by the students.

  • Yastrzemski

    @Teaches At Oak…I think that we need to be careful when statements are made about “uncredentialed” teachers. That is really not accurate. I think you mean intern teachers or ones who have passed the CSET and are working to clear their credential. OTF, TFA and the other programs require all of the those things you listed.

    My point was that a couple of the above posts made it sound like anyone could walk into a class, without ANY preparation and teach, again, not accurate.

    And, if you do the math…full-time substitute teaching makes about $20,000 or so each year, so why would someone who is able to get a job that can make double…a credentialed classroom teacher, only work as a sub?

    I can see your point of having a higher level of education or experience for long-term assignments, but most subbing is day-to-day or just a couple of days.

    Its not like there is a huge glut of teachers without jobs that would be able to cover ALL of the districts absences each day.

  • Catherine

    From OUSD new substitutes are required to have a Bachelor’s degree (current substitutes do not have to have any college degree), pass the CBEST (an 8th grade equivalent reading, math and writing test in which they need approximately 65% to pass) and three letters of recommendation from anyone.

    We are one of the few districts in the Bay Area that do not require a preliminary credential or higher. A preliminary credential means that you have done your coursework and you are No Child Left Behind certified. You would presumably have two years of mentoring or take additional coursework to increase knowledge in working with and differentiating classwork up and down the spectrum.

    Oakland pays its classroom teachers among the lowest starting salaries in the Bay Area. However the substitute pay is right in the middle and it is graduated based on the number of days. That is how you can see a high school graduate who passed the CBEST in a classroom in an Oakland High School teaching science or math or English to students for up to 30 school days. And repeating the stint after a break from another substitute.

  • Yastrzemski

    Catherine, why would anyone do all of that work, take the CSET (they are not easy) and then work as a substitute, for LESS pay, when they could be in their own class? (unless by choice!)

    You are totally right about some of the older subs, and some are truly terrible. But, there are some great ones too.

    And, I’m not sure you are correct about the amount of time a sub can work, it is 30 days TOTAL in 1 class/teacher per year, not 30 days, a break, and then 30 more.

  • Jesse James

    My principal, a “star”, has neglected to evaluate teachers for the past 4 years, starts PD topics and drops them, has created a bureaucracy where SST’s take months to be scheduled & I am stuck there as I mentioned previously. Yet this person is a star and will be promoted because test scores (but we are in PI for AA students), paperwork & BS are completed (shoveled) well. It’s difficult to feel supportive of a superintendent or his deputy who supports this. The school is not struggling and has quite a bit of money for supplementary services yet fails a large share of its community. But paperwork & BS trump achievement/success for all?

  • Harold

    @Catherine – yes, your post does sound racist. Please take your biases to another district. I know several people who are looking for a placement, so you don’t need to worry about us poor black folks in Oakland anymore.

    re: Dr. Smith … meh.

  • Livegreen

    Alice, I would ask that you consolidate into a clear list some of the notes people have stated here (in addition to other input), ask Tony both how he feels he’s doing on each one and which are his priorities, and then measure Tony on these.

    I agree we should probably keep Tony for consistency (changing and starting over yet again would be disruptive), but he still needs to show achievements, and be held accountable.

  • historyman@gmail.com

    Wow jesse james do we work at the same school? Sounds exactly like my school

  • Catherine

    Harold: Just today I saw an African American middle school student standing in the middle of the road holding his hand up in traffic (not in a crosswalk) to get a bus to stop only so he could impress his friends that were watching him.

    These are not poor black children – they are juvenile delinquents. Perhaps, Harold, you should volunteer in the classroom to help my students understand normal social and classroom behavior. I had seven students on task trying to learn today and three students who were “meson’ with) others by looking at them, making comments, kicking, knocking papers off desks. If the assigned work looked too difficult the same three students ripped papers and threw them around the classroom. Our principal, who is also African American, does not want to confront any African American parents with their children’s discipline problems. Ten other students in the class are swayed to be on task when my three troublesome students are not in class and are swayed to be off task when the three troublesome students are in class.

    Are there white, Latino and Asian students who misbehave, yes. However, they respond to staying after school. African American parents have threatened to slash my tires, have me “gone” and have shoved me.

    So, Harold, having us continue to let AA students continue to behave in a way that detracts learning means that eventually, you will have the very same two tier system that Tony Smith says he is going to do away with because children who want to learn and the parents who support them will find ways – through charters, lying about their address, moving and applying for and receiving intradistrict and interdistrict transfers. The district will soon be left with little money to help the misbehaving students succeed and no examples of positive behavior for others to model.

  • Harold

    @Catherine – You really like to generalize. I am black. I teach in Oakland, so I don’t have time to come to help out at your site… My well behaved black son attends an Oakland school. My wife and I, have never threatened, or harassed any of his Teachers. Actually, we support his classroom (every year) volunteering and with money for field trips, snacks, or whatever else we can provide.

    There are Teaching jobs in the surrounding districts, where you will find more of your preferred demographic.

  • Catherine

    Harold: I did not say there are no well behaved African American children.There are. Most come from two parent households with parents who were 25 or older before they had their first child. The child was usually planned when the students behave and learn the grade level curriculum and more.

    I teach at a school where the average age of the parents is about 15 – 17 years older than the child. Seven of my students have regular contact with both parents. Three live in household with two adults. I have two students with parents just 13 years older than the student depending on the month of the year. These are tough, tough kids. I don’t believe it is there fault. However, often they mimic what they see at home and they actively hurt others or harm the work of others.

    My guess is that your son does not attend an elementary school beyond 60th Avenue. His classroom has probably not had two to three lockdowns a month. I could be wrong. Just to let you know, if you really believe that someone would like to work in my school you should know that we average 55% or more turnover per year in teachers. Grade level collaboration is hard to come by because teachers burn out. Principals come and go. We had a vice-principal for part of the year. With budget cuts next year, we will probably not have a vice-principal. Also, more than half the class arrives from 5 to 29 minutes late. Of course in Oakland no child is considered tardy in elementary school unless he or she is 31 or more minutes late.

  • Harold

    @Catherine – I know people like to treat East Oakland like the “badlands” or worse … but there are hard-working families and improving schools in the East. I have friends who send their children to Grass Valley Elementary and Howard Elementary. They are thriving, east of 60th Ave.

  • joan

    I think Catherine raises some good points, and I am a parent, a minority, and an educator. What she describes happens everywhere- even in places like Lamorinda and Piedmont (the latter of which I have witnessed myself). We need to have zero tolerance for the kind of behavior she describes above (both of the parents and the students), just like it is done in other countries around the world who make do with so much, but have a stronger education system. Our culture needs to have a serious shift overall to make learning and respecting each other and our teachers at school a top priority. Until this happens, not much can be done.

  • joan

    * make do with so much LESS

  • Oakland Teacher

    It is amazing how this blog digresses off topic!

    I can’t even keep track of all the mud-slinging above, but want to comment on one thing I believe to be inaccurate:

    You must have a bachelor’s degree plus have passed CBEST (yes, it is very easy) plus have all the clearances done before you can be issued a 30-day emergency credential (=substitute) anywhere in California. I think the comments that a high school diploma plus passing CBEST are enough are untrue.

    Also, I want to commend most of the subs I know. Some of them are retired teachers (we love you for being willing), but most of them are incredibly hard working people who bring amazing classroom management and a very broad knowledge base to their jobs. Can they all teach Calculus or Spanish: of course not. Yes, it’s much easier to be able to teach content in elementary. I have found many subs who really enjoy getting to work on higher level skills with older students. But a good sub can find ways to make the time meaningful for a few days. Any teacher who does not cultivate relationships with good subs who know their subject and keep a list of phone numbers at the handy is missing out. It makes it so nice for everyone when you can just call someone you “know”. I am rarely absent (0-1 sick days yearly), but usually take personal leave days just to maintain relationships with a sub and have someone with familiarity with my classroom/set up.

  • J.R.

    “in Oakland no child is considered tardy in elementary school unless he or she is 31 or more minutes late”.

    WOW! Is that true? I bet some kids take advantage of that.

    This is one of those times where people on both sides of the argument are telling true facts. Yes there are hardworking families striving to do better, and there are also many that are dysfunctional and crazy and could care less about education.The core problem remains a catch-22 situation there is a lack of jobs and too much criminality. Businesses do not want to invest in a risky environment without enough skilled labor, and especially in a community where people are just not making education their first priority. We have societal breakdown because we have people who need government(taxpayers) to get through life, and the problem comes when the taxpayers are tapped out and their money has been wasted.

  • Yastrzemski

    @ Oakland Teacher….Thank you, you got my point across better than I did.

    As a sub for the past 7 years, it is great to hear something positive from the classroom teachers. It took me several years to cultivate relationships with teachers and a couple of schools in order to be requested and not be in the cheque with all of the OUSD subs waiting for jobs.

  • Katy Murphy

    UPDATE: The Oakland school board has just unanimously extended Tony Smith’s contract through June 2015.

    Smith: “I can’t tell you how much it means to me that it’s unanimous, that it’s for four years. I’m committed to every one of those. “

  • Lamorinda Parent

    My children used to attend OUSD schools, but we moved last summer to Lamorinda. So happy that we did. The student population is much better behaved here than in Oakland. Kids get to school on time, with their homework done. The teachers expect better behavior. Bullying is taken very seriously and is dealt with when it does come up. Children attend preschool and education is supported in the home environment. Schools have greater resources which can help students that are behind as well as those who wish to excel. The education system here is everything that we had heard and more. Not sure why we waited as long as we did, but we’re so glad that our children are no longer at OUSD.

    @ Tony Smith. You’ve got high goals and it will be amazing if you can accomplish even some of them. Pls consider creating magnet middle schools to offer your high performing students in Oakland a viable option to mingle with educationally minded and better behaved peers. The scary OUSD middle school situation is one of the reasons we fled OUSD.

    @ Catherine, I appreciate your honesty. I don’t know how you manage in that environment. Good luck.

    @ Joan, you said that stuff happens in Piedmont and Lamorinda too. Yes, I’ve seen some bad behavior and bullying even in Lamorinda, but the difference is that far fewer children are involved and the schools and district have a no tolerance policy. There is little to no problem of teenage pregnancy and parents who are just 13 or 15 or even 20 years old than their children (see Catherine’s posts about this being one of the biggest problems she sees at her school). True, the diversity is lower, but honestly, this has allowed middle class values to flourish and at this stage in the education of my children, I want them to be in a safe, non-disruptive, caring and supportive environment (albeit one that is mainly Caucasian and Asian).

    To all you parents who are on the fence about relocating to a better district, what are you all waiting for? The grass really is greener over here.

  • livegreen

    Its NOT true that “in Oakland no child is considered tardy in elementary school unless he or she is 31 or more minutes late”.

    Maybe different schools have different policies (or some have more lenient ones for their own benefit) but my observation is a tardy is 15 minutes late, more or less. How do I know? 1x we were that late, the attendance report was already in the office , so I went there and they made the adjustment.

    If some schools make it a policy to hold and adjust their attendance reports, then that helps the district, but not necessarily the kids.

    On the other hand, if the school doesn’t have the resources to deal with parents with chronic tardies, then what’s the point?

    The discipline issue is one that OUSD really needs to look into. One observation on kids who can’t sit still (whatever the race): too much TV! Though I’ve not read it, I’ve been told that research shows kids who watch too much TV have shortened attention spans.

    If true, the District really needs to get info out to parents about the consequences!
    Does anybody know if this iis true, or not? Or about research on the subject?

  • Dante

    Ms. Spearmen,

    You are listening..so I think you should recognize that their is no real plan for middle and high schools in the district. These places are some of the dangerous places in OUSD. All of the work is low for blacks and latinos and too much excuses from teachers. They let us act like fools cause we know they’re scared of us.Many wont say that but I will.

    I go to a charter in East oakland and though you may not think they are doing anything different than ousd- the classes are smaller, they teach, the all know us, and the stay after school and on weekend to work with us. Most importantly Ms Spearman, I saw teachers checked when they werent doing what they were suppossed to be doing, and some fired for giving us a little work.

    Will OUSD do that? NO. I have been there.

    So, if you care about Oakland kids you would give charter schools more chance to compete and open schools if they are doing better than OUSD schools.

    Thats how I see it. By the way, our teacher shared with us an article in the wall street journal where the black students and families are suing the NAACP for supporting bad schools to protect black union teachers and attacking NY charter schools….man that is ridiculous and I hope you will not be as scandolous as that. If you are for the community and this sup is for the the community…then you will allow good schools to operate no matter what they are..

  • OUSD Classified Employee

    Just business as usual! After telling certificated and classified employees how important it is that we all sacrifice for the good of the children, what exactly is he sacrificing? And all of these Asst. Supt. who are making $150K+ per year, what have they sacrificed? NOTHING! It is easy to talk about sacrifice when you don’t have to give anything up. Another 140 classified positions cut after the 200 cut last year? Who do you think is going to run your Payroll, Accounts Payable, HR, etc? Do you think Tony is going to do it? No, he’s going to make everyone reapply for their jobs for the third time in five years. Why don’t the people making these decisions ever have to reapply? And, as if in an attempt to prove their incompetence, with all of this thought that went into their big redesign, do you know that none of the Manager positions (English, Math, New Teacher Support, etc.) for LCI have been posted yet? That is, as of July 1, the dozen or so Managers of various subjects areas no longer have positions. THEY HAVEN’T POSTED MANAGER POSITIONS THAT ARE MEANT TO START ON JULY 1! Are we just going to run amuck for several weeks until they can hire managers for all of the employees? They have wonderful ideas but absolutely no ability to actually execute the ideas. If you can’t understand how to work with hiring timelines, you simply cannot run a public institution with collectively-bargained contracts, etc. It can’t be done. This administration will go the same way as all recent ones here – they’ll be down the road the first chance they get for a better job and we’ll all start this redesign dance again before his contract is up!

  • Frustrated and fed up

    Alice, Katy: Echoing another commentator: Please, please, please, please investigate Maria Santos! Yes, her contract with WestEd – when the WestEd presenter began the first day, presenting to all the principals, she spoke of how she and Maria are close friends and have been for 25 years. And principals HATED that PD. Please demand that Tony take responsibility for knowing what she’s doing and how contradictory her actions and leadership is to his vision and approach. And yes, many brilliant OUSD leaders and educators have left because of her, and more are about to leave.

  • Katy Murphy

    Betty Olson-Jones also said she was concerned about the role of WestEd in OUSD. I did an agenda search, and found contracts with WestEd going back to 2003. (You can look for them here: http://ousd.legistar.com/Legislation.aspx.)

    With respect to this particular nonprofit, what’s different now? Is a larger contract in the works?

  • Alice Spearman

    I did vote to continue our current Superintendents contract, mainly for continuity and to see if he really is going to accomplish some of the things he has pointed out. I am watching and evlauating. I do not agree with some of the implementation practices being utilized at this time however remember I am only one vote on that board. I think the board is watching closley, only time will tell here. Thank all of you for your suggestions, many board members read this blog and it does have an effect. Let me suggest you all watch the board meetings which are televised live and mainstreamed also. You can see what questions are asked, answered, more importantly contacts which are approved. Oh, West Ed was here in the district long before Ms. Santos arrived.
    Catherine, I am really concerned that a person with your understanding about Black Children is allowed to be in classrooms with them. It is my experience if a person really feels and thinks the way you do, you will not get the respect from the children, translated, they will exhibit any behavior which they want. When in this culture Black Parents are thrown under the bus as far as services vs other parents of need, what do you expect. These parents were not given the opportunity of bing taught corrctly, many of them are drop outs and do not know the value of education, regardless of their circumstances of growing up in this society, you must be taught, and sadley they were not. If we put energy into reaching out and helping them to see there are other options, then you get the same status and you witness.
    When I have walked into classromms where it is obvious a teacher does not have the respect of the children, and I recieve it right away, something is wrong. It is what you expect from your students and their parents. A person knows right away where your thoughts are, you get what you bring. I truly suggest you seek another school district to work in, it would better for you and more importanly the children.
    These are just my opinions, and forgive any mispellings I might make, ( I do not know how to use spell check in this box).

  • Livegreen

    Ms. Spearman, I agree with you that generalizations should not be made by race. However there is a serious problem with children who do not sit still in class. Some of this is teacher control, but one cannot pretend that is all it is.

    Sometimes it is that children do not have enough regulated outdoor activity. Sometimes it is lack of discipline. And sometimes it is too much TV. I’m sure there are a variety of other reasons.

    But when it comes to parents responsibility you say ” It is what you expect from your students and their parents.”. So if some of these problems start at home, it’s still the teacher’s fault?

    Also, re: “These parents were not given the opportunity of bing taught corrctly, many of them are drop outs and do not know the value of education, regardless of their circumstances of growing up in this society, you must be taught, and sadley they were not.” You might be right, but where does the money come from to also do parent education? Does OUSD have it in their budget, or do you need foundation grants? What if the parents don’t want to be educated? Is it then still the fault of the teacher?

    If we put energy into reaching out and helping them to see there are other options, then you get the same status and you witness.” What does this mean exactly? I’m sincerely having trouble understanding it.

  • J.R.

    It’s all about expectations, and if you want to live in a civil and educated society everyone has to step up and do whats right. Teachers should not be expected to be parents(they aren’t paid for that),educators are paid to educate. If they have to spend time dealing with attitude problems it will cut down on instructional time. Those kids who come prepared and eager to learn are being cheated in their education by disruptive students(and by extension their parents). How can this be tolerated you may ask? ADA money$$$$$$$$$$$$$ because even though the parents of some incorrigible students don’t pay taxes, the child is still worth 10K + per year in tax money to the district. In my estimation Catherine has a right to be frustrated and I have witnessed incidents such as she described. Things will not change until we expect better because respect and decency are a must for a civilized society to function.

  • Catherine


    Thank you for your opinion. Please know that I open my classroom to all students at 7:45 am and keep my classroom open four days a week until 4:30 pm. When I describe the students with severe behavior problems these are all students who have been suspended at least twice a year for severe behavior issues for several years before they arrived in my class. I believe I am given the majority of the students with Extremely SEVERE behavior issues because I do not send them to the office unless they are an extreme danger to themselves or others. Everyone of the African American students I described has been suspended for hitting, kicking, punching and/or chocking other students and/or teachers.

    When I distributed the CST Scantron three of the students described either tore up the forms and threw them on the ground or wadded the form and threw it across the room. Feel free to blame me for my attitude and my classroom management. Fair enough. You should also look at the teachers and principals of the other OUSD schools who forced these same students out and into our school.

    My sons attended schools in Gary Yee’s region. Both of them knew Mr. Eye on sight because he visited the schools, classrooms and assemblies. We have not seen our board representative at our school, much less in our classrooms. I invite you to visit classrooms and look at the CUM files of these students you believe we are targeting so disrespectfully, after you see the the damage the students and their parents have chosen to do to human beings and school property you may soften your stance.

  • Catherine

    My spell correction changed Mr. Yee to Mr. Eye. Sorry

  • Gordon Danning

    Ms. Spearman:

    Several posters, including you, have made reference to students who are disruptive or who lack discipline. Yet, if I am not mistaken, the District rates principals in part on the extent to which they reduce suspensions. That discourages principals from disciplining disruptive students. When will the District end that counter-productive policy?

  • Yastrzemski

    Catherine, I’m sure that you are putting in the hours you say, but that is actually a standard day in most of Oakland’s charter schools. My kids have an 8 period day and 7:45 is the latest that the teachers at their school have to be in the classrooom. We have tutoring before and after school, until 6 PM for the students.

    I think the major difference is that ANY child who did what your students with their tests would get their butts kicked out of school.

    OUSD allows that kind of behavior. As Mr. Danning says, if it reflects poorly on the principal, then these problem students are allowed to stay or put on the ridiculous “in-school” or “unofficial” suspension, which means a busy adult is babysitting them for the day.

    The kids know nothing is going to happen to them, so why bother behaving? You can be the best teacher around, but if you do not get ANY support when disciplining the problem students, they take advantage.

    We should be suspending more…not less…it is supposed to deter them from these behaviors.

  • Turanga_teach

    Suspension in and of itself is often ineffective and at times counterproductive: I can’t tell you how many students I’ve worked with who see it as a relief to get a few days away from a situation they know they can’t handle. It’s worth noting that this feeling, though, is often absolutely shared by the teacher and the classmates: on a short-term level at least, things genuinely go more smoothly for everyone when a child who can’t cope or isn’t coping with a classroom situation isn’t in the classroom situation.

    Going beyond punitive discipline is more difficult and more necessary; it’s not something that, even with the best of intentions, every teacher can do by herself in a vacuum. We’ve cut counseling, we’ve increased class sizes, we’ve taken out a lot of the “frills” (art, music, hands on science, physical activity)that allow students to be successful beyond reading and math, we’ve turned principals into CEOs instead of master teachers and emotional guides, we’ve pulled back on special education pull-out or SDC services without pushing in the practices and supports that might allow struggling learners to succeed within the general classroom, and the lean budgets of most schools don’t allow for the extensive intervention services needed by most students at great risk…and we’ve done all of this, understandably, I guess, against a societal backdrop in which most families are finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat. What, exactly, are we expecting to have happen?

  • Gordon Danning


    No one is arguing that suspension in and of itself is the answer, nor that intervention isnt valuable. But I don’t think that any expert would argue that intervention alone is effective, in the absence of punitive discipline as well. That’s the point: We have virtually no punitive discipline, and principals who implement it are punished.

    After all, WHY would a student cooperate with an intervention if there are no penalties for misbehavior. Misbehavior, after all, is FUN – that’s why kids do it. Why would they want to stop?

    Moreover, your implicit argument that misbehavior is a function of increased class size and cancelled art programs is not borne out by my experience at Oakland High, where we have thus far done pretty much none of those things (but we will do some next year). Things were just as bad a five, ten and 15 years ago.

    A final note, and perhaps some student here can back me up — the motivated students HATE the disruptive students. One student this year suggested that we needed a “Ghetto [behavior] eradication program.” So, sure, have lots of intervention, but enforce the rules,too, unless we want every hardworking kid to go to a charter.

  • J.R.

    The difficulties in society, and economic problems have nothing to do with the inability to rectify these problems. These problems have existed for decades long before reformers and or the economic downturn. This is a problem rooted in lack of respect,civility and moral character. Money does not buy any of those.