UC Berkeley’s recipe for preparing principals

Kyla Trammel-JohnsonUC Berkeley’s Principal Leadership Institute faculty say they have a darn good recipe for effective, stable school leadership: finding strong, “home grown” candidates and supporting the new administrators in their first three years on the job. 

The local institute celebrated its 10th anniversary this month. It has graduated 343 school leaders, and cites a 95 percent retention rate*.

[Home grown, defined: Candidates applying to the program “should” work at a public school in the Bay Area and have three years of teaching experience; they also must commit to working four years at a California public school after they graduate.]

Who are these graduates? you ask. Here’s a list of PLI leaders now in Oakland schools, courtesy of the PLI: Continue Reading


Claremont’s band — here to stay?

photo by Aric Crabb/Staff

The award-winning music program at Oakland’s Claremont Middle School is a big source of pride; the band started up a few years ago with only eight students, and its ranks quickly swelled to over 100. I wrote about this success story last year.

That’s why some families were dismayed to see “music exploration” printed on their child’s class schedule last week, instead of band or orchestra. Some said they were told at orientation that band would be part of the after-school program from now on, instead of a class, but no one seemed to know what “music exploration” was. The Oakland teachers union got involved.

“Clearly, this is not going to stand,” said Betty Olson-Jones, the union president.

The 400-student middle school is undergoing some big changes this year: a new principal, Kenya Crockett, a new bell schedule, and  “houses,” or groupings of students within each grade-level.

So why mess with something that’s working?

The school’s leadership has apparently decided not to, according to a memo given out at Monday night’s PTA meeting Continue Reading


New principals and a $1.8m math contract

The Oakland school board is back in business. It holds a special meeting at 5 p.m. this evening with the district’s new superintendent to talk strategic priorities, and it met on Saturday as well.

A couple of things on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the first regular session since June:

  • A new personnel report, in which I learned: Matthew Duffy, the Elmhurst Community Prep principal I profiled in May, is now a Network Executive Officer; Duffy’s assistant principal, Laura Robell, has become acting principal; Elyata Davis is acting principal of REACH; and Claude Jenkins is acting principal of Youth Empowerment School. (The Skyline High School appointment is conspicuously absent, unless I missed it somehow.)
  • A hefty $1.78 million, one-year contract for Swun Math, a program first piloted at a handful of elementary schools. This year, if the contract is approved, Swun Math will be in place at 35 elementary and 18 middle schools throughout the district. 

Most of the schools using the Swun Math method have seen their test scores rise significantly, according to the charts in this district presentation.

Continue Reading


Another new Oakland principal hire quits

Skyline is not the only Oakland high school that has watched a principal-select slip away. Debra Marker has apparently walked away from the top leadership post at Oakland High School.

OUSD spokesman Troy Flint confirmed that the rumor (which I first heard from a blog reader) was true. Marker — whose name appeared on a June personnel report — withdrew her name in the last week or two, before her employment was finalized, he said. He said he didn’t know her reasons for leaving. Continue Reading


Skyline high has (fingers crossed!) a new principal

And I have no idea who it is.

I know, that’s probably of little use to you. I just thought you might like to know that the selection committee selected someone, that school district staff accepted that pick, and that the appointment will be made official at the Aug. 12 school board meeting.

District spokesman Troy Flint said a decision was made to keep the name quiet until then. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I imagine that’s to avoid what happened last time.

Until then, as always, I welcome any info. You can reach me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.


A new Oakland schools coalition: Will you join?

Local control has returned to Oakland Unified, and the new superintendent is in effect. Now what?

A coalition of Oaklanders called Great Oakland Public Schools, or GO Public Schools, is vying to help chart the school system’s path. The group, which formed last fall, is distributing a 5-page document titled “A Declaration of Community Beliefs and Visions for Oakland’s Public Schools.” Those who endorse it were invited to attend a meeting with Superintendent Tony Smith.

Some of the ideas in the declaration sound a lot like previous or existing initiatives: That principals should have greater say over staffing (i.e. hiring and firing), budgets and curriculum. That families should have the option to send their children to various district or charter schools. That Oakland should offer rewards and incentives for teachers in high-poverty areas, and raise base pay for teachers.

Some seem to regard the group with suspicion. Continue Reading


Skyline’s never-ending principal search

Skyline High School’s principal selection committee can’t rest just yet.

I’ve just learned that Lauren Klaffky, the former Oakland High assistant principal picked for the job (see the OUSD personnel report here), has had second thoughts about leading Oakland’s largest high school.

I spotted the job listing on EdJoin this afternoon, posted June 30. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint confirmed that Klaffky will not take the Skyline post after all. He said she Continue Reading


New police chief of Oakland schools

Peter Sarna II, a former Oakland police lieutenant with close ties to Jerry Brown, has replaced Art Michel as the head of Oakland school district’s force.

Sarna served as deputy director of the California Department of Justice’s law enforcement division for several months under Brown in 2007. He stepped down after he was cited for drunken driving following a crash in Walnut Creek in August of that year. Continue Reading


It pays to be a superintendent

All of this discussion about the pay and benefits for Oakland’s new superintendent spurred me to find out how other top dogs in the Bay Area are compensated. With help from my reporter colleagues, I compiled the below sampling of their pay and perks.

I don’t have all of the benefit totals, and some of these folks might be in for another raise come July 1, but it’ll give you a better idea of what these people are taking home. Any guesses on the top earner? Continue Reading


The Oakland principal shuffle

As I browsed the latest personnel report today, I recognized the names of several appointees from previous roles.

Mary Scott, the ousted principal of Oakland High, will head east to become an assistant principal at Castlemont’s Business Information & Technology School. Lauren Klaffky, an AP under Scott at Oakland High (and a relatively new administrator, according to her Linked In page), is headed up the hill to the Skyline principal’s office.

Anisa Rasheed, who lost her job in 2008 as principal of Paul Robeson School of the Visual & Performing Arts (East Oakland’s Fremont campus), will be an AP at Oakland Tech. Phil Cotty, Continue Reading