Should Oakland restore funds to GED, family literacy?

The Oakland school district can keep family literacy and GED programs at 2010-11 levels next year if the school board gives back $900,000 that the school district administration has proposed taking away, Deputy Superintendent Vernon Hal told school board members in a memo posted on the Wednesday night agenda.

They could do that in two ways:

1) Reduce the district’s cash reserves from 3 percent to 2.8 percent, which would still be above the 2 percent minimum the state requires (earlier this month, a version of Hal’s proposal included a 2 percent reserve, but the state trustee recommended 3 percent, and so did some board members).

2) Take $900,000 of the $2.5 million (swiped) adult ed funding that has been set aside to pay off the district’s early retirement incentive in one fell swoop (along with other funds; the early retirement plan will cost OUSD an estimated $10.4 million). This option would mean the remaining $900,000 originally earmarked to pay for the plan would have to come from future budgets.

Hal made it clear in the memo, however, that he doesn’t think the board should make any changes to the budget. He says it wouldn’t make it to the county superintendent by July 1, and that the state trustee doesn’t recommend changes. But he suggested such changes — in funding allocations — can occur after the budget is submitted, saying the budget is “a living document.”

Do you agree with Hal? What should the board do?

You can read his entire memo here: Continue Reading


Notes from a long and eventful board meeting

Tonight’s — or should I say, last night’s —  5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting went till midnight. I observed so much from my ergonomically incorrect wooden seat:

The NAACP‘s Oakland branch showed up in force to register their concerns about complaints they’d heard from students and alumni about problem teachers, institutional racism and African American students’ opportunities for success at Skyline High (where a transcript review last fall revealed a whole bunch of students who weren’t on track to graduate), McClymonds and Castlemont high schools.

Teachers showed up to voice their support for retired teachers whom the district hired to coach them when they were first starting out. The retired teachers said they were told their services would no longer be needed. Superintendent Tony Smith said he had known nothing about this — and that he wished he had been informed of this development by his staff, rather than at a school board meeting. (Sounded to me like the program would be restored.)

Nikita Mitchell, one of the school board’s student directors, gave a rousing, seemingly extemporaneous end-of-term speech about education in Oakland, the “two Oaklands,” and how she and other students had been saying for years what members of the NAACP reported on Wednesday.

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A OUSD board member’s proposal: No further cuts to adult education

David KakishibaDavid Kakishiba doesn’t think the Oakland school district should swipe another $3.3 million from the adult education fund. Such a move would all but shut down adult education in Oakland, leaving only about $1 million in ongoing funds for a program that once had a budget of more than $11 million.

Kakishiba will suggest that change — and others — to the superintendent’s budget proposal at Wednesday’s 5 p.m. school board meeting. His four “adjustments” (See full document below) were discussed by the Finance and Human Resources Committee this week and unanimously forwarded to the full board for a discussion.

The 2011-12 budget is up for approval the following week, on June 29. The most recent OUSD proposal to date is posted below.

THE CASE FOR LEAVING ADULT ED’S REMAINING FUNDS ALONE: Kakishiba said he believes Oakland’s adult education programs will help the district realize its vision of “full-service community schools,” especially since adult ed’s services — GED and school-based family literacy — line up so closely with OUSD’s mission.

Besides, the board member said he wasn’t convinced the administration’s plans for spending that money on high schools line up with the strategic plan the school board is about to vote on tomorrow. He said the idea of launching a centralized academic counseling team (one of the proposed expenditures of the adult ed money) “makes no sense to me.”

The other items on which the funds might be spent, he said, amount to “very small investments in big issues.”

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Layoff update and Oakland teachers of the year

May 15 is upon us, and it doesn’t look like the Oakland school district plans to rescind any more layoff notices of teachers and counselors than it already has. (See my April layoff update here.)

Here is the latest layoff resolution, which the board votes on tomorrow night.

You can find the full agenda here.

On a happier note, I have news about the Oakland teachers of the year. One of the pink-slipped teachers I wrote about, Lissette Averhoff, is one of them. Lissette has informed me that she will be back at ACORN Woodland Elementary in the fall.

The other Oakland teacher of the year honoree is Lisa Hiltbrand, from Urban Promise Academy. She teaches sixth-grade humanities. Here’s what her principal, Mark Triplett, said about her to OUSD (as reported in the resolution): Continue Reading


Oakland schools to cancel more layoff notices

A week after announcing that none of its elementary school teachers would be laid off strictly for budget reasons, the Oakland school district is gearing up to cancel more layoff notices — though not all of them.

Art, English and physical education are among the subjects likely to be completely spared from layoffs based on the results of budget cuts made at individual schools. Adult education, meanwhile, is the hardest hit; all 48 remaining adult education counselors and teachers are likely to receive final layoff notices, according to a resolution posted on the agenda of a special board meeting tomorrow night.

You can find the updated layoff list, by subject, here.

A partial layoff count (see above link for the full document): Continue Reading


So much pink, so few layoffs (probably)

For all of the people who tried to attend the Oakland school board’s special budget meeting tonight and anyone else who missed the presentation, here’s the upshot:

The Oakland school district is bracing for a 16 percent cut in state general purpose funding for 2011-12. That amounts to $844 per student, or $30.5 million, rather than $349 per student, or $12.6 million, as previously thought. Not a small difference. But the district’s staff’s “best thinking” for making ends meet under that scenario does not call for additional cuts at schools, school closures or furloughs.

What it does entail is a whole lot of one-time funds taken from the state loan, adult education programs, and additional reserves. And, as a result, a much larger structural deficit — $22 million, rather than $7 million — and more cuts down the line. You can find the presentation here.

On layoffs: Continue Reading


A new coalition to bring back adult education

a class at the Edward Shands Adult School, which closed this year. Tribune file photo by Lane Hartwell

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that adult education in California has been decimated in recent years. You might also know that the Oakland school board voted in June to shift millions of dollars of adult ed funds to the district’s child care programs, which the governor in May had threatened to cut.

(Not all of the Oakland school district’s 11th-hour cuts went through. The district tried to use an obscure ed code provision to lay off some of its tenured adult education teachers though the employees had not received March 15 pink slip notices. The layoffs were overturned, and many of those adult education teachers are in computer labs, working in a new online high school completion program.)

Now that the long-awaited state budget contains much of the child care funding the governor had proposed to slash (with the exception of CalWORKs child care subsidies for those who have been working and off cash aid for two years or more), Oakland’s adult education advocates are watching closely to see if some of those funds will be restored.

Jessie Ortiz, a veteran adult ed teacher, has organized the Bring Back Adult Education Coalition, a new group that includes teachers, students and two local organizations that support refugees. The coalition is holding its first rally and press conference today at Edward Shands, which closed this year. Continue Reading


OUSD’s worst-case scenario for pre-k, adult ed

Highland Child Development Center. Photo by Laura A. Oda/Oakland Tribune

The other week, we visited the Highland Childhood Development Center in East Oakland for a story about the possible elimination of state-subsidized, all-day preschool for the children of low-income working (or studying) parents.

Highland did not appear on this week’s list of seven possible CDC closures in Oakland. Which ones did? Golden Gate, Hintil Kuu Ca, Jefferson, Manzanita, Piedmont Avenue, Santa Fe and Sequoia. Parker was slated for closure before the governor came out with his proposal to slash preschool funding.

You can find more details Continue Reading


Next on the CA chopping block: opportunity?

Girl reading at Highland Childhood Development Center. Photo by Laura Oda/Oakland TribuneYesterday afternoon I visited two East Oakland schools that offer hope, support and opportunity to people who are trying to make it in urban America.

I wish I was out on a feel-good story, but I wasn’t. I went because both schools might close, depending on the priorities set by our state government (and, by extension, the Oakland school district) in the context of a deep fiscal crisis.

The Highland Childhood Development Center and Edward Shands Adult School serve the youngest and the oldest public school students in the city — people under six and over 18.

Age differences aside, Oakland’s adult school and preschool programs bear striking similarities: Both make it possible for people of very modest means to earn degrees, hold jobs and create a better life for themselves and their children.

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