Oakland school board to vote on local governance policy

Tomorrow night, the Oakland school board votes on a resolution that would establish its intent to give principals, school staff members and families greater authority to improve their school as they see fit.

Each school would create a “Theory of Action,” to which it would align its “people, programs, money, and time.”

The board would also attempt to give local leaders more say in who works at their schools, a strategy which proved to be a sticking point with the teachers union this year. (In resolution language:  “Strengthen the ability of school governance teams, through established collective bargaining protocols and agreements, to determine the composition of their employee teams.”)

It would allocate funding to schools based on student “needs and life circumstances.” Details TBD.

This one-page policy proposal (embedded below) was vetted by members of the Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting and was presented to the school board for a first reading last week.

Here’s how it starts: Continue Reading


Last chance to attend Saturday’s OUSD Teacher Conference

Tribune file photo of 2011 convention by Laura A. Oda

Last spring, at its first-ever teacher convention, delegates told the district administration — loud and clear — that often the most valuable support and training came from colleagues, rather than outside experts, and that teachers needed a chance to come together and share ideas.

So this year OUSD’s Talent Development Office, with support from the teachers union, organized an all-day conference for some 200 teacher-delegates, asking each school to send two elected representatives. It takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Oakland Technical High School. (The schedule of courses is posted below — or, if it’s not there, should be soon.)

But not every school has selected delegates, and there’s still room for about 40 more teachers. Yesterday, the district opened enrollment to others who want to take part, said Margaret Dunlap, a former Glenview and Montclair teacher who now works in the district’s Talent Development Office.

Dunlap said teachers must register by the 8 a.m. Friday deadline to receive the $150 stipend. Interested? Fill out the registration form at the bottom of this post and email it to margaret.dunlap@ousd.k12.ca.us.  Continue Reading


Saturday: Conference for Oakland’s African-American families

Parents can learn about transitional kindergarten, how to advocate for their children, how to help them at home, and what it will take for them to graduate high school and be ready for college at a free Saturday event for African-American families.

The African American Spring Parent Conference, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, is at Bret Harte Middle School, 3700 Coolidge Ave, in the Laurel District.

OUSD’s Office of African-American Male Achievement is hosting the event, which includes breakfast and lunch. You can register here.

In February, OUSD held a similar day of workshops for Latino families, a conference co-sponsored by Educational Coalition for Hispanics in Oakland, and there have been others, as well.

Have you attended a parent workshop recently? Did you find it useful — and in what way?


Posted: Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.

As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)

The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

The job description is mighty long. You can find the one for Castlemont here, and I’ve pasted it below. (I bolded the headers to make it easier to read.)

I’m curious: How many of these duties do you — and, from what you can tell — most of your colleagues do already? Which are less common? Which, in your mind, are the most (and/or least) important?

Do you plan to apply for one of these jobs? Why? I wonder what percentage of the schools’ existing faculties will choose to, and if this opportunity will draw many teachers from other schools.


Oakland Unified School District
Acceleration High School: TSA

Job Description Continue Reading


For some Oakland teachers, a job re-application

As we reported on Saturday night, teachers on Oakland’s Fremont and Castlemont campuses and at McClymonds High School have recently learned that if they want to stay at their schools they will have to reapply. And soon.

The Oakland school district administration says it will replace the current, 10-month teaching positions with an 11-month (204-day) job with a different job description entitled “Accelerated TSA,” for teacher-on-special-assignment.

Fremont and Castlemont are undergoing a second major transformation, as the small schools on each campus merge back into one. McClymonds already merged, in 2010, but OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said Mack was included in the plan because it, along with Fremont and Castlemont, is one of “the three highest-need schools in historically under-served neighborhoods.”

Flint said the change will allow the district to “hand pick”  teachers that are willing to fulfill the new role, which is designed to improve student achievement at those schools. The job description is likely to include such requirements as submitting weekly lesson plans and using data to inform instruction — things that many teachers already do, but that aren’t necessarily mandatory, he said.

Teachers in the new positions would be paid at the same rate they are now; with the additional time, he said, the average teacher would earn roughly $4,000 more per year.

Continue Reading


“Mutual matching” off the table in Oakland

There will be no mutual matching in OUSD this spring. Without the support it needed from the Oakland Education Association, the OUSD administration says it’s run out of time to reach an agreement with union leaders and implement changes to its teacher transfer policies for the upcoming school year.

There will be some changes for the 50-plus teachers displaced by school closure and other circumstances — such as time to visit some prospective schools — but their seniority rights remain fully in place. Which means that principals at the receiving schools won’t really be hiring them. Vacancies that open after May 1 will be subject to a review panel, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones said.

Do you think this is the best outcome for the district and/or its teachers? Do you think it’s something the district should consider in the future?


OUSD’s strategic plan — and your place in it

On Tuesday evening, I’ll be speaking on a panel convened by the League of Women Voters about the strategic plan the Oakland school board adopted last year. The event, from 6-8 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, is titled “The Promise and the Challenge.”

I’ve been invited to talk about the role the community should — or needs to — play in meeting the plan’s goals. It’s a good thing I have a few days to do my homework first (and that I have this blog!), as the answer isn’t clear to me.

What about you? As a parent, neighbor, volunteer, or OUSD employee, do you feel you have a sense of your place in the work outlined in the strategic plan? If so, I’d love to hear what it is — and how you learned about it.

If you aren’t really sure about what the plan is or how you might fit into it, do you have suggestions for the district’s leaders about how to spread the word and call to action more widely?


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.



Oakland gets serious about school food

Staff Photojournalist
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Staff

For the first time in 15 years, the federal government has rewritten the rules for what must — and can’t — be served in its public school lunchrooms. Meanwhile, some OUSD staff, parents and local organizations are formulating some plans of their own, which they presented at the last school board meeting.

It was well into the evening, and some of us joked about having to sit through the presentation on an empty stomach. It later dawned on me how remarkable that was: the thought of cafeteria food inducing an appetite, rather than ruining it!

Although the presentation coincided with the new federal standards, it wasn’t focused on compliance. (Speaking of compliance, you’ll find more information about the new USDA rules here.) Instead, we heard about ideas to radically change the system so that children who rely on subsidized meals — and those who buy their lunches — will be healthier and more focused in class.

The recommendations included cooking classes for food service workers; new recipes inspired by global culinary traditions; organic produce from local farmers; kitchen and equipment upgrades that would allow 60 percent of all food to be made from scratch and the rest to be minimally processed; a new model for delivering semi-prepared food to schools without kitchens, and spaces that could be leased in the evenings to local vendors or others in the community.

And, of course, no central kitchen would be complete without an organic farm. Continue Reading