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.
Vernon Hal presented the second reading — and the 12th version — of the superintendent’s budget proposal. The district, he said, would have $3 million less in 2011-12 than it had projected, based on some new information. In light of that change, and the governor’s recent budget veto, board member David Kakishiba backed off his budget adjustments proposal, which would have protected adult education from some further cuts. (The budget is approved next week, on June 29.)
Noel Gallo suggested the board sell the prime piece of real estate upon which the OUSD crumbling old headquarters sits and use that money to pay off the district’s state debt.
The District English Language Advisory Council presented a report — its first in years — detailing concerns about OUSD’s programs for English learners, including reports of children who were enrolled in English-only programs against their parents wishes, as well as schools that don’t offer English language development programs. (More on this and other items later)
Three very different charter schools presented their petitions — with strikingly different reactions from the school board: Urban Montessori, Rocketship Education and Legacies of Excellence. (This, too, deserves its own blog entry.) Legacies of Excellence, whose petitioners said they would seek to enroll children with behavioral challenges into its agricultural-themed middle school in East Oakland, received a warm reception — and, unlike the other two groups, they were not personally insulted by any board members.
Then there was an issue with district contracts, timing and transparency with respect to the Oakland Schools Foundation, which had performed services for schools before their contracts came before the school board.
That’s all I’ve got tonight: news a mile wide and an inch deep.