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Flood shuts down OUSD headquarters

Well, 2013 is not off to the best start for the OUSD administration. Here’s a slightly modified report I just filed:

A flood — apparently caused by a tap left on overnight — shut down the Oakland school district’s four-story administrative headquarters today. The roughly 150 employees who report there will have to work elsewhere for the rest of the week, and Wednesday’s school board meeting will be held at the newly rebuilt La Escuelita Elementary School across the street.

The problem appears to have started in the custodian’s closet, gushing three gallons of water a minute overnight until the swampy mess was discovered at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

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In 2013, another proposal to change California’s education funding formula

Next week, when he lays out his 2013-14 budget proposal Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to introduce a new version of an old idea: a simplified funding model for California school districts.

The so-called “weighted student formula” Brown proposed last year and then dropped would have given districts a base amount of money for each student — $5,421, on average (it varies by grade) — and an additional 20 percent for English learners and low-income students. It also would have permanently lifted restrictions on seven more of the state’s special-purpose grants, including economic impact aid and K-3 class size reduction, leaving districts to spend it however they wish. (In 2009, California did the same thing with about 40 such pots of money, including adult education, which has since been dramatically cut back in many districts, including Oakland Unified.)

The Legislative Analyst’s Office suggested some changes, but said it was a “positive first step.”

In a story my colleague Theresa Harrington wrote today, School Services of California CEO Ron Bennett said the proposal’s introduction last year was “an absolute disaster,” with critics saying the new formula would hurt districts with few disadvantaged students.

Of course, we don’t yet know the details of the 2013 proposal, but it’s expected to be conceptually similar. What are your thoughts about it?

 

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The NRA calls for an armed officer in every school

That’s what the NRA proposed in its news conference today, responding to the Newtown massacre.

Lobbyist Wayne LaPierre said this about installing an armed police officer at every school: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Charles Wilson, principal of Oakland’s Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, called the proposal “chilling” and “insane.”

“I believe that this is one of the most outrageous things that has ever been said by the NRA,” he said.

Do you agree?

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Who will represent District 7 on the Oakland school board? James Harris — for now.

Staff PhotojournalistStaff Photojournalist

On Jan. 7, James Harris is sworn in as the new representative for OUSD’s District 7 seat.

But just two weeks later, he goes back to court, where a judge might declare him ineligible to serve on the board because of where he lives (in Oakland City Council District 7, but in the San Leandro school district) — and the seat, vacant.

Judge Evelio Grillo initially sided with Harris and against Alice Spearman, whom he beat handily on Election Day. But at a hearing today, Grillo raised more questions — and set another court date for Jan. 23.

Spearman says she’s confident that not only will she prevail in court, but that she’ll get her seat back, either through appointment or a special election.

Predictions?

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Discussing the Newtown tragedy in class

Oakland/East Bay teachers: We’re doing another follow-up piece about the school shooting in Connecticut. We plan to include how teachers are talking to their students about what happened, and the perspectives that students are sharing.

If you’re up for a short interview today about the approach you took, email me with a contact number and time at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. If you have a break during the day, that might be best.

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How to talk to kids about the school shooting in Connecticut?

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Photo by Douglas Healey/Getty Images

As many as 27 dead, including at least 18 children. At Sandy Hook Elementary in western Connecticut this morning, one of the worst massacres we’ve had yet.

Teachers and parents: When and how do you talk about the tragedy with younger children, and with teens — especially when so few details are known?

I just spoke with Melia Franklin, an Oakland mother and director of the Parent Leadership Action Network, for a story my colleague Matthias Gafni is writing.

“I think the main thing is children need to know that the people with them are keeping them safe,” she said.

Below, I’ll post a resource that parents and teachers might find helpful.

Tips for parents on coping with traumatic stress

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New Haven Unified wins Race to the Top grant; Oakland wasn’t in the running

new haven unifiedNew Haven Unified in Union City is one of 16 winners of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant. (More information about the district competition here.)

My colleague Chris De Benedetti reported this week that the district will get $29.3 million during the next 4 1/2 years for summer programs, academic coaches, smaller classes for high school English learners and other strategies to improve its schools.

Like in some other large urban districts, including Los Angeles Unified, Oakland’s teachers union didn’t sign on to the proposal in progress, citing concerns about a lack of specifics and a sense that the agreement would replace negotiations at the bargaining table.

So OUSD didn’t apply. It had been told its chances of winning would be nil without its teachers on board, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

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This week in OUSD: Budget cuts for next year, closure savings, and possible new attendance boundaries

Wednesday’s Oakland school board meeting has a packed agenda.

Some of the highlights:

  • three charter renewal hearings (no decisions or recommendations yet), for Aspire’s Golden State College Prep, Oakland Charter Academy Middle School, and East Oakland Leadership Academy
  • discussion of the oversubscription problem at Crocker Highlands Elementary and possible changes to the recently moved attendance boundaries at Crocker and Cleveland elementaries
  • a fiscal update (including school closure savings estimates)
  • retirement tributes to school board members Noel Gallo and Alice Spearman. Though last I checked, Spearman fully intends to keep her seat, so this seems a bit premature.
  • SCHOOL CLOSURE SAVINGS
    On Slide 19 of the financial report, OUSD staff give an accounting of the costs and savings created by the closure of four elementary schools. It reports a net, ongoing savings of $3.2 million, after accounting for enrollment losses. Continue Reading

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American Indian charter school parents speak out

Staff Photojournalist
American Indian Model Schools supporters, seen here at an April Oakland school board meeting, before the final state report on the charter organization was published. Photo by D. Ross Cameron.

The fate of the American Indian Model Schools won’t be on Wednesday’s regular Oakland school board meeting agenda, but we can expect a large group of parents and students from the three schools at the meeting.

Bernadette Coleman, president of the schools’ new Family Advisory Committee, told me today she believes the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team’s scathing report about the AIMS governance, operations and suspected financial fraud — which came out this summer, prompting OUSD to issue a “notice of violation” in September — was full of errors.

If and when the OUSD board holds a hearing on the subject, Coleman said, “it’ll be public knowledge what is true and what is not.”

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Oakland Unified to score … everyone

matrix 2

The above matrix of nine elementary and six middle schools — which underwent a pilot School Quality Review process last school year — is just a sample of the kinds of targets and scoring systems being put in place in Oakland Unified.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the OUSD board holds a special meeting to discuss this and other parts of its “Balanced Scorecard,” which sets goals for student achievement, attendance, discipline rates (racial disparities, in particular), effective teaching, teacher satisfaction, teacher retention — and, yes, for a balanced budget that maximizes teaching and learning with an equitable (read: not equal) base funding model for its schools.

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