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.


Katy Murphy

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

  • Jessica Stewart

    Here’s a video of one of the speakers at the press conference: http://youtu.be/uBVDgWbbfpc.

  • Jenna

    Katy: My son’s teacher was just told by the principal that there is too much pressure to get good scores on the tests. The principal wants her to focus on the students’ self-esteem.

    The writing should not be corrected if it is “home English” because the students will have less confidence and fewer good feelings about their parents.

    The teacher said that this decision was after principals met for several days at an offsite meeting.

    Do you have any other information? So little writing is corrected and I really don’t care about my feelings or my son’s feelings as much as I care that he learns to write well and can get into a good college.

  • livegreen

    Watching this meeting, if Ms. Spearman let some of the panelists speak a little bit more, we would get to the meat of the matter a lot faster. To effectively watch this meeting, whenever Ms. Spearman speaks, listen to her first two minutes to get her point, then fast forward…

    Oh, and you can see the meeting video here:


  • J.R.

    Thanks Livegreen, I noticed it also. Betty OJ spent every answer hitting union talking points(it is entirely obvious where her concerns are). I appreciated when the Doctor soundly refuted Bettys concern about NCLB, and testing narrowing curriculum. Kids were under-performing and not graduating in large numbers long before NCLB, and teacher unions weren’t overly concerned at that time.The relationship between elementary curriculum concept proficiency and performance later in life seems to elude many of these people. I don’t like testing mania but some testing is necessary and crucial to show what one knows and what they don’t. NCLB is not responsible for the decades of incompetence that preceded it, that is simply misdirection.

  • http://www.examiner.com/bahai-15-in-oakland/angela-shortt Angela Shortt

    Hello Jenna,
    I know your question was directed to Katy, but I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with the issue that you are facing. Let me explain: I teach English, but for many reasons, I don’t teach in schools. When I was English teaching assistant in graduate school many years ago, I became a “fixer” (my own term), which meant that when professors became impatient/disgusted/enraged about their students’ inability to write a coherent university-level paper, they would send these students to me. I was the in-between, meaning I understood the language of the academy and informal usage, commonly known as slang. Some students do not realize that there is a difference, and even when they do, they are unable to articulate and write in an academic manner.

    I told these students they needed to become “bi-lingual in English”, meaning that they had to acquire “the language of wider communication”. This involves writing in a way that makes reading easy for the reader. Grammar rules makes the process of understanding the writer’s meaning possible. There is nothing wrong with the way students talk to their friends and family members. It’s simply inappropriate when a person needs to speak and write to audiences outside of friends and family. There is a standard way of writing to be understood, and the K-12 system is supposed to give students a foundation in this type of writing.

    This is the crux of the problem, in my opinion. We have failed to teach reading and writing effectively to students who may not have been exposed to reading materials at home.(Reading advances and strengthens writing skills.) Teaching writing need not be complicated, in fact, I have yet to encounter a curriculum that simplifies the process the way my graduate school mentors did. This information is not hidden. It exists in many university English departments. Why it is missing from the K-12 curricula is a mystery to me. (I probably shouldn’t complain about this too much because I am paid to teach these writing techniques to professional adults.

    Jenna, I understand your concern, and it is valid. There is nothing wrong with informal usage, but schools need to make sure students have the tools to communicate beyond that. The question now is how to get that done without spending unnecessary funds re-inventing the wheel. Universities know how to do this. This information needs to make its way into the K-12 schools.

  • Peggy Hakanson


    I worked very effectively as an instructional assistant in OUSD for 4 years at Havenscourt M.S. The job was tough working with 6-8th grade students who were resource, but I learned to scaffold curricula to their level, writing much of it myself. (We were missing rudimentary supplies and most materials did not work for this group.)

    I left this job to go to Cal after finishing two AA degrees while working. I graduated with high honors in Disability Studies and signed a contract to work for OUSD while attending Project Pipeline.

    However, OUSD called me weeks before starting and verbally broke their contract with me stating I wasn’t a “good fit” for their school district. This almost ended my teaching career then and there, but I received a good offer of working for an MDUSD middle school instead and was allowed to stay in the Pipeline program.

    I worked an average of 80 hours per week in my job as an SDC teacher in Concord, traveling 3 hours per day on mass transit. However, I loved the work and enjoyed collaborating with general ed teachers. I would take my students into all classes and team teach, giving extra help to any students so that mine were not singled out.

    The difficulties I encountered were from administration who held test scores over our heads like the sword of Damacles. It also would cause dissention and finger-pointing among teachers as to who was responsible…usually ending up with special ed taking the blame.

    In addition to this, the myriad hours spent on paperwork for meetings and special testing took its toll on my schedule. Getting all teachers, administrators, and specialists to come to IEP meetings was like pulling teeth here. Many meetings had to be rescheduled more than once.

    In spite of the problems and the exhausting hours, I was loving my work and keeping up with my night and weekend classes for Pipeline. I had much background to draw from in this profession from having raised my own children with disability before going back to school. I also had experience from medical work I had done as well.

    After graduating from Pipeline, I decided to find a job closer to home. I was to take a resource position in a high school, but the school district had lied to me and pushed me into a resource position in an elementary school, a move that was not up my alley! I found out later, that this position had been held by 8 people over the last 6 years and I found out why after I started working here. When the situation became untenable, I left.

    I now work for a non-profit with adults who have cognitive delays and physical disability. I love my work every day and I am NOT allowed to work over my prescribed hours. The administration is straight with the employees and considers our needs when making decisions.

    As you can see it takes much education and exhausting work hours to make it in special education in our K-12 system. If I had known in advance how much it would take out of me, how many resources would come out of my own pocket, and how little respect I would have been afforded today, I think I would have followed my second choice of medical researcher.

    It’s a good thing that I remained so clueless or I would not have received the opportunity to work with such amazing students. However, if anyone today asks me what I think about becoming a teacher, I would tell them my truth of what happened to me.

    I commend the teachers who are trying to be catalysts for positive change in the profession. It definitely needs to change in order to attract the best educators for our very deserving children.

  • Nextset

    Peggy Hakanson: “If I had known in advance how much it would take out of me, how many resources would come out of my own pocket, and how little respect I would have been afforded today, I think…”

    Peggy, this is why we teach children to do their homework – and to learn research which they are to incorporate into their day to day lives. We teach children to be no one’s victim, to run their life – not to let their life run them. This is true for those in training to be blue collar workers or scientists.

    You are not a victim. You entered education because it pleased you to do so and you remained in a bad situation despite the ski slope full of red flags for some reason of your own (that was good enough for you at the time). You can’t complain you are a victim here. OUSD is what it is, and that is not concealed at all.

    Good luck with your career. Continue to change to better employers, continue to leave bad employers.

    Speaking of testing, I found this on AdamYoshida.Com:


  • J.R.

    Good article, thanks for that one. Everyone should read it, but most won’t…….