OUSD board considers charter school conversions tonight

UPDATE: The OUSD board voted 6-0 (board member Alice Spearman wasn’t present) to approve the charter conversions of both ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. You can find the full story here.

As a result of the higher-than-normal facilities rate the schools will pay OUSD to remain in their buildings ($2.50 per square foot, compared to $1.35 per square foot), their per-student contributions to the state debt, and the services the schools plan to buy from the district as part of a services agreement, OUSD expects to lose about $48,000 after it’s all said and done, down from the original $826,350 projected just a few weeks ago. (Note: OUSD will lose $4.5 million in state revenue from the conversion, but $3.67 million in costs will be eliminated, bringing the difference to $826,350.)


In January, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith recommended that the school board reject efforts by ASCEND and Learning Without Limits elementary schools to secede from the district and operate as independent charter schools. The board did just that.

Then, last month, the two schools submitted revised applications — and the district administration is asking the board to approve them this evening.

Why the reversal? Last month, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits principals said the district was interested in what they called a “partnership charter.” We should learn more tonight at a special meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. You can find the petitions and the recommendations for ASCEND here and Learning Without Limits here.

If the Oakland school board approves the charter petitions, the schools’ leaders say they will stop their appeal to the Alameda County Board of Education, which is scheduled to hold a hearing next week. If the county approved the charter school petitions, the county — not the Oakland school district — would oversee the schools.

What should the OUSD board do?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jessica Stewart

    Here is a video from the GO Public Schools Board Watch Blog of Leo Fuchs and Larissa Adam presenting their petition to the board in case anyone is interested. http://www.goleadershipcenter.org/2012/03/preview_-_speci.php

  • Greg Klein

    Exciting to see Staff, the Board and these schools seeking and finding creative solutions to tough issues. It’s not easy leading to make and maintain positive changes for students, congrats to OUSD leaders and both school communities for working together for kids.

  • Sarah Pratt

    It’s great to see that a decision was made which keeps the students, families, and teachers of ASCEND & LWL at the forefront. I hope that Oakland can make more decisions in the coming months that allow for schools to receive the autonomy they need to serve their students best.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Privatizing management serves the students at these two schools best? Suppose that is right but it is paid for by taking resources from the students of OUSD? Should there be a celebration that others must pay for?

    What about the students in OUSD that the School Board will take resources from to pay for the free services that will under contract be provided to Education for Change management group?

    According to page 14, Article 2, Section 2.20, Sections 2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9, and 2.10 of the Facilities and Operations contract between the District and Education for Change, free services will be given not just to EFC’s two new converted charter schools, Ascend and Learning without Limit, but free services will also be given in the sections mention to the three other charter schools under Education for Change management.

    It is the managers at Education for Change that will define the limits of the two conversion
    Schools’ autonomy. And, the management of EFC will ultimately decide what is best for the children enrolled.

    Decision of the Board of Education to enter into selling services to Education for Change charter schools creates a new interest, an adult interest in the income such services generate. Future decisions of the Oakland School Board in part will be based on concern about the income from selling services to charter schools, a factor altering education mission centered on “what is best for the children” to interest in preserving income received from sale of services.

    Oh what a tangled web is weaved when privatizing public services!

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    The dynamics of the education system as it presently exist have not been very successful, all up and down the line it is full of people who by law are locked in with no mechanism to encourage excellence just seniority. Our system encourages shallow learning and not geared toward mastery of the important STEM subjects. It is appalling that we have such low rates of proficiency at the high school level, and even college(it should not be necessary for remediation at high school and college level if people are doing their jobs,teachers and parents alike). People should not be so worried about corporate this or that, they instead should be embarrassed by the sub-par performance for the amount of money this country shells out for education. Give my tax money to those educators who can and will do the job correctly in the first place.


  • Sarah Pratt

    I think we can debate the public/private/etc funding forever, but the bottom line is simply that kids need to learn in a stable environment with great school culture and excellent teachers.

    These two schools are clearly providing kids with what they need and it’s up to our leaders to help foster policies that enable all students all over Oakland to continue receiving the high-quality education they deserve, instead of upholding policies that cause (almost) their entire teaching staff to get laid off every year (which is what started this in the first place).

    Public, Private, or Charter – it doesn’t matter – quality is what matters.

  • Katy Murphy
  • Barbara Ginsberg

    Unfortunately, we have a very poor institutional memory. About 25 years ago, when my daughter was in first grade in the public schools in Oakland, every school had a different curriculum. That was very problematic for kids who switched schools, and lots of economically disadvantaged kids switched schools fairly often, because there families got evicted, etc. So, there was a fairly consistent demand, which came primarily from the African-American community, for a common curriculum, so that kids could pick up where they left off if they had to change schools. I agree that the common curriculum was applied too bureacratically and rigidly, so that we went too far the other way. But now suddenly folks are demanding that each school have autonomy over its curriculum. Seems to me that we’ll be back to the same problem that led to the institution of a common curriculum.

  • J.R.

    I agree wholeheartedly that we need to overturn laws that dictate hiring/firing policies solely on the basis of seniority(It wont happen anytime soon).

    Teachers(especially tenured) have leeway as far as curriculum is concerned(as far as being monitored), and the only teachers that are really monitored in regards to following curriculum are the post NCLB teachers. When you have teachers not returning work(maybe they did not even bother to grade it)or you have teachers basing grades on half a dozen tests and or pieces of homework you have to realize there is no mechanism to ensure all teachers follow curriculum and teach the material. This is another reason with must hold on to the people that actually teach well, no matter their seniority.

  • Mary

    I am heartened by the partnership agreement between OUSD, Ascend and Learning Wtihout Limits, and I hope enough progress is made over the next couple of years for these schools to return to the fold completely. As a community, we need to create the conditions in which all children in all schools can succeed. The role of Central Administration is to set high standards, and hold schools accountable to those standards, providing extra support and guidance to schools that are struggling. The district has set goals regarding the transition to the Common Core Standards and the Common Core Assessments, and also the creation of full service community schools. All Oakland schools must be aggressively working to meet these expectations which are centrally generated. How we get there is another question. Curricular autonomy needs to be tied to demonstrated success with all student subgroups…it is not just teaching whatever you want like what happened in the past.

  • A

    I am curious as to what this means for my child, who was just assigned to Learning Without Limits through the options process. Per OUSD, Charter schools are an entirely different application process, so I wonder if this nullifies her placement. Not that I want her placed there- I have already appealed that decision. However, I did not intend for her to attend a charter school at all, so I wonder if this helps during the appeals process.

  • Katy Murphy

    As I understand it, one aspect of the agreement between OUSD and ASCEND and Learning Without Limits is that the two schools enroll children through the district’s Options process, rather than directly at the schools. But you raise an interesting point; I wonder if it will factor into your appeal.