Volunteer fair Saturday for Oakland schools

volunteers garden at Melrose Leadership Academy. File photo by Laura A. Oda/Staff

Want to help an Oakland public school? I hear they’re looking for a few good reading tutors, student mentors, career coaches, homework helpers, science coaches, artists, gardeners and playground monitors.

You can learn about those and other opportunities this weekend at a fair hosted by the Montclair Community Action Group and the school district. It’s from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Westlake Middle School, 2629 Harrison St. at 27th Street, across from the Whole Foods.

For more information about the event, visit the Montclair Community Action website , or email Risha Riley at risha.riley@ousd.k12.ca.us.


To prepare for school’s opening, Oakland principals step outside

Here’s my latest Flip camera production and story about Superintendent Tony Smith’s vision for OUSD and a back-to-school bus tour (one of three) for OUSD staff last week. I didn’t make it on the bus — no room! too many administrators! — but photographer Laura Oda and I were hot on their tail, and we met up with a walking tour in West Oakland.

Here’s what we saw and heard:

P.S. If you want to know what region your school is in, check out this map. I understand the regions correspond with those of the Oakland police and the county’s public health department.


Oakland school landscaping project Saturday, volunteers welcome

A volunteer weeds at a local high school. File photo by Jose Carlos FajardoAs I reported this spring, the Oakland school district’s facilities department took a big hit this year, laying off a number of gardeners, electricians and other workers.

Tomorrow, the department is teaming up with GKK Works and McCarthy Building Companies — and community volunteers — to clear brush and weed at four Oakland schools.

Interested? Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

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Help an Oakland school, have a martini!


The bartenders in Oakland’s Uptown like to mix really delicious, complicated and expensive cocktails, often with unusual ingredients. (The `sour’ I ordered last night at Era Art Bar involved maple syrup and egg whites.) At a back-to-school fundraiser and Uptown Block Party Aug. 28, a $20 ticket will buy you a cocktail and a donation to a local public school.

Could goodwill get any easier?

The 5 p.m. block party will be hosted by Era, Ozumo, Pican and Luka’s, which are near the intersection of Broadway and Grand Avenue. The restaurants will offer food specials, too. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit Crocker Highlands Elementary, Westlake Middle School, Oakland Tech High School and Laney Community College.

Some more details:

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Parent group proposes a “people’s takeover” to keep Oakland preschools open

Oakland preschool classroom. File photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group

At the end of the month, if nothing changes, seven of Oakland’s childhood development centers will close their doors because of massive budget cuts threatened at the state level: Manzanita, Jefferson, Golden Gate, Santa Fe, Piedmont Avenue, Sequoia and Hintil Kuu Ca childhood development centers.

Henry Hitz, the director of Oakland Parents Together, has another idea: staff the centers with volunteers (including some laid-off teachers) until the state Legislature approves a budget with preschool funding.

“Our feeling is if we allow the centers to close, they will never reopen,” Hitz said.

If you want to learn more — and vote — on this proposal, Hitz invites you to an Oakland Parents Together meeting at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Santa Fe CDC, 5380 Adeline St. in North Oakland. School district staff will be there, he said.

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Tired of acronyms, some Oaklanders “want Mack back”

Mack remained the name of the high school sports teams. File photo by Anda ChuOakland saw a flurry of new and redesigned schools in the last decade. Along with the more substantive changes came a slew of inventive names — many with acronyms for aspirational adjectives, nouns, verbs and phrases: BEST, EXCEL, ASCEND, EnCompass, Reach, United for Success, and EXPLORE, to name a few.

McClymonds High School, or Mack as it’s also known, was officially closed in 2005. The names of the two small high schools that opened on its campus were a mouthful: Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology (BEST) and Experience, eXcellence, Community, Empowerment and Leadership (EXCEL).  

BEST closed in June, though, and now that McClymonds will be a one-school campus again, a group of people — possibly, alumni — want to undo the name change. They’ve circulated a petition titled “Change the name back to McClymonds High.” Continue Reading


Oakland youth and the Oscar Grant verdict

A jury could begin deliberations this afternoon or tomorrow in the Mehserle murder trial, and there’s been much talk (some have called it hype) about what the reaction in Oakland will be, especially if the former BART police officer is acquitted. Youth UpRising is doing its part to keep the peace producing the above video and organizing an event at 5 p.m. on the day of the verdict, whenever that is. (Flier below.)

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More shocking news for adult ed in Oakland

Next week, the Oakland school district will consider a proposal to salvage what it can of its preschool programs for low-income families — at the expense of adult immigrants, refugees, high school dropouts and others looking to better their lives through education.

Adult education teachers and workers were told today to attend an important meeting at McClymonds. I’m told they sat in stunned silence as they heard the latest development:  The district administration will propose taking an additional 44 percent cut from adult education programs ($5 million) at a special school board meeting on Monday, June 14. Checking on the time; it wasn’t yet posted this afternoon.

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Advice to OUSD: Don’t sweat your reputation

From a marketing perspective, the Oakland school district should worry less about its overall reputation and more about how the community perceives its individual schools, MBA students from UC Berkeley concluded after reviewing the results of an online survey I posted on the blog in April.

About 300 people completed the survey, many of them with zip codes in the hills; the report’s authors acknowledged that the respondents weren’t representative of the city’s population.

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Want to see healthier food in schools? Oakland’s “State of the Plate” is Thursday

A parent-run produce stand at Glenview ElementaryIt’s one thing to gripe about greasy, processed school lunch food and its contribution to our nation’s obesity rate. It’s another to push for a system that will produce healthy, fresh meals for kids.

The Oakland School Food Alliance — a group of families, local organizations and community members that I wrote about last fall — is trying to do just that. If you’re curious about the latest developments in OUSD or have some ideas to share, the alliance is holding a “State of the Plate” discussion Thursday afternoon with Jennifer LeBarre, head of the school district’s nutrition services department.

It’ll be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Metwest High School, 314 E. 10th St. 

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