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


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


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


Oakland’s Eastside high redesign (#2)

East Oakland School of the Arts, a small Castlemont school. Tribune file photo by D. Ross Cameron.

Five years ago, the three high schools on East Oakland’s Castlemont campus had almost 1,300 students. That number has dwindled to 700 — a 45 percent drop.

The Fremont campus, also in East Oakland, has seen a similar slide. A decade ago, more than 2,000 students went to school there. Now, there are just 940.

Both campuses were divided into small, themed schools — each, with its own principals and administrative staffs — as part of an improvement strategy that received millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But since then, there’s been an exodus from Fremont and Castlemont. Many families from the East Oakland flatlands have used the district’s school choice policy to send their children to schools with better reputations across the city. Others have opted for one of the charter schools that have opened in their neighborhoods.

As a result of the dwindling numbers, the great high school  “redesign” of 2003 and 2004 is — yes — being redesigned.

Troy Flint, a district spokesman, has confirmed that a team of administrators and other staff is drafting a proposal for the future of both high school campuses. Youth Empowerment School, in the East Oakland hills, will be part of the Fremont Castlemont plan, he said.

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New language immersion school, a year later


Last fall I visited Oakland’s Melrose Leadership Academy, which had just begun a new Spanish-English immersion program, starting with a kindergarten class of about 35 students. When the teacher said “stand up” in Spanish (90 percent of kindergarten instruction is in Spanish), at least a third of the children — most of the native English-speakers — sat on the rug, looking around in confusion.

English-speaking parents at the school — who are likewise addressed by most of the staff in Spanish — said they gained an appreciation for what English learners and their families experience in California’s schools.

I went back last week for the kindergarten promotion ceremony to get a sense of how far the children had come. I made a short video with my handy new flip camera to go with the story in today’s Tribune.


Andy Kwok says goodbye to Mack, CA and you

Andy Kwok, a high school science teacher who let us shadow him during his rookie year (2007-08) at EXCEL High School at McClymonds, is leaving his West Oakland classroom and heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan. -Katy

Andy Kwok, EXCEL High School teacher, in 2009

Salutations readers,

It has officially been three years since first allowing the Tribune access to my initial journey into life as a teacher and all the mistakes that subsequently ensued. Having moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest, I was bright-eyed and idealistic after graduating college. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend what I had gotten myself into, but in retrospect, I do not regret my experience with the Tribune one bit. I have enjoyed this opportunity to share a glimpse of my life, so that readers would see the difficulties that are present within schools while shedding light on an educational system that will continue to need help.

After three years of teaching, I have made the decision to leave the classroom and attend graduate school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, my Alma Mater. Continue Reading


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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Federal dollars, struggling schools and Oakland Unified’s dilemma

Oakland has the chance to infuse five of its schools with an unspecified amount of federal money.

The thing is, the grant in question has some serious strings attached. It would require these five schools (well, four of them, since Explore Middle School is closing anyway) to make major changes — and to make them in a hurry, before the start of the upcoming school year.

At 8 a.m. tomorrow, Superintendent Tony Smith will make an announcement about the district’s plan and take questions at a town hall meeting in the Elmhurst auditorium (1800 98th Avenue). Continue Reading


Student historians from East Oakland delve into role of media in the U.S.-Mexico War

UPDATE: The team took first place in one of the “senior group exhibit” categories.

Fatima Ghatala, a teacher at East Oakland School of the Arts (Castlemont), tells us about her AP United States history students’ diligent preparation for tomorrow’s National History Day competition. EOSA is the only school representing OUSD in the contest.

EOSA students, courtesy of Fatima Ghatala

“Who would like to present their project at the county-wide National History Day competition on March 20th?” I asked. The group members excitedly looked at each other to confirm, and enthusiastically raised their hands to volunteer. The class had already spent weeks working on research topics, and this particular group of students were researching the United States-Mexico War. They were first inspired to learn more about the war because of the impact the current U.S.-Mexico border has on their communities.

Continue Reading