Should Oakland restore funds to GED, family literacy?

The Oakland school district can keep family literacy and GED programs at 2010-11 levels next year if the school board gives back $900,000 that the school district administration has proposed taking away, Deputy Superintendent Vernon Hal told school board members in a memo posted on the Wednesday night agenda.

They could do that in two ways:

1) Reduce the district’s cash reserves from 3 percent to 2.8 percent, which would still be above the 2 percent minimum the state requires (earlier this month, a version of Hal’s proposal included a 2 percent reserve, but the state trustee recommended 3 percent, and so did some board members).

2) Take $900,000 of the $2.5 million (swiped) adult ed funding that has been set aside to pay off the district’s early retirement incentive in one fell swoop (along with other funds; the early retirement plan will cost OUSD an estimated $10.4 million). This option would mean the remaining $900,000 originally earmarked to pay for the plan would have to come from future budgets.

Hal made it clear in the memo, however, that he doesn’t think the board should make any changes to the budget. He says it wouldn’t make it to the county superintendent by July 1, and that the state trustee doesn’t recommend changes. But he suggested such changes — in funding allocations — can occur after the budget is submitted, saying the budget is “a living document.”

Do you agree with Hal? What should the board do?

You can read his entire memo here: Continue Reading


A pending budget deal, but no change to OUSD plan

UPDATE: California’s main budget bill has passed both houses of the state Legislature, John Myers of KQED reports. (He’s posting live Twitter updates here.)


This might be the first time in the history of my education reporting that California lawmakers pass a budget before the Oakland school district (or any school district) does.

The proposal includes flat funding for k-12 schools, but only as long as some rosy state revenue projections — an extra $4 billion — bear out. If not, look for midyear cuts and a shortened school year in district’s throughout the state.

The OUSD budget proposal, which is up for approval tomorrow night, wasn’t yet posted online as of a few minutes ago, but I understand it will be very similar to recent ones.

Here’s what spokesman Troy Flint had to say this afternoon: Continue Reading


Notes from a long and eventful board meeting

Tonight’s — or should I say, last night’s —  5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting went till midnight. I observed so much from my ergonomically incorrect wooden seat:

The NAACP‘s Oakland branch showed up in force to register their concerns about complaints they’d heard from students and alumni about problem teachers, institutional racism and African American students’ opportunities for success at Skyline High (where a transcript review last fall revealed a whole bunch of students who weren’t on track to graduate), McClymonds and Castlemont high schools.

Teachers showed up to voice their support for retired teachers whom the district hired to coach them when they were first starting out. The retired teachers said they were told their services would no longer be needed. Superintendent Tony Smith said he had known nothing about this — and that he wished he had been informed of this development by his staff, rather than at a school board meeting. (Sounded to me like the program would be restored.)

Nikita Mitchell, one of the school board’s student directors, gave a rousing, seemingly extemporaneous end-of-term speech about education in Oakland, the “two Oaklands,” and how she and other students had been saying for years what members of the NAACP reported on Wednesday.

Continue Reading


On the agenda: a $742,000 contract with WestEd

I keep hearing about WestEd and its prominent role in the new direction of OUSD, but until today, I hadn’t seen any big-ticket agenda items related to the San Francisco-based organization.

The school board has been asked to increase an existing WestEd contract from $62,000 to $742,000. That’s right, an increase of $680,000. This is for a 7-month period that ends in two weeks. (Funding source: English Language Program)

The item is on Wednesday’s Finance and Human Resources Committee agenda:

Approval by the Board of Education of Amendment No. 1, Professional Services Contract between the District and WestEd, San Francisco, CA, for the latter to provide a series of professional development to 101 principals, 50 instructional coaches and up to 400 teachers and 30 central office administrators and also develop up to 20 District employees to be trainers for the professional development seminar, in an additional amount not to exceed $680,000.00, increasing Contract not to exceed amount from $62,000.00 to $742,000.00, for the period November 15, 2010 through June 30, 2011. All other terms and conditions of the Contract remain in full force and effect.

Has anyone attended these trainings?

Teacher convention delegates and task force members: Is this what you had in mind for professional development? Did you weigh in on this contract?


New management positions, contracts in OUSD

The Oakland school district administration wants to create or eliminate a bunch of positions as part of its central office reorganization. I’ve been asking for a new organizational chart, but until I see one, I guess I’ll have to settle for the tidbits of information sent to me by insiders or posted on committee agendas, such as Wednesday night’s 7 p.m. special meeting of the Finance and Human Resources Committee:

Adoption by the Board of Education of Resolution No. 1011-1124 – Creation of Classified Management Position – Intermediary, School Services – Office of the Regional Executive Officers, Department of Leadership, Curriculum, and Instruction and authorizing an FTE as specified herein: Create: Position Title/FTE Salary Schedule/Range Intermediary, School Salary Schedule, ADCL Services (1.0 FTE) Range 13: $64,392 – $82,172 12 months, 261 days, 7.5 hours and further authorizing the Superintendent of Schools to fill said position pursuant to applicable District employment procedures.


Approval by the Board of Education of Resolution No. 1011-1125 – Creating Certificated Executive Management Positions – Associate Superintendent, Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction and Associate Superintendent, Family, School, and Community PartnershipsContinue Reading


OUSD budget trends and another central reorg

The first reading of the Oakland school district’s 2011-12 budget proposal happens at tonight’s 5 p.m. board meeting (Catch it live here). So I did some number crunching, building on an analysis from earlier in the year that compared 2009-10 spending and 2010-11* budget estimates.

You’ll find the combined totals toward the bottom of the spreadsheet, with the changes over time highlighted in blue. If you notice any errors, please let me know so I can fix them.

*Note: The district’s estimates for 2010-11 have changed since the February budget presentation. I’ve included both sets of numbers for the current fiscal year.

OUSD budget trends

You might have noticed that the budget for professional development and curriculum would be half the size that it is this year. It can’t be a coincidence that the district is overhauling its Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction department — which “wave” would this be? — though few details have come through official channels about the reasons for the reorganization, how many jobs will be eliminated, and how it will work. Continue Reading


CA budget proposal: More funding for schools

Gov. Jerry BrownBecause of rising tax revenues, California’s public schools (k-12) would get $3 billion more than expected in 2011-12 under Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision.

At a news conference this morning, Brown said the amount of money guaranteed to public schools under Proposition 98 — a Constitutional amendment that voters approved in 1988 — increased by $3 billion since January. He said his plan would honor that guarantee (rather than ask the Legislature to suspend it), and that it called for the state to start repaying $8.2 billion in debt to schools.

Another change from Brown’s January proposal relates to delayed payments to school districts — money owed one year, but not paid until the following year. Continue Reading


Video of Oakland bank protest, teacher arrests

Oakland teacher and union leader Craig Gordon took this video of a demonstration this evening at a Wells Fargo branch at 12th Street and Broadway. Gordon reported in a mass email that seven teachers were arrested during a sit-in to demand that the rich pay higher taxes. I’ll post those names once I’ve been able to confirm them.

By 10 p.m., at least one of the teachers had been released, and a welcoming committee awaited the others at the downtown jail.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, California Teachers Association President David Sanchez and about two dozen others were arrested today during a sit-in at the offices of Republican legislators Connie Conway and Bob Dutton, who are fighting the tax extension ballot measure, Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones has reported.

Here is a link to the Sacramento Bee story.


Rethinking the seniority system

Annie Hatch, a first-year humanities teacher at Oakland’s Life Academy, offers her reflections about the last-in, first-out layoff system. Her pink slip has yet to be rescinded.

Annie Hatch, Life AcademyAs more and more layoffs are being rescinded, the fury that was driving a lot of healthy debate has seemed to subside. When the district initially announced that over 500 teachers in Oakland would be receiving pink slips, I heard a lot of people arguing that the district should rescind them all—that no teacher ever deserves a pink slip. But, the unavoidable reality is that some teachers will be laid off—this year, and in the future. And while this remains the case, we desperately need to rethink the seniority system.

Like a fine wine, I believe a good teacher gets better with age. There is a steep learning curve when it comes to the craft of teaching, and, I won’t lie, I am looking forward to not being a first-year teacher. Throughout the course of this first year, I have seen my classroom management skills improve exponentially. I can plan a lesson in half the time it took me in September. I am more efficient, more capable, more confident. I am better at prioritizing what matters, strategizing intervention, managing group work, and finding the essential question I’m hoping to teach through each lesson.

My more experienced colleagues are incredible and I feel so lucky to be able to draw on their professional expertise. I often consult them on issues I am having in the classroom and I am so thankful to be able to tap into their wisdom.

But to assume that ALL teachers improve with time is a dangerous fallacy. Continue Reading


OUSD could cut 150 staff positions

UPDATE: The school board tabled the discussion on layoffs Monday night. They take it up Wednesday night, at a 6 p.m. special meeting.


More bad news for Oakland’s public schools and the people who work in them: At least 150 clerks, school security officers, technicians and other support staff could soon lose their jobs.

A resolution detailing the layoff of school support staff was added to the agenda of a 6 p.m. special school board meeting (originally about Race to the Top grant applications for two middle schools: ROOTS and Alliance Academy) tonight at ROOTS International, a middle school on the Havenscourt campus.

You can find the resolution here.

These layoffs, of course, will have all kinds of ripple effects on schools and employees across the district — just like last year.