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


Cutting school, with dire consequences

Condolences outside Oak Knoll Market

I’m supposed to be an education reporter, not a crime reporter, but lately there hasn’t been much of a distinction.

Today I reported on a tragedy that unfolded at a market near Youth Empowerment School in the East Oakland hills — which, according to the school principal, is about to close (not merge into the Castlemont campus, as originally planned).

On Tuesday morning, a 14-year-old YES freshman cut school and, police said, got into a violent struggle with the 57-year-old owner of Oak Knoll Market over bottles of vodka he was trying to steal. When the boy fled, the owner followed in his car; he hadn’t driven a block before he fell unconscious and died, possibly of a heart attack.

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A life cut short, a graduation celebration canceled

DITIYAN FRANKLINDitiyan Franklin would have graduated from Castlemont’s Leadership Preparatory High School next month. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland teenager was shot and killed a couple of blocks from his house, near Arroyo Viejo park in East Oakland. Police said Thursday they had not determined a motive or identified a suspect.

Franklin is the second Castlemont senior in recent months to lose his life. His father said Chris Jones, a student at East Oakland School of the Arts who was fatally shot outside of his house Dec. 31, was a neighbor.

Yesterday, we talked to grieving family members and classmates about Franklin. You can find the story here.

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Please keep your comments respectful of those who knew and loved Ditiyan Franklin.


Burglars leave no classroom untouched

OAKLAND PRIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BURGLARIZED. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffJacqueline Calderon said she and her fellow teachers were excited to come to school Monday. The school’s yard had gotten a makeover over this weekend — the four-square court was carefully painted.

Instead they found broken windows, missing equipment and a dismantled computer lab at East Oakland PRIDE Elementary School, a small school on the old Webster campus on 81st Avenue and Birch.

It was scary and upsetting for the students who came to school, too. You can read the full story here.

Since you always ask how to help: Teachers are already writing grants and DonorsChoose.org requests to replace missing items. I’ll post more information as it comes in.


The Oakland police chief’s middle school strategy

Chief Batts. Tribune photo by D. Ross CameronOakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is in Washington, D.C. right now, lobbying the federal powers that be to give him $6 million for a pilot community policing program at four Oakland middle schools.

Batts’ plan is to hire 24 police officers and to assign them to four Oakland middle schools: Frick, Madison, Roosevelt and Westlake.

Officer Jeff Thomason, a public information officer for the police department, said four of the six officers at each school would provide security, and that two would serve as mentors and run the O.K. Program for gang and violence prevention.

“Basically, we want to start our community policing model at those schools,” Thomason said.

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Crime, punishment, grief, payback — and compassion?

So often — in life, in politics, in causes, on blogs — we end up in us-versus-them mode, so sure of the other side’s wrongness (and/or evilness) that we dehumanize them, at least to some degree.

That’s what I found so interesting about this story by my colleagues Scott Johnson and Angela Woodall. When I read the headline about the aftermath of tomorrow’s sentencing of Johannes Mehserle — which yours truly will be covering — I expected another story about merchants boarding up their shops and other signs of fear.

But that’s not what this story was about.

It opens with the perspective of Oakland Parents Together program director Kwame Nitoto, who went to a (figurative) place, he later admitted, he didn’t want to go. Here’s an excerpt from the story: Continue Reading


Bullet hits Oakland first-grader as she sleeps

We hear that 6-year-old Leslie Ramirez will survive the horror she experienced overnight.

Police say some 20 rounds were fired into her family’s East Oakland home in what might have been a gang-related attack. One of the bullets hit Leslie’s arm and went into her chest. As of this afternoon the first-grader was conscious and in stable condition at Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Leslie goes to Greenleaf Elementary, the East Oakland school I blogged about the other week. Her classmates made cards for her today, to cheer her up, and counselors came out to the campus.

Monica Thomas, Greenleaf’s principal, said most of her students live close to the school, which is on East 17th Street near 64th Avenue in East Oakland. Some of the parents told her they heard the shots that could have taken Leslie’s life.

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The summertime violence continues

This was all happening during last night’s board meeting. So sad. Although Superintendent Tony Smith said yesterday that one of the boys had died, the West Oakland Middle School student — shot in front of his own house — was in critical but stable condition today.

As Tribune Reporter Cecily Burt reports:

OAKLAND — A 17-year-old Berkeley boy was under arrest Thursday as a suspect in a Wednesday evening shooting that left a 13-year-old West Oakland boy in critical condition and his 16-year-old friend also wounded.

A second suspect, who police believe is the actual gunman, is being sought.

Police believe the suspects are affiliated with a North Oakland gang and that the boys shot were innocent victims. The shooting happened about 5:54 p.m. Wednesday at the home of the 13-year-old in the 1600 block of 8th Street.

Officer Ed Somarriba said Thursday that the 13-year-old, a student at West Oakland Middle School, and the 16-year-old, a student at EXCEL High School who also lives in West Oakland, and some other people were standing outside when the 17-year-old and another youth walked up. The second youth pulled a gun and began shooting at the group, Somarriba said. Both suspects fled.

No one else was hurt. The victims were taken to hospitals, and the 13-year-old was in critical but stable condition Thursday.

Joey Stevens, 26, said he had ridden on his bike past the boys and was still in the area when he heard what he at first thought were fireworks. He stayed with the younger boy, whom he knows well, until the paramedics arrived.

“He was so scared. I told him to breathe and be calm,” Stevens said, tearing up as he recalled those moments. “He’s a real sweet kid. He doesn’t mess with anybody. He went to school every day.”

You can read the whole story here.


Two Oakland teens shot and killed, others wounded on first week of summer

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Just after midnight, 19-year-old Rachael Green was killed and five others — 14 to 18 years old — were wounded at a West Oakland vigil for another teenage homicide victim, 17-year-old Damon Williams.

Just last week, Green graduated from Bunche Academy, an alternative school in West Oakland where Williams also was enrolled. Four Bunche students, including Williams, have died violently since the 2009-10 school year began, according to the Tribune story.

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