Oakland Teacher Honored in Race for National Teacher of the Year

I’Asha Warfield, a seventh grade teacher Frick Middle School, was honored today as a California nominee for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Although not among the finalists or beating out Jeff Charbonneau, a Washington teacher who received the award, Warfield was the only California teacher nominated for the national award. The English teacher is one of five teachers who were recognized as Teacher of the Year for California.

Go here to see the article about Warfield.

Go here to see more about Charbonneau.



Superintendent Tony Smith Resigns

Staff Photojournalist
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

Superintendent Tony Smith announced in a closed session with the board last night that he is resigning as superintendent, effective June 30.

His reasons are family-related, as his wife’s father was recently hospitalized, and he and his family will now be moving to Chicago.

Smith wrote a letter to the board about his resignation, saying how proud he is of the accomplishments that have been made since working with the board.

While there is still much work to do, the district is well positioned to achieve the objectives outlined in the balanced scorecard and meet the goals described in our ambitious strategic plan.

Click here to read Smith’s letter to President David Kakishiba.

The board also released a statement on the district’s website to the community about the board’s reaction.

Also read Tribune reporter Angela Woodall’s story regarding the resignation.


Forum Speaks on Lowering Violence In Schools

On Monday the Children’s Defense Fund hosted a forum at City Hall for public officials, community organizations and youth advocates to discuss school safety and keeping violence out of the classroom.

Since the shooting in Newtown, Conn. last December, there have been major waves of demand for policy change and action in school safety. To address this call for action, the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged children, to evaluate what schools and the community could do to help increase school safety on a local basis.

The forum had two panels: the first discussing the role of policy, the second discussing the role of the youth. There was also a presentation highlighting the results of a telephone survey from California voters regarding their opinions of school safety in the state.

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American Indian schools’ charter revoked

Alleged corruption in leadership weighed more than excellent test scores and perfect graduation rates when the OUSD board voted 4-3 in last week’s meeting to revoke the American Indian Model charter schools’ charter.

It took one tip more than a year ago; five months of investigation and auditing; $3.8 million of questionable spending that accuses director Ben Chavis and his wife, Marsha Amador of taking that money for themselves; endless pleas from AIMS students, parents and teachers to keep the school’s charter regardless of what may be happening on the business end of running the charter schools; and one vote to shut the operation down.

There are plans to repeal the board’s vote. If the county and/or the state uphold the board’s vote, the vote will take effect on June 30.

Would it have been as hard of a decision to make if the students weren’t performing well?


Read Angela Woodall’s coverage of the meeting’s vote here and here.

Also, Andrew J. Coulson’s editorial about why closing the schools is a mistake.

Here is a look at Katy Murphy’s past coverage of events leading up to the final vote last week.


Still Seeing High Numbers for African American Male Student Suspensions

At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Tony Smith and a small panel, including two principals, presented the Balanced Scorecard Accountability Report. The topic: suspensions.

One major focus of the report is to work toward reducing suspension rates overall, but specifically with African American male students.

In the 2011-12 school year, African American students accounted for one-third of enrolled OUSD students and 63 percent of the students who were suspended. Of the male students, African Americans make up 16 percent of all OUSD students and 41 percent of suspended students. Compared to other ethnicities in the district, this figure is disproportionate and raises a few red flags.

Latino students, for example, have proportionate suspensions compared to the total students enrolled in the district. They make up 38 percent of all OUSD students and 27 percent of suspended students. Latino males in the district and those who were suspended make up 38 percent and 27 percent respectively.

The report also details possible root causes of student suspensions and strategies schools are and should be utilizing to reduce the number of suspensions and be more proactive to all student success. Continue Reading


Violence is Traumatic for Teachers, Too

Stacey Smith is an Oakland school district parent and volunteer who has served on the District GATE Advisory Committee, the school board’s Special Committee on School Based Management, and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. What she writes about does not reflect the view of any group.

You may have caught the recent news about street violence near New Highland Academy. On January 10th, teachers and children were preparing to leave on their regular visit to the nearby 81st Avenue Public Library branch when gunfire broke out and about sixty shots were fired. After this traumatic incident, visits to the library ended completely because it was considered too dangerous. The Oakland Tribune’s Tammerlin Drummond wrote a column about the incident and the police-escorted “peace march” to the library a couple of weeks ago that the teachers and the Lincoln Child Center helped organize to create some closure for the second- and third-graders. The march was widely covered and news reports focused on violence the children experience daily both in and near school and at home. Many touched on the trauma counseling the students received and teachers spoke of the great need to support the children. But something seemed missing to me.

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OUSD Says No to Renewing EOLA’s Charter, Concerns on Police Chief’s Report

At Wednesday night’s Oakland school board meeting, there were few empty seats and dozens of people with speaker cards to discuss the several adult education programs that may be cut. Adult education, however, was not on the agenda and the board did not make any comments regarding any cuts.

Instead, the board approved to deny the charter renewal for East Oakland Leadership Academy High.

Philip Dotson, acting director of the Office of Charter Schools, read the report highlighting why the charter should not be renewed for EOLA based on figures developed over the five years the charter has been in place.

Some of those points included:

  • Failure to meet enrollment target of 200 students and is under-enrolled.
    • Currently 54 students are enrolled in grades 9-12; the most enrolled in one year was 67 students last school year.
  • Failure to retain students.
  • Failure to maintain a 95 percent attendance rate.
    • First two years of charter met this qualification but remaining three years averaged 93.1 percent.
  • Not accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, although the school is scheduled for a WASC visit March 17-20.
  • The school lacks a visible leader.
  • The API scores gradually decreased in three of the four years, although scores last year significantly grew.

Although individual students have benefited from attending EOLA and the school as a whole has made progress in improving math scores, the evidence against them was enough to elicit a vote to deny the charter, which will officially end on June 30. Continue Reading