Jah-Ress Combs would have been a third-grader at East Oakland PRIDE Elementary School this fall. The 7-year-old boy died on Saturday from burn injuries. He had been playing with a lighter at his home on Friday night when he accidentally lit his clothes on fire, fire officials said.
A horrible story. I can’t imagine what his mother and aunt are going through.
Twenty of Oakland’s 98 schools will have new principals next year, according to a list that OUSD’s spokesman sent to me this afternoon (with a caveat that there might be some errors; it’s July, and the fact-checkers are on vacation). This is the longest list I’ve posted in blogging history (See 2007, 2008, 2009 or 2010, though those weren’t necessarily complete).
Here are the schools that will have new leaders this fall, according to the list from OUSD, which is posted in full below:
Elementary: East Oakland PRIDE (TBD), Emerson, Futures (TBD), Grass Valley (TBD) Hillcrest, Kaiser, Parker (TBD), REACH, Sequoia, Bella Vista (TBD), Laurel
Middle: Alliance, Roots International, West Oakland Middle, Bret Harte (TBD)
High: Coliseum College Prep (grades 6-12), East Oakland School of the Arts, Freshman Prep Academy (this is new, part of the restructuring at Castlemont), Mandela (Fremont), Media Academy (Fremont), and Metwest. (All three high schools on the Fremont campus will be under one principal, Dan Hurst.)
Below is the list from Oakland Unified, with the principal changes highlighted in yellow.
For a longer-term project about the summertime, I went to a fifth-grade promotion ceremony today at Joaquin Miller Elementary School. Since this just happens to be my favorite age group (Have you ever interviewed an 11-year-old?), I put together a few highlights.
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.
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.”)
Aspire Public Schools did not get the go-ahead tonight to open a seventh charter school in Oakland; it fell one vote short.
(Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, who is probably the biggest charter school supporter on the board, was out of town at a Great City Schools conference. David Kakishiba and Jody London voted against the Aspire petition, and Alice Spearman — who was out of the room during the vote — said she was against it, too. Gary Yee, Chris Dobbins and Noel Gallo voted `yes,’ but Yee was on the fence; he told me he tended to support staff recommendations, but that he might have voted `no’ if Hinton-Hodge were there.)
Gail Greely, who heads the charter office, recommended the board approve the East Oakland elementary school. She said Aspire’s application met the legal standard — “even though an additional k-5 school is not needed to serve students and families in Oakland.” She also said the office determined it wouldn’t provide a “unique” or “innovative” program, but that those concerns weren’t grounds for denial under current charter school law.
I wrote about Aspire several months ago in a story about the growing influence and prevalence of charter school chains, as opposed to standalone charters. (I found this copy online, though our link expired.) Aspire, which is headquartered in Oakland, has received national attention and millions of dollars in federal and philanthropic support for its expansion. Oprah awarded the network $1 million last fall during a promotion for the “Waiting for Superman” documentary.
The network received no such appreciation tonight at the board hearing. Some board members seemed to take the application as an affront to the district.
Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland is teaching kids this week that boys and girls don’t all fit into neat gender norms, and that they shouldn’t laugh at or tease someone if they do (or wear) something different or unusual.
Two parent leaders whom I interviewed for a story about the issue said they knew of no controversy about the training — until today.
A few weeks ago, Redwood Heights invited parents to a staff training by Gender Spectrum and held an information session afterward, said Michelle Hatchell, the school’s PTA president. Principal Sara Stone included the information in several editions of a weekly memo to parents. (The training is about gender identity, not sexual orientation or attraction; it was funded by a grant from the California Teachers Association.)
But the chief counsel of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal organization, said he learned of seven families who didn’t know until recently that the lessons were about to happen.
Last school year, 14.3 percent of Oakland’s public schoolchildren were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 18 days of school — excused or unexcused. As you can see from this map, created by (and posted with the permission of) the Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council, the most serious attendance problems are concentrated in West Oakland.
The Oakland school district recently began collecting data of all of its students who were absent — not just those with unexcused absences. Now, principals regularly get lists of those students (those who have missed 10 percent of the school year) in an effort to get to the root causes of their absence and curb the problem.
Superintendent Tony Smith is scheduled to speak in Sacramento tomorrow at a forum on the subject hosted by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. So is Hedy Chang, of Attendance Works, who did the attendance analysis for the Oakland school district with technical support from Urban Strategies Council.
Oakland teachers, counselors, principals and other credentialed school-based staff: Friday is the deadline for completing an anonymous online survey about what it’s like to work at each school in the district.
How much time do you spend on various tasks during the school day? Outside of the regular school day? Are efforts made at your school to minimize interruptions, or routine paperwork? How much time do you have to collaborate with other teachers?
The results will be published online, by school, in June — that is, as long as the response rate is at least 50 percent for a given school. If not, those schools will be omitted from the results. Read the rest of this entry »
When friends and relatives from other parts of the country see Oakland in the news, it’s almost always because something tragic or bizarre has happened here. I’m sure many of you can relate.
Now I hate to speak too soon — I wasn’t near a TV at 3:20 this afternoon — but I believe BET aired a piece about Amir Ealy and 22 other African-American boys in Oakland who earned perfect scores on their 2010 math or reading tests. The network used some of our footage (with permission) in this one-minute news brief, which is now posted on its website.