Despite hopes to the contrary, OUSD rejects Lazear charter

Tonight, the Oakland school board voted to block Lazear Elementary School from becoming a charter school (with Spearman and Gallo dissenting).

Lazear is one of five elementary schools slated to close in June as part of a school district downsizing plan. To keep it open, parents submitted an application to become an independently run charter school at the same location.

Most of the students at Lazear walk to school, and there weren’t enough spaces in nearby schools in the Fruitvale area to accommodate the children. Less than half got their first-choice alternative, and only about two-thirds got their top two choices.

In late March, Oakland school district’s charter schools office recommended the school board reject the petition, saying it failed to meet its quality standards. The school board tabled the decision, though, and directed staff to negotiate a partnership charter agreement, a la ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. Until this week, it appeared the board was ready to go for it.

Then came the numbers. Continue Reading


Lawsuit to halt closure of Santa Fe

Just before the Oakland school board agreed to lease Santa Fe Elementary School to Emery Unified for $500,000 a year (for three years), the law firm Siegel & Yee filed a lawsuit to keep it open.

The plaintiffs plan to ask the Alameda County Superior Court for an injunction. If it goes through, this will be the second of the five planned closures that have not gone according to plan (See: Lazear Elementary. Its charter conversion hearing is scheduled for April 25).

Here’s the news release from Michael Siegel:


Decision to Close Santa Fe Elementary School is Racially Discriminatory, a Waste a Public Resources, and in Violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, Plaintiffs Say Continue Reading


Children from soon-to-close Oakland schools: where they might land

You can say what you like about the Oakland school district’s policies and tactics — say, its decision to close schools — but when it comes to putting out granular data in user-friendly maps and charts, you’ve got to hand it to them.

Below is a series of five maps that show where the children from Lakeview, *Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe were placed for the 2012-13 school year. At the bottom of each one, you’ll find the percentage of children, by grade, that got their family’s first, second, third and fourth choices.

Student placements after school closure

*Of course, the data for Lazear could well be moot. Parents at that school have a charter application pending, and the OUSD board seems poised to approve it later this month — yet again, despite the recommendation of the charter school office. Why go out of their way to support a new charter at a school they voted to close, just months earlier? It could be in response to an unexpectedly low first-choice placement rate for families that school (49 percent), compared to the other four, especially since most Lazear kids walk to school.

I’ve also asked the district for an update on the Crocker-Highlands enrollment crunch (still waiting!), and whether other schools also turned away neighborhood children. As soon as I hear back, I’ll let you know.


A teacher’s perspective on OUSD job showcase

Peter Von Ehrenkrook teaches at Santa Fe Elementary, one of the five Oakland elementary schools slated for closure in June. Below, he gives us his account of event the Oakland school district held on Friday evening for displaced teachers like himself.

The Advisory Matching School Showcase was indeed an opportunity for the displaced elementary school teachers to meet with school representatives. It was also much more, evidently, since there were tables there for charter schools, middle schools, and even high schools.

Some tables had nothing but a sign-in sheet for people who might be interested in the school – no ambassadors or information.

Most tables had one brave and often tired-looking teacher who gamely tried to answer questions posed by displaced teachers (as well as many other adults who were not from the closed schools).

A few schools made the effort to display pictures and stats, leading one student who walked by to ask if it was a science fair. Sankofa Academy displayed data on a portable screen.

On a personal note, I found little information that was not available online, and most of the $250 school ambassadors had no clue what the procedure was from here. The list of openings provided at the door did not match the verbal information offered by ambassadors either, at most sites. They were either hedging when they provided the information to HR, or perhaps dissuading teachers on the spot who did not fit their desired profile.

Continue Reading


Tomorrow: a showcase for displaced teachers

After school tomorrow, the Oakland school district is holding an event for the dozens of Oakland teachers who find themselves in the so-called “talent pool” because of school closures, a leave of absence or other reasons. The informational interview fair, which is voluntary, will give displaced teachers a chance to meet someone from each school that has posted vacancies for the upcoming school year.

Teachers will then be given two days to visit schools that catch their interest. Then, starting from the most senior teacher, they choose their placements from the list of openings. (Despite the administration’s efforts to give principals more of a say in that decision, mutual matching fell by the wayside.)

The Advisory School Matching Showcase is something new for Oakland Unified. Before, teachers just picked from a list of vacancies, often knowing little about the school besides its reputation and location. (Some might simply do that again this year, as they are not obligated to do any of this.)

I’d like to hear, from teachers and school representative alike, the expectations you have of this event — and, afterward, how it went. I wonder, for example, if anyone became interested in working at a school that they might not otherwise have considered. Do you think it will help inform your decision? Make you feel more comfortable at School B?

If you’d like to write up your reflections from the event and share it with your fellow blog readers — and you know you do! — just email it to me, along with your name and school, at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Here’s the district’s description of the showcase, which is happening in the Think College Now/International Community School auditorium: Continue Reading


Pink slips, 2012: a different story

Last year by this date, 657 Oakland teachers had slips of paper telling them they were at risk of losing their jobs because of budget cuts — a traumatic development that hit some schools particularly hard. (When all was said and done, the district eliminated about 95 of the 538 full-time positions originally slated for potential cuts; adult education took the brunt of the layoffs.)

This year, none of Oakland’s permanent teachers received layoff warnings, Superintendent Tony Smith reported, saying the district’s reserves were deep enough to absorb mid-year budget cuts, should the state tax measures for education fail.

March 15 is the date by which districts must notify teachers of the possibility of layoff or reassignment, according to state law. My colleague Sharon Noguchi said other districts issued fewer notices this year as well. You can find her story and district-by-district information here.

Two of Oakland’s temporary teachers were laid off, and 16 teachers without tenure were dismissed (not necessarily for budget reasons), a number that’s significantly lower than in recent years. Two administrators received notices, as well, the administration reported.


The Oakland school district might be finished downsizing

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

I meant to post this story sooner: OUSD’s school closure process — which was supposed to last for two to three years and shrink the district by 20-30 schools — will likely stop after the first round, when the district is a dozen schools smaller than it was last fall.

District officials say the target changed because they are projecting a balanced budget for 2012-13, one without a structural deficit for the first time in more than a decade. You can find the story through the above link and read up on the district’s latest budget report here. The financial report will be presented at tomorrow night’s 5 p.m. board meeting.

P.S. Some have asked whether, in light of this development, OUSD will once again use adult education funding for adult education. California school districts are now — at least, for the time being — allowed to use the once-protected funding stream for any purpose, and many have spent it on k-12 programs. OUSD eliminated its large high school diploma program and its adult ESL classes, with the exception of Family Literacy, among others. I’ve submitted your queries; so far, however, I’ve heard no talk about rebuilding adult ed.

Two related school closure issues:

On March 28, the school board discusses what to do with the closed school buildings. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district is considering moving the offices (including the Family and Community Office) now located on 2111 International to Lakeview Elementary, one of the five elementary schools slated to close in June.

UPDATE: Flint initially thought the future use of Lakeview and other closed school buildings was on the March 28 agenda, but it’s not. I’ll let you know when I find out more.

– Flint also confirmed what some have posted here on this blog: oversubscription of the high-performing Crocker Highlands Elementary School. Continue Reading


OUSD board might give local schools more control

Remember the Oakland school board’s Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting? It’s meeting now, and teachers, parents and administrators are at the table to discuss the issues. Oakland Community Organizations — which believes schools need more control over curriculum, budget, staffing and scheduling — held a news conference before the session.

You can watch the meeting live, here. And you’ll find relevant documents here.

Below, from a draft document, is an excerpt of the board’s statement of intent:

The Board of Education believes that those closest to students at a school — principals, teachers, classified employees, parents, and students — are generally in the best position to know and to effectively address the specific academic, social and emotional needs of the students.



Looking for: Success stories, budget-coping tales

I’m scheduled to be on KALW’s Your Call program at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning — and I could use your help. We’ll be talking about examples of success in schools despite a bleak and tumultuous economy and budget, and ways that people have coped with diminishing state funding.

I don’t plan to sugarcoat the fiscal realities facing California’s public schools (and I doubt the host will, either). But I’d love to hear from you about what parents, staff, organizations and local businesses are doing to help children receive the education they deserve, regardless of the economy and the state’s politics. What steps have been taken to improve or support your school that haven’t cost extra money? How has your principal/school site council mitigated the impact of cutbacks when crafting recent budgets?

Thanks, in advance, for your help. It would be great if you’d provide your school or program’s name along with your comment. You’re welcome to call into the show, too!


An old news recap: charter school decisions, mutual matching, blue ribbon nomination

UPDATE: The school board later approved the amended petitions of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits.

Education news kept right on happening in the last two weeks. Here are some of the developments I missed while I was visiting old temples and dodging motorbikes:

THE OAKLAND SCHOOL BOARD REJECTED the charter school conversion petitions submitted by the faculties of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, elementary schools in the Fruitvale area. While the district’s charter schools office recommended approval, Superintendent Tony Smith took a different stance, saying that allowing schools to break away from the district would undermine the district’s strategic plan. Both schools have since appealed the decision to the Alameda County Board of Education.

This whereas seems to sum up the superintendent’s position:

“WHEREAS, the District can not succeed at its strategic plan to create a Full Service Community School District that serves the whole child, provides each child with a caring environment that accelerates academic achievement and supports student success if after millions of dollars in investment, individual schools that have achieved because of the District’s investment can separate and opt out of the District, with the consequence that the District loses its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in Oakland.”

The board on Jan. 11 also voted against the charter school office’s recommendation for ARISE High School — this time, by approving the charter school’s renewal with some conditions. In this case, the office deemed ARISE an unsound educational program, but the board disagreed. (More info here.)

The board also approved the petition for the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School to open in July. (More info here.)

IN NEWER CHARTER NEWS: This Wednesday, Education for Change — a charter management group that is working with ASCEND and Learning Without Limits — plans to submit a third charter conversion petition, this time for Lazear Elementary, which is slated for closure in June.

Parents at that Fruitvale-area school submitted a petition last fall, but the document was not up to the standards of the OUSD charter schools office, and the parents withdrew it. Now they’ll turn in another draft, prepared with the assistance of Education for Change. Hae-Sin Kim Thomas, a former OUSD administrator who is now the Education for Change CEO, said Lazear parents have had a difficult time finding another school in walking distance that has space for their children, and that some have received a cool reception at some of the schools they’ve visited.

GOOD NEWS: Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, a small elementary school in East Oakland that has made huge test score gains, has been nominated for a National Blue Ribbon award — one of 35 in California to receive a nomination for being among the state’s highest performing or most improved schools. Whether it wins the award this fall will depend on the next round of tests. (No pressure.)

THE FEELING ISN’T MUTUAL for a OUSD staff proposal that would change the way open teaching positions are filled. It’s called “mutual matching,” and teachers union leaders aren’t as keen on it as Superintendent Tony Smith, who had this opinion piece published in the Tribune the other week. A blog post on the union’s website, advertising a 4:30 p.m. Thursday forum on the topic, has this to say about the idea:

Don’t be fooled – scratch the surface and it’s an attempt to get rid of seniority in our contractual transfer rights, under the guise of “abandon(ing) our nostalgia for practices unsuited to the current challenge” (Tribune editorial). In doing so, the district is following the national education “deform” line that it’s “bad teachers” to blame for the problems in public education — not lack of funding, resources, institutional racism, or respect for our profession – and that this can be resolved through letting teachers compete in the marketplace for their assignments.

Here is a link to a letter and chart posted on the union’s website about how the process would work, according to OUSD staff. The district has devoted a section of its site to the issue, which you can find here.

I have an interview scheduled with district staffers tomorrow afternoon about this proposal and will write about it in greater depth. What questions do you have about it?

What other news should I be catching up on?