On this week’s OUSD board agenda: school facilities, police review, charters and grading policy

I’m gearing up for a long night on Wednesday. Among many other agenda items, the Oakland school board will hear a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Services (it hasn’t been posted as of this afternoon); a discussion about possible revisions to the district’s student grading policies and regulations; an update on the expansions of Burckhalter and Kaiser elementary schools; and lots of decisions about the use of district property.

The board will also vote on the Lazear Elementary School charter conversion petition. Staff has recommended denial, saying it presents an unsound program that is unlikely to be successful. Lazear is one of the five elementary schools the board voted last fall to close at the end of the school year.

FACILITIES DEALS: Proposition 39 is a California constitutional amendment passed in 2000 that, among other provisions, gave charter schools the right to available space in public school buildings. If the board adopts the below proposals, some of the city’s existing and new charters might open at schools that the district has shut down or planned to close.

There are so many of these facilities proposals on Wednesday’s agenda, they almost call for some sort of diagram. For now, I’ll try my best to sketch it out in words.

  • Lazear Elementary, slated for closure in June, would be home to both the Bay Area Technology School and the Community School for Creative Education.
  • Edward Shands Adult School, shuttered after massive adult education budget cuts (made districtwide, as well as statewide), would be used by Arise High School.
  • Urban Montessori would move into the property on 2111 International Boulevard — now OUSD offices, but previously where Life Academy was. The district moved the high school in 2008, citing earthquake safety concerns. (The district’s spokesman has said that it is possible those OUSD departments will, in turn, move into Lakeview Elementary, another school that’s closing in June. That item is not on Wednesday’s agenda, but it might be discussed as part of this related item. )
  • Santa Fe Elementary would be leased to Emery Unified for three years, at $500,000 annually.
What do you think of these proposals?


Katy Murphy

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

  • Patricia Jensen

    Edward Shands Adult School, built in 1968, was the first school in California built exclusively for adult education. Oakland and OUSD recognized the importance of adult education in our community. Sadly, Shands and another adult school (Neighborhood Centers) were closed two years ago when OUSD took adult education money for other district uses. Thousands of adults, young and old, are no longer being served by our adult education program in Oakland.

    OUSD “flexed” (took) $11M+ of adult education money for the current 2011-12 school year. Although OUSD balanced the budget this year and erased the structural deficit, it was accomplished with money from adult education. I hope the Board remembers this so that the money doesn’t become a “given” – and I hope there is a commitment to rebuild adult education.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Patricia states one reason why Oakland was able to balance its budget. It continues to receive State funding that was category funding for Adult Education but doesn’t have to pay that money to teachers and support personnel that have had their positions eliminated.

    In effect Oakland is receiving $11 million a year more than school districts without an adult education program. Instead of all departments taking a hit, Oakland sacrificed one department. At some point other Districts must have had Adult Education envy as a source for diverting funding.

    Perhaps this additional $11 million will continue for awhile but some day Sacramento will say to itself, why are we sending funding to Oakland for a program that was eliminated under concept of “flexing” categorical funding?

    Adult Education deserves to be funded. But, flexing the funding means competing with K-12 and a result is that adults are pushed aside in that competition.

    Makes no sense to try and rebuild sustainable Adult Education program without protection of categorical funding.

    I am not sure anyone is fighting for categorically funded Adult Education program. Letters to the editor and politicians on the importance of rebuilding a sustainable Adult Education program might help.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Adult Education is important because there is something that can be done to reclaim wasted adolescents as well as to train adolescents who failed and neglected to learn the basics during the puberty-18 years timeframe.

    That being said I believe the state will come to the consensus that the function of adult ed no longer belongs with secondary schools. Adult Ed is now seen as distinct from training/education post pubertal teens. Most importantly the 18 and up population are subject to adult criminal & civil rules and therefore arguably need the structure found out of the system that mainly handles (legal) children.

    Plus the Jr. College system of California is large and politically savvy in a way the secondary schools are not. I think all adult ed functions will be given to the CA Jr. Colleges. The problem with this is that the Jr. Colleges are fat and bloated with excessive pay scales and people running around calling themselves “Dr.”. The Jr. College System is starving for more money to pay themselves fat salaries. Capturing the state’s adult ed programs is a good way to keep the party going at the JCs.

    So you will see all these programs transferred shortly.

    Brave New World.

  • Steven Weinberg

    I’m not sure what part of the grading policy the Board is considering changing, but I have one suggestion. Based on my experiences over 30 years of teaching, the requirement that a teacher contact the parent of a student before the end of a six-week marking period if the student is likely to earn a failing grade is not reasonable.
    When I started teaching there was a nine-week report card in the middle of each semester and interim reports were given out half way through each nine week report card period to students who were not doing well. When the switch was made to three six-week report card period each semester the requirement to send home interim reports was supposed to be eliminated, but very soon administrators started requiring warnings before poor grades were given at the end of the shorter report card periods.
    It is important to note that the only grades that count for anything are the semester grades in January and June. The other report cards are themselves only warnings. Requiring warnings before students receive a warning breeds a lack of responsibility in both the students and the parents.
    When I gave warnings during the marking periods I found that many students did very little work until I called their parents, then they did just enough work to earn a passing grade for the marking period and then quit working again until the next phone call. Parents complained whenever I called that they should have been notified earlier. The system was not working well for anyone.
    After several years of frustration I changed to a system that worked much better. I told parents at the beginning of the school year that I would not be notifying them before the end of the marking period of poor work, but if they wanted a progress report about their student at any time they could send me a note and I would respond that day. If a student earned a D or F on the six or twelve week report card, I called the parent and explained why they received that grade and what the student needed to do to improve the next marking period and repeated the offer to send them a progress report at any time they requested it.
    Under this system I found that grades improved, students took more responsibility for their own work, and parents whose students needed extra supervision took their responsibilities more seriously. I had far fewer complaints from parents than I had when I was trying to call them earlier.

  • jmc

    Figures, the district will move into perfectly located lakeview. that way they can drink their coffee, feel the cool breeze, enjoy the lake and…work a bit

  • Katy Murphy

    Just to clarify: I haven’t heard that the district is considering a relocation of its Second Avenue headquarters to Lakeview — only the offices at 2111 International Boulevard, which include the student assignment office and others in the Family, Schools and Community Partnerships Department.

  • Anon

    Really disappointed to see Lazear being considered for school use when the District’s own assessment last fall found it unsuitable for future use as a charter or District school. The silver lining I saw with the school closures was taking the Lakeview and Lazear facilities, with their close proximity to I-580 and I-880 freeways, offline for student use. I’m actually surprised the state will approve Lazear’s use for charters, given that it’s in direct conflict with state requirements for charter sites. Argh.