Will OUSD back off its high school reforms?

9 P.M. UPDATE: So far, Gallo has not made the below motion on the TSAs. His focus has been on supporting Lazear Elementary School’s charter school conversion.

UPDATE: OUSD board member Noel Gallo has confirmed that he might introduce a motion tonight to direct Superintendent Tony Smith to back off the teacher-on-special-assignment plan and negotiate a solution with the teachers union.

“Right now, there’s too much divisiveness going on,” he said.

Do you agree? What do you think about the timing of all of this — right before the hiring decisions are supposed to be announced? If he does introduce the motion, he’d need three of his colleagues to vote for it.

P.S. We’re hearing Occupy Oakland will be occupying the meeting too.


The Oakland Education Association is holding a rally today to protest the district’s decision to have teachers at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds apply for a new, 11-month teaching position if they want to remain on those campuses. (In case I haven’t reminded you enough, the Tribune is holding a forum tomorrow on this very issue.)

Do you agree with the below assessment that the district’s plan is “the latest corporate-inspired flavor of the month,” rather than a real solution?

Here’s the news release: Continue Reading


Posted: Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.

As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)

The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

The job description is mighty long. You can find the one for Castlemont here, and I’ve pasted it below. (I bolded the headers to make it easier to read.)

I’m curious: How many of these duties do you — and, from what you can tell — most of your colleagues do already? Which are less common? Which, in your mind, are the most (and/or least) important?

Do you plan to apply for one of these jobs? Why? I wonder what percentage of the schools’ existing faculties will choose to, and if this opportunity will draw many teachers from other schools.


Oakland Unified School District
Acceleration High School: TSA

Job Description 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


Parent Trigger: Coming to a school near you?

Staff Photojournalist Staff Photojournalist
Staff Photojournalist

People who follow education news in California probably have heard of the new law known as the “Parent Trigger.” It allows parents to unionize — and to petition to convert eligible low-performing schools into charters or force major staffing shake-ups, among other interventions.

It was enacted in January 2010, but it wasn’t until this summer that the California Board of Education approved regulations to clarify how it will work.

Parent Revolution, the L.A.-based group behind the law, stopped in Oakland this week on a bus tour through California. Nearly all who came to the information session at Brookfield Elementary School were either part of the bus tour or members of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, invited by Oakland school board member Alice Spearman. I noticed that only a handful of current OUSD parents (maybe just two or three) were in the room to learn about a movement described by organizer Shirley Ford as “grassroots in every sense of the word.”

That appears to have been by design. Spearman told the small group that she wanted to start with “all the key players in Oakland” to decide whether to form a parent union chapter here. If so, she said, they could bring other groups and “the grassroots parents” into the discussion.

Continue Reading


Former Oakland teacher a lead organizer for Save Our Schools March

Anthony Cody (courtesy photo)

Anthony Cody, an Education Week blogger and former math and science teacher and coach in OUSD, is one of the organizers of Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. March participants don’t like the direction in which education reform is headed; among other demands, they are calling for an end to the practice of using student test scores as the basis for decisions about school closures, layoffs and pay.

I reached Cody on Tuesday for this story about the movement. I also talked to Molly Servatius, from San Francisco’s Paul Revere Elementary, who is about to begin her third year in the classroom.

Servatius said she joined the Save Our Schools movement online on the day she saw the Waiting for Superman documentary about the failings of the nation’s public schools — a film that many teachers criticized as skewed and simplistic. She said she looked around and saw people crying during one of the film’s poignant scenes.

She was crying too, she said — but for a different reason. Continue Reading


Notes from the Oakland education forum


Today was the Tribune forum on education, held in the Oakland Public Library’s beautiful new branch on 81st Avenue. I’ll admit, I was unsure about how the day would shape up, or how the discussion on charter schools would go. (I’m way more comfortable in front of a computer screen, even under the tightest deadline pressure, than behind a podium.)

But now that it’s all over, I’m looking forward to the next one — in the late afternoon/evening, when teachers and students can come.

OAKLAND SCHOOLS FORUMI moderated a discussion about charter schools, with panelists Betty Olson-Jones, Oakland teachers union president; James Willcox, Aspire Public Schools CEO; Gary Yee, OUSD school board president; Gail Greely, OUSD’s new charter schools coordinator; and Stephen Sexton, co-founder of Lighthouse Community Charter School. Continue Reading


Tribune forum on public education in Oakland

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Oakland is exciting place to be an education reporter, and — for a number of reasons — I’m glad my boss feels the same way about the importance of schools coverage.

In fact, Tribune Editor Martin Reynolds has organized a forum on some of the issues facing the city’s public schools. It’ll be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the new, 81st Avenue branch of the Oakland Public Library (1021 81st Avenue — next to ACORN Woodland and EnCOMPASS schools). You can see the flier here.

The free public event — which, admittedly, is not at the most convenient time for people who work in schools — is co-sponsored by the Bay Area Business Roundtable, the Prescott-Joseph Center and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

It will include four panel discussions: Continue Reading


Story, photos from Oakland teacher convention

A story about last week’s dramatic Oakland teacher convention is in today’s Tribune. You can find it here. Here are a few photos taken by a real photographer (Laura A. Oda/Tribune) with a real camera. She came on Friday afternoon, before the turning point. Below is a session about the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.

If you have any photos that capture the highs and lows of the event that you think I should add, email them to me (preferably not at full resolution) at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.



Oakland teachers, shaping school reforms

"Listening tour" held Feb. 15 by Oakland's Effective Teaching Task Force. Photo by Dean Coppola/Bay Area News GroupThese days, it sure seems like a radical idea: asking teachers, rather than telling them, what’s needed to improve their schools.

It’s happening in Oakland, though. You can read more about the purpose and the early work of a largely teacher-led project, the Effective Teaching Task Force, here. The story ran over the weekend.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: The task force makes a stop tomorrow (Wednesday) on its “Teachers Talking to Teachers” listening tour. Continue Reading


Quality schools task force, explained (sort of)

I need to make it to one of these meetings. I’ve heard they’re well run, and I need to get a better handle on how the Quality Community Schools Development task force is approaching a topic as broad and multi-faceted as school quality. This OUSD-produced video explainer didn’t help me all that much (Eduspeak, to me, sometimes sounds like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons), but maybe you’ll glean something useful from it.

Who here has participated in the quality schools meetings (or other task forces) thus far? How is it working? What questions are you wrestling with? What have you learned?