And the state takeover comes to an end

It’s taken the better part of a decade, but the Oakland school board — not the state superintendent — will finally, once again, call the shots. Tonight, the board approved an agreement to restore local governance to the district, six years after the fiscal crisis and state takeover of 2003.

The transfer will be made official on Monday, two days before Tony Smith assumes the superintendent’s post. Continue Reading


Matthews: One foot out the door?

State schools superintendent Jack O’Connell has been mum about the return of local governance to the Oakland school board, five months after OUSD passed muster with state auditors from the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team.

Maybe his Oakland appointee, Vince Matthews, knows something we don’t; he’s looking for another job. 

In fact, Matthews was recently one of six finalists for a school district in Reno, Nevada — the Washoe County School District. But he later withdrew his name (as did a few of the other finalists). He told me this afternoon that he was still job hunting. Continue Reading


Whereas, we want our power back

On Monday, the Oakland school board will issue a resolution to support Assemblymember Sandre Swanson‘s latest attempt to end the state takeover. AB 791 would require State Superintendent Jack O’Connell to restore the last two areas of local governance — academic policy and finances — to the OUSD board by January 4 July 1, 2010. 

In December, state auditors gave OUSD high enough ratings for O’Connell to cut the district loose, but he has yet to make a move. It’s been almost six years since the takeover.


Superintendent search: Who will fit the profile?

Based on input from the hastily scheduled superintendent search forums (I went to one at Westlake Middle School with about 10 people, including the school principal), the search firm Ray & Associates created a profile of the ideal candidate, which the Oakland school board approved this week.

You can find the complete document, which touts Oakland’s assets  — diversity, weather, professional sports, even the zoo — here. Candidates have until April 21 to turn in their applications for this $275,000-plus-benefits job (which, strangely enough, might seem like a deal after paying two executives $250,000 apiece.)

The characteristics sound pretty generic, actually. Do you agree that the profile (below) describes the sort of leader/superhuman Oakland needs? What would you add?

Continue Reading


Wanted: An Oakland superintendent

Anyone dreaming of an Oakland superintendency had better have their resumes polished and their references lined up. Tomorrow, at long last, the Oakland school board will tell the world that it’s looking for a new leader. Officially.

About time, isn’t it?

In the weeks to come Next week, there will be a series of community meetings Continue Reading


OUSD vs. O’Connell

DIY court research, anyone? If you want to see the documents for yourself, just click here, then click on the “Case Summary” link and enter this case number: RG09440971

Update: A judge denied the Oakland school district’s request to order a temporary halt to the transfer of funds to charter schools. One reason? The school board might not have the legal authority to file such a lawsuit, since it doesn’t have all of its governing powers back.

The scoop: The Oakland school district has filed suit against State Schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell Continue Reading


County official is “alarmed” by O’Connell’s Oakland charter directive

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a $60 per student fee that State Schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell has directed his Oakland appointee, Vincent Matthews, to give the city’s independently run, public charter schools — a total amount now estimated to be $450,000.

O’Connell’s directive — which Matthews plans to approve at Wednesday night’s board meeting — was not well received by the Oakland school board. Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan doesn’t like it, either.

Jordan has written an open letter to O’Connell, calling for him to suspend the mandate Continue Reading


Ruling by committee

Wanna talk safety? How about academics? Facilities? Finances? Ethics?

You name it, there’s a new committee for it. Under state control, the Oakland school board went years without being able to cast a vote that counted or delve into critical issues with district staffers. Now, the elected officials appear to be in the midst of a governing frenzy — and who can blame them? Continue Reading


Some light TV for your Saturday

As most of you know, the Oakland school district, like others throughout California, faces some painful financial decisions. Some of its programs and services — and who knows what else — could shrivel up or disappear altogether.

Thirty million dollars is not a small amount of change, and that’s what district officials think they’ll have to cut from next year’s budget.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, the board meets all day in its regular spot to hear various proposals. I won’t be there in person, but I’ll try to catch some of it on TV.

KDOL (Channel 27) is airing it live, for those of you rare Bay Area types who actually have television sets and cable.  Continue Reading


Keeping a close watch on the cash flow

Two words came up at tonight’s school board meeting that might sound uncomfortably familiar to those of you who watched OUSD’s financial house implode in 2002 and 2003: Cash flow.

As I listened to the discussion (and the tone of everyone’s voice), it became clear to me that school officials don’t just have to figure out a way to balance the budget in the face of multimillion-dollar cuts. They need to plan, right now, for the possibility that the state — if unable to resolve its mounting fiscal problems — does not make payments to school districts at some point in the coming months.

“We do need to take a very careful look at the cash flow,” interim superintendent Roberta Mayor said. “If the district runs out of cash, that’s a major, major problem.”

With monthly payouts averaging $38 million, however, it’s not like OUSD can survive on its squirreled-away savings for long. Continue Reading