The Oakland Way

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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

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    What a joke.

    Saw this on LewRockwell.Com today: http://www.thenewamerican.com/opinion/sam-blumenfeld/10848-public-education-the-sick-dinosaur-on-fed-life-support

    Interesting point of view. He speaks of training masses of children for jobs in the military industrial complex as if it’s a bad thing…

    The current urban public schools teach the proletariat for the prison-industrial complex…I’m sure that’s a bad thing. I’ll take the job training anyday.

    Nobody cares about OUSD’s latest harebrained scheme to reinvent the wheel. What we want is the black reading levels to come up to 1964 levels and the adolescent behavior to return to 1964 levels of crime, VD and bastardy and driver’s licensure, better numbers.

    Unless the current numbers are the better ones. I don’t think they are.

  • Debora

    Katy: I was at a recent differentiation certification workshop on a Saturday. The series of four workshops focuses on differentiating the state standards. We work on lesson planning for depth and complexity of student thinking and student work. Because it is a Saturday, no substitutes are required. The total cost $500. It includes lunch each day and all materials. It is taught by current and former classroom teachers who have used the strategies they teach. One Oakland teacher was in attendance – a bright, reflective teacher from Lakeview Elementary. There were also a large number of teachers from Alameda and Dublin and a smaller number from Hayward, Newark, Gilroy and several other districts.

    We have so much money we spend on consultants who train our teachers on the latest program we have “invested” in. I believe that classroom teachers know how to teach. They are bright and educated enough to review the state standards and incorporate them into student learning. The best teachers I have ever observed, worked with and witnessed test scores of were teachers who did not use any recommended Oakland textbooks or materials. They developed the curriculum from scratch using the state standards as their guide. These teachers – to be fair they were elementary and middle school teachers – taught the entire range of the state standards. For elementary school that means reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, social studies (which incorporates history, but is not exclusively history), geography, handwriting, science (physical, life, environmental, earth and hands on investigations), mathematics (computation and true mathematics with hands on project learning), art, music, dance, drama, technology and oral presentations in each subject – in elementary school – in middle school the same thing was done in the core subjects.

    In Oakland we have opted for trends. The things we have done correctly as a district is we have acknowledged the institutionalized racism in our society. However, we allow textbooks in our classrooms that reinforce that racism and call them good textbooks – so valuable that we not only teach from them we spend tens of thousands of dollars to “train” teachers to use them “effectively” in the class.

    I hear the words “equity” over and over again. In our society I don’t know how to make the world of education “equitable.” In the name of “equity” we have taken away fairness and justice. It is not fair or just to allow students with high emotional and physical needs to take away learning from 29 other students. It is not fair to say that in about 5 hours a day with little homework all of the state standards can be met in elementary school. I say five hours per day because after factoring in recess, or passing periods, lunch, assemblies, anti-bullying, and work habit training (usually a school-wide teaching of positive social values) there are five hours left in the day. To have rigorous teaching and learning students must work, and work very hard. In the vast majority of schools in Oakland, I do not see the majority of students in each classroom focused on learning. They do not arrive on time to class, have their books open, and pencils ready when the school start time begins.

    We say that we test students too much, however, from my own personal experience private schools give many more tests per month than any public school I have seen. Middle school is a good example – private school three to four tests per week, unit tests every three weeks in several subjects, mid-terms and final exams. Assessing student learning needs to be done frequently to insure students are building on previous knowledge. Testing should not be done as true-false or multiple choice. Assessments should be fill-in answers, choose from a column of possible answers and beginning in second grade, should have an essay component. The tests should be graded promptly and students with a score of less than 80% should have to correct their tests and resubmit them for an averaged score between the two tests.

    Teachers must have the right and willingness to develop curriculum at the grade level in which they teach. The teachers must be held accountable for all standards at the grade level. Teachers must have classroom management skills that are conducive to student learning – HOWEVER – the equitable part of learning is that principals must deal swiftly and effectively with students who consistently disrupt learning – regardless of the race or ethnicity of the child. I have witnessed excellent teachers who forgive bad, even very bad behavior because of the ethnicity of a student or their English learner status. It is shameful because it takes away from all students being able to learn and specifically teaches the student(s) in question that they are not accountable for their action, words and overall behavior.

    The research is clear that students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school. And the evidence is equally clear and compelling that students who are not challenged in school are also at risk for dropping out, suicide and emotional problems including drug and alcohol use and cutting (as in cutting ones skin and bleeding). Evidence supports grade-skipping, grouping by ability across grade levels and giving student opportunities to demonstrate thinking and learning more deeply that current classroom practices allow. Oakland has decided that serving these these high ability students does not create equity and has chosen not to do so. According to Tony Smith 40% of high ability learners leave Oakland at the end of fifth grade. If they were educated equitably they would have more reason to remain in our school system – however, we need to make sure that Oakland is a safe place to learn and to grow intellectually and academically.

    Finally, the union and the school board must come to an understanding that students are the consumers of the education we are employed to provide. I truly want to see Oakland’s school system survive and thrive and that means meeting the needs of learners in the classroom and taking care of students who are not yet ready or willing to learn and who are disruptive out of the classroom. That is equitable and fair for all.

  • makeitgoaway

    Debora- that was a nice blend of the real and the ideal…But despite the continued presence of a few heroic teachers carving out the curriculum with their own unique ideas, real progress can only be made when the majority of the staff gets on board, with a principal smart enough to step out of the way and let systemic change happen. Sadly, this rarely happens.

    And you’ve forgotten the parent buy-in. without that students will continue to arrive late to school, without supplies or books.

    The policy of refusing to pay attention to the smartest students, while being distracted by the most needy is the system upside down.

  • Nextset

    Think of OUSD’s job in educating as ER triage.

    Don’t bother with the ones who aren’t going to make it. Just keep them comfortable and off somewhere (Continuation Schools). Work on the students that can be saved.

    The ones who show up late, unprepared and unsupplied – transfer them to their own schools. Flunk them out of the normal schools.

    Like we used to do.

    You’d be surprised at how many people faced with the certainty of dismissal start showing up on time and meeting requirements to be allowed to stay. Without the culling of the heard there is no reason for many to try.

    When it’s sink or swim time people are willing to take lessons. As long as the floatation devices are there many will just float around.

    Those expelled to Continuation Schools would be no worse off then they are now. And many would avoid it. All would be better off.

    This is how real schools operate.

  • Nextset

    “culling of the herd”, sorry! Night all…

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

    “Culling of the herd.” Hmmm…Where have I heard of that term before? Was in Art Speigelman’s prize-winning graphic novel, “Maus”? I’m getting old…I know I read it somewhere. Maybe it was in “The Diary of a Young Girl”. I’ve read too many books, and my memory isn’t what it used to be.

  • Nextset

    How about rotten apples spoiling the barrel?

    If we are going to give the black students the opportunity the white students get we need to have at least some municipal schools run like the white schools.

    White schools do not have 16 year olds reading at 3rd grade level sitting next to normal kids in a normal school.

    You are not going to get the good students operating at their best level in such an environment. But maybe that’s the plan all along. Keep it real…

    Brave New World.

  • http://theresalozach.com Theresa Lozac’h

    I wonder if they at all talked about the HR practices that eliminate quality teachers and support staff from the get go in OUSD – the fact that it can take up to 3 MONTHS to hire a teacher or paraprofessional because of the desperately poor design of the failing bureaucracy of HR overlapping with the general ineptitude of HR staff. Anyone who has been hired by OUSD (or has tried to get a job) knows the HR hell that I am describing – the losing of key documents, the not returning of phone calls, the needing of one person’s signature before progressing to the never-ending next step of “on-boarding” process…we lose many, many, many interested, bright, educated professionals who WANT to work for OUSD through this system that doesn’t work effectively or efficiently simply because they can’t wait three months to hear back from HR about whether or not they have a job.

    If Tony Smith could do one thing to support OUSD it should be to re-structure, re-streamline, and (fire) and re-hire quality HR staff that can hire people in a decent amount of time. That would go a long way in supporting our district.

  • J.R.

    Public sector bureaucracies are proof positive that the inept have mortgages to pay just like everyone else. The useless or nearly useless make-work jobs are testament to that fact.As for the taxpayers(we are S.O.O.L), it’s like the Travis Tritt song “Lord,have mercy on the workin’ man”.


  • Special Educator


    Thank you so much for your point here! I have many, many examples of cases where we have lost the opportunity to hire and/or keep someone great in the district because of the nightmare that can be HR. It also does not help me feel like Oakland is the “THE place to work” when I feel berated and mistreated each time I go into HR with questions or am given grief for wanting copies of things I know will inevitably get lost. These are the small details that may make or break a person’s desire to stay in OUSD (or to take a position in the first place)…

  • makeitgoaway

    Is there anything lower functioning than HR in the OUSD? If it was eliminated tomorrow, it would not affect one thing in the classroom.

    the outrageous statements continue…

    if the custodian knows more about what is happening with the students than the teacher, counselor, principal or superintendent, then heaven help us all…

    does HR really think it has anything to do with making OUSD “the” place to work in the Bay Area?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Some good commentary here. I don’t have time to watch the video.

    In general, I am skeptical of these tinkering, top-down solutions to DEEEEEEP structural (in schools/districts) and societal (in homes/neighborhoods) issues.

    Of the ones you mentioned:

    — “strengthening relationships with local teacher colleges”: MINOR/POINTLESS. OUSD mostly hires through pipeline and TFA programs, anyway. Of local college programs, only Mills and maybe St. Mary’s actually teach anything relevant.

    — “to creating “career ladders” for teachers” — not sure what this means, but there are only so many positions in a school: Teachers, Assistant Principals, Principals, a few paraprofessionals, counselors. Many teachers have no desire to be admin — if not, where can they “ladder” their way to?

    — “updating antiquated job classifications and lobbying state lawmakers make changes in the law with respect to labor rules.” I’m assuming this is just a euphemism for breaking the unions, Wisconsin style?

    — “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”).”

    Clearly, this last one is the biggie, and they are already pursuing it. This is the first year at my school we have seen an onslaught of formal letters of rebuke landing on a small minority of teachers on an almost weekly basis for minor infractions, designed to lay the paper trail for 90-day dismissal orders. This is hardball, and some of the teachers targeted are much closer to mediocre than outright disasters…nothing some excellent coaching might not fix.

    OK, MY POINT: None of these deal with the following issues that are not on the table because of cost or legality:

    — Too many reports for each manager. An administrator has to do performance reviews on 30-40 adults they NEVER SEE OR WORK WITH DIRECTLY. They simply judge by word-of-mouth on teachers, or 30-minute biannual observations. Are they right a lot of the time? I’m sure. But such guesswork opens the district up to lawsuits, protracted union battles and LOW TEACHER MORALE.

    — The 5% of students who often demand 50% of our attention/time/classroom management. Nextset wants all these students “culled” to continuation school but he doesn’t understand the economics: Continuation schools are MUCH MORE expensive to run, because class sizes are smaller and curriculum has to be individualized. That’s why the district has actually raised the age a student can get into continuation school to 17 — and getting into one in Oakland is akin to winning the lottery; a school like OHigh will be told, “Hey, we have two spots at Dewey, going fast” and admin will run around trying to find the two kids who need the credits most and won’t waste the opportunity.

    He also references the “white schools” where those kids are not sitting side-by-side with the “good kids” — which is not really true, but there are less of them and many are receiving significantly more behavior support from paraprofessionals and their own parents. (By high school in Oakland, “those kids” are segregated out in “P” classes, providing another challenge for those teachers).

    I think what Nextset really wants is “ghetto schools” and “magnet schools,” which we pretty much almost have, based on parent choice and maneuvering, the limitations of public transportation, the academies at Tech, etc.

    Regardless of what Nextset fantasizes, the courts are not going to return us to an era where kids can be hit by teachers, where there is no due process for kids and their families (regardless of their dysfunction), segregation is the norm, etc.

    What I would like to see is a Marshall Plan for education that acknowledges that you need BOTH systematic changes and VASTLY increased resources. Spend a solid 10% just on auditors to make sure money is wasted and ripped off for building fancy building, buying inappropriate textbooks, outright theft and corruption, etc.

    Hilarious that OUSD wants to reshape a system when even it’s top managers are widely considered inept when they are not outright corrupt. AND THOSE ARE THE AT WILL EMPLOYEES!!!

  • Cranky Teacher

    …to make sure money is NOT wasted and ripped off…


  • OUSD Parent

    Hi Cranky, Can you explain what “P” classes are? You referenced them in the paragraph pasted below. Thanks.

    He also references the “white schools” where those kids are not sitting side-by-side with the “good kids” — which is not really true, but there are less of them and many are receiving significantly more behavior support from paraprofessionals and their own parents. (By high school in Oakland, “those kids” are segregated out in “P” classes, providing another challenge for those teachers).

  • MissMatched

    I was recently listening to a talk given by Diane Ravitch, one of the original supporters of NCLB and other right wing school-change scenarios, who has since renounced all of those ideas. One comment from her recent remarks that particularly struck me was her assertion that district superintendents and all high level administrators in a decision-making capacity need to have had extensive experience teaching in the k-12 classroom.

    Tony Smith does not even have a teaching credential.

    Brigitte Marshall spent her entire career, prior to this past August, in adult education.

    And Maria Santos, though a former classroom teacher, only moved out here for her position over Teaching & Learning, and is a newcomer to Oakland schools.

    Exactly what qualifies ANY of these folks to make ANY decisions that affect teachers or students in k-12 classrooms? Maybe Maria Santos a little more than the other two, but in general, none of them them have deep roots, or really any roots, in OUSD, as k-12 teachers with k-12 expertise. This document, were it not so potentially destructive, actually is laughable, written and conceived by an administrator with no prior HR experience, and no k-12 experience.

    This is why teachers don’t stick around this district. It is not “the” place to work; it is “the” place to leave. Sorry to feel this way, but sadly, I do.

  • Josh

    Miss Match-

    Ravitch is full of it! Let them leave…

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Have you seen Piedmont Unified School District?

    There are others like it. Plenty of them. They’re not actually so white anymore – Try Jewish and Asian among other things. Many of the students are only a divorce away from being unable to remain in the district. In fact – downward economic mobility is a factor. In any large family there is always the one who didn’t quite catch on and their children. I see a lot of that.

    But they are in good schools.

    What should any 5% of a student population be able to sit with the other 95% when they are disruptive and impede normal function? And believe me, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a Continuation School. It is far cheaper to have the disruptive and failing 5% or 25% there than let them take down the normal school. Always.

    However the Continuation Schools are where the social work, drug counseling, and Abnormal Psych matters are handled. Not a normal school.

    No, what’s going on here is the idea some people have that Black Folks can all just stew in rotten segregated black schools where they are taught victimhood and socialism. The others go to better schools that still are schools where they are given the training to make it in Investment Banking, Medicine or Law, or anything else that pays a living wage and then some. Capitalism, Industrialism, etc.

    And the teachers who sort into these places reflect this also.

    OUSD and the other Ghetto School Districts should attempt to field at least one set of schools to compete with Piedmont. Like San Francisco does.

  • Cranky Teacher

    OUSD Parent: “P” classes are the non-AP classes in high school. P stands for Prep, as in College Prep. However, because of the massive expansion of AP classes over the years, the top students try successfully to have very few P classes each year with the “masses,” many of whom are not really with it as students. At the big high schools, middle-class freshmen will suffer through a bunch of P classes, then start taking 2, 3 or even 4 AP classes a year.

    What this means is that at high school we really do have the segregated learning, de facto, mostly by economic class, that Nextset desires — only the kids are all at the same physical plant, but traveling to different classrooms.

    This is true across the country at big public schools, btw, not unique to Oakland. Many parents pull kids out of the public schools for middle school, where classes are more heterogenous, then slip them back in for the AP coursework which is usually quite excellent.

    NEXTSET: What if I told you that at high school, the most disruptive students are often the most intelligent? The lower i.q. students tend to try keep their head down and hope nobody notices them as they “D” their way through. Anger + intelligence is a potent disruptive force.

  • Respectfully Submitted

    @Miss Matched: You wrote,”This document, were it not so potentially destructive, actually is laughable, written and conceived by an administrator with no prior HR experience, and no k-12 experience.”

    What do you mean by that? Is there anything with which you agree?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nextset, of course I’ve seen Piedmont Unified. I grew up here.

    Piedmont and pockets like it are an elaborate ripoff — gerrymandered-like districts that recieve the same moneys as poor districts, then slather on a ton of PTSA donations and end up with a school which is, for all intents and purposes, a exclusive private school paid for by public monies and only available to those who can afford to pay astounding housing costs.

  • Debora

    Cranky Teacher:

    I have done a great deal of research on gifted children, the education of gifted students in both homogeneous and heterogeneous settings and talent development. Many studies that have focused on urban students have found that the disruptions caused by gifted students have their roots in elementary school.

    When students are not challenged (which is different from learning or not learning things) in elementary school they are often disruptive and choose to “check-out” in middle school and high school.

    We need to be a data-driven district where we focus on the student from our first district contact until the time the student leaves the district as a college student, drop out or future worker. We need to look at the data in schools and districts that work and focus on students as much as we focus on the rights of adults.

    A few things we could do is to teach to the standards (state and national) and assess based on standards. We could keep elementary students with teachers for two consecutive years (grades three and four, for example) for continuity of learning and the continued development of teachers who will refresh curriculum and deeply know and care for students and their progression in learning. We could have students demonstrate their learning in real-world situations to make math, science, social studies and reading relevant in their and their families’ lives.

    Pre-assessing students so that they are not being “taught” what they have already mastered should be done in all subjects. In my research 36% – 52% of what is currently being taught in elementary school classrooms is known at sufficient depth to students who are gifted that the teacher adds no new learning, yet we ask them to sit and repeat more of the same. After several years, teens have had enough of the mind-numbing. All students have the right to learn and be challenged.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Nonsense. Schools like Piedmont were the norm in California during the middle of the 20th Century. Piedmont wasn’t affected by the great society nonsense of the mid 20th century because they are fortunate enough to have avoided “affordable housing” ie slums and welfare apartments. Lots of other places in CA have also. Lots.

    You’ve been at OUSD too long. It’s NOT a normal place.

    Since Piedmont – and the other “monts” haven’t normalized failure and welfare, they never bothered to change operations to accomodate and make comfortable ghetto culture. So a child of any ethnicity who is in that district – even the child of a maid, even the child of divorce, even black and brown children (there are a few) have a real school to go to.

    And if you don’t fit in you are placed in a place better suited for you. Continuation School.

    Most people do just fine.

    Same thing for Marin Schools. I know of blacks who grew up on welfare in Marin County. They are not on welfare as adults. Good schools. And by that I mean they don’t normalize failure and keep it comfortable.

    Likewise there are school districts with poor(er) whites both in CA, Redding?, Red Bluff? and in OR. I pose the question that they are not at all operating as OUSD operates.

    These public schools are in no way exclusive. They are, however, real schools.

  • Nextset

    I don’t mean to say that good school districts don’t have welfare recipients or poor people. They do. They just don’t cater to them and make the school all about keeping welfare recipients, poor people or lower class types comfortable and happy.

    A good school sets standards and culls students who cannot or will not meet those standards. They do not set the bar artificially low to avoid failure, so failing people are deluded into thinking they haven’t failed.

    Perhaps you and I have different views about what a school is there for, and is to accomplish.

    Thats fine.

    People vote with their feet anyway.

  • J.R.

    There are more than just affluent districts performing well:


    Castro Valley and Fremont both performed well and are not majority affluent communities.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I have no idea if Castro Valley or Fremont are doing well, especially if all I can see are test scores. (Have you heard of erasergate?) However, I know that even when we include the wealthy, segregated hills of Oakland, there is no comparison to the communities J.R. and Nextset have mentioned here. Yet, they would tell us money doesn’t figure into the equation.

    Estimated median household income in 2009: $100,450 (it was $76,579 in 2000)
    Fremont: $100,450
    California: $58,931
    Estimated per capita income in 2009: $37,367

    Fremont city income, earnings, and wages data
    Estimated median house or condo value in 2009: $607,000 (it was $354,300 in 2000)
    Fremont: $607,000
    California: $384,200

    Estimated median household income in 2009: $165,903 (it was $134,270 in 2000)
    Piedmont: $165,903
    California: $58,931
    Estimated per capita income in 2009: $71,703

    Piedmont city income, earnings, and wages data

    Estimated median house or condo value in 2009: $836,329 (it was $761,400 in 2000)
    Piedmont: $836,329
    California: $384,200

    Estimated median household income in 2009: $75,347 (it was $64,874 in 2000)
    Castro Valley: $75,347
    California: $58,931
    Estimated per capita income in 2009: $35,464

    Castro Valley CDP income, earnings, and wages data

    Estimated median house or condo value in 2009: $526,636 (it was $294,800 in 2000)
    Castro Valley: $526,636
    California: $384,200

    Estimated median household income in 2009: $51,473 (it was $40,055 in 2000)
    Oakland: $51,473
    California: $58,931
    Estimated per capita income in 2009: $30,327

    Oakland city income, earnings, and wages data

    Estimated median house or condo value in 2009: $445,200 (it was $227,300 in 2000)
    Oakland: $445,200
    California: $384,200

  • Catherine

    Fremont Spending per Pupil $7,719 – 68% of budget spent on instruction – State Average 9,093 or 18% less than the state average

    Castro Valley Spending per Pupil $7,990 – 60% of budget spent on instruction – State Average 9,093 or 14% less than the state average

    Piedmont Spending per Pupil $10,761 – 67% of budget spent on instruction – State Average 9,093 or approximately 16% more than the state average.

    Oakland Spending per Pupil $9,317 – 56% of budget spent on instruction – State Average 9,093 or approximately 2% more than the state average HOWEVER – IF OAKLAND INVESTED THE SAME PERCENTAGE THAT PIEDMONT DOES IN THEIR INSTRUCTIONAL BUDGET (67% vs.56%) our district would spend $11,147 per student. In Oakland we choose to spend more money on adults and less money on students. It is our own poor choice and the results speak for themselves.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Catherine, this is oversimplified. OUSD budget is very different from Piedmont or Fremont — children in poverty demand far more security, educational interventions, psych services, etc. We are also paying the debt to the state, after the district enrollment PLUNGED based on demographic shifts caused by the tech stock bubble.

    Yes, OUSD wastes money, on consultants, on corruption, etc. But that is not the whole picture.

    Honestly, I actually question why I am having a conversation with people who believe educating Piedmont students is the same as educating students from the poor expanses of flatland Oakland.

    Do this: Spend a day shadowing a poor kid from a rough neighborhood and a day shadowing a rich one. Keep track of every educational advantage and barrier each face in a single day. Note how they impact the classroom experience, behavior, homework, skills, etc. Then get back to me.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Oh, and then look at the teachers in each of their schools — how long have they been teaching, how many degrees do they have, etc.

    Here is one reason OUSD pays less on direct instruction than those other districts: TEACHERS DON’T STAY HERE.

    For all the complaining about old, burnt-out teachers, the district is filled with young folks who quit just as they are hitting their stride. 4 out of 5 hired in 2003 were gone by 2008!

    Do the math: New teachers cost less, hence, less money spent on instructional services.

  • J.R.

    Don’t forget the most important fact of all, Oakland residents(those that do) are paying more taxes and receiving much less in services. I agree with you that the education tax money must go toward the classroom first and foremost. I agree that this education system is too top heavy with people who don’t directly affect the education of children. If they were gone we might not even notice.






  • J.R.

    If we the taxpayers are just paying you to be a babysitter in a no-win(useless non educating) situation, maybe we should just hire ex-military personnel to watch(babysit these kids). It beats throwing our money down the rathole and getting very little in return. Enough with the excuses! You are free to leave at any time and there will be a LIFO’ed teacher,career changer, or an ex military person to fill the gap. I mean seriously, if a so called professional can’t teach them, then does it really matter very much, or does it? You can’t have it both ways.


  • Catherine

    Cranky Teacher: I have shadowed both. I volunteer tutoring at several flat lands schools depending on the day of the week. To see how the students learn differently both in Piedmont and Albany as well as Oakland hills schools.

    Here is the difference I notice: There is an absolute adherence school rules in Piedmont, Albany and Oakland hills schools. There is a pattern of drop off and pick up that is organized. Parents/Guardians/Babysitters flow through a queue. There is no double parking, no cussing, no loud music, safe driving and students are ready with their backpack when their turn to be picked up has arrived. Students have attempted their homework – to be fair in Piedmont, Albany and Oakland Hills the vast majority of students have someone at home to help with homework.

    The students that I work with all live below 580, many live at or near International Blvd. Parents at the schools of these students have no orderly behavior with regard to picking up or dropping off students. Cursing at other parents, the students and adults from the school. The students are routinely late to sessions that have been arranged around the scheduled time they chose. They rarely bring a sharpened pencil, or any pencil at all, yet they have spent money at the vending machines or the corner market and are munching on chips and drinking soda because they prefer it to the string cheese, bottled water and popcorn that I bring.

    The students I tutor often have not written down their assignments, so I often email with teachers so as not to waste our time. The attention span of these 10 – 13 year olds is approximately 14 – 25 minutes as compared to the 50 – 90 minutes of the students in the hills, Piedmont, Albany or my own two sons of approximately the same age.

    We are paying back debt. But we are doing so because the district mismanaged the funds for decades. The only legal way to take over a district is when the district cannot pay their own debts. This was true in Oakland.

    Tony Smith continually talks about EQUITY. If less money in the district was wasted, more money could be spent on students. The students in the hills would need only a thousand or more dollars. That could potentially mean that there would be three to four thousand dollars more a year for the neediest students.

    Schools are not community health centers, mental health centers, food banks, babysitting services or athletic departments. They never have been. Traditionally schools have done screening. When we take away parental responsibilities, we take away parental accountability. I do not know of a single student that I work with who would rather have a free or reduced price school lunch more than they would like to have homemade breakfast and a brown sack lunch. Not one.

    We need to focus schools on learning. Students who need to be tutored need to have someone who knows the material they are tutoring, not have a homework club babysitter. If the student did not learn the material the first time they should have an opportunity to learn it after school. Likewise students who know the material should not have to be “taught” the material they know because a few in the class do not know it. That is how classrooms in school districts other than Oakland work – pretest, teach those who have not mastered the material, other students work on new material as defined by pretest, and posttest those who were taught the material. If they haven’t learned it, work with someone after school or on the weekend.

    Before you ASS-U-ME what I or anyone on this list knows or does not know, has experienced or has not experienced, please ask rather than ASSUME. I know of what I speak and I have certainly taken great pains to look at what has worked in one school vs. another, one district vs. another, one state vs. another, even our country vs. many, many others. I have looked at education from poverty, from race, from religion, from ability, from drive and so on.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: This is not news.

    I submit that the ghetto (it’s an easy word to use) kids are showing up without basic tools and not taking school seriously because the “school” (It’s not really a school) have very carefully trained them to do so.

    Money, Poverty and all that nonsense has nothing to do with it. As you point out, they have money for what they want. pencils are cheap. Create an urgent need and some students will sell sharpened pencils to the others.

    Now just imagine if you have teachers and administrators who would shut and lock the doors when the tardy bells ring. And also schools where children who failed to come to class prepared were sent home or sent directly to detention and given Fs for the days work.

    It’s just that easy. A real school does NOT operate to keep the chillun happy.

    Ask the catholics who ran black schools in the flats in the 1960s – or in Berkeley.

    Now maybe some kids can do Calculus classes, and some can only qualify for bonehead math class. That’s another issue. But all of them can march in silence single file, get in the room on time and bring a sharpened pencil. Believe me, they can. But only if the school requires it.

    Ghetto Schools don’t. Their constitutional plan is to make sure the chillun are happy and content, not to educate or train them. Their students are being made ready for welfare and prison.

    What your post above doesn’t tell us is how the real school deal with students who are insolent, defiant, indifferent, or otherwise step on peoples toes. Or just plain lazy. What happenes to students in Piedmont who just try that??

    How do we intellectually justify the difference in treatment for the black kids in the flats and the white kids in Piedmont on matters of basic discipline – or for that matter discipline demanded of the parents. What would happen in Piedmont if a pugnacious or loudmouth parent turned up on campus and berated a teacher??

    And exactly why should there be a different standard in this – is it supposedly the poverty thing again?

    Brave New World.

    We need for the black schools to be real schools, even if we don’t have Calculus classes there.

  • Nextset

    Typos… Sorry !

    I’m not saying Catholicism is the answer. I am saying they knew how to run schools. Mormons do also. Delancey Street could do it well I’m sure. Will someone please save these poor black kids from OUSD.

  • J.R.

    “the district is filled with young folks who quit just as they are hitting their stride. 4 out of 5 hired in 2003 were gone by 2008″!
    These young folks are thrown in the worst classes, in the worst schools in accordance with priority placement(all with very little in terms of support), seniority based preference policies.


    “Do the math: New teachers cost less, hence, less money spent on instructional services”.

    The flipside to that argument is, older teacher cost more which means the district can afford less teachers, which means shedding many more young teachers(per LIFO). This in turn means larger class sizes.

    As for length of time teaching, studies show after five years the gains are minimal.


  • Nextset

    Catherine: I re-read your last post. What are your thoughts on the reasons the ghetto schools keep lax discipline – as opposed to even Albany Schools?

    Does “low income students” also mean you have to have low discipline? It seems to me that prior to the Great Society – especially during WWII – we had lots and lots of children from low income families who were brought to the Bay Area for the war industries – their fathers were gone to the war also – and there was no discipline problem to speak of. The schools didn’t tolerate it.

    Why do you think these ghetto schools operate in the belief that the chillun’ have to be kept so comfortable?

  • Catherine

    I think that many school principals are afraid of the adult drivers who curse, scream and fight each other, In fairness to the principals and teachers I also think they don’t want to embarrass the students. However, what this does is escalates the behavior. Then students think that it is acceptable and normal.

    I also wonder how many teachers in Oakland have attended public schools in which reading, writing, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, math, science, geography, social studies, history, art, music, choices of foreign language, debate, journalism and band were taught in the public school. One principal of a flatland Oakland school said to me that you can’t create what you have not experienced. You just cannot image how it can be done during a school day, the discipline it takes by everyone at the school, those employed, volunteers, parents and students.

    I believe she is right. I believe that we need to hold principals accountable for being outside at drop off and pick up. The flatlands schools must have a security guard available to handle the issues. If a parent creates any type of disturbance, he or she should have to walk in the office and pick up the student(s) by signing them out with the secretary. In doing so, good behavior is reinforced.

    I know that when I let the students I tutor slide, even one day, they lose several days of learning. The students have not been taught by example how to work toward learning goals or any goals a little at a time of days, weeks, months and years. I have two sons. They were both setting goals for things before kindergarten. By the time my older son had his preschool graduation he said he wanted to be a mathematician. Now in his second year of high school he is taking classes at Cal in mathematics. Little goals over time. Moral behavior from the start. Ethical behavior molded at school if it is not taught at home.

  • Nextset

    As to the parent behavior – I’ve had some experiences with schools who kicked the parent off the property. The school had a drop off pick up spot on the premises and when the parent in question crossed the last line that woman was banned from the school property for the balance of the year. She was informed she’d be arrested for trespassing (and that was all set to happen) if they came on the property without an appointment and were escorted. So they had to drop off their kid across the street or down the street. Everybody else could use the parking lot or driveway. The school had uniformed police to enforce this.

    And appointments were either not given or set away from the school in question. That parent lost their school access.

    It works for me.

    It was nice to see a school back it’s staff. The school in question was a higher class public school – not the adjacent ghetto district. I have found that – simply put – white schools – do a better job of enforcing discipline. It’s one of the reasons their teachers prefer to work there.

    My beef is why the black schools are so disinterested in fighting with their bad students and bad parent(s). Is it just a matter that we have to replace all the administration with returning military? I’d have no problem with that. Educrats don’t seem to be good enough at discipline. And the worse the school’s academic scores the more discipline is required. It’s one of the things (discipline) that can improve a less accomplished child’s life prospects.

  • Nextset

    Typo – sorry, She was told she’d be arrested if found on the property without an appointment and without an administration escort.

    Funny thing, when this incident occurred the school acted as if they did this all the time. It was very matter of fact. The mother was hand served a stongly worded letter drafted by school counsel and delivered by uniformed school police. She did not call their bluff, although she complained to the school board who congratulated the school administration on dealing with her so well.

    Again, the white school had a white school board that backed their white administration in curtailing a white trash mother who was considered threatening. It was almost a non-event, maybe I just didn’t realize it’s what they always do to undesirables who got on their last nerve.

    Translate that to OUSD’s way to doing business.

  • Nextset

    “of doing business” I’m tired, Night all…