On this week’s OUSD board agenda: school facilities, police review, charters and grading policy

I’m gearing up for a long night on Wednesday. Among many other agenda items, the Oakland school board will hear a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Services (it hasn’t been posted as of this afternoon); a discussion about possible revisions to the district’s student grading policies and regulations; an update on the expansions of Burckhalter and Kaiser elementary schools; and lots of decisions about the use of district property.

The board will also vote on the Lazear Elementary School charter conversion petition. Staff has recommended denial, saying it presents an unsound program that is unlikely to be successful. Lazear is one of the five elementary schools the board voted last fall to close at the end of the school year.

FACILITIES DEALS: Proposition 39 is a California constitutional amendment passed in 2000 that, among other provisions, gave charter schools the right to available space in public school buildings. If the board adopts the below proposals, some of the city’s existing and new charters might open at schools that the district has shut down or planned to close.

There are so many of these facilities proposals on Wednesday’s agenda, they almost call for some sort of diagram. For now, I’ll try my best to sketch it out in words. Continue Reading


If the Oakland school district had $1.46 billion…

Project list

This evening, after the Oakland school board picks a president and vice president for 2012 (6 p.m.), it moves onto its facilities master plan. The special study session — no vote on the plan tonight — is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at 1025 Second Ave.

The presentation posted on the agenda (links below) covers enrollment and demographic trends, facts about the number, age and size of district buildings, and a list of projects that might be undertaken if OUSD had the money.

If OUSD tackled every project on that list it would cost an estimated $1.46 billion, not including change orders and cost overruns. (The figure is listed on one slide as $1,460 million, which — though probably standard for these kinds of reports — sounds a little like someone saying they’re five-foot-twelve.)

It includes: $145 million in projects from the 2005 master plan that never materialized, such as upgrades to fire alarms; $333 million in seismic safety improvements; $457 million in modernization projects; $53 million in solar and energy efficiency; $300 million to replace portable buildings and $172.5 million for community kitchens, health care centers and other “site optimization” projects.

As most of the Measure B funds have been allocated or spent, this project prioritization appears to be in preparation for another bond measure campaign, which the board discussed last fall (election date and amount TBD).

You can find links to the relevant documents here and the projects list below. Come 6 p.m., you’ll find a link to a live video stream of the meeting here — and something called “eComment,” which I hadn’t noticed before.

What’s your take on the facilities master plan?


A heartbreaking essay on school break-ins

Someone wrote this blog post about a break-in this week at the Burbank Preschool Center, a school for children with special needs.

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The district hasn’t yet provided stats on how many times people have broken into Oakland schools this year and how much they’ve taken, but it happens all too often. In fact, the break-in at Burbank followed burglaries at Grass Valley (stolen safe) and Redwood Heights (stolen computers and projectors), according to the school district’s spokesman, Troy Flint.

I don’t know who wrote the essay, posted on the “On Thoughtfulness and Randomness” blog, but you should read it. Here’s an excerpt:

I had to go there later in the day – and steeled myself walking in. District vans were parked outside the school, lots of people inside fixing things. Busy trying to make the break in go away.

Teachers were teaching. Eyes were sad, smiles forced. But children were going to lunch – teachers were helping them celebrate “super hero day” – children looked safe, happy, excited – oblivious to the damage, oblivious to the whispers of the adults. It was their school – and it was a good place to be.

The teachers made it that way – protected the children from what wasn’t right in the world. Kept their routines, listened to their stories about their costumes, worked on their colors and shapes – made the world calm, predictable, and safe. Protected the families too – told them gently, with assurance, with sympathetic smiles, with plans to make it better in the future – plans to keep the world from busting in again, stories of why everything would be OK.

The jokes started when the children were out of earshot – because that is how we all cope now. Continue Reading


Oakland’s 2010-11 enrollment breakdown

The California Department of Education recently posted 2010-11 enrollment data. At least one of you has asked how many schools have fewer than 200 children, so I put together a spreadsheet with the latest numbers for Oakland.

Tab 1 is sorted by total enrollment, with charter schools highlighted in blue. Tab 2 is sorted by school. You’ll see that of the 31 public schools or programs in Oakland with enrollments below 200, all but six or seven are alternative schools or charters, and one of those (Youth Empowerment School) is already slated to close.

Want to go straight to the source? Here is the link to the page from where I downloaded the data.

Oakland school enrollment 2010-11


A big box store at Lazear?

3245396820_ecde5a5748_mThis spring, I wrote about the changes at Oakland’s Lazear Elementary School under its new principal, Kareem Weaver.

Lest the year end without controversy, rumors have been circulating that the school (see below map) could be closed down to make way for a big box store.

More than 100 people came to a recent meeting at Lazear with Oakland school board member Noel Gallo. Gallo said he called the meeting to quell rumors of an imminent closure and to assure parents that a deal wasn’t going to be cut behind the closed doors of the mayor’s office or the superintendent’s office.

But the rumors aren’t entirely off-base. Gallo said he had “an informal meeting” with the owner of the adjacent shopping center, Fruitvale Station, about the possibility of leasing the land on which Lazear sits. (He said he was first approached about this two years ago, and that it’s been “an ongoing conversation.”)

Continue Reading


The Big Freeze in Oakland schools

portable heater. Image from comedy_nose on flickr.com/creativecommonsThe news report this morning was about shivering students at Frick Middle School.

But the Oakland school district’s temperature problems are much broader and more chronic. About 65 OUSD schools and offices reported heat outages this week, after returning from Thanksgiving break on Monday. More than half of the problems had yet to be fully resolved as of this afternoon, according to this district log.

Continue Reading


Tilden update: Can one shuttered school save another from closing?


Tribune file photo by Sean Donnelly

For well over a year, parents from Oakland’s Tilden School have cajoled, grilled and held district administrators to task about the future of the unique program, which serves children — many of them, with special needs — in preschool through third grade.

Tilden will close in June. Still, those behind the dogged effort to keep elements of the program alive have scored a substantial victory: a new preschool and special needs diagnostic center at the nearby Burbank campus. Most of Tilden’s students are in preschool. Continue Reading