Lessons on violence, guns, police

image by DAN ROSENSTRAUCH/Bay Area News Group

I’m still at a loss for words about what happened on Saturday. What do you say to young children and teenagers about the tragedy — or about their safety, in light of the proliferation of weapons in the community? How has the death of four Oakland police officers affected your students, or your own children?

What questions are they asking?  Continue Reading


More turmoil in the Skyline principal’s office

The principalship at Oakland’s largest high school is notorious for its political challenges. It’s no place for beginners. But from what I’ve heard, Skyline High School‘s various factions have embraced Al Sye, a veteran administrator — and the latest in a string of people to inhabit the principal’s office.

Recently, however, Sye became the subject of a central office investigation, and it remains to be seen how long he’ll stay at Skyline, or whether he’ll return for a second year. Chris Dobbins, a school board member who represents the high school, said Sye is off for two weeks, but didn’t say why.

What happened? Continue Reading


OPD’s days on school campuses are numbered

Come fall, officers from the Oakland Police Department will no longer be providing security at the city’s public middle and high schools.

I’m at the OUSD school board meeting now, and interim superintendent Roberta Mayor has told the audience that the district will discontinue its $1 million annual contract with OPD to save money. (It still has about $29 million in cuts to go, based on Arnold’s latest budget proposal.)

I caught Mayor during a break and asked for a few more details. Continue Reading


Racketeering in OUSD?

I admit it: The more I learn about the Bryant & Brown law firm controversy, the more confused I become.

As I reported in today’s Trib, the Oakland school district filed a federal lawuit against the small Oakland law firm (pictured here), alleging racketeering, fraud, theft of public funds — you name it.

What I didn’t realize until recently was that Deb Cooksey — who led the Bryant & Brown investigation for OUSD until she resigned (her last day was Friday) — was once a close friend of Meredith Brown and Guy Bryant. Continue Reading


OUSD police chief leaves district

OUSD Police Chief Art Michel is leaving his post, and I think today Thursday is his last day. I wouldn’t have known about it, had it not been for the farewell salutes that went out over the police radio this afternoon. Michel (pronounced Mitchell), a retired OPD sergeant, has led the resurrected OUSD police force since January 2008.

I’m told the chief is leaving because of compensation issues — he came out of retirement to head the school police force and was likely receiving retirement benefits — and not necessarily because of a controversy last fall in which he detained Tribune photographer/videographer Jane Tyska during a student protest. (I called him this afternoon. Let’s just say he didn’t want to talk about his departure, or anything else.)

I understand. Despite his long career, Michel might be remembered for this:


Crisis averted, again

It’s a good thing that a case manager at Oakland Community Day School took seriously a 14-year-old student’s threats to her life and others yesterday. Shortly thereafter, police went to the student’s house and found seven loaded weapons in an unlocked cabinet near his bedroom. Seven! The boy was arrested.

Here’s a letter that Community Day School Principal Sam Pasarow sent to families, assuring them of the safety of their children and giving credit to staff for responding quickly (Like most of the alternative schools, Community Day does have an extensive search process, but still).

But that wasn’t the only weapons-related incident to shake Oakland schools yesterday. Another 14-year-old boy, who had been expelled from Madison Middle School, showed up to the campus and pointed a fake gun at two kids participating in an after-school program. The kids, of course, thought it was a real firearm. Continue Reading


First the furor, then the silence

Tim White, left, showed Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor around the district in July, when she first arrived in Oakland. About three months later, Mayor apparently asked White to resign, before changing her mind. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO by Alison Yin

Not long ago, Oakland Unified’s assistant superintendent and facilities director Tim White thought he was out of a job.

According to White, an internal investigation into legal, construction-related contracts with the Bryant & Brown law firm initially concluded that he had entered into those agreements without the approval of the board or the state administrator, and he was asked to resign.

But White said that as soon as he showed Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor the board minutes (which are posted online, for public access) that showed otherwise, the pressure suddenly lifted.

About two weeks ago, White said, he got a letter from the district saying that he failed to catch $20,000 in duplicate billing by the law firm, but that was it.

Now, he said, it’s almost like nothing ever happened. Except that it did. Continue Reading


Searching for a way ahead at Cole Middle School

On Tuesday morning, a 13-year-old boy was apparently playing with a gun he brought to school when it discharged in his first-period classroom.

No one was hurt, but distressed families and other West Oakland community members met at Cole Middle School tonight to offer solutions.

photo of Cole Middle School Principal Ivory Brooks (center) by Kristopher Skinner/Staff

You can find the full story here.

What steps do you think schools should take to keep kids safe? Some students said tonight that they wanted bag checks or metal detectors at Cole. Is that the answer?