A film about gender, featuring Oakland kids

The documentary film Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up features eight former Metwest High School students and other Bay Area youth. It’s being shown at film festivals around the country, but its East Bay premiere is at 7 p.m. Thursday evening at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave.

photos courtesy of GroundSpark

The hour-long documentary, which is part of an educational campaign about such issues as gender bias and health, delves into deeply ingrained gender expectations, and the lengths to which some will go to avoid being labeled as gay (and why). Continue Reading


Report follows the grass-roots organizers who brought small schools to Oakland

Tribune file photo of Acorn Woodland Elementary School by Alex Molloy

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University has spent six years studying a major initiative of the Oakland Community Organizations: to radically change public education in the city’s flatlands neighborhoods by creating small schools. Tonight at Castlemont’s East Oakland School of the Arts (EOSA), researchers discussed the findings. Continue Reading


School funds and “transparency”

I’ve received a report from an Oakland mom who says the principal at her kid’s school has refused to let parents or teachers look at the budget. The mother said the budget in question was for the current year, not the one being developed for 2009-10.

Hmmm… Last I checked, public school budgets were a matter of public record.

What is the process at your school for accessing this information? Have others faced similar difficulties? Do any schools post budget details online?

UPDATE: Continue Reading


The vaccination debate

photo from Inferis’ photo stream at flickr.com/creativecommons

More California families are choosing not to have their kids vaccinated, a trend that is worrying public health officials, according to a Los Angeles Times report this weekend:

A rising number of California parents are choosing to send their children to kindergarten without routine vaccinations, putting hundreds of elementary schools in the state at risk for outbreaks of childhood diseases eradicated in the U.S. years ago.

Exemptions from vaccines — which allow children to enroll in public and private schools without state-mandated shots — have more than doubled since 1997, according to a Times analysis of state data obtained last week. Continue Reading


Lessons on violence, guns, police

image by DAN ROSENSTRAUCH/Bay Area News Group

I’m still at a loss for words about what happened on Saturday. What do you say to young children and teenagers about the tragedy — or about their safety, in light of the proliferation of weapons in the community? How has the death of four Oakland police officers affected your students, or your own children?

What questions are they asking?  Continue Reading


Hills schools? Not much of an Option.

Oakland’s school assignment letters went out last week, and the appeals line on Monday was long. Michael Bonino, the improbably affable guy who runs OUSD’s high-stress Options program, told me the first person showed up at 2:45 a.m.

All in all, the district’s Family and Community Office expects roughly the same number of appeals as last year — about 500 by the end of the week. According to the preliminary count, 84 percent of incoming kindergarten families got one of their top three picks for 2009; 92 percent of sixth-graders and 98 percent of ninth-graders did.

Here’s where the numbers get interesting (although maybe that’s not the adjective you’d choose): Continue Reading


Tilden Elementary School faces closure

photo from Tilden’s Web site

Tilden Elementary School might close in June.

OUSD staff have determined that the district can’t afford to complete the repairs necessary to make the school — which offers 16 special education programs — clean and safe, said district spokesman Troy Flint. Last year, I wrote about the lack of a functioning alarm and intercom system at Tilden. Flint said the school’s uneven terrain also creates access problems.

Tilden’s closure isn’t official, yet. The recommendation goes before the Teaching and Learning Committee on Tuesday night, and the Facilities Committee on Wednesday night — and then before the full board in March. Some parents are fighting to save the school rather than see their children splinter off into four schools: Bella Vista, Burckhalter, Brookfield and Howard.

Christa Dahlstrom, a Tilden parent, wrote about the closure today in her blog, Hyperlexicon: Continue Reading


Innovation in OUSD, despite OUSD

photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune staff

Joaquin Alvarado, one of the Claremont Middle School parents who managed to convert a run-of-the-mill computer room into a high-tech media lab — and a basic word processing class into a 3-D animation elective — doesn’t have much love for the school district’s central office.

In an interview this week, Alvarado said Second Avenue had been more of a hindrance than a help. For one thing, because of a new board policy introduced in the middle of the semester, the people contracted to teach Claremont’s animation class (and many other contractors, for that matter) weren’t getting paid. The PTA had to cut these teachers a check so that they wouldn’t up and leave, as others did. It’s supposedly been fixed.

OK, so central office bureaucracy is hardly a new story line. But what about that staff presentation about turning Claremont into a “school of choice for North Oakland families?” Wouldn’t this new media focus potentially further that goal? Continue Reading


Claremont Middle School’s $8,000 locks

Last year, a group of Claremont Middle School’s super-parents raised money for a digital media lab so that kids could learn professional video editing and animation software. They lent a good amount of creativity and elbow grease to the project, devoting weekend days before the start of school.

photo courtesy of Mike Mages

Mike Mages, one of the dads who spearheaded the project, was there when the lab opened this fall. And last month, he came running to the scene after a major break-in. Mages said thieves ripped off four of the school’s 20 new iMacs, a projector and a 52-inch LCD display just before winter break.

The thing that really bothers Mages, though, is that the theft might have been prevented. He said school administrators had requested deadbolts months before the burglary, and that they never came — well, at least until after the damage had been done. Continue Reading