An Oakland school’s transformation

April 15, 2010 parent strike at Lazear Elementary School. (Bay Area News Group file photo)A year ago this morning, I interviewed parents who were on strike and picketing outside of Lazear Elementary, a school located right off the 29th Avenue/Fruitvale exit of Interstate 880. They said they were fed up with some teachers — one, especially — and with their principal’s response to their concerns.

I returned to Lazear this month to see how it was faring under new leadership. I visited twice, and must have talked to half the teaching staff about their experiences. I was struck by the power of morale (low and high) and trust in this school’s story.

You can read about it here.

(Below is a photo of Kareem Weaver, left, Lazear’s new principal.)
Lazear Elementary Principal Kareem Weaver (left). Photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group


No layoffs for Oakland’s elementary school teachers

A Kaiser Elementary kindergartner, shown at a rally in March. Photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News GroupNone of the elementary school teachers who received pink slips last March will lose their jobs (except for those who don’t have the required credential to teach English learners), Deputy Superintendent Maria Santos announced at the beginning of tonight’s Oakland school board meeting.

At least 17 of the 25 music teachers who received pink slips will keep their jobs as well.

“We’re really excited about this and delighted today to present that information to you,” Santos said. (Superintendent Tony Smith is in Washington, D.C.)

Santos said further analysis is required before a similar announcement can be made about other positions, such as middle and high school teachers or counselors. The Oakland school district warned 657 teachers that they were at risk of losing their jobs. That number included 25 music teachers and 267 elementary school teachers.


Student-teaching in Oakland

I recently visited Sobrante Park Elementary School, and when I stopped by Michelle Ramos-Stokes’ second-grade classroom, I observed a class ritual — a language arts drill led by 8-year-old Shelly Currington. She seemed quite at ease in front of the class.

I caught some of the lesson on my trusty Flip camera. Enjoy.


Oakland’s pink slip imprint, by school

Luc DeArmey, a pink-slipped teacher at Futures Elementary in East Oakland.The Oakland school district has ranked its schools based on how deeply they were hit by the 657 potential layoff notices sent to its teaching staff.

This spreadsheet, created by OUSD, also includes the turnover at each school between 2007 and 2010, the API gains during that period, the percentage of students who are African-American or Latino, and the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals.

The top five are (or were) small schools that opened between 2003 and 2007, many of them with new teaching staffs: Continue Reading


A celebration of peace and harmony in Oakland

Parents at Manzanita Community School and Manzanita SEED organized an event today to celebrate their community, call for peace and welcome the area’s community police officers. Here are some clips of the neighborhood walk, which began on East 27th Street and 26th Avenue in East Oakland. (Note: In the confusion of the moment, I neglected to get the name of the teacher and guitar player who provides the soundtrack! Anyone?)


One Oakland school’s outsized layoff threat

Uncertain state funding levels and the Oakland school district’s decision to issue layoff warnings to more than one-fifth of its teaching staff has created high levels of stress throughout the district. Hit especially hard were schools that have few teachers who have been in the district for more than four or five years. New teachers are — with some exceptions — the first to go.

At Futures Elementary, which opened in 2007 on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, every teacher could be replaced next year, according to the principal. I visited Futures yesterday morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:


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.


Yogeeta and the Bee

Shoshana Winkelstein is a fifth-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School in East Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood. She tells us about the remarkable achievement of one of her students, Yogeeta Gurung, a refugee who has been in the United States for nine months. — Katy

Yogeeta Gurung, winner of the Oakland school district spelling bee. (Courtesy photo)

Talented students, proud parents and teachers all crowded into the auditorium of Tilden School this month for the Oakland school district’s annual spelling bee. As I arrived, students were registering, getting their contestant numbers and lining up beside the stage. When the students stood quietly, waiting to climb the stairs to the stage and introduce themselves, I imagined they were both nervous and excited.

My student, Yogeeta Gurung, a native of Nepal, has only been in the United States for nine months. Continue Reading