Oakland parents strike, demand teacher’s removal

Lazear Elementary School strike. Photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News GroupUPDATE: The school district has placed the teacher on administrative leave while they investigate the latest complaint, which alleges physical abuse.

Parents at Lazear Elementary went on strike today, which meant they kept their kids out of school. Only 60 of about 300 children showed up in the morning.

The protesting parents said they’ve filed complaints about a problematic third-grade teacher for more than a year, and nothing has happened. They said they were tired of hearing about “the process.”

On the other end of the teacher firing spectrum, parents and teachers at Claremont Middle School last night expressed shock and horror that one of their star, go-getter teachers — a newbie, without job protections — received a dismissal notice. As is often the case with these first- and second-year teachers, she was apparently released without even knowing why. (Lillian Mongeau from Oakland North wrote about it in more detail.)

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Market research on how Oakland families pick schools

A group of students from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business want to know why some families chose an OUSD education for their children (and exactly how they arrived at that conclusion) and why others opted for charter, parochial or independent schools.

Their online survey is open until midnight Sunday for all Oakland residents with children who are 22 or younger. You can take it in English or Spanish.

The survey asks questions about perceptions of safety, cleanliness, enrichment programs and school demographics at each of the schools the family considered. It will be interesting to see those findings, as well as the resulting recommendations to the Oakland school district about its “messaging” strategy and public image.

Michelle Florendo, one of the student-researchers, pointed out a consequence of school choice that we’ve discussed on this blog before: “A lot of public school principals are finding themselves in a position where they need to market their schools.”

This leads me to two sets of questions: Continue Reading


Nerves, crowds and competition: A family starts its search for an Oakland high school

Nia Lozano, whose daughter attends Edna Brewer Middle School, tells us her impressions of a recent open house at Oakland Tech. (At 6:15 p.m. tonight, Skyline High School holds its event for prospective families.) -Katy

photo from Oakland Technical High School’s Web site

Last Wednesday I attended the Oakland Technical High School open house. This was unusual, as I normally find it taxing to come out to any extraneous school events and have missed my share of Halloween parades and school performances. What is even more significant is that my oldest child will not start high school until the year after next, and I generally consider myself to be a pretty low key parent. But I was not alone. I ran into half a dozen other seventh-grade families I know, checking out this Oakland public high school early. 

The Oakland Tech building is architecturally striking, with huge columns and a white marble foyer, but what really struck me was the number of people swarming through the doors. We were directed to an auditorium that looked to hold about 500 people and was nearly packed!

The evening consisted of a series of six short periods in which you visit classrooms and learn about the various academic programs. Apparently, everyone had heard about the successes of Paideia and the Engineering Academy as there was a monumental rush to get into these classrooms. My daughter and I were turned away from the Paideia classroom twice, and when we finally got in, it was standing room only. 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


Public schools and the Parent Factor

A music class at Montclair Elementary School, taken in 2008 by Alex Molloy/Tribune

This morning I headed up the hill to Oakland’s Montclair Elementary School on a research mission.

It started with a story pitch about the PTA’s annual fundraiser, the Metrathon, and the school’s tied-for-first-place API score of 957. I don’t normally cover fundraisers — don’t get any ideas! — but after I hung up the phone, I decided to see for myself how the work of a powerhouse parent group can manifest itself at a school.

Let’s start with the front stoop. A large planter overflowing with greenery. Step inside, and you see a bulletin board with photos of families at the Back-to-School Coffee, the New Parent Party, and Play Dates in the Park. Next on the wall are a list of fee-based before and after school language courses: Mandarin, Italian and Spanish. Continue Reading


Smith: “This is our work over the next 10 years…”

There were more people than chairs last night in the library of Oakland International High School, the site of a District 1 town hall meeting with Superintendent Tony Smith. 

An air of agitation often accompanies well-attended meetings involving district administrators. But the mood of this event was decidedly optimistic, even warm.

Maybe it was the chocolate chip cookies that school board member Jody London baked for the occasion. That, and Smith’s earnest, reflective delivery, or the fact that the meeting wasn’t called to address a crisis or controversy.  Continue Reading


Got questions for Tony Smith?

Oakland’s new superintendent will talk about the challenges ahead and respond to your questions and comments at a North Oakland town hall meeting at the end of the month. 

The forum takes place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30 at Oakland International High School, 4521 Webster Street. It’s open to the public, and you don’t have to be a North Oakland resident to attend, said school board member Jody London, who organized the event for her district.

“I think he’ll provide some great information about the state of the district — where we are, where we’re going,” London said.

London said other board members are planning to organize events with Smith in their respective districts. Read the Sept. 30 meeting flier here.

Tribune file photo by D. Ross Cameron/Staff


It’s that time: Back-to-school giveaways begin

It’s not nearly as bold as the back-to-school strategy that Chicago Public Schools is employing this year, but the Oakland school district’s campaign to encourage timely attendance on Day 1 — Aug. 31 — includes the essentials: free backpacks and school supplies and a chance to register your child for school.

Have little ones? The district is holding two elementary school fairs this Saturday: one from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in West Oakland’s DeFremery Park, and another from noon to 4 p.m. on the other end of the city, at the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center in East Oakland. If you can’t make those, there’s one from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Family and Community Office, 2111 International Blvd.

For middle and high school families, the big event (co-sponsored by Oakland Natives Give Back and the Oakland Mayor’s Office) is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 outside of Oakland City Hall. Continue Reading


Kindergarten enrollments in the hills

I blogged in March about school assignment letters and the spike in neighborhood applications at Oakland’s high-altitude schools.

Well, some people may have just been hedging by applying to their local public school. In some cases, the actual registration numbers at these high-demand schools — while still high — are lower they were back then, or have remained steady. Redwood Heights looks particularly overcrowded, but the 54 children will be split between two and a half classrooms.


Chabot 97 87 Continue Reading