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If the Oakland school district had $1.46 billion…

Project list

This evening, after the Oakland school board picks a president and vice president for 2012 (6 p.m.), it moves onto its facilities master plan. The special study session — no vote on the plan tonight — is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at 1025 Second Ave.

The presentation posted on the agenda (links below) covers enrollment and demographic trends, facts about the number, age and size of district buildings, and a list of projects that might be undertaken if OUSD had the money.

If OUSD tackled every project on that list it would cost an estimated $1.46 billion, not including change orders and cost overruns. (The figure is listed on one slide as $1,460 million, which — though probably standard for these kinds of reports — sounds a little like someone saying they’re five-foot-twelve.)

It includes: $145 million in projects from the 2005 master plan that never materialized, such as upgrades to fire alarms; $333 million in seismic safety improvements; $457 million in modernization projects; $53 million in solar and energy efficiency; $300 million to replace portable buildings and $172.5 million for community kitchens, health care centers and other “site optimization” projects.

As most of the Measure B funds have been allocated or spent, this project prioritization appears to be in preparation for another bond measure campaign, which the board discussed last fall (election date and amount TBD).

You can find links to the relevant documents here and the projects list below. Come 6 p.m., you’ll find a link to a live video stream of the meeting here – and something called “eComment,” which I hadn’t noticed before.

What’s your take on the facilities master plan?

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A Promise Neighborhood in Hayward

Today, in its first round of five-year Promise Neighborhoods grants, the U.S. Department of Education handed out just five awards.

One of the recipients was a project focused on the Jackson Triangle neighborhood in Hayward, down the hill from Cal State East Bay.

Last year, I wrote about Hayward’s $500,000 Promise Neighborhoods planning grant. Out of 330 applicants, it was one of 21 winners. The Cal State East Bay-led project beat the odds again this year, winning the full implementation grant — up to $25 million in the next five years.

You’ll find my story about it here.

Several applications were filed this year for different Oakland neighborhoods, but none won. But OUSD seems to be pushing forward with the Promise neighborhoods strategy anyway — the cornerstone of the strategic plan is “full-service community schools,” after all — seeking funding from other sources.

And my colleague Sharon Noguchi tells me that John Porter, superintendent of the Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, launched a similar initiative — named, at least originally, the Franklin-McKinley Children’s Zone, after the original children’s zone in Harlem.

In addition to the infusion of resources into these neighborhoods and schools (the Hayward project will focus on six schools), this approach relies on the cooperation of dozens of agencies and organizations. Arguably, that type of collaboration doesn’t take all that much extra funding and could lead to improved services for children and families.

Have you heard of other places trying the same thing? Do you think it will lead to significantly different outcomes for children living in those neighborhoods?


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K-12 schools spared worst-case `trigger cuts’ scenario

California school districts will take a $79 million midyear hit — plus a $248 million cut in home-to-school transportation — as a result of automatic “trigger cuts” set to take effect early next year, according to early news reports, including this story from our Sacramento reporter, Steve Harmon.

That’s far below the $1.5 billion many had feared, based on an earlier fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that projected an even greater budget shortfall.

The Sacramento Bee has reported that the $79 million works out to a cut of $11 per student. For Oakland Unified, I believe that would amount to roughly $400,000. As we’ve reported, the district administration says it anticipated a larger cut and kept enough funding in its reserves to absorb it without cutting expenses, mid year.

Subsidized child care, university and community college systems would be more deeply affected, however.

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Is it time for OUSD’s unusual budgeting system to become policy?

To those who don’t work at schools or compulsively follow education policy, the finer points of school budgeting and resource allocation might sound like painfully dry reading material. But the issue evokes passionate debate in Oakland Unified, which does things differently than most districts.

In other districts, it’s common practice for top administrators to determine the number of teachers and kinds of electives and programs for each school. In Oakland, those decisions are (at least, in theory) made at the school-level through OUSD’s unconventional budgeting system (Results-Based Budgeting, or RBB).

RBB has been in place since 2004, but its principles — including the autonomy mentioned above — are not established in school board policy, said David Kakishiba, who chairs the board’s Finance and Human Resources Committee.

“A couple of changes in school board members, and all that can get crushed in an instant,” he said, noting that the system is also subject to the philosophy of each district administration. (Former interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor was not a fan.)

Kakishiba has proposed the creation of an ad-hoc school board committee to come up with a policy recommendation for school budgeting by March. The committee would not prescribe a certain allocation funding allocation formula or determine whether schools should pay the actual salaries and benefits of their teachers, as they do now.

Rather, he said, it would determine whether to etch into stone “a set of autonomies, including the budget process.”

This is a big sticking point for ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. Continue Reading

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OUSD’s rosy enrollment projections

The Oakland school district is closing five elementary schools next year. Two of its other schools might be converted into independently run charters, taking 800 children with them. And at least one — quite possibly, two — brand new charter schools open next fall, with plans to admit more than 600 students, combined.

But OUSD’s leaders aren’t bracing for a big enrollment drop. They predict the school system’s enrollment will hold firm in September — and even grow slightly (by 125 students, to 38,166).

Will the numbers bear out? They didn’t this fall. Enrollment in the city’s district-run schools, though flat, came in 300 students shy of projections, creating a $1.6 million budget gap that needed to be closed immediately.

2012 projections, explained: Continue Reading

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OUSD’s budget priorities

6:20 p.m. update: The meeting got started late. Only four of the seven board members — Jody London, David Kakishiba, Gary Yee and Alice Spearman — are here. You should be able to catch the live video of the meeting now.

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The Oakland school board is talking finances tonight, and I’m heading to a 6 p.m. special meeting to see what I can find out.

You should be able to catch live video of the meeting here, once it starts. Meeting details here.

The board is considering these questions, among others:

1. How will District schools and programs be affected by the impending State revenue reductions for FY 2011-2012 (mid-year) and FY 2012-2013?
2. What planning assumptions is District using to establish FY 2012-2013 enrollment and attendance projections?
3. How is District spending FY 2011-2012 General Fund (unrestricted and restricted) revenues?
4. What is the status of the District’s Strategic Plan Year One Landmarks?

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Drawing new attendance boundaries

This afternoon, the Oakland school district posted maps showing how it might redraw its boundaries for 2012-13, after five elementary schools close.

OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint is double-checking on this, but it appears that the remaining schools’ boundaries would only expand — not shift — under this plan. In other words, that the only residents who’d be redistricted would be those who live in the attendance areas of Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. I think. If it appears otherwise to you, let us know!

Lakeview and Lazear each have two scenarios for consideration. Marshall and Maxwell Park have three (including one for Maxwell Park that splits the current zone into seven pieces). Santa Fe has just one three. You’ll find more detail below.

WHAT’S NEXT: The district is holding five community meetings, beginning Nov. 29, in each of the areas (see above link for dates and locations). It holds a public hearing Dec. 14, and is scheduled to make a decision on Jan. 11.

Here are the scenarios, with a list of all of the schools that would incorporate part of each existing attendance area: Continue Reading

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Oakland teachers push for changes beyond charter school conversion

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

Teachers from two East Oakland elementary schools are on a mission to shake up the status quo in the Oakland school district.

This fall, they voted to turn their schools — ASCEND and Learning Without Limits – into independently run charters so that they could have more control over staffing, curriculum, budgeting and other things, such as the school calendar. Hearings on those charter conversion petitions and others begin at 6 p.m. Monday evening in the district office at 1025 Second Avenue.

But the teachers at these two schools have goals beyond charter conversion. They want to organize like-minded educators around some of their ideas, such as changing the way teachers are evaluated. They also want to do away with a layoff system driven almost entirely by credential and years of service in a district (though they’re not against including seniority as a factor). They, like the union’s current leaders, think teachers should have more say in what materials they use to teach children.

At the Oakland Education Association’s membership meeting last week the teachers circulated a flier that said: Continue Reading

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Midyear “trigger cuts” likely for California schools

OAKLAND UPDATE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district could be forced to absorb midyear cuts of up to $5.5 million, or $190 per student, as a result of the trigger cuts. He said the 2011-12 budget accounts for this possibility. So for this year anyway, he said, “Any impact would be slight and we definitely would not make cuts to schools.”

Alameda Unified schools appear to be similarly situated, according to this letter to parents from Superintendent Kirsten Vital.

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The news today out of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office was not good for public education in California: The LAO has forecasted that state tax revenues will fall $3.7 billion short of the level on which the June budget deal was based.

About $1.4 billion in automatic, mid-year cuts to k-12 schools and community colleges will be triggered if the shortfall is $2 billion or greater. Steve Harmon, our Capitol reporter, lays it out here.

The final word on the trigger cuts comes on December 15, when the Department of Finance issues its predictions. The rosier of the two projections prevails.

The below graphic, reproduced with permission from School Services of California, Inc., helps to break it down. A provision of the trigger law prohibits teacher layoffs, and some districts — though not OUSD –have considered shaving more days off the school year if the cuts come to pass.

Trigger law, explained

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Next step for families affected by Oakland’s school closures

Staff Photojournalist

As they come to terms with the upcoming closure of their schools, families from Oakland’s Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe elementary schools must now decide where to send their children next fall.

Typically, OUSD (and prospective OUSD) families submit their top school picks — mostly for kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades — by Jan. 15. The hundreds of children affected by upcoming school closures will make their choices earlier and will receive their placements by Dec. 19, according to this letter from OUSD.

In other words, they have first dibs on the open seats in grades 1 to 5.

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