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.


A giant PTA for Oakland schools

Remember the discussion last fall about fundraising inequities in Oakland schools? Some, including Oakland school board member Jody London, said they thought there should be a better way for parents and other interested Oaklanders to support public education in a broader sense (rather than just school-by-school). 

Inspired by those discussions, a new group aims to bring together families, parents and businesses from all neighborhoods to share resources and know-how. The group has also created a wiki, a website where you can post events, resources and emergency needs yourself. You can find it here.

Want to learn more about it? The first meeting takes place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Sequoia Elementary School, 3730 Lincoln Ave. Babysitting and translation will be provided; organizers ask that you RSVP with those details at sowingseeds@hotmail.com.

In what ways do you think a coalition like this holds the most promise? How would you like to see it work?


Oakland teacher strike participation: 91%

picket line at Skyline High SchoolI’m no longer at the big, musical rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, but union leaders there have reported that 91 percent of the district’s teachers participated in today’s strike.

The CTA says the rally drew nearly 2,000 people. That number seems a bit high to me, but I’m not very good at crowd estimates. In any event, there were lots of teachers, students and parents there.

Still waiting on student attendance stats. If they reflect the numbers at Skyline (about 60-65, according to my head count this morning), McClymonds, Oakland Tech (a grand total of 12 kids, according to teacher David de Leeuw) and Futures Academy, the elementary school I toured this morning, it will be extremely low. Continue Reading


Summer school in OUSD: still here

At tonight’s Oakland school board meeting, a staffer handed me a colorful guide almost the size of a newspaper on summer resources for kids. Despite the cutbacks, the district is still offering:

  • Algebra Academies for middle and high school students
  • Oakland Fine Arts Summer School (at International Community School/Think College Now this year)
  • Bridges Program, to help kids make the transition to the sixth and ninth grades
  • Early Childhood Education programs
  • Migrant/refugee summer program
  • Pre-Collegiate Academy, summer enrichment (co-sponsored by the East Bay Consortium and Merritt College)
  • an extended school year for disabled students
  • Summer Intervention Program focused on math and reading and/or high school exit exam prep
  • Pre-K camp (with First 5 California)

The guide also includes pages and pages of other local programs and classes. You can find it online here. Any recommendations?


Can OUSD ditch its old rep and galvanize the support it needs?

The Bellevue Club on Lake Merritt has an old school, old Oakland sort of feel. But tonight, the future of the city’s schools — the city’s young residents, really — was discussed in its ornate rooms.

The event opened with a reception fundraiser for the Oakland Schools Foundation and remarks about the organization’s changes: its new name, its planned expansion, and its new director, Dan Quigley, former PG&E director of charitable giving.

Holly Babe Faust, the outgoing director of OSF, said the organization was optimistic about its relationship with the school district, which she predicted would become “broader, deeper, more interesting.”  She might be right; OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith made the keynote speech, after all.

Continue Reading


School safety and the perimeter problem

Kimi Kean and Minh-Tram Nguyen meet with neighbor about graffiti

In case you missed it, there was a story in today’s Trib about the efforts of Oakland principals Minh-Tram Nguyen and Kimi Kean to draw attention to a citywide problem: dangers in the streets outside schools.

City leaders and police responded quickly to their plea for help, which was precipitated by three daytime shootings near the school in three months. We’ll check back in a few months to see if the conditions have changed, and if more neighbors and nearby businesses have lent a hand.

Is this cooperative spirit alive and well in other parts of the city? In what ways could it be better?

SCHOOL BOARD ALERT: Tonight’s 5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting will be held at Laurel Elementary School, 3750 Brown Ave., rather than the usual place. You can find the agenda here.


More of OUSD’s small schools might close in 2010

District staff are recommending that Explore Middle School, a small school that opened in East Oakland in 2004, close at the end of the year.

Also on the 2010 closure list are two schools that were scheduled to close a year or two down the road, following a lengthy phase out: BEST High School (McClymonds campus in West Oakland) and Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts (Fremont campus in East Oakland).

Staff didn’t come out with a definitive recommendation for Martin Luther King Jr. and Lafayette elementary schools in West Oakland Continue Reading


A sped up phase-out at McClymonds

mcclymondsSoon, the McClymonds high school campus will have just one small high school, instead of two.

District staff is recommending that BEST High School close in June — a year earlier than planned, Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam told a crowd gathered at the McClymonds cafeteria tonight.

Stam said it would be unfair to BEST students and too costly for the school district to keep it open next year with just a few dozen students, and that this year’s juniors (the youngest class at BEST) will likely attend EXCEL, the other high school, next fall. This year, the school district is providing a subsidy of about $330,000, Stam said.

EXCEL’s enrollment has dwindled to less than 250, and just 65 juniors and seniors attend BEST, according to a recent districtwide data report. In 2004-05, the year before McClymonds split into two schools as part of the Gates-funded small schools reform, 761 kids went to the West Oakland high school, according to data from the California Department of Education. Continue Reading