OUSD Board’s Gary Yee candidate for acting superintendent

The Oakland Board of Education will host a press conference on Monday April 22nd to announce Dr. Gary Yee as a candidate for the position of Acting Superintendent in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). The Board will formally consider the matter during its next Regular Board Meeting on Wednesday, April 24 when a vote will be taken on the replacement for current Superintendent Tony Smith…Read the full announcement here.


Oakland school board to vote on local governance policy

Tomorrow night, the Oakland school board votes on a resolution that would establish its intent to give principals, school staff members and families greater authority to improve their school as they see fit.

Each school would create a “Theory of Action,” to which it would align its “people, programs, money, and time.”

The board would also attempt to give local leaders more say in who works at their schools, a strategy which proved to be a sticking point with the teachers union this year. (In resolution language:  “Strengthen the ability of school governance teams, through established collective bargaining protocols and agreements, to determine the composition of their employee teams.”)

It would allocate funding to schools based on student “needs and life circumstances.” Details TBD.

This one-page policy proposal (embedded below) was vetted by members of the Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting and was presented to the school board for a first reading last week.

Here’s how it starts: Continue Reading


OUSD board adjourns meeting after sit-in

sit-in at OUSD board meeting

UPDATE: OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said 10 protesters were arrested, beginning at 12:35 a.m., after refusing to leave the building.

Tonight, a group of about a dozen or more activists from BAMN held a sit-in and protest in the midst of the board meeting, saying they wouldn’t leave until the board took back its October decision to close five elementary schools. (At one point Alice Spearman, who serves up at least two colorful quotes and/or insults per meeting, issued this challenge: “I want to say to these revolutionaries who want to camp out: I hope you’ve got your tent. I hope you do. Walk your talk.”)

After an hour-long recess, when the Oakland school board and the television cameras returned to the board room, activists resumed their chanting about children, gentrification and schools not being for sale. (None are for sale that I know of; some might be leased to charter schools or the Emery school district, which some protesters were describing as majority-white. You can find that district’s actual student demographics here. Oakland has a greater percentage of white students.).

Then, without further ado, the board members and staff grabbed their personal effects and left, adjourning the meeting to tomorrow afternoon.

After the board walked out the first time, a man in a Santa Fe Elementary T-shirt told the activists (which did include a couple of Lakeview grandparents) that he had been waiting for hours to speak on the agenda item to lease Santa Fe to Emery Unified after the school closes in June.

“The point is you deprived the community to make their point to the school board,” he said. “This was disrespectful.”

Earlier in the meeting, a number of teachers union leaders spoke out against Superintendent Tony Smith’s plan to replace the regular teaching positions at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high schools with teachers-on-special-assignment, or TSAs. Continue Reading


On this week’s OUSD board agenda: school facilities, police review, charters and grading policy

I’m gearing up for a long night on Wednesday. Among many other agenda items, the Oakland school board will hear a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Services (it hasn’t been posted as of this afternoon); a discussion about possible revisions to the district’s student grading policies and regulations; an update on the expansions of Burckhalter and Kaiser elementary schools; and lots of decisions about the use of district property.

The board will also vote on the Lazear Elementary School charter conversion petition. Staff has recommended denial, saying it presents an unsound program that is unlikely to be successful. Lazear is one of the five elementary schools the board voted last fall to close at the end of the school year.

FACILITIES DEALS: Proposition 39 is a California constitutional amendment passed in 2000 that, among other provisions, gave charter schools the right to available space in public school buildings. If the board adopts the below proposals, some of the city’s existing and new charters might open at schools that the district has shut down or planned to close.

There are so many of these facilities proposals on Wednesday’s agenda, they almost call for some sort of diagram. For now, I’ll try my best to sketch it out in words. Continue Reading


OUSD board considers charter school conversions tonight

UPDATE: The OUSD board voted 6-0 (board member Alice Spearman wasn’t present) to approve the charter conversions of both ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. You can find the full story here.

As a result of the higher-than-normal facilities rate the schools will pay OUSD to remain in their buildings ($2.50 per square foot, compared to $1.35 per square foot), their per-student contributions to the state debt, and the services the schools plan to buy from the district as part of a services agreement, OUSD expects to lose about $48,000 after it’s all said and done, down from the original $826,350 projected just a few weeks ago. (Note: OUSD will lose $4.5 million in state revenue from the conversion, but $3.67 million in costs will be eliminated, bringing the difference to $826,350.)


In January, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith recommended that the school board reject efforts by ASCEND and Learning Without Limits elementary schools to secede from the district and operate as independent charter schools. The board did just that.

Then, last month, the two schools submitted revised applications — and the district administration is asking the board to approve them this evening.

Why the reversal? Last month, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits principals said the district was interested in what they called a “partnership charter.” We should learn more tonight at a special meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. You can find the petitions and the recommendations for ASCEND here and Learning Without Limits here.

If the Oakland school board approves the charter petitions, the schools’ leaders say they will stop their appeal to the Alameda County Board of Education, which is scheduled to hold a hearing next week. If the county approved the charter school petitions, the county — not the Oakland school district — would oversee the schools.

What should the OUSD board do?


Oakland considers a different kind of charter school

Two Oakland elementary schools whose attempted breakaway from the district was recently denied (by the district) are taking a different approach in their quest for independence. Tonight, the principals of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits turned in revised charter conversion applications — this time, for “partnership charters,” which would work closely with OUSD and its five-year strategic plan.

The faculties at both schools voted last fall to separate from the district in order to have more control over staffing, finances, curriculum and scheduling — conditions they said they felt all public schools should have. It was a blow to the district, and it came out as the board was holding its contentious school closure hearings.

But in recent weeks, district staff and the leaders of the two would-be charters — brought together by OUSD’s general counsel, Jackie Minor — have been negotiating a compromise.

Unlike other charter schools in OUSD, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits would chip in to pay down the district’s enormous debt from its 2003 meltdown and state bailout loan, a bill that comes to $6 million a year. They would also buy services from the district, including professional development and school meals, and its teachers and administrators would participate in some trainings and collaborative workshops with their district counterparts.

Students would enroll exclusively through the district’s student assignment process (though that doesn’t mean they’ll have more room for students displaced from closed schools),  Continue Reading


The Oakland Way

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Discussions are underway for radically changing how things work for Oakland school district employees and the students they serve.

Like a good newspaper lede, the opening line of the below human resources document makes you want to keep on reading — despite the fact that it’s an HR document.

“Current OUSD Human Resource practices are failing children,” it begins.

The ideas put forth in the discussion paper embedded below are comprehensive and wide-ranging, from strengthening relationships with local teacher colleges to creating “career ladders” for teachers, updating antiquated job classifications and lobbying state lawmakers make changes in the law with respect to labor rules.

One bullet point suggests that the district “assertively pursue separation for those whose service undermines the success of our children” — a topic that’s later couched, euphemistically, as a transition (i.e. helping ineffective staff find “future opportunities outside the district”).

The meeting was interesting too — more so than most, at least to me. The leaders of four different unions each had 12 minutes to contribute to the discussion. You can watch the video of the meeting here.

I’d give it a listen, especially to what Morris Tatum (AFSCME) and Mynette Theard (SEIU) had to say about the marginalization — and potential — of support staff, a topic that rarely surfaces at board meetings. If you really want to know what’s happening with the students, Tatum said, just ask the custodian. Both leaders said their members would like to be asked their opinions from time to time, or invited to meetings. (On the other hand, Tatum said, classified staff are often afraid to pipe up, worried their position will be cut.)

What do you think of this “discussion paper?” What ideas jump out to you?

The Oakland Way


OUSD’s strategic plan — and your place in it

On Tuesday evening, I’ll be speaking on a panel convened by the League of Women Voters about the strategic plan the Oakland school board adopted last year. The event, from 6-8 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, is titled “The Promise and the Challenge.”

I’ve been invited to talk about the role the community should — or needs to — play in meeting the plan’s goals. It’s a good thing I have a few days to do my homework first (and that I have this blog!), as the answer isn’t clear to me.

What about you? As a parent, neighbor, volunteer, or OUSD employee, do you feel you have a sense of your place in the work outlined in the strategic plan? If so, I’d love to hear what it is — and how you learned about it.

If you aren’t really sure about what the plan is or how you might fit into it, do you have suggestions for the district’s leaders about how to spread the word and call to action more widely?


If the Oakland school district had $1.46 billion…

Project list

This evening, after the Oakland school board picks a president and vice president for 2012 (6 p.m.), it moves onto its facilities master plan. The special study session — no vote on the plan tonight — is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at 1025 Second Ave.

The presentation posted on the agenda (links below) covers enrollment and demographic trends, facts about the number, age and size of district buildings, and a list of projects that might be undertaken if OUSD had the money.

If OUSD tackled every project on that list it would cost an estimated $1.46 billion, not including change orders and cost overruns. (The figure is listed on one slide as $1,460 million, which — though probably standard for these kinds of reports — sounds a little like someone saying they’re five-foot-twelve.)

It includes: $145 million in projects from the 2005 master plan that never materialized, such as upgrades to fire alarms; $333 million in seismic safety improvements; $457 million in modernization projects; $53 million in solar and energy efficiency; $300 million to replace portable buildings and $172.5 million for community kitchens, health care centers and other “site optimization” projects.

As most of the Measure B funds have been allocated or spent, this project prioritization appears to be in preparation for another bond measure campaign, which the board discussed last fall (election date and amount TBD).

You can find links to the relevant documents here and the projects list below. Come 6 p.m., you’ll find a link to a live video stream of the meeting here — and something called “eComment,” which I hadn’t noticed before.

What’s your take on the facilities master plan?