The only high school marching band in town

For years I’ve wanted to see what the Oakland Holiday Parade was all about, and on Saturday I rode my bike downtown to take a look. Earlier in the week, I had interviewed the Skyline High School drum majors and the band president, and so of course I needed to see — and hear — the group in person.

Photo of Skyline High School band by Ray Chavez/Tribune Staff

The story was in Sunday’s paper, but has only just now been posted online. You can read it here.

What other Oakland schools working to build up their music programs?


The real value of art programs

Something that amazes me everyday when I walk into my sixth-period ceramics class is that every student already has their work out and is extremely attentive. In many other P (as opposed to AP or honors) classes that I have taken, including other art classes, the attendance rate is much lower and the students “mess around” much more often.

There is something about the ceramics program specifically that captivates the students at Skyline. In fact my counselor told me at the beginning of the year, when I was fixing all my classes, that 1,000 students requested to take the class (almost half the school). Furthermore, the majority of the students in the class manage turn out extremely creative and unique pieces of work. Continue Reading


Denied: new American Indian charter school

The five local schools that use the American Indian Public Charter model might be among the highest-scoring public middle and high schools in Oakland (not to mention the state), but tonight, the state administrator stopped a new one from opening.

David Montes de Oca, Oakland’s charter schools director, was careful to say that his recommendation to deny the charter petition “is not a condemnation of the American Indian Public Charter School model or its schools — far from it.”

The problem, Montes de Oca said, was Continue Reading


Ten weeks in!

Bryant Phan, a student-blogger, is in 10th grade at Life Academy. -Katy

Hello. This is my first time blogging since the school year has started. Is it just me or is this school year passing by extremely fast? We’ll be getting our second report cards in about three weeks or so.

Recently, I transferred from MetWest to LIFE Academy. So far, I’ve been feeling pretty good about the school. However, I really miss the sense of community at MetWest.

It is also pretty ridiculous that we have to share a building with two middle schools. Because of this, we don’t have off campus lunch and the school lunches aren’t necessarily very delicious. I’ve tried to bring my own lunch but I get tired of eating sandwiches everyday. The school cafeteria has promised to serve better lunch but has not fulfilled their promise. I don’t know if it’s because LIFE Academy is on a middle school campus or because LIFE Academy is a public high school in Oakland, but the lunch that is being served isn’t very nutritious. What do you think is the best way to put pressure on the school so they will serve better food?

Alright, back to the positive side of school. Continue Reading


Oakland might suspend cultural arts program

UPDATE: The city council spared the cultural arts funding. Read the Trib story here.


The Oakland school district isn’t the only local institution struggling to stay out of the red; the city has a $42 million budget deficit.

And tomorrow night, to help balance the books, the City Council might decide to temporarily stop funding its Cultural Arts Department, which gives grants to programs at more than 20 Oakland schools.

The Prescott Circus Theatre, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA), Stagebridge and the Oakland Youth Chorus are among those potentially affected by this decision. Continue Reading


Teen animators

image from Roxy Smith’s “Love is Deaf” video

I didn’t even touch a computer at school until sixth grade, let alone create animation. But we’re in a different century now, and some schools — including some right here in Oakland — are teaching kids to work with the latest digital technology.

I bring this up because the annual Bay Street Animation Film Festival is coming up Oct. 25, and the submission deadline is Oct. 6 has been extended to Oct. 13. I got a kick out of last year’s winning video, Love is Deaf, by Roxy Smith. Continue Reading


Young artists make debut at Art Murmur

If the sultry weather draws you outside this evening, you might check out the Oakland Art Murmur, a monthly event hosted by a group of local galleries on first Fridays.

Tonight, the Red Door Gallery (416 26th St.) is featuring the work of emotionally troubled and mentally ill children from the Lincoln Child Center, a school and a residential facility in Oakland.

Lisa Rasmussen, who teaches in Lincoln’s Transformative Art department, says the experience helps kids tap into their “own creative source.”

“I teach them fine art techniques, and they run with them,” she said (via news release). “Their work is so raw — and when I show it to my teachers and painting mentors, they are shocked to learn the art is coming from kids. It’s so refined.” Continue Reading


A week filled with poetry at Brave New Voices

eoak0515blogger01.jpg Hello! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. There are three more weeks left before school starts again and I have nothing planned for the rest of summer.

Summer Update

Three weeks ago (July 14th-July 20th), I flew down to Washington D.C. for a poetry festival called Brave New Voices. Brave New Voices is the biggest youth poetry slam in the world. (A poetry slam is a competition at where poets read/recite/perform their original work). There were poets from all over the country and a couple from Leeds, England, Trinidad & Tobago, and Worcester, England. We were all in teams and each team consisted of 4-6 poets. There were about 400 poets at the festival in total.

Honestly, I did not think I was going to make any friends in Washington D.C. because I am not very social and I thought the whole week was going to be about the competition. After arriving and unpacking into the Potomac house, I walked down the hall and was immediately greeted by a couple of poets. I thought it was really, really weird for them to talk to me and invite me into their rooms to cypher. After my first night in BNV, everything I thought about the people there was wrong. Continue Reading


A funky graduation jingle, composed by Claremont middle schoolers

Why let “Pomp and Circumstance” set the tone of a graduation ceremony when you can strut into the gym to an upbeat tune composed and played by your own classmates?

This year, a group of Claremont Middle School kids got together and composed a theme song titled “Celebrate (Jamba Juice),” which the full band played at the eighth-grade promotion.

A dad with production experience recorded the song. Click here to listen to it.

I think my favorite line has to be “We fresh/We groovy/We chillin’ like a Jamba Juice Smoothie.”

Renae Briggs, who jump-started Claremont Middle School’s music program two years ago, said the 14-year-old boy playing the electric piano in the recording Continue Reading