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


iPads in schools

student_ipad_school - 234
photo from flickingerbrad’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Calling all East Bay teachers and principals (from public and private schools): Do you use iPads in your classrooms or hope to adopt them soon? Have they been a valuable tool?

We’re working on a story on the subject, and we’d love to include your stories and insights. Tell us, if you would, what subject and grade-level you teach and how you use this technology — or how you might use it if your school could afford them.

On that note, I’d also like to know your school found the money for these tablets — grant funding? PTA donations? Some other source?

If you’re interested in being interviewed for the story, just send me an email telling me so: kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.


For some Oakland teachers, a job re-application

As we reported on Saturday night, teachers on Oakland’s Fremont and Castlemont campuses and at McClymonds High School have recently learned that if they want to stay at their schools they will have to reapply. And soon.

The Oakland school district administration says it will replace the current, 10-month teaching positions with an 11-month (204-day) job with a different job description entitled “Accelerated TSA,” for teacher-on-special-assignment.

Fremont and Castlemont are undergoing a second major transformation, as the small schools on each campus merge back into one. McClymonds already merged, in 2010, but OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said Mack was included in the plan because it, along with Fremont and Castlemont, is one of “the three highest-need schools in historically under-served neighborhoods.”

Flint said the change will allow the district to “hand pick”  teachers that are willing to fulfill the new role, which is designed to improve student achievement at those schools. The job description is likely to include such requirements as submitting weekly lesson plans and using data to inform instruction — things that many teachers already do, but that aren’t necessarily mandatory, he said.

Teachers in the new positions would be paid at the same rate they are now; with the additional time, he said, the average teacher would earn roughly $4,000 more per year.

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“We are Oakland International,” a graphic novel

"We Are Oakland" book cover

Students at Oakland International High School have come to California from all around the world — most of them, in the last few years. Through a project led by art teacher Thi Bui, the teenagers have told their stories in graphic novel form.

I wrote about this project in the fall of 2010; now the collection of stories is coming out in a book.

The book launch is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St. The event is in the teen zone on the second floor.

Books are $25 — and, if you go, you’ll get a signed copy. You can also find it on Amazon.

Oakland International book release


“Mutual matching” off the table in Oakland

There will be no mutual matching in OUSD this spring. Without the support it needed from the Oakland Education Association, the OUSD administration says it’s run out of time to reach an agreement with union leaders and implement changes to its teacher transfer policies for the upcoming school year.

There will be some changes for the 50-plus teachers displaced by school closure and other circumstances — such as time to visit some prospective schools — but their seniority rights remain fully in place. Which means that principals at the receiving schools won’t really be hiring them. Vacancies that open after May 1 will be subject to a review panel, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones said.

Do you think this is the best outcome for the district and/or its teachers? Do you think it’s something the district should consider in the future?


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 board might give local schools more control

Remember the Oakland school board’s Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting? It’s meeting now, and teachers, parents and administrators are at the table to discuss the issues. Oakland Community Organizations — which believes schools need more control over curriculum, budget, staffing and scheduling — held a news conference before the session.

You can watch the meeting live, here. And you’ll find relevant documents here.

Below, from a draft document, is an excerpt of the board’s statement of intent:

The Board of Education believes that those closest to students at a school — principals, teachers, classified employees, parents, and students — are generally in the best position to know and to effectively address the specific academic, social and emotional needs of the students.



An old news recap: charter school decisions, mutual matching, blue ribbon nomination

UPDATE: The school board later approved the amended petitions of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits.

Education news kept right on happening in the last two weeks. Here are some of the developments I missed while I was visiting old temples and dodging motorbikes:

THE OAKLAND SCHOOL BOARD REJECTED the charter school conversion petitions submitted by the faculties of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, elementary schools in the Fruitvale area. While the district’s charter schools office recommended approval, Superintendent Tony Smith took a different stance, saying that allowing schools to break away from the district would undermine the district’s strategic plan. Both schools have since appealed the decision to the Alameda County Board of Education.

This whereas seems to sum up the superintendent’s position:

“WHEREAS, the District can not succeed at its strategic plan to create a Full Service Community School District that serves the whole child, provides each child with a caring environment that accelerates academic achievement and supports student success if after millions of dollars in investment, individual schools that have achieved because of the District’s investment can separate and opt out of the District, with the consequence that the District loses its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in Oakland.”

The board on Jan. 11 also voted against the charter school office’s recommendation for ARISE High School — this time, by approving the charter school’s renewal with some conditions. In this case, the office deemed ARISE an unsound educational program, but the board disagreed. (More info here.)

The board also approved the petition for the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School to open in July. (More info here.)

IN NEWER CHARTER NEWS: This Wednesday, Education for Change — a charter management group that is working with ASCEND and Learning Without Limits — plans to submit a third charter conversion petition, this time for Lazear Elementary, which is slated for closure in June.

Parents at that Fruitvale-area school submitted a petition last fall, but the document was not up to the standards of the OUSD charter schools office, and the parents withdrew it. Now they’ll turn in another draft, prepared with the assistance of Education for Change. Hae-Sin Kim Thomas, a former OUSD administrator who is now the Education for Change CEO, said Lazear parents have had a difficult time finding another school in walking distance that has space for their children, and that some have received a cool reception at some of the schools they’ve visited.

GOOD NEWS: Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, a small elementary school in East Oakland that has made huge test score gains, has been nominated for a National Blue Ribbon award — one of 35 in California to receive a nomination for being among the state’s highest performing or most improved schools. Whether it wins the award this fall will depend on the next round of tests. (No pressure.)

THE FEELING ISN’T MUTUAL for a OUSD staff proposal that would change the way open teaching positions are filled. It’s called “mutual matching,” and teachers union leaders aren’t as keen on it as Superintendent Tony Smith, who had this opinion piece published in the Tribune the other week. A blog post on the union’s website, advertising a 4:30 p.m. Thursday forum on the topic, has this to say about the idea:

Don’t be fooled – scratch the surface and it’s an attempt to get rid of seniority in our contractual transfer rights, under the guise of “abandon(ing) our nostalgia for practices unsuited to the current challenge” (Tribune editorial). In doing so, the district is following the national education “deform” line that it’s “bad teachers” to blame for the problems in public education — not lack of funding, resources, institutional racism, or respect for our profession – and that this can be resolved through letting teachers compete in the marketplace for their assignments.

Here is a link to a letter and chart posted on the union’s website about how the process would work, according to OUSD staff. The district has devoted a section of its site to the issue, which you can find here.

I have an interview scheduled with district staffers tomorrow afternoon about this proposal and will write about it in greater depth. What questions do you have about it?

What other news should I be catching up on?


Common state standards in math and English — a step forward?

By now, all but five states (Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Virginia) have adopted what’s known as Common Core State Standards for math and English, a common agreement of what students in the United States should know and be able to do in those subjects.

A Learning Matters blog post features differing views of what this major development might mean for the U.S. educational system — and whether the current system (each state having its own separate set of standards) really does lack focus. I thought you might find it interesting, and I’m curious to know what you’ve heard about this initiative and what questions you have about how it will work, in practice.

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Oakland teacher speaks at the White House

Laura Kretschmar, a newly National Board-certified teacher who teaches math and science at Lighthouse Community Charter School in East Oakland, spoke at a White House forum about the teaching profession this week with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Also there is Dan Brown, whose book (“The Great Expectations School”) I just finished reading.

Check out the video here. Laura’s the second person in from the left. She starts speaking around 39 minutes.

Here’s a note she wrote to her colleagues about the experience and forwarded to me to post: Continue Reading