Plan for Oakland schools up for approval Saturday

On Saturday, the Oakland school board is scheduled to vote on the superintendent’s five-year strategic plan — the product of 14 task forces and, according to the document, some 350 task force and community meetings.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the board room at 1025 Second Ave. It’s supposed to run about two hours.

How did you take part in the process? Does this document reflect your ideas for improving OUSD? What will it take for this plan to materialize?

In case you missed it:

OUSD’s strategic plan

The Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network sent out a news release saying it expected all four of its recommendations to make it into the final plan. They are:

  • Adopt and follow standards for family engagement to make meetings and events more accessible and parent-friendly
  • Improve training for parents who serve on school site governance councils
  • Establish a Family Engagement Advisory Council to give regular feedback to the district on ways to better involve the community
  • Hold monthly meetings with parents and youth in each of OUSD’s three regions to improve communication.

A big box store at Lazear?

3245396820_ecde5a5748_mThis spring, I wrote about the changes at Oakland’s Lazear Elementary School under its new principal, Kareem Weaver.

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.”)

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Oakland elementary school explores gender norms, teaches acceptance

A lesson about gender

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.

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Chronic absenteeism in Oakland schools

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.

As we discussed last summer on this blog, the problem of chronic absenteeism is not just prevalent in high schools, but in elementary schools as well. Continue Reading


Oakland summer guide, and a free summer camp

Oakland Schools Police summer campIf you haven’t made plans for the summer yet, here is a brochure the Oakland school district has put together of its offerings, plus camps and courses run by the city or local organizations.

Teachers: I’ve been hearing about the academic `summer slide’ for years. Do you notice it more in students that didn’t do much learning over the summer than those who do? Does your school help find them good programs that they can afford?

What kinds of summer programs does Oakland — or the East Bay — need more of?

A free summer camp: The Oakland Schools Police department is doing its summer program again this year, at no charge to participants. Continue Reading


Oakland teachers union leaders consider a one-day strike

UPDATE: No strike on April 4. Betty Olson-Jones said the executive board determined there was too little time. She said they’ll be organizing actions before, during and after school to oppose cuts and defend collective bargaining.


The AFL-CIO has called a national day of action April 4 in response to the curtailing of Wisconsin public workers’ collective bargaining rights and similar efforts in other states.

Later this afternoon, the Oakland teachers union’s leadership meets to decide how to show its solidarity with unions across the United States. While there is a range of ideas, some members of the Oakland Education Association’s executive board are calling for a one-day strike, said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association.

Technically, the OEA executive board could call a strike today. 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?)


The Kindergarten Question

I don’t know how I missed this, but in case you did, too: Annelisa Hedgecock wrote this Op-Ed piece in Oakland North a couple of weeks ago about her family’s school search — and the reactions she gets from other parents when the name of her kid’s Oakland public elementary school comes up.

Here’s how it starts:

As sure as it’s the New Year, it’s also school selection season in Oakland. Obsessing about kindergarten is one of those things almost every middle-class parent here does, as normal as buying a family membership at the zoo. So, parents are touring private school after private school.

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This Saturday: a chance to weigh in on the plan for Oakland schools

If you have an opinion on the superintendent’s “Full Service Community Schools” vision, if you’re not quite sure what it means, or if you want to offer your feedback before a plan is etched in stone, you might want to check out an upcoming conference at the Cesar Chavez Education Center in Fruitvale.

The Youth and Family Conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 2825 International Boulevard, in the new building that houses Think College Now and International Community School.

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The Oakland school district’s think tank

Along one wall at the Oakland Educational Center at Tilden is a series of questions that begin with: “How do you know if a school is _?” (Choose your adjective: effective, supportive, healthy, safe)

Sticky notes underneath contain the answers, at least of those who took part in the exercise.

The last time I visited Tilden, located in the East Oakland foothills near Mills College, it was a school for general education and special education students. Before that, it was the site of John Swett Elementary. Now it houses grown-ups — school district employees and trainees who are trying to improve Oakland’s public schools. I don’t know exactly how many people work out of there now, but the leadership, curriculum, instruction, charter school and new teacher support offices moved in, along with the new division called Quality Schools Development.

Denise Saddler, a longtime district administrator, describes it as a think tank.

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