Lots of new principals in Oakland schools

Twenty of Oakland’s 98 schools will have new principals next year, according to a list that OUSD’s spokesman sent to me this afternoon (with a caveat that there might be some errors; it’s July, and the fact-checkers are on vacation). This is the longest list I’ve posted in blogging history (See 200720082009 or 2010, though those weren’t necessarily complete).

Here are the schools that will have new leaders this fall, according to the list from OUSD, which is posted in full below:

Elementary: East Oakland PRIDE (TBD), Emerson, Futures (TBD), Grass Valley (TBD) Hillcrest, Kaiser, Parker (TBD), REACH, Sequoia, Bella Vista (TBD), Laurel

Middle: Alliance, Roots International, West Oakland Middle, Bret Harte (TBD)

High: Coliseum College Prep (grades 6-12), East Oakland School of the Arts, Freshman Prep Academy (this is new, part of the restructuring at Castlemont), Mandela (Fremont), Media Academy (Fremont), and Metwest. (All three high schools on the Fremont campus will be under one principal, Dan Hurst.)

Below is the list from Oakland Unified, with the principal changes highlighted in yellow.

Principals in OUSD (changes highlighted in yellow)


Meet CA’s new state superintendent

Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction. AP file photoTom Torlakson was sworn in as California’s superintendent of public instruction yesterday at Mt. Diablo High School, where he once taught and coached track. It sounds like it was quite a pep rally.

Torlakson will likely have more authority than his predecessor, Jack O’Connell. KQED reports that Gov. Jerry Brown will not appoint a secretary of education, as previous governors have.

What do you hope Torlakson will accomplish during these difficult times? Are there any policies embraced by O’Connell, such as the high school exit exam requirement, that you think he should support — or try to reverse?


Native American leader, former Oakland activist, dies at 64

Wilma MankillerWilma Mankiller, the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe — the Cherokee Nation — was once a Bay Area resident and a strong advocate for Native American children in Oakland’s public schools. She died Tuesday in Oklahoma at age 64.

In our library, I found a small envelope stamped “MANKILLER, WILMA/ INDIAN LEADER, OAK.”  Inside were several articles, including a Tribune story from January 9, 1977. Susan Shoemaker, then an education writer for the newspaper, reported that Mankiller and other Native Americans “believe the school district simply does not care about their children.”

“Oakland public school services are just inadequate for American Indian students,” Mankiller was quoted as saying.

Continue Reading


Oakland school board president steps down

Alice Spearman, Oakland’s new school board president, won’t hold that title for much longer.

Spearman just called me up to say she was about to resign her presidency, a post she has held for just four months. She said she came to this decision on her own, and that no one else pressured her to do so. She will remain on the school board.

“I just don’t think I was effective,” she said. “My management style is just different than most.” Continue Reading


Another OUSD veteran who would be chief

Denise Saddler, a former Chabot Elementary School principal who now supervises elementary schools in North and West Oakland, tells me that the rumors are true: She, too, is vying for the Oakland superintendency.

Like Michael Moore Sr., Saddler is an Oakland native with a long history with the school district, beginning as a teacher in 1979 (She attended the Anna Head School for Girls, which is now Head-Royce, for 12 years).

While chatting with her briefly today, I learned that she was the teachers union president between 1986 and 1992 Continue Reading


Yes, their hats are in the ring

At a closed session special meeting tomorrow night, the Oakland school board receives a short list of semifinalists from Ray and Associates, Inc., the firm hired to help with the district’s superintendent search. The rumor mill is churning, of course, and I’m working to confirm some of the names I’ve been hearing again and again…

For now, I present you with two would-be leaders of the Oakland Unified School District: Michael Moore Sr. and Hae-Sin Thomas. They won’t know until tomorrow night whether they are among the candidates that the school board and its advisory committee will interview. Continue Reading


A safety net, unraveling before our eyes

photo of a final communications class at Lifelong Medical Care’s adult day care center by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Today marks the end of hundreds of adult education programs for seniors and the disabled — in Oakland, alone. Across the state, classes that once provided a source of needed stimulation for the elderly are falling by the wayside. Continue Reading


Duncan: Big $$, if you’re willing to change the “status quo”

In this Washington Post interview, our new United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, talks about how the Obama administration plans to further its school reform agenda.

Of the $100 billion earmarked for schools in the federal stimulus package, Duncan says, the government has about $5 billion in discretionary funds. With that “unprecedented” amount of money, he said, “We’re gonna work exclusively with those states and those districts that are really willing to challenge the status quo and get dramatically better.”

I forgot to mention earlier that Continue Reading


Oakland Charter Academy principal named to state board of education

Jorge Lopez, a former school dropout who directs the high-performing Oakland Charter Academy (shown here at his middle school in Fruitvale), has been appointed to the California Board of Education.

Lopez is not your typical educrat, if there is such a thing. He’s all about the hard work and humilation approach to schooling, a la Ben Chavis — at least, when it comes to educating poor kids. He says this method would never fly in a more affluent community, nor would it be necessary; in fact, he went the Montessori route for his own preschool-age children.

When I visited the charter academy last fall, Lopez readily acknowledged that the school played mind games with its students in order to motivate them — and that he imposed a daily detention quota on at least one of his teachers (A former teacher had told me that he sometimes had to arbitrarily pick on kids to meet his quota. Lopez confirmed it was true). Continue Reading