Story, photos from Oakland teacher convention

A story about last week’s dramatic Oakland teacher convention is in today’s Tribune. You can find it here. Here are a few photos taken by a real photographer (Laura A. Oda/Tribune) with a real camera. She came on Friday afternoon, before the turning point. Below is a session about the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.

If you have any photos that capture the highs and lows of the event that you think I should add, email them to me (preferably not at full resolution) at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.



Teacher convention, Day 2: Delegates push back

Teachers meet after Friday's session to make last-minute changes, based on feedback.

The first-ever Oakland Teacher Convention took an interesting turn this afternoon (or maybe, before then) when some of the 200 delegates expressed frustration and disappointment with today’s sessions, drawing hearty applause.

The discontent was strong enough to cause the event organizers on the Effective Teaching Task Force to change the plan for Saturday. (That’s what they’re doing in the above photo.)

From what I heard, there was a lot of talking to teachers — rather than with teachers — about the district’s various task forces, during morning sessions designed to provide context. In the afternoon, teachers were asked to review the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (Side note: Some of this was through “pair shares.” Is it a common practice to use k-12 teaching terminology and exercises for the teachers, themselves? If so, why is that? Do you find it helpful or patronizing?), and to propose Oakland-centric changes to those standards. Some of the small group sessions apparently grew testy, although not the one I observed.

At the end of the day, sensing the temperature in the room was high, organizers scrapped plans to share some of the work from the previous session and opened the floor for people to vent. Some said they felt misled, thinking they were coming to the convention to have deep discussions about teaching and the needs of their schools when even the limited time for dialogue felt constrained and rushed. Others said they were confused about the purpose of the convention: Were they going to have anything to take back to their schools when it ended?

Some teachers chimed in, saying it was important to keep going — that this was just the beginning. “I think we hit the wall today, and that’s OK, ” said Sue Scott, a veteran teacher from Joaquin Miller. Now, she said, “We go to the other side.”

Bri Moore, a first-year teacher and Oakland native who came to OUSD through Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, told the group that she came to this convention to learn from some of the district’s best teachers. “What I’m getting is a lot of negativity,” she said. “What I need from you is not the negativity. What I need is to share your craft. What I need from you is your knowledge and your resources.”

“I want to encourage everybody to still keep your hearts open,” said Betty Olson-Jones, OEA president and co-chair of the teaching task force, which organized the three-day event. “I want you all to honor yourselves for speaking up and saying, `This is not what I came for.'”

A couple dozen people stayed afterward to regroup and plan for the next day. Everyone was invited to do so. A discussion about working conditions was already on tomorrow’s agenda, but now it sounds like there will be opportunities for teachers throughout the day to talk about what’s working in their schools, what’s not, what they need from the district, etc. And, at the end, to set priorities for the district and talk about how the work will continue after the convention ends.

Delegates: What has your experience been like so far? In the spirit of openness, I’d like to ask delegates to use their full names when they write about the convention.


Oakland Teacher Convention, here I come

As of Tuesday, 210 teachers from 90 schools had been selected by their fellow teachers to represent them at the three-day teacher convention, according to Ash Solar, the district staffer who co-chairs the Oakland school district’s Effective Teaching Task Force. (This story gives some context about what the task force is up to.)

I will be dropping in several times between this evening and Saturday, and I plan to blog from the event. Who knows, I might even tweet, too. Tonight there will be mostly speeches; the meatier discussions won’t happen until tomorrow.

Delegates: If you feel like sharing your impressions with a reporter, look for a tall woman with a skinny notebook, tapping people on the shoulder or otherwise awkwardly approaching them to ask questions. You could also, of course, email me after each day’s session at kmurphy(at)bayareanewsgroup.com or comment directly on the blog.


One Oakland school’s outsized layoff threat

Uncertain state funding levels and the Oakland school district’s decision to issue layoff warnings to more than one-fifth of its teaching staff has created high levels of stress throughout the district. Hit especially hard were schools that have few teachers who have been in the district for more than four or five years. New teachers are — with some exceptions — the first to go.

At Futures Elementary, which opened in 2007 on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, every teacher could be replaced next year, according to the principal. I visited Futures yesterday morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:


This Saturday: a chance to weigh in on the plan for Oakland schools

If you have an opinion on the superintendent’s “Full Service Community Schools” vision, if you’re not quite sure what it means, or if you want to offer your feedback before a plan is etched in stone, you might want to check out an upcoming conference at the Cesar Chavez Education Center in Fruitvale.

The Youth and Family Conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 2825 International Boulevard, in the new building that houses Think College Now and International Community School.

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The Oakland school district’s think tank

Along one wall at the Oakland Educational Center at Tilden is a series of questions that begin with: “How do you know if a school is _?” (Choose your adjective: effective, supportive, healthy, safe)

Sticky notes underneath contain the answers, at least of those who took part in the exercise.

The last time I visited Tilden, located in the East Oakland foothills near Mills College, it was a school for general education and special education students. Before that, it was the site of John Swett Elementary. Now it houses grown-ups — school district employees and trainees who are trying to improve Oakland’s public schools. I don’t know exactly how many people work out of there now, but the leadership, curriculum, instruction, charter school and new teacher support offices moved in, along with the new division called Quality Schools Development.

Denise Saddler, a longtime district administrator, describes it as a think tank.

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GO Public Schools’ wish list for 2011

Great Oakland Public Schools, a local advocacy group that started with funding from the Rogers Family Foundation, wants to see some new blood on the Oakland teachers union’s executive board and representative council next year. It wants district leaders to emphasize high quality instruction as well as service hubs, and a “new and better response” to an unnamed principal who has complained about the required retention of mediocre teachers.

Below is a letter from GO’s director (and former OUSD administrator) Jonathan Klein, followed by the 10-item wish list. Which of the points do you agree or disagree with? Continue Reading


Case study: an alternative to “zero-tolerance” discipline in West Oakland

Cole Middle School. File photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

A social justice center at UC Berkeley’s law school published a case study today that highlights the successes, challenges and potential of restorative justice in schools, based on observations at the (now closed) Cole Middle School in West Oakland.

Restorative Justice is a set of principles designed to build community, prevent violence, correct behavior, and to repair harm, as well as frayed relationships. It’s an alternative to the traditional school discipline model, and the centers believe it could be a way to reduce the disproportionately high suspension rates of black and Latino students. You can find a lengthy description and online resources here, on the district’s website.

This is not a data-heavy report, but it does give a promising stat: The suspension rate at Cole dropped by 87 percent and expulsions went to zero after the program was implemented. Check out the graphs on page 31, if you have a chance.

It was an interesting read, especially if you make it beyond the executive summary. It’s clear that the author(s) spent lots of time at the school, observing and talking to people. (I think I met a law student working on this project — Atteeyah Hollie, maybe? — at a Cole event in 2008, after a gun went off in a classroom.)

Here’s a section on negative assumptions that some had, going in: Continue Reading


White privilege, black children

Oakland Unified’s new African American male student achievement office is co-sponsoring a free workshop next week led by Shawn Ginwright, a professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University. It’s called Putting Racism Aside: Working Past Hidden Bias.

It’s billed on the district’s Thriving Students blog as “NOT another diversity training.” The topic is “how white privilege shows up in working with urban children and youth.” I presume “urban” means children who aren’t white.

In what ways do you observe or experience white privilege at your school, or your child’s school? Do you think this kind of training can be eye-opening for school staff? How? Do you plan to go?

Event details, from OUSD’s blog: Continue Reading


In Oakland, school produce stands are becoming a weekly fixture

Produce for sale at Hoover Elementary on Tuesday. Tribune photo by D. Ross Cameron/StaffWest Oakland may not have a full-service grocery store (that’s another story), but it does have another produce stand. Here are some photos we took on Tuesday at Hoover Elementary School’s new weekly market.

The Oakland school district and the East Bay Asian Youth Center opened two more stands this week — at Hoover in West Oakland and Global Family and Learning Without Limits in East Oakland — bringing the total to 12. They plan to expand the number to 25 by September. Glenview Elementary has one too, run by parent and community volunteers.

These mini farmer’s markets are open to the public, as well. Here’s the schedule: Continue Reading