Oakland parents appeal to state lawmakers

A video about impending school budget cuts, from the perspective of families and staff members at Learning Without Limits, an elementary school on the Jefferson campus in East Oakland. It was posted on You Tube in conjunction with an Oakland Community Organizations event Monday at the school.

Warning: Viewers of the following piece are at risk of having a tinny instrumental rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” indefinitely stuck in their heads. (As a recovering Whitney Houston fan, I’m OK with that — well, for now.)


Oakland schools to cancel more layoff notices

A week after announcing that none of its elementary school teachers would be laid off strictly for budget reasons, the Oakland school district is gearing up to cancel more layoff notices — though not all of them.

Art, English and physical education are among the subjects likely to be completely spared from layoffs based on the results of budget cuts made at individual schools. Adult education, meanwhile, is the hardest hit; all 48 remaining adult education counselors and teachers are likely to receive final layoff notices, according to a resolution posted on the agenda of a special board meeting tomorrow night.

You can find the updated layoff list, by subject, here.

A partial layoff count (see above link for the full document): Continue Reading


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.


New teachers, searching for a toehold

Courtney Couvreur, a second-year math teacher at Oakland International High School and teacher convention delegate, writes about how the threat of layoffs has affected her school — and how it might continue to be felt, even after some of the pink slips are rescinded.

Courtney Couvreur (left) with her students at Oakland International High School

At Oakland International High School, each staff member at our school shares a vision of a high-quality, college-prep education for all immigrant children. We work in collaborative teams and have formed tight bonds with our colleagues. This March, all but two of our English and social studies teachers received pink slips. We have moved from outrage to grief as we recognize how disruptive this will be to our community. We rely on each other’s expertise and passion in teaching a wide range of ESL, and we know that to lose even one of our teachers to layoffs will change the fabric of our school.

We have experienced a slump in morale that some say will end once many of the layoff notices are rescinded, but we cannot just bounce back as though the pink slips never happened. We are worried about our own mortgages, student loans, and children’s futures. We have been made to feel insecure about losing the support of our colleagues, finding new jobs in other districts, whether finding a job will mean having to move. For those of us who have been bounced between several districts’ mass layoffs, we worry that we will never been able to gain a toehold in one community.

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OUSD budget Q & A at Mack tomorrow

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If you were shut out of last week’s crowded budget workshop, you still have a chance to hear the Oakland school district administration’s latest plan and ask questions about it. Superintendent Tony Smith reported Wednesday that California school districts could lose $844 per student, which is a 16 percent reduction in state general purpose funding from the current year. In Oakland, he said, that’s $30.5 million.

In case you missed it, here is a brief summary I posted on the blog last week about the special meeting, including data that show there are likely to be few actual layoffs this year.

The meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) at McClymonds High School, 2607 Myrtle St. District spokesman Troy Flint says there is not likely to be any news — just a chance for teachers to ask questions of Smith and his two deputies, Vernon Hal and Maria Santos.


So much pink, so few layoffs (probably)

For all of the people who tried to attend the Oakland school board’s special budget meeting tonight and anyone else who missed the presentation, here’s the upshot:

The Oakland school district is bracing for a 16 percent cut in state general purpose funding for 2011-12. That amounts to $844 per student, or $30.5 million, rather than $349 per student, or $12.6 million, as previously thought. Not a small difference. But the district’s staff’s “best thinking” for making ends meet under that scenario does not call for additional cuts at schools, school closures or furloughs.

What it does entail is a whole lot of one-time funds taken from the state loan, adult education programs, and additional reserves. And, as a result, a much larger structural deficit — $22 million, rather than $7 million — and more cuts down the line. You can find the presentation here.

On layoffs: Continue Reading


Big meeting in Oakland Unified to discuss grim budget outlook

Gov. Jerry Brown has given up on getting a tax extension on the June ballot. Now what?

No official budget projections had been released as of this afternoon, but two Oakland school board members said today that they have been told California school districts might face cuts of $800 to $850 per student — when most schools in Alameda County have budgeted for a per-student loss of $349. The California School Boards Association posted this budget alert, explaining what an all-cuts budget would mean, given the remaining deficit of $15.4 billion.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Oakland school board holds a special meeting to plan for the 2011-12 budget and to give Superintendent Tony Smith direction on how to close a budget gap that could be $18 million larger than expected, said school board member David Kakishiba, who is drafting an agenda for the meeting.

His question: “With these additional cutbacks from the state, do we move that cut to the school sites or do it a different way?”

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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


AFT president visits East Bay, defends union rights

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (photo courtesy of the AFT)American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten came to the Bay Area today. I heard her on KQED this morning and again tonight, at a Commonwealth Club event in Lafayette.

Weingarten appeared in the “Waiting for Superman” documentary about the state of public education in the country; UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller, who moderated this evening’s talk, joked that the audience might remember her as the “evildoer who resists all reforms presented in public policy circles.”

Weingarten’s central message was — no surprise, given what’s been happening in Wisconsin — in defense of collective bargaining. While it’s perceived to be an adversarial process, she said, it doesn’t have to be. Continue Reading