Hearing tonight on Oakland’s “persistently lowest-achieving schools”

Should Oakland Unified apply for a federal grant — money with strings attached — for its schools that made the state’s lowest-performing list? At 6 p.m. tonight, the school board is holding the first of two hearings on the subject. It’ll be held at United For Success Academy on the Calvin Simmons campus, 2101 35th Ave.

Explore Middle School, United for Success, ROOTS International, Alliance Academy and Elmhurst Community Prep are the five Oakland schools eligible for the money (an amount still undetermined). To get it, they have to do one of four things: shut down and send their students to other schools; close and reopen as a charter school; fire the principal and half the teaching staff; or fire the principal, extend the school day and make other changes. Principals who have been in place for less than two years are allowed to stay.

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On the agenda: Layoffs, recruiters and preschool

Military recruiters in Illinois. Tribune file photo (Associated Press)

At its 5 p.m. Wednesday meeting, the Oakland school board will consider:

  • making it easier for high school students to keep their personal information away from military recruiters, by including “opt-out” forms as part of the student emergency card, among other measures – Page 3
  • a proposal to more closely link preschool — academically and administratively — with kindergarten through third grades. At seven schools, principals will supervise the pre-K program on campus, as well. (The initiative is called P-3.) – Page 4
  • creating a Promise Neighborhood, a la Harlem Children’s Zone. – Page 6
  • eliminating 121 positions, including 38 from adult education programs (still waiting on more details/explanation, which I’ll post soon; apparently the number of teachers who actually received layoff notices is much lower). -Page 7
  • “temporary fund-borrowing,” to be repaid within 90 days, to weather another deferred payment from the state. – Page 17

Any thoughts or questions about these proposals? Some of those files were too large for my wimpy blog to handle, but you can find the agenda here. Maybe I’ll see you on Second Avenue.


Former teachers union prez to run for Oakland school board

Ben Visnick/Tribune file photo from 2006Ben Visnick led the Oakland teachers union for six years before Betty Olson-Jones succeeded him in 2006, after the near-strike of that year. I began covering the schools beat in the Olson-Jones era, so I haven’t interacted much with Visnick, who is reputed to have a more confrontational style.

But now he’s back — and ready to take a seat at the other side of the table. He spoke several times at Wednesday’s school board meeting, which happened to be located in his district (4), at Laurel Elementary. He is challenging two-term incumbent Gary Yee.

He has some bold ideas, too, from taxing individual Oakland residents who make more than $106,800 to consolidating the Emery and Piedmont school districts into Oakland Unified.

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On the agenda: Charters, protests and Tilden

Oakland Unified’s hard-line charter schools office says the district should renew its contracts with two schools: Oakland School for the Arts, a middle and high school located in the renovated Fox Theater building downtown, and Berkley Maynard, one of six charters in Oakland that are run by Aspire Public Schools, a management organization.

image by Nick Bygon, flickr.com/creativecommons

image by Nick Bygon, flickr.com/creativecommons

Also on Wednesday’s school board agenda is a “conditional endorsement” of the March 4 Statewide Day to Defend Public Education, which will include public schools, colleges and universities.

Translation: The district will support a “teach-in” and demonstrations before and after school — as long as the actions don’t “impede student learning,” according to OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

Betty Olson-Jones, the teachers union president, says there is not a strike planned for March 4, but that some teachers and students plan to be out of school that day. Others, she said, will picket before school starts or, possibly, take their children on a “walking field trip” to demonstrate.

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Smith’s budget cuts proposal, dissected

Some highlights from the Oakland school board discussion on Superintendent Tony Smith’s proposal for cutting $39 million from the general purpose budget. Note: District staff will bring back a report, later, on the “restricted” side of the budget, as well as the impact of the proposed cuts on individual school budgets.

Tony Smith: “This is ongoing work and getting clear on what are our priorities … We’re going to keep working on this… Just to be clear, we will keep working on this until we come to board for the vote (in June).”

Jumoke Hinton Hodge: “I want to support the direction that this is going in. … Let’s keep going down this road, but I feel comfortable and safe on this particular path.”

David Kakishiba: “Upkeep of the facilities has always been the number one complaint we receive as school board members…. I need some degree of confidence that we’re not going in the toilet around our facilities.” Continue Reading


Oakland’s school parcel tax measure, a year in the making (and counting)

Tribune file photo

I can’t imagine spending a year of my life trying to come up with a school parcel tax measure that is palatable to Oakland’s edu-political extremes, but some brave souls have done just that. And, believe it or not, the democratic process behind simply crafting the ballot measure has yet to run its course.

Maybe you can help the parcel tax coalition and the Oakland school board (that, or further muddy the waters!), by opining on the following points that are still up for debate. That is, if you think the school district should float another parcel tax to boost the compensation of its employees in the first place.

Should the measure…

a) go on the June 2010 ballot Continue Reading


OUSD board elects new prez, gives itself raise

Gary YeeAt an organizational meeting this morning, the Oakland school board unanimously elected second-term board member Gary Yee (right) as its president and Chris Dobbins as its VP, according to Troy Flint, the OUSD spokesman.

The board also voted to increase its monthly compensation from $750 to $787.50, a 5 percent raise which amounts to an extra $450 a year per member ($3,150 for all seven board members).

I wasn’t at the meeting, so I didn’t hear the discussion around this issue, but I’ll watch the video when it’s posted. Thoughts?


Former Oakland school board member dies at 34

Jason HodgeJason Hodge, the youngest person to win a seat on the Oakland school board, died unexpectedly yesterday at age 34. His cause of death was unavailable.

Hodge, a 1992 Skyline High School graduate, was first elected to the board in 1996 at age 21 and served two terms. He later became the public information officer for Vallejo City Unified.

You can read the Tribune story about him here.


More of OUSD’s small schools might close in 2010

District staff are recommending that Explore Middle School, a small school that opened in East Oakland in 2004, close at the end of the year.

Also on the 2010 closure list are two schools that were scheduled to close a year or two down the road, following a lengthy phase out: BEST High School (McClymonds campus in West Oakland) and Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts (Fremont campus in East Oakland).

Staff didn’t come out with a definitive recommendation for Martin Luther King Jr. and Lafayette elementary schools in West Oakland Continue Reading


Kakishiba to stay on Oakland school board

David KakishibaDavid Kakishiba will remain on the Oakland school board for the rest of his term — which ends in December 2010 —  rather than step down, as he had initially announced, he told me today.

“I believe my obligation, my responsibility, is to serve out my term,” he said.

Kakishiba’s original announcement, that he would resign from the board at the end of October, came in response to a conflict-of-interest opinion by Oakland’s general counsel, Jackie Minor. Kakishiba is also executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, which does lots of work in Oakland schools.

But Kakishiba said most of his board colleagues — who rejected the legal department’s recommendation in a 5-1 vote last week Continue Reading