What the heck is Expect Success?

Ever since I started covering this beat, people who follow OUSD goings-on (including school board members) have complained that they have only a vague idea of what Expect Success is, other than a punchline for district critics.

They knew the district was spending millions of dollars in private funding on the initiative (or platform, or project, or slogan, or whatever it is), but the specifics remained a mystery.

At a 5 p.m. special meeting tonight, staff plans to unveil the inner-workings of Expect Success for the board, the audience and the government access television-viewing public: What it is; how much remains of its $43 million budget (very little) and where the money has gone; which mega-foundations have donated what; and which consultants are paid from it.

You can read up on it yourself, if you’d like. It is part of a broader report on OUSD goals for the coming school year under the new, interim supe.

And here are some other upcoming happenings of note: Continue Reading


Politicians to scrutinize state takeovers of schools

Tomorrow in Sacramento — the week after the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury released an unflattering report on the subject — legislators will hear all about state takeovers in Oakland and elsewhere in California.

A new Assembly committee recently formed to take a look at the school financial takeovers system. They’ll probably get no shortage of suggestions on improvements.

School board member David Kakishiba is expected to be there, along with other school board members, policy analysts, superintendents, and union representatives. I won’t be able to make it to Sacramento tomorrow. But if you go, you should consider writing a synopsis for The Education Report!

Read all about the hearing, straight from Assemblyman Sandre Swanson’s office: Continue Reading


Grand jury dings state administration of Oakland schools

The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury wasn’t impressed with what it learned about the Oakland school district’s finances under state administration.

The management of OUSD’s finances under state control was one of 11 investigations included in its 2007-08 report (Page 49). The grand jury found that: “the district was hampered by continuous staff turnover, particularly in the area of finance, numerous reorganizations and a succession of state administrators. … After nearly five years of state management, OUSD’s budget remains unbalanced and the district’s future is unclear.”

I’m not sure if the watchdog group crunched any numbers for this brief report. They interviewed Continue Reading


Laying down the priorities for Oakland’s new superintendent

Roberta Mayor, new interim superintendentWant to have a say in the direction that Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor will take when she officially starts her job next month?

The board is holding a special meeting at 5 p.m. tomorrow to discuss the district’s priorities for next year, and the goals for Mayor’s work.

Don’t let my rant last week about the board’s never-ending meetings scare you away. I hear this session might actually be reasonable in length.


Oakland has a new (interim) superintendent

That’s right. Tonight, just one day after State Superintendent Jack O’Connell gave the school board the OK to hire a superintendent, they named an interim leader: Roberta Mayor.

organizationalchart.jpgMayor is a chief management analyst for FCMAT (you know, the agency that rates the district’s progress under state control?). A pretty shrewd move on the board’s part, since Mayor’s team has dissected and rated OUSD’s operations from the low point in 2003 until now.

With high FCMAT ratings this fall in fiscal management and academic policy, the state-run district could regain full local authority within a year.

Mayor officially starts July 1, and is expected to serve for up to one year. Meanwhile, State Administrator Vince Matthews will remain on Second Avenue, overseeing the budget and academic policy. (A more apt illustration would have two birds at the top post.) Continue Reading


Oakland school board will now run most — but not all — of the district

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell and school board president David Kakishiba signed an agreement this afternoon at Oakland’s Grass Valley Elementary School that returned local authority over staffing and facilities.


This means that the Oakland school board now oversees three out of the five key departments. The state, however, still controls the purse strings and academic policy — areas of no small importance.

For a celebratory occasion, it was a relatively sober affair, with references to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts and Oakland’s upcoming employee contract negotiations (The budget projections recently presented by OUSD staff include no changes to the salary scale, a fact that concerns board members).

At 7:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, Continue Reading


The school board powers up


Thursday update: After talking to David Kakishiba, the board president, I have a new question for you all to consider:

Should the board…

a) choose an interim supe while searching for a permanent leader

b) immediately start a search for a permament superintendent, which could take four to six months, or

c) wait until the last two areas of control (finances and academic policies) are returned to the board, because the complicated, two-leader system might scare top candidates away.


Tonight, the Oakland school board voted 5-2 to approve a power transfer agreement with Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of schools.

The agreement restores board authority over staffing and facilities, as O’Connell promised at a Nov. 30 press conference. And, of course, the ability to select a superintendent for the first time in about five years.

The state still controls Oakland Unified’s finances and its academic policies.

Noel Gallo and Greg Hodge voted against the agreement, as I understand it, mainly because of this clause, which includes language from the state takeover law: Continue Reading


Is Jack O’Connell afraid to let go?

jackoconnell.jpgIn late November, at a press conference held at Crocker Highlands Elementary, the state superintendent of public instruction made a big announcement: The mostly state-run Oakland school board would regain control over the district’s facilities and personnel departments, likely within the next two months.

Perhaps more importantly, Jack O’Connell announced that the board would be able to choose a superintendent for the first time since before the 2003 state takeover.

Well, February has come and gone. Although O’Connell did make a stop in Oakland at the end of the month, it was to talk about budget cuts, not power transfers.

“Whatever excitement there was in December, it’s gone,” said board president David Kakishiba, who sent O’Connell the latest draft of the agreement about two weeks ago. “It should never have taken this long.”

Kakishiba said O’Connell initially called on the board to carry forward a number of “brand name” reforms begun during the 5-year state administration, such as Expect Success. Continue Reading


Nope, Gary Yee is not in the running for supe

garyyee.jpgAlways the eager recipient of good scuttlebutt, I was intrigued by rumors that school board member (and former teacher, assistant principal, principal and administrator in OUSD) Gary Yee plans to resign from his post in the hopes of becoming the district’s next superintendent.

As usual, the rumors were tinged with truth: Yee tells me he was on the verge of stepping down to make himself available as an interim superintendent. But in December, he learned that board rules require members to be out of office for a full year before they can be considered for the position.

“The cost was just too huge,” Yee said. “The board would have to overturn its own by-law. How would I explain it to anybody?”

Yee said the board is considering one of three approaches at the moment when the state supe allows the local officials to pick a leader (likely in a matter of weeks): Continue Reading