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Archive for February, 2012

Kaiser Elementary School has its day

It’s not just leap day in Oakland. Feb. 29, 2012 has been proclaimed Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary School Day. A Kaiser mom forwarded me this proclamation from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. I didn’t know mayors did that. Has your school ever had its day?

The document is admittedly hard to read in this size, so here’s an excerpt:

Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary School is to be commended for its unwavering dedication to providing a place where diverse cultures are honored and celebrated, fostering academic excellence and creativity, and imparting the tools necessary for self motivation and independence that are required of well-rounded, reflective and socially aware individuals.

Mayor's proclamation

Posted on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Under: elementary schools | 20 Comments »

iPads in schools

student_ipad_school - 234
photo from flickingerbrad’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Calling all East Bay teachers and principals (from public and private schools): Do you use iPads in your classrooms or hope to adopt them soon? Have they been a valuable tool?

We’re working on a story on the subject, and we’d love to include your stories and insights. Tell us, if you would, what subject and grade-level you teach and how you use this technology — or how you might use it if your school could afford them.

On that note, I’d also like to know your school found the money for these tablets — grant funding? PTA donations? Some other source?

If you’re interested in being interviewed for the story, just send me an email telling me so: kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012
Under: teachers, technology | 13 Comments »

For some Oakland teachers, a job re-application

As we reported on Saturday night, teachers on Oakland’s Fremont and Castlemont campuses and at McClymonds High School have recently learned that if they want to stay at their schools they will have to reapply. And soon.

The Oakland school district administration says it will replace the current, 10-month teaching positions with an 11-month (204-day) job with a different job description entitled “Accelerated TSA,” for teacher-on-special-assignment.

Fremont and Castlemont are undergoing a second major transformation, as the small schools on each campus merge back into one. McClymonds already merged, in 2010, but OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said Mack was included in the plan because it, along with Fremont and Castlemont, is one of “the three highest-need schools in historically under-served neighborhoods.”

Flint said the change will allow the district to “hand pick”  teachers that are willing to fulfill the new role, which is designed to improve student achievement at those schools. The job description is likely to include such requirements as submitting weekly lesson plans and using data to inform instruction — things that many teachers already do, but that aren’t necessarily mandatory, he said.

Teachers in the new positions would be paid at the same rate they are now; with the additional time, he said, the average teacher would earn roughly $4,000 more per year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012
Under: high schools, initiatives, teachers, Tony Smith | 68 Comments »

“We are Oakland International,” a graphic novel

"We Are Oakland" book cover

Students at Oakland International High School have come to California from all around the world — most of them, in the last few years. Through a project led by art teacher Thi Bui, the teenagers have told their stories in graphic novel form.

I wrote about this project in the fall of 2010; now the collection of stories is coming out in a book.

The book launch is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St. The event is in the teen zone on the second floor.

Books are $25 — and, if you go, you’ll get a signed copy. You can also find it on Amazon.

Oakland International book release

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Under: English learners, high schools, students, teachers | No Comments »

Oakland considers a different kind of charter school

Two Oakland elementary schools whose attempted breakaway from the district was recently denied (by the district) are taking a different approach in their quest for independence. Tonight, the principals of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits turned in revised charter conversion applications — this time, for “partnership charters,” which would work closely with OUSD and its five-year strategic plan.

The faculties at both schools voted last fall to separate from the district in order to have more control over staffing, finances, curriculum and scheduling — conditions they said they felt all public schools should have. It was a blow to the district, and it came out as the board was holding its contentious school closure hearings.

But in recent weeks, district staff and the leaders of the two would-be charters — brought together by OUSD’s general counsel, Jackie Minor — have been negotiating a compromise.

Unlike other charter schools in OUSD, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits would chip in to pay down the district’s enormous debt from its 2003 meltdown and state bailout loan, a bill that comes to $6 million a year. They would also buy services from the district, including professional development and school meals, and its teachers and administrators would participate in some trainings and collaborative workshops with their district counterparts.

Students would enroll exclusively through the district’s student assignment process (though that doesn’t mean they’ll have more room for students displaced from closed schools),  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Under: charter schools, elementary schools, School board news, small schools | 23 Comments »

“Mutual matching” off the table in Oakland

There will be no mutual matching in OUSD this spring. Without the support it needed from the Oakland Education Association, the OUSD administration says it’s run out of time to reach an agreement with union leaders and implement changes to its teacher transfer policies for the upcoming school year.

There will be some changes for the 50-plus teachers displaced by school closure and other circumstances — such as time to visit some prospective schools — but their seniority rights remain fully in place. Which means that principals at the receiving schools won’t really be hiring them. Vacancies that open after May 1 will be subject to a review panel, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones said.

Do you think this is the best outcome for the district and/or its teachers? Do you think it’s something the district should consider in the future?

Posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Under: initiatives, teachers, Tony Smith | 22 Comments »

The Oakland Way


Get Microsoft Silverlight

Discussions are underway for radically changing how things work for Oakland school district employees and the students they serve.

Like a good newspaper lede, the opening line of the below human resources document makes you want to keep on reading — despite the fact that it’s an HR document.

“Current OUSD Human Resource practices are failing children,” it begins.

The ideas put forth in the discussion paper embedded below are comprehensive and wide-ranging, from strengthening relationships with local teacher colleges to creating “career ladders” for teachers, updating antiquated job classifications and lobbying state lawmakers make changes in the law with respect to labor rules.

One bullet point suggests that the district “assertively pursue separation for those whose service undermines the success of our children” — a topic that’s later couched, euphemistically, as a transition (i.e. helping ineffective staff find “future opportunities outside the district”).

The meeting was interesting too — more so than most, at least to me. The leaders of four different unions each had 12 minutes to contribute to the discussion. You can watch the video of the meeting here.

I’d give it a listen, especially to what Morris Tatum (AFSCME) and Mynette Theard (SEIU) had to say about the marginalization — and potential — of support staff, a topic that rarely surfaces at board meetings. If you really want to know what’s happening with the students, Tatum said, just ask the custodian. Both leaders said their members would like to be asked their opinions from time to time, or invited to meetings. (On the other hand, Tatum said, classified staff are often afraid to pipe up, worried their position will be cut.)

What do you think of this “discussion paper?” What ideas jump out to you?

The Oakland Way

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Under: OEA, OUSD central office, School board news, school reform, students, teachers | 39 Comments »

OUSD’s strategic plan — and your place in it

On Tuesday evening, I’ll be speaking on a panel convened by the League of Women Voters about the strategic plan the Oakland school board adopted last year. The event, from 6-8 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, is titled “The Promise and the Challenge.”

I’ve been invited to talk about the role the community should — or needs to — play in meeting the plan’s goals. It’s a good thing I have a few days to do my homework first (and that I have this blog!), as the answer isn’t clear to me.

What about you? As a parent, neighbor, volunteer, or OUSD employee, do you feel you have a sense of your place in the work outlined in the strategic plan? If so, I’d love to hear what it is — and how you learned about it.

If you aren’t really sure about what the plan is or how you might fit into it, do you have suggestions for the district’s leaders about how to spread the word and call to action more widely?

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Under: community, families, initiatives, OUSD central office, School board news, Tony Smith | 20 Comments »

OUSD board might give local schools more control

Remember the Oakland school board’s Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting? It’s meeting now, and teachers, parents and administrators are at the table to discuss the issues. Oakland Community Organizations — which believes schools need more control over curriculum, budget, staffing and scheduling — held a news conference before the session.

You can watch the meeting live, here. And you’ll find relevant documents here.

Below, from a draft document, is an excerpt of the board’s statement of intent:

The Board of Education believes that those closest to students at a school — principals, teachers, classified employees, parents, and students — are generally in the best position to know and to effectively address the specific academic, social and emotional needs of the students.

 

Posted on Monday, February 13th, 2012
Under: budget, community, families, initiatives, OUSD central office, teachers | 8 Comments »

Shifting demographics and a shrinking school-age population

WEST OAKLAND CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS
photo by Laura A. Oda/staff photographer

We ran a story Sunday about shifting demographics in inner-city neighborhoods such as West Oakland — changes which have resulted in fewer school-age children in the area and declining public school enrollment.

Oakland, as a whole, lost 20 percent of its 5- to 17-year-olds between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. census; in West Oakland, it was 31 percent. (You can find a spreadsheet of West Oakland school enrollment trends here.)

I spent months looking for explanations and stories behind the census data, and we plan to continue following some of those threads in future pieces. One issue I want to explore, for example, is the school district’s school choice policy, put in place in 2005, which allows families to enroll their kids at schools with available space outside their local attendance boundaries.

What do you see happening in the area 10 years from now?

A CALL FOR INTERVIEWS: I’d love to talk to West Oakland residents with children 17 and younger about the educational options in their neighborhood and beyond. I’d also like to hear from African Americans who left West Oakland about why they left and what their lives are like now, wherever they are.

You can reach me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Posted on Monday, February 13th, 2012
Under: enrollment, families | 13 Comments »