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


School safety and the perimeter problem

Kimi Kean and Minh-Tram Nguyen meet with neighbor about graffiti

In case you missed it, there was a story in today’s Trib about the efforts of Oakland principals Minh-Tram Nguyen and Kimi Kean to draw attention to a citywide problem: dangers in the streets outside schools.

City leaders and police responded quickly to their plea for help, which was precipitated by three daytime shootings near the school in three months. We’ll check back in a few months to see if the conditions have changed, and if more neighbors and nearby businesses have lent a hand.

Is this cooperative spirit alive and well in other parts of the city? In what ways could it be better?

SCHOOL BOARD ALERT: Tonight’s 5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting will be held at Laurel Elementary School, 3750 Brown Ave., rather than the usual place. You can find the agenda here.


Oakland principals speak out about gang violence, ask for help

Two East Oakland elementary school principals have appealed to the police and the community for help, saying increased gang activity and violence is threatening to erode the progress they have made during the last several years.

In a letter sent this afternoon to Oakland school district’s police chief and dozens of others from the school district, city and county (and local newspaper), ACORN Woodland Principal Kimi Kean and EnCompass Academy Principal Tram Nguyen detailed their concerns — which include daytime shootings and weekend drug sales in the school parking lot — and proposed solutions.

They write: Continue Reading


Safety scare, basketball game postponed

Mack v. Oakland High, 2008Yesterday afternoon I was putting the finishing touches on a story about security at Oakland’s high school basketball and football games when I got an email from our prep sports writer, Jimmy Durkin: Friday’s basketball game between Oakland High School and McClymonds was postponed, for safety reasons.

Part of the reason for the decision, I learned today, was an incident that happened at lunchtime yesterday, a couple of blocks from McClymonds. A car pulled up to a crowd of people in front of a convenience store on Market Street — it’s a popular lunch spot for students — and someone inside the car fired a shot.

No one was hit, according to OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint. But whoa. Continue Reading


Drive-by shooting near Frick; no students outside

Just before 10 a.m. this morning, a 19-year-old was walking along Foothill Boulevard, right next to the Frick Middle School play yard, when he was hit and critically wounded in a drive-by shooting.

As far as we know, no kids were outside at the time for the school’s prized physical education program (pictured below) or recess. If they had been, who knows what might have happened.

frick playground
Tribune file photo of a P.E. class at Frick Middle School

The shooting happened just a block from where 11-year-old Alana Williams was hit by a car and killed in a crosswalk on her way to school in October; police have yet to identify the driver, who fled the scene. 

Some of you have made the case for including the East Oakland middle school in the district’s new security cameras initiative; maybe, after this, Frick will make the list.


OUSD security update: List of schools

New security cameras at Oakland Tech
photo by GIOVANNA BORGNA/Tribune

Oakland Tech was the first school to receive the security upgrade we discussed earlier, and I saw a brief demonstration today in the school library. The cameras can swivel and zoom, and the picture is much clearer than the grainy images I usually associate with security camera shots.

As people have noted here, campus security requires much more than fancy technology. It’s not cheap, either. A Department of Justice matching grant covers about half of the $3 million cost; the other $1.5 million will come from OUSD’s modernization fund, but that it was budgeted for security upgrades anyway, according to OUSD’s director of procurement, Michael Moore Sr.

Still, it does sound promising, if it works as designed. Here is a list of Oakland schools slated to be part of the upgrade: Continue Reading


A new security system for Oakland schools

view from a security camera at Oakland's Fremont High in 2002The Oakland public school system is about to embark on a new initiative with a new acronym: SOS, which stands for “Secure Our Schools.”

The district plans to install 750-plus cameras at 26 middle and high schools between now and the end of the 2010-11 school year, using a $1.5 million Department of Justice grant.

It’s hoped that the infusion of technology — and the ability for school police to monitor the happenings on every campus from one location — will keep a lid on a number of the district’s chronic ills, including truancy, neighborhood crime, on-campus fights. Continue Reading


Families alerted about attempted sexual assault of 12-year-old — a week later

It was about 4:05 p.m. when a man jumped out of the bushes on 14th Street, east of Adeline, and grabbed a 12-year-old West Oakland Middle School student who was walking home from school with a friend; the man — whom neither of the girls knew — tried to pull down her pants, but a passerby screamed and chased him away, the girl’s mother said.

That was Jan. 4 — nine days ago. The following day at school, just down the street from where the attack took place, the girl reported the incident to the police. But school officials have waited more than a week to tell families on the old Lowell campus about the potential safety threat in the neighborhood. (A bulletin might have gone out today.) Continue Reading


After hit-and-run tragedy, a traffic light for Frick

Intersection of Foothill and 64th Avenue, East Oakland
photo by Giovanna Borgna/Tribune

The Oakland City Council has secured funding for a traffic light at that dangerous four-way stop on Foothill and 64th where 11-year-old Frick Middle School student Alana Williams lost her life in October.

In the meantime, a crossing guard is helping to keep the kids safe as they go to and from school.

Police, however, have yet to find the driver Continue Reading


Oakland’s new Tonys and the city-schools divide

At an Oakland school board meeting last night, while Jody London spoke of the need to strengthen ties with the city, it was announced that the new schools chief, Tony Smith, would join the city’s even newer police chief, Anthony Batts, and Mayor Dellums at a town hall meeting Monday night at Prescott school in West Oakland.

Given the number of shootings — fatal and non-fatal — that Oakland public schoolchildren have suffered since August, and the tragic death of 11-year-old Alana Williams, who was struck by a car Oct. 16 while she was in a crosswalk right by her school, it seemed like a good start.

Smith speaks often about the need for everyone to come together to solve Oakland’s seemingly intractable problems, including the perils facing children and families in some neighborhoods. So who better to work with — at least, outside of the district — than Batts?

Maybe that will eventually come to pass.  Continue Reading