Group aims to recall five OUSD board members

In Oakland, recall is in the air.

As some citizens collect signatures to recall Mayor Jean Quan, another group named Concerned Parents and Community Coalition is trying to oust five of the seven Oakland school board directors. It’s targeting those who voted `yes’ on the proposal this fall to close elementary schools: Jody London, David Kakishiba, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Gary Yee, and Chris Dobbins.

The school board meets tonight, and members of the coalition planned to march to the district office from nearby Laney College at 4 p.m. and present the directors with intent to gather signatures for a recall. Our photographer went out there around 4:30 p.m. and found about six people, not counting reporters.

(7:15 p.m. UPDATE: More supporters have packed the board room. Board President Jody London turned off the mic after Joel Velasquez, of Concerned Parents, went over the time limit. London later called a recess as he continued to speak, with the help of supporters, in Occupy “mic-check” fashion. People then began chanting “Stop closing schools!” and “Recall!”)

The closures of Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe elementary schools were the impetus behind this effort. Joel Velasquez, a Lakeview dad, was listed as the contact on a news release that was sent out this morning from Yasmin Anwar. Anwar, a Kaiser Elementary School mom, was one of many parents who fought to keep Kaiser open after it appeared on a list of schools under “possible closure consideration.” She brings some communications know-how to the coalition, as she works in UC Berkeley’s media relations department.

Velasquez told me that the people he had spoken to about the issue feel that the elected officials “are disconnected from the community.”

I’m still learning about the recall process, but here’s what I gather so far: Continue Reading


With free admission, more Oakland students taking field trips to Chabot

Photo courtesy of the Chabot Space & Science CenterBuild it, and they will come — if you offer free admission.

As part of its business deal last year with the Oakland school district, to which it still owed $8 million for a construction loan, the Chabot Space & Science Center agreed to offer free field trips to Oakland’s public schools. (Before, it had offered a discounted rate.)

This week, Chabot’s director of institutional advancement reported that 9,655 Oakland students visited the center during the 2010-11 school year, a 35 percent jump from the year before.

UPDATE: The above figures include private school visits. For the Oakland school district alone, the increase was 41 percent — 8,759 field trip visitors in 2010-11, compared to 6,215 in 2009-10.

Robert Ade, the center’s communications and media coordinator, attributed the increased participation to the new policy. Before, he said, “It was prohibitive for some schools to even think about a field trip here.”

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OUSD’s latest personnel report

Some of you have asked for the district’s latest official reporting of new hires, promotions, departures, etc. I know this list isn’t up to date — e.g. Ash Solar, who headed the effective teaching task force, has left OUSD, but his name wasn’t on there — but here you go:

Personnel Report June 2011


Notes from a long and eventful board meeting

Tonight’s — or should I say, last night’s —  5 p.m. Oakland school board meeting went till midnight. I observed so much from my ergonomically incorrect wooden seat:

The NAACP‘s Oakland branch showed up in force to register their concerns about complaints they’d heard from students and alumni about problem teachers, institutional racism and African American students’ opportunities for success at Skyline High (where a transcript review last fall revealed a whole bunch of students who weren’t on track to graduate), McClymonds and Castlemont high schools.

Teachers showed up to voice their support for retired teachers whom the district hired to coach them when they were first starting out. The retired teachers said they were told their services would no longer be needed. Superintendent Tony Smith said he had known nothing about this — and that he wished he had been informed of this development by his staff, rather than at a school board meeting. (Sounded to me like the program would be restored.)

Nikita Mitchell, one of the school board’s student directors, gave a rousing, seemingly extemporaneous end-of-term speech about education in Oakland, the “two Oaklands,” and how she and other students had been saying for years what members of the NAACP reported on Wednesday.

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A OUSD board member’s proposal: No further cuts to adult education

David KakishibaDavid Kakishiba doesn’t think the Oakland school district should swipe another $3.3 million from the adult education fund. Such a move would all but shut down adult education in Oakland, leaving only about $1 million in ongoing funds for a program that once had a budget of more than $11 million.

Kakishiba will suggest that change — and others — to the superintendent’s budget proposal at Wednesday’s 5 p.m. school board meeting. His four “adjustments” (See full document below) were discussed by the Finance and Human Resources Committee this week and unanimously forwarded to the full board for a discussion.

The 2011-12 budget is up for approval the following week, on June 29. The most recent OUSD proposal to date is posted below.

THE CASE FOR LEAVING ADULT ED’S REMAINING FUNDS ALONE: Kakishiba said he believes Oakland’s adult education programs will help the district realize its vision of “full-service community schools,” especially since adult ed’s services — GED and school-based family literacy — line up so closely with OUSD’s mission.

Besides, the board member said he wasn’t convinced the administration’s plans for spending that money on high schools line up with the strategic plan the school board is about to vote on tomorrow. He said the idea of launching a centralized academic counseling team (one of the proposed expenditures of the adult ed money) “makes no sense to me.”

The other items on which the funds might be spent, he said, amount to “very small investments in big issues.”

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Plan for Oakland schools up for approval Saturday

On Saturday, the Oakland school board is scheduled to vote on the superintendent’s five-year strategic plan — the product of 14 task forces and, according to the document, some 350 task force and community meetings.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the board room at 1025 Second Ave. It’s supposed to run about two hours.

How did you take part in the process? Does this document reflect your ideas for improving OUSD? What will it take for this plan to materialize?

In case you missed it:

OUSD’s strategic plan

The Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network sent out a news release saying it expected all four of its recommendations to make it into the final plan. They are:

  • Adopt and follow standards for family engagement to make meetings and events more accessible and parent-friendly
  • Improve training for parents who serve on school site governance councils
  • Establish a Family Engagement Advisory Council to give regular feedback to the district on ways to better involve the community
  • Hold monthly meetings with parents and youth in each of OUSD’s three regions to improve communication.

OUSD budget trends and another central reorg

The first reading of the Oakland school district’s 2011-12 budget proposal happens at tonight’s 5 p.m. board meeting (Catch it live here). So I did some number crunching, building on an analysis from earlier in the year that compared 2009-10 spending and 2010-11* budget estimates.

You’ll find the combined totals toward the bottom of the spreadsheet, with the changes over time highlighted in blue. If you notice any errors, please let me know so I can fix them.

*Note: The district’s estimates for 2010-11 have changed since the February budget presentation. I’ve included both sets of numbers for the current fiscal year.

OUSD budget trends

You might have noticed that the budget for professional development and curriculum would be half the size that it is this year. It can’t be a coincidence that the district is overhauling its Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction department — which “wave” would this be? — though few details have come through official channels about the reasons for the reorganization, how many jobs will be eliminated, and how it will work. Continue Reading


Four more years for Tony Smith?

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Oakland school board unanimously extended the superintendent’s contract through June 2015.

Oakland Superintendent Tony SmithThe Oakland school board votes Wednesday whether to extend the current, three-year contract for Superintendent Tony Smith (which expires in June 2012) for another three years. No changes in pay — $265,000 salary — or benefits.

You can see the full document for yourself, below.

How well do you think Smith has led the district?

Contract for Tony Smith


So much pink, so few layoffs (probably)

For all of the people who tried to attend the Oakland school board’s special budget meeting tonight and anyone else who missed the presentation, here’s the upshot:

The Oakland school district is bracing for a 16 percent cut in state general purpose funding for 2011-12. That amounts to $844 per student, or $30.5 million, rather than $349 per student, or $12.6 million, as previously thought. Not a small difference. But the district’s staff’s “best thinking” for making ends meet under that scenario does not call for additional cuts at schools, school closures or furloughs.

What it does entail is a whole lot of one-time funds taken from the state loan, adult education programs, and additional reserves. And, as a result, a much larger structural deficit — $22 million, rather than $7 million — and more cuts down the line. You can find the presentation here.

On layoffs: Continue Reading