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Oakland school board to vote on local governance policy

Tomorrow night, the Oakland school board votes on a resolution that would establish its intent to give principals, school staff members and families greater authority to improve their school as they see fit.

Each school would create a “Theory of Action,” to which it would align its “people, programs, money, and time.”

The board would also attempt to give local leaders more say in who works at their schools, a strategy which proved to be a sticking point with the teachers union this year. (In resolution language:  “Strengthen the ability of school governance teams, through established collective bargaining protocols and agreements, to determine the composition of their employee teams.”)

It would allocate funding to schools based on student “needs and life circumstances.” Details TBD.

This one-page policy proposal (embedded below) was vetted by members of the Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting and was presented to the school board for a first reading last week.

Here’s how it starts:

Unified School District to create learning environments that make more effective teaching and learning possible.

The Board of Education believes that those closest to students at a school – employees, parents, students, community partners – are generally in the best position to know the specific academic, social, and emotional needs of their students, and how best to address those needs.

The Board of Education, within the context of established OUSD strategic priorities, performance accountability standards, and collective bargaining agreements, believes that empowering school governance teams to align and manage resources to effectively address the specific needs of their students is a necessary and fundamental condition to enable every school to make more effective teaching and learning possible.

Do you agree that this is the right direction for OUSD? Clearly, much of it will depend on its implementation, including future negotiations with the union on staffing rules. In your view, which of these goals — if any — should the district address first?

School governance

Katy Murphy

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

  • Peach

    The devil is in the details.

    What appears new and what is a restatement of current practice -

    Point 1. These exist already as each school’s annual Single Plan for Student Achievement. These are mandated by state and federal regulations. Theoretically, each plan is developed by and agreed to by democratically elected bodies composed of parents, teachers, staff, administrators and community members. The BoE must approve of and be responsible for the implementation of each plan.

    2. This is the current Board of Education mandate as a Local Education Agency.

    3. This is another existing Board policy.

    4. This is mutual matching on steroids without any guarantees for teachers or other staff. One would hope that there would be clarification regarding compliance with governmental civil and human rights laws.

    5. Again, this parrots existing state and federal laws, although OUSD remains out of compliance with the requirement to spend most of its money on the classroom.

  • LK

    I agree with Peach, nothing new here except that teachers, administrators, and clerical staff are all lumped together as “employees” in the preamble. As for #4, it seems like a good faith statement to work mutual matching within the pre-existing frameworks of contracts and ed code, but how that works is anybody’s guess. It all seems very vague to me.

  • anon

    Katy- Regarding the funding for “needs and life circumstances”…can you find out anything about the rumors that the superintendent and district plan to take money from schools with kids that have “less pressing needs” and redistribute it to “higher needs” schools? I am concerned, since our school already gets less than just about any school in the district, but since we don’t have many (if any) “high need” kids (title 1, etc.), then we might end up with even less $$. I would venture to argue that our disproportionally high level of GATE kids would most definitely count as high need (it’s a fallacy that they can just do well on their own, and they often have their own unique issues that demand time and attention from the teachers- both for emotional and academic reasons), but it seems that the game plan that came out in the board meeting the other night is heavily weighted towards remediation, leaving the average-to-high performers in the dirt, so to speak. This seems like a real equity issue. I see a class-action lawsuit on the horizon, if I correctly understood that the district will take away federally-granted $$ from a high-performing school to help prop up one that isn’t… Any info on this is much appreciated! (accidentally posted to another entry by mistake)

  • Nextset

    Regarding Anon’s post: I tend to suspect that a school board does have authority by virtue of their positions to decide where to put the resources of the district. If they want to spend the money on the low IQ kids at the expense of the higher functioning kids – that’s their business. The only remedy of the various families who have a problem with this is to vote the board out and/or vote with their feet by taking their children to a different school.

    Moreover, if the board wants to waste and squander district assets and income while not running afoul of conflict of interest laws they can. As long as the decisions had some basis however flimsy. It’s not waste perhaps to spend extra money on low functioning students to keep them from rioting and make them feel special. The high functioning will never riot so they don’t exactly have priority. besides, everybody knows they can take care of themselves anyway.

    That’s democracy. It’s not a Rose Garden.

    The point I make over and over is that the board and it’s Educrats 1> Know what they are doing and 2> Are deliberately sinking their students for the sake of political correctness and not having anybody unhappy about being made to do anything they don’t want to. Besides, the Educrats told every failing black and brown student they were wonderful and the student believed it.

    Educrats are in power for pacification, not for education. If anybody wants education they wouldn’t be enrolled in a failure factory. Same for the teachers.

    The teachers get in trouble with administration if they do anything to the students that would challenge them to the point of making them “uncomfortable”.

    Brave New World.

    We will pick our society by what school they went to… If they didn’t go to “our” schools, they’re “not our kind”.

  • OUSD Parent

    I always say, if OUSD wants to stop the mass exodus of many of the high performing kids after elementary school, they need to throw them a bone. More than one third of the kids at our high performing hills school are leaving the district after 5th grade this year. They are off to a variety of private schools and charters. Many people criticize them. I don’t blame them one bit! When you talk with them they make very valid points.

  • anon

    Katy- are you able to find out any more details about the allocation of school funding based on needs and life circumstances? Thanks in advance!

  • On the Fence

    My recollection from a prior posting on this blog (maybe 2 years ago?) is that many of the most solid, highest performing schools in the district recieved the very lowest amount of money per student. I would love to see that data again. Can anyone supply that data? I recall Thornhill and Edna Brewer among the list of the lowest funded schools, if my memory serves. With this in mind, I am very concerned to learn from Anon about a possible further redistribution of funding by the district away from these schools due to an assumption of “low needs”. Therefore,I second Anon’s request for any information about funding to schools based on student “needs and life circumstances.”

    I am also compelled to acknowledge how many schools have stressed themselves, their families, and their active PTSAs enormously in order to fundraise and host exhausting auctions, sometime for the very first time. I often hear people use this fundraising as a justification to further reduce funds to these schools. While I recognize that there are very real socio economic differences within the areas of Oakland, I think people underestimate the very real work and sacrifice that parents make to fundraise for every dollar they bring in to their schools.

  • AC Mom

    I would also like to know the per pupil/site funding for each OUSD school. It would also be nice to have that information for charters as well.

  • J.R.

    I am so glad people are asking these important questions, and I encourage you to just keep demanding answers.

    Here is a quote from Ben Visnick when he ran for school board:

    “Furthermore, the poorer parents/guardians/caregivers in the flatlands cannot fund-raise like those in the hills. More “financial aid” must be reallocated from the vertical to the horizontal parts of our city”.

    This sentiment is shared by many progressives in this city, and it is wasteful,pointless and even dangerous to this city’s economic well being. It makes me wonder about these progressives (what they drive, where they live, and what is truly important to them)?

  • J.R.
  • anon

    Thanks JR. I’m concerned, but hoping I don’t need to be. I would also like to know per pupil funding for each school- should be very interesting data.