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Archive for August, 2012

Your candidates for Oakland school board: an almost final list

THURSDAY UPDATE: The city’s list of qualified candidates is here. Cindi Reiss, a District 5 hopeful, said this morning that she planned to contest the clerk’s office determination that she didn’t have enough valid signatures, as she submitted three additional pages yesterday. As of now, the only two qualified candidates for that seat are Mike Hutchinson and Roseann Torres.

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The Oakland school board races are still shaping up to be lively, though some of the candidates appear to have dropped out or failed to gather enough valid signatures to qualify. The deadline for District 5 was today, which explains why there are no candidates listed for that race in the city’s qualified candidate’s list, updated as of yesterday.

In District 1 you have incumbent Jody London and challenger Thearse Pecot, an OUSD grandmother who sued the district over the closure of Santa Fe and other elementary schools.

District 3 has three candidates now: incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challengers Richard Fuentes, an aide to Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, and Benjamin Lang, who had flown completely under my radar. I haven’t found a campaign site for him, but will add a link when I do. Sheilagh Polk, who — along with Hinton Hodge — was endorsed by GO Public Schools’ governing board, apparently didn’t file. Vicente Cruz, the Green Party candidate who’d also planned to run, fell a few signatures short of qualifying. (But he tells me he plans to give it another try before long. “Look for me soon,” he said.)

The District 5 deadline was today, rather than last Friday, as it’s a no-incumbent race. So far, I’ve seen Mike Hutchinson‘s and Cindi Reiss‘s names on the city’s site, though the city has yet to come out with its updated list of qualified candidates, and I believe Roseann Torres was also planning to file.

In District 7, there are just two candidates: incumbent Alice Spearman and challenger James Harris.

Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Solve this! Today’s modest mathematical challenge

US Team with medals_(83)_Courtesy MSRI
From left to right: Alicia Weng, Danielle Wang, Jingyi Zhao, Gabriella Studt, Laura Pierson, Cynthia Day, Victoria Xia, and Courtney Guo. Photo courtesy of The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

As some of us pat ourselves on the back for nailing a percent-change calculation, there are people out there — young people — who are solving problems I can’t begin to describe.

Laura Pierson, a 12(!)-year-old who goes to Oakland Unified’s Hillcrest School, is one of them. Laura was the youngest person to compete with Team USA in the China Girls Mathematical Olympiad; she won a silver medal in the contest and returns to home tomorrow.

Each day, 204 girls from 10 countries had four hours to tackle four problems. I’ll post the test — provided by the Berkeley-based Mathematical Sciences Research Institute — below.

Reading the girls’ travelogue, I was struck by Laura’s statement that she was “terrible” at geometry and “pretty much everything.” (Reflexive modesty, perhaps? Or maybe that’s how you see yourself when you’re surrounded by the other top teenage mathematicians in the world.) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

On vacation!

Devil's Lake
photo by Alexis Fam Photography at flickr.com/creativecommons

Lest you wonder about the scarcity of school updates from this media outlet in the coming days … The Education Report is on vacation this week. I’m in Chicago, visiting my family; soon, we’re heading up to a lake in Wisconsin for a few days of natural beauty and fudge shoppes.

Come Monday, though, I’ll be back on the beat. See you then.

Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
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Stiff competition in Oakland’s school board races

Two years ago, I wrote about how few people were running for school board in Oakland. It’s much different this year. Below is a list of 13 candidates that have announced at some point that they were running for seats 1, 3, 5, or 7. I’ve learned of a number of new candidates since my blog post in late May.

Friday, Aug. 10 is the filing deadline. You can see for yourself who’s supporting whom and who’s filed on the City of Oakland’s online campaign portal. If you want to see all the filings, select “search filings by date.”

District 1: Incumbent Jody London is running for re-election against Thearse Pecot, who sued the district this spring, saying the district’s school closure policies discriminate against poor, minority children.

District 3: Incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challengers Vicente Cruz, Richard Fuentes and Sheilagh Polk.

District 5: An open race between Roseann Torres Cindi Reiss and Mike Hutchinson, another vocal school closure critic.

District 7: Incumbent Alice Spearman is being challenged by James Harris and former OUSD student-trustee Christina Jiang (Skyline Class of 2007). Mieko Scott also announced, on Twitter, that she would run, and it says so on her bio, though I haven’t found any campaign material for her.

Am I missing anyone?

Posted on Sunday, August 5th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Scolding, threats and security escorts — and it’s only August


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The fall semester is weeks away, but after a brief summer recess, tension came flooding back to the Oakland school board room this week.

I wasn’t at the Wednesday night board meeting when this went down, but it didn’t look pretty from my screen.

One minute Joel Velasquez — a Westlake and former Lakeview parent who has been perhaps the most outspoken and persistent critic of Oakland’s school closures — was at the podium, speaking about working closely with the superintendent and school board and becoming “allies.”

In the next, he was being escorted out of the school board meeting room by Oakland School Police after having threatened to stage protests at board members’ homes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012
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Oakland school closure savings estimate is missing something

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune

In June and again in July, I asked the Oakland school district for a breakdown of the net savings from the five elementary school closures, taking into account the conversion of one of those schools — Lazear Elementary — into an independently run charter school.

Unlike the other two charter conversions, Lazear became a charter simply so it could remain open, so the fiscal impact of that change — the loss of enrollment and per-student funding — is inextricably tied to the decision to close it in the first place.

I’ve yet to receive a response for my request, specifically, but the district has produced a cost-savings analysis that’s left me scratching my head. Reading the document, which estimates a $2 million annual savings from the five school closures — as advertised last fall — it’s as if the Lazear conversion never happened.

In fact, the analysis lists a $490,000 savings for Lazear — when, just a few months ago, the superintendent and his staff warned that if the school became a charter, the loss of per-student funding to OUSD would cost the district $1.4 million.

I asked Troy Flint, the district spokesman, about the Lazear factor and reminded him about my earlier request. He responded, “No adjustments to budget projections were made relative to to the Lazear conversion.”

How is that possible? The district was able to make budget projections (net losses) as a result of the other two charter conversions, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. Why would Lazear be treated differently?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 12 Comments »