Behind the screens of the Peralta Community Colleges board: Reporter finds some telling e-mails

Matt Krupnick, my colleague who covers higher education for the Bay Area News Group, requested e-mail correspondence from the public accounts of Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge and William Riley, trustees for the Peralta Community College District who are running for re-election or, in Hodge’s case, for mayor. He tells us what he found.

from Fletcher Prince's photostream on flickr.com/creativecommonsA stack of e-mails I obtained from the Peralta Community College District gives an interesting look into the inner world of trustees — and some shed light on why they never return my calls.

The e-mails, obtained through the California Public Records Act, were sent to and from the public accounts of trustees Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge and William Riley, all of whom are running for re-election or for another public office in November. Most of the messages provided nothing but tedium, but others contained some surprising reactions to what I thought were standard requests for information.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Handy responded in one message when told of my request for the e-mails. “How racist is that?”

All three of the trustees, who all happen to be African-American, are running for public office — Handy and Riley for re-election and Hodge for Oakland mayor — and none of the three has been willing to answer questions about their performance on the Peralta board. Looking through their e-mail is one of the few ways for a reporter to tell the public about these officials.

The messages show surprising reactions from other trustees as well. Continue Reading


A higher ed dispatch from UC Berkeley

Matt Krupnick, our higher education reporter, tells us about the entering class at UC Berkeley, from the chancellor’s point of view, on the first day of classes.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert BirgeneauA variety of media types gathered at UC Berkeley today – the first day of classes – to get Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s annual take on the university’s state of affairs. It was his seventh such briefing, if my math is correct, and mine as well.

While Birgeneau previously used this event to announce news, they have become more wide-ranging in recent years. He provides a look at the entering class and updates on other items of interest.

The 2010 version featured a lot of discussion about minority and low-income students. Berkeley, always known for its allegiance to the poor, enrolled a record number of low-income freshmen this year, Birgeneau said. More than one-third of the entering class of 5,000 freshmen – 37 percent – is eligible for the federal Pell Grant, a need-based scholarship.

But Birgeneau also mentioned his concern about the low number of underrepresented minority students. Just 3.2 percent of the class of 2014 is black, while 12.2 percent are Latino, 31 percent are white and 45.6 percent are Asian-American.

Continue Reading


Suburban mom reports substandard ACT administration at West Oakland high school

Sharon Fingold’s family lives in Los Altos, but by the time her son registered for the June 12 ACT, the only testing center available was McClymonds High School in West Oakland.

Fingold figured the administration of the college entrance exam at McClymonds would be no different than it was for the SATs and ACTs her children had taken in more affluent areas, such as Los Altos and Palo Alto. Afterward, she was so concerned about what her son and other students experienced that she wrote me (and the ACT) about it.

She outlined the problems in greater detail, but here’s how she summarized what happened: Continue Reading


Dave Eggers’ idea to help kids pay for college

826 Valencia. Image from snickclunk's photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Dave Eggers is a famous author and publisher, but he’s also a teacher, an advocate and a philanthropist. His 8-year-old writing project, named after its address —  826 Valencia — offers free writing and editing workshops, a great books/”Best American Nonrequired Reading” class, field trips and drop-in tutoring. (And a pirate store, in case you ever need one.)

Eggers’ latest idea is to make donating college scholarships more appealing by making it more personal, a model used by DonorsChoose.

His new site, Scholar Match, launched a couple of weeks ago and features a number of profiles from students at Oakland Unity High School in East Oakland. They’re starting slow, adding new scholarship recipient hopefuls as donors register, but any college-bound (or college) student may apply to have their profiles posted on the site. The organization is giving preference to San Francisco and East Bay students.

I talked to Eggers about the project and wrote a story about it, which should appear in Sunday’s paper.


Edu-wonk alert! New Web site on high school graduation and higher education in California

high school graduation
photo by Anda Chu/Staff

A new Web site that went live today has no shortage of stats and pretty charts about California youth and higher education: high school graduation trends, completion of a-g requirements in high school, by gender; college enrollment trends; community college completion rates for degree-seekers, etc.

Measuring Success, Making Progress — as the site is called — is funded by the Hewlett Foundation.

What do you make of the information? Does any of it surprise you?

I was struck by the dropoff in the 12th grade between the number of kids who enrolled as seniors and those who received a diploma. ( This was among group of kids whose enrollment was tracked since they were seventh-graders in 2002.)


Kids: Want a crash course in astrophysics? Juggling?

photo courtesy of Shuai Chen, co-founder of Splash

If you know a middle or high school student who has a free day this weekend and might be interested in, say, neuroscience, dancing, artificial intelligence, juggling, or painting, keep reading!

More than 100 Stanford University students are playing teacher for the weekend in a marathon learning session on the Palo Alto campus. It’s called Splash, and it runs Saturday and Sunday. The full price is $40 for both days (and $20 for siblings), but the event organizers say that participants who can’t afford the fee can just say so and they don’t have to pay anything.

You can learn more about Splash, and its (literally) 209 course offerings, here. This is the third time students have organized the event, and they expect up to 1,000 kids to participate. Those who haven’t registered online can just show up on Saturday or Sunday.

Can’t make it this weekend? They’re planning another one in April.


Black colleges to recruit in Oakland tomorrow

Considering a historically black college or university? Admissions officers from more than 30 HBCUs will be on hand tomorrow at a recruitment fair for Oakland high school students.

The free event goes from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at the Oakland school district’s administrative office building — 1025 Second Avenue, near Laney College.

Some of the colleges will offer on-the-spot admissions and scholarships, so students should bring their SAT scores and school transcripts. Continue Reading


And the local National Merit semifinalists are…

Today, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation released the names of 16,000 semifinalists — less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors — who will compete for 8,200 scholarships. These students were recommended by their school principals and scored highly on the P-SATs they took as juniors.

All of Oakland’s semifinalists attend private schools, but that’s not the case in some other nearby districts, like Fremont: Continue Reading


Culture shock! From Oakland public schools to a private college in the South

Robin Higgins graduated from Skyline High School in 2006 and attends a university in Atlanta, Ga. She writes about her transition. -Katy

I feel like I’ve been prepared very well by the Oakland Unified School District. Since my graduation from Skyline High School in 2006 I’ve completed three years of college and never felt disadvantaged or held back by my schooling. Culturally, however, the transition has been awkward, strange, and a little discouraging.

I have not had a hard time transitioning academically from Oakland schools to a private college, but I also got the very best of what the OUSD schools had to offer. My parents were my advocates, involved in a way that gave me the very best of a given school, and shielded me from some of the less functional parts. Teachers in my middle and high school ranged from inspiring individuals who shape every student they have in a positive way to so mind-bogglingly bad it’s a wonder they even bother to get up in the morning. Continue Reading


Tips on getting into — and out of — college

photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune

With the help of Matt Krupnick (and the quick thinking/typing skills of our guest, Cal State East Bay’s VP of enrollment, Greg Smith), I survived my first “live chat” this afternoon. We weren’t exactly overwhelmed with participants, but those who did join the discussion asked some good questions.

Sorry you missed it? Don’t be. You can read the entire thread Continue Reading