This Saturday: a chance to weigh in on the plan for Oakland schools

If you have an opinion on the superintendent’s “Full Service Community Schools” vision, if you’re not quite sure what it means, or if you want to offer your feedback before a plan is etched in stone, you might want to check out an upcoming conference at the Cesar Chavez Education Center in Fruitvale.

The Youth and Family Conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 2825 International Boulevard, in the new building that houses Think College Now and International Community School.

Continue Reading


A tragic start to the new year

Chris Jones (courtesy photo)Chris Jones was all set to graduate from East Oakland School of the Arts and study music at Cal State East Bay. He had his graduation day marked on his cell phone calendar — along with a note about how happy he would be, at that moment.

But, as you might have heard, the talented 17-year-old was shot Friday evening outside his house, in front of his mother and two sisters. It was New Year’s Eve, and they were heading out to eat. Jones was Oakland’s last homicide victim of 2010. His older sister was injured in the shooting. You can read the initial news report here.

This evening, classmates and teachers from his high school are holding a vigil in the family’s home. Seventh Avenue Baptist Church (1740 Seventh Ave.) is having a musical celebration in his honor at 6 p.m. Sunday. The memorial service is at 11 a.m. Monday at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 1909 Market St. in West Oakland.

There will be a story about Chris in Sunday’s Tribune.


Case study: an alternative to “zero-tolerance” discipline in West Oakland

Cole Middle School. File photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

A social justice center at UC Berkeley’s law school published a case study today that highlights the successes, challenges and potential of restorative justice in schools, based on observations at the (now closed) Cole Middle School in West Oakland.

Restorative Justice is a set of principles designed to build community, prevent violence, correct behavior, and to repair harm, as well as frayed relationships. It’s an alternative to the traditional school discipline model, and the centers believe it could be a way to reduce the disproportionately high suspension rates of black and Latino students. You can find a lengthy description and online resources here, on the district’s website.

This is not a data-heavy report, but it does give a promising stat: The suspension rate at Cole dropped by 87 percent and expulsions went to zero after the program was implemented. Check out the graphs on page 31, if you have a chance.

It was an interesting read, especially if you make it beyond the executive summary. It’s clear that the author(s) spent lots of time at the school, observing and talking to people. (I think I met a law student working on this project — Atteeyah Hollie, maybe? — at a Cole event in 2008, after a gun went off in a classroom.)

Here’s a section on negative assumptions that some had, going in: Continue Reading


The Oakland police chief’s middle school strategy

Chief Batts. Tribune photo by D. Ross CameronOakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is in Washington, D.C. right now, lobbying the federal powers that be to give him $6 million for a pilot community policing program at four Oakland middle schools.

Batts’ plan is to hire 24 police officers and to assign them to four Oakland middle schools: Frick, Madison, Roosevelt and Westlake.

Officer Jeff Thomason, a public information officer for the police department, said four of the six officers at each school would provide security, and that two would serve as mentors and run the O.K. Program for gang and violence prevention.

“Basically, we want to start our community policing model at those schools,” Thomason said.

Continue Reading


East Oakland moms ask police for help

Oakland schools have a reputation for being dangerous. But for some families, they’re an oasis of security in an otherwise frightening and unpredictable world.

Walking to school in Oakland. Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda.A group of East Oakland mothers told Oakland Police Capt. Ersie Joyner this morning that they live in perpetual fear — that they rarely feel safe, even in their own homes. That walking their children to and from school, past groups of young men flying gang colors, can be terrifying.

“I am tired of feeling like a hostage in my own house, in my own neighborhood, in my own city,” said Maria Soto, whose two children attend Greenleaf Elementary, a new school on the Whittier campus.

An incident this fall stoked parents’ worst fears: 6-year-old Leslie Ramirez, a Greenleaf first-grader, was wounded in the middle of the night by a stray bullet fired from outside of her house.

Continue Reading


This week in OUSD: school budgeting, use-of-force policy and enrollment

The Oakland school board’s committees are discussing some important things this week. I figured some of you might want to weigh in on these items before they come before the full board. You can find a list of upcoming meetings and download the agendas here.

Regional bus tourTONIGHT: At 5 p.m., the Teaching and Learning Committee goes over a revised work plan for realizing the superintendent’s vision for the school district. They’ll talk about task forces, regional leadership teams (NEXOs are out; REXOs are in), and other elements of the strategic plan. The committee will also do a more detailed test score analysis with the district’s new data toy, visualization motion charts.

At 6:30 p.m., the Finance and Human Resources Committee is reviewing Results-Based Budgeting, a system that 1) specifies how funds are to be allocated to schools (currently, by each school’s average student attendance), and 2) allows principals and (in theory) school councils to decide how to spend those funds.

Continue Reading


Oakland youth and the Oscar Grant verdict

A jury could begin deliberations this afternoon or tomorrow in the Mehserle murder trial, and there’s been much talk (some have called it hype) about what the reaction in Oakland will be, especially if the former BART police officer is acquitted. Youth UpRising is doing its part to keep the peace producing the above video and organizing an event at 5 p.m. on the day of the verdict, whenever that is. (Flier below.)

Heard of other activities? Continue Reading


The summertime violence continues

This was all happening during last night’s board meeting. So sad. Although Superintendent Tony Smith said yesterday that one of the boys had died, the West Oakland Middle School student — shot in front of his own house — was in critical but stable condition today.

As Tribune Reporter Cecily Burt reports:

OAKLAND — A 17-year-old Berkeley boy was under arrest Thursday as a suspect in a Wednesday evening shooting that left a 13-year-old West Oakland boy in critical condition and his 16-year-old friend also wounded.

A second suspect, who police believe is the actual gunman, is being sought.

Police believe the suspects are affiliated with a North Oakland gang and that the boys shot were innocent victims. The shooting happened about 5:54 p.m. Wednesday at the home of the 13-year-old in the 1600 block of 8th Street.

Officer Ed Somarriba said Thursday that the 13-year-old, a student at West Oakland Middle School, and the 16-year-old, a student at EXCEL High School who also lives in West Oakland, and some other people were standing outside when the 17-year-old and another youth walked up. The second youth pulled a gun and began shooting at the group, Somarriba said. Both suspects fled.

No one else was hurt. The victims were taken to hospitals, and the 13-year-old was in critical but stable condition Thursday.

Joey Stevens, 26, said he had ridden on his bike past the boys and was still in the area when he heard what he at first thought were fireworks. He stayed with the younger boy, whom he knows well, until the paramedics arrived.

“He was so scared. I told him to breathe and be calm,” Stevens said, tearing up as he recalled those moments. “He’s a real sweet kid. He doesn’t mess with anybody. He went to school every day.”

You can read the whole story here.


Two Oakland teens shot and killed, others wounded on first week of summer

allowscriptaccess="always" allownetworking="all" allowfullscreen="true"

Just after midnight, 19-year-old Rachael Green was killed and five others — 14 to 18 years old — were wounded at a West Oakland vigil for another teenage homicide victim, 17-year-old Damon Williams.

Just last week, Green graduated from Bunche Academy, an alternative school in West Oakland where Williams also was enrolled. Four Bunche students, including Williams, have died violently since the 2009-10 school year began, according to the Tribune story.

Continue Reading