Happy New Year! Now, about that financial aid…

Just as college-going high school seniors have caught up on their sleep over the holidays, they face another round of application deadlines — this time for scholarships and financial aid.

Fortunately, they and their families don’t have to figure it all out on their own. Next Tuesday evening (Jan. 13) at Oakland Technical High School is the first of at least 11 multilingual Cash for College workshops (put on by the California Student Aid Commission) to take place across the city before the March 2 federal financial aid deadline. You can find the workshop locations and times here.

Then, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, California State University, East Bay is holding its annual Latino Education Summit, open to everyone. Continue Reading


A school library, brought to you by the PTA

courtesy photo
When Russom Mesfun first laid eyes on Montera Middle School last year, he could not believe what he didn’t see.

“I was horrified to know that the school does not have a library,” said Mesfun, Montera’s principal. “I just could not conceive of it.”

Now it does, thanks to an $80,000 check from the school’s parent-teacher group  — which is technically a PFSC, not a PTA — that helped pay for a librarian. Continue Reading


Hills crowding debate: 20 months and counting

Way back in April 2007, I had the pleasure of observing the first of many sessions about overcrowding in a severely undercrowded district. It was on a Sunday afternoon at Hillcrest Elementary School, and boy was it intense.

Tonight, literally more than 30 meetings later, the board voted to send all Hillcrest-area kids for whom there’s no space to nearby Kaiser Elementary, a high-performing arts magnet school. They also agreed to eventually expand capacity at the also crowded Montclair Elementary School by up to 100 more students, which the school’s faculty council apparently opposes. No boundary lines changed.

You can find the presentation here.

Dozens of parents at various “hills schools,” some of whom live across the city from where their kids go to school, attended tonight’s meeting to voice support for Oakland’s Options policy.

School choice advocates take note: Continue Reading


A little holiday lead detection

Wondering if the gifts you’ve bought this year are free of lead and other hazardous elements? The Center for Environmental Health is doing free and instant “Safe Santa” tests in Oakland and Berkeley this week and next.

If you’re at all curious about what their handy “x-ray fluorescence analyzers” might detect, you can find locations and dates here.

image from karynsig’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons


An early summer vacation for CA schools?

For many people, under normal circumstances, summer vacation can’t come soon enough.

But if lawmakers don’t work out California’s budget problems in short order, the state could run out of money as soon as February — and some are speculating about the possibility of closing public schools weeks early.

Last week, a reporter from our sister paper in Vallejo reported that California school officials have discussed the possibility of that “doomsday scenario.” In the story, Hilary McLean, the press secretary for State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, confirmed that it had, indeed, been “bandied about.”

You can read the Times-Herald story Continue Reading


Kids cool the world

photo courtesy of Cool the Earth

North Oakland Community Charter School parents might be wondering why, all of a sudden, their kids are bugging them to use compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), to eat one less pound of beef per week, or to take shorter showers.

The Oakland charter school is one of more than 20 schools to join the Cool the Earth initiative. Started in 2007 by Marin County parents, the program educates kids (grades K-8) about global warming and gives them “action coupons” for saving water, paper, electricity and gas at home.

Cool the Earth is run by a small team of parents and/or other volunteers at each school  Continue Reading


Cleveland Elementary parents get press

The East Bay Express had an interesting story this week on Cleveland Elementary. Under the leadership of Principal Mia Settles, the diverse school near Lake Merritt has broken down language barriers and encouraged various forms of parent involvement — from stapling papers to picketing the district’s administrative offices because of overcrowding.

photo courtesy of Lynne Wardell

Read the full story here. Continue Reading


The latest school crowding fix

Staff proposals for addressing overcrowding at Hillcrest and other popular elementary schools have been swinging back and forth in recent months, as if there were some sort of behind-the-scenes tug of war on Second Avenue — which, of course, is entirely possible.

If the latest set of staff recommendations to the Special Committee on School Admissions, Attendance & Boundaries holds its position, Hillcrest will keep its middle school — and its attendance boundaries — intact. And Montclair, which has a crowding problem of its own, would eventually expand.

Hillcrest-area kids who are rejected from their local kindergarten for space reasons would have the option of attending Kaiser Elementary School under this proposal. Continue Reading


Gunshot fired in middle school classroom

No one was hurt when a gun went off yesterday at Cole Middle School, hitting an old fashioned radiator and breaking into pieces.

But I can’t imagine what must be going through the minds of parents, teachers and students, knowing what could have happened.

The 13-year-old student accused of bringing the loaded weapon to school is in juvenile hall. Troy Flint, the OUSD spokesman, said it wasn’t yet clear how or why the shot was fired. Continue Reading


School tours

Have you ever wanted to see what an Oakland public school looks like from the inside, but didn’t want the hassle of setting up an appointment?

Now’s your chance to see a school at work.

An organized tour might not offer as candid a snapshot as if you dropped in one morning without the herd of parents, but it’s probably much better than going on hearsay alone.

For elementary school tour dates (*see below list for recent revisions), click here. For middle schools, here. For high schools, here.

(The above photo, by Tribune photographer Laura Oda, was taken during a 2006 tour of Crocker Highlands Elementary School.)

The School Options window, during which families select their top school choices,  Continue Reading