Hearts for Haiti

Bret Harte Middle School
photo courtesy of Bill Watson Payne

Kids at Oakland’s Bret Harte Middle School are showing their love this month by raising money for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. So far, they have raised more than $700 for Oxfam, according to teachers at the school. Each heart represents a student’s contribution.

At Oakland School for the Arts, Graciela Olguin and her classmates organized an online art sale to raise money for the American Red Cross’s Haiti relief efforts. They set up this Web site, and generated more than $300 as of late last week.

If your school has undertaken a similar project, tell us about it.


A new teacher, a new strength

Dan AdilettaAs I get closer to my colleagues in my school, my district and in my department, I’m finding tremendous strength. I went to my professional development on Monday beleaguered—still with a box full of papers to grade. I’m stressed about my school closing, my shaky financial situation and how to manage my troubled students while increasing the academic rigor.

I’m not the only one. In fact, I found myself in a room heavy with worn faces. In that shared burden there was camaraderie, albeit in an exhausted form.

Continue Reading


Drive-by shooting near Frick; no students outside

Just before 10 a.m. this morning, a 19-year-old was walking along Foothill Boulevard, right next to the Frick Middle School play yard, when he was hit and critically wounded in a drive-by shooting.

As far as we know, no kids were outside at the time for the school’s prized physical education program (pictured below) or recess. If they had been, who knows what might have happened.

frick playground
Tribune file photo of a P.E. class at Frick Middle School

The shooting happened just a block from where 11-year-old Alana Williams was hit by a car and killed in a crosswalk on her way to school in October; police have yet to identify the driver, who fled the scene. 

Some of you have made the case for including the East Oakland middle school in the district’s new security cameras initiative; maybe, after this, Frick will make the list.


A slice of life, from a middle school kitchen

cooking class at Melrose Leadership AcademyI love to hear (or read) the stories teachers tell about their kids, especially funny ones. Gehry Oatey, a middle school teacher at Oakland’s Melrose Leadership Academy and a blogger for Teacher, Revised, does not disappoint in his latest blog post, “Keepin’ it real in the kitchen with middleschoolers.”

Imagine you are 12 years old. Your body is starting to do new and fascinating things like grow facial hair, smell, and change its voice. Your emotions are bouncing off the walls regularly and perhaps there is no other time in your life when what you put into your body is of greater significance. Continue Reading


A new security system for Oakland schools

view from a security camera at Oakland's Fremont High in 2002The Oakland public school system is about to embark on a new initiative with a new acronym: SOS, which stands for “Secure Our Schools.”

The district plans to install 750-plus cameras at 26 middle and high schools between now and the end of the 2010-11 school year, using a $1.5 million Department of Justice grant.

It’s hoped that the infusion of technology — and the ability for school police to monitor the happenings on every campus from one location — will keep a lid on a number of the district’s chronic ills, including truancy, neighborhood crime, on-campus fights. Continue Reading


Families alerted about attempted sexual assault of 12-year-old — a week later

It was about 4:05 p.m. when a man jumped out of the bushes on 14th Street, east of Adeline, and grabbed a 12-year-old West Oakland Middle School student who was walking home from school with a friend; the man — whom neither of the girls knew — tried to pull down her pants, but a passerby screamed and chased him away, the girl’s mother said.

That was Jan. 4 — nine days ago. The following day at school, just down the street from where the attack took place, the girl reported the incident to the police. But school officials have waited more than a week to tell families on the old Lowell campus about the potential safety threat in the neighborhood. (A bulletin might have gone out today.) Continue Reading


Oakland middle school to get a plug on the “Today” show tomorrow

Urban Promise AcademyUrban Promise Academy, a small middle school in East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, will be one of three schools in the nation to be featured tomorrow morning on NBC’s “Today” show for a segment on innovative schools in low-income communities.

Because the show will be filming live from UPA for its East Coast broadcast, a group of teachers, parents and students will get to the school by 5 a.m. Mark Triplett, the school principal, said he’ll probably be there by 4.

Hey, if tonight’s board meeting goes late enough, maybe I can pull an all-nighter! (That was actually Triplett’s suggestion. I’m SURE he was only half-serious.)

It is scheduled to air after 8 a.m. Pacific Time, likely around 8:30, Triplett said. Continue Reading


More of OUSD’s small schools might close in 2010

District staff are recommending that Explore Middle School, a small school that opened in East Oakland in 2004, close at the end of the year.

Also on the 2010 closure list are two schools that were scheduled to close a year or two down the road, following a lengthy phase out: BEST High School (McClymonds campus in West Oakland) and Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts (Fremont campus in East Oakland).

Staff didn’t come out with a definitive recommendation for Martin Luther King Jr. and Lafayette elementary schools in West Oakland Continue Reading


A new teacher, hanging by a thread

Dan Adiletta is a first-year teacher at Explore College Preparatory Middle School in East Oakland.

So there I am, fighting for control of a classroom against students sloshing knee-deep in disrespect towards each other and towards me, and all the while my observing school coach is clacking dourly on her computer. I know what my lesson and my classroom management is lacking; I need to include greater academic rigor and better routines and instructions to minimize disruptive behavior.

Tomorrow will be better, I say, I’ll work my tail off to make tomorrow better.

I come home late because of a flurry of mandatory meetings and student requests. I was at school an hour and a half early to prep. My lunch break was 20 minutes. I taught five back-to-back classes that were all a grueling struggle. I sit on my couch, my shirt untucked and left eye twitching, with my head in my hands feeling miserably guilty for failing the students whose education is in peril. Continue Reading


West Oakland’s empty classroom seats

Here’s a sobering statistic: Of the 2,890-plus Oakland Unified students who live in West Oakland, 1,270 attend schools in other parts of the city, according to school district data.

That’s 44 percent, and it doesn’t count children who go to public charter schools or private schools — or to Berkeley Unified, for that matter.

What to do? A new group of city, school and county officials and community leaders has formed to revitalize public schools in West Oakland during a time of ongoing budget cuts ($27 million out of next year’s OUSD budget).

The group is called the West Oakland Brain Trust, and it was convened this fall by school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, who represents District 3.

Some of OUSD’s top dogs came to its Tuesday morning meeting. Superintendent Tony Smith Continue Reading