Guest blogger Stacey Smith is an OUSD parent and volunteer who has served on several district committees, including the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. What she writes about does not reflect the view of any group.
The Oakland Unified School District’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan calls for “a significant decrease in the number of special education litigious and non-compliant cases” by 2015-2016, a legal problem the district blames on negative relationships and communications with parents and the community.
Unfortunately, data so far shows that non-complaint cases and litigation have remained the same or increased, attorneys’ fees are up about 50 percent, and the real problem may be program implementation and lack of critical student support.
Let me explain:
OUSD has long complained about the high cost of special education litigation and compliance complaints, claiming these costs create a barrier to providing better special education. The goal it developed is hard to measure when there are no specific numbers, dollar figures or percentages included as part of the goal — or even a description of how OUSD defines “litigious cases.”
But it’s budget time again. It seems like a good time to talk about how OUSD is progressing toward this vague goal and how that could affect spending decisions for 2013-14. This isn’t just an exercise in data crunching – there is a real child with special needs behind each case.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 20 Comments »
For those of you who fought for more school funding and are resting easy after the passage of Prop 30: You might be planning a backyard barbecue or some spring cleaning this weekend but not the annual Ride for a Reason bike to Sacramento, whose organizers would like to remind you that it’s not over ’til it’s over. The group takes off from Oakland Saturday at sunrise to advocate for additional state funding and to raise money for enrichment programs in four North Oakland schools: Claremont Middle, Oakland Technical High, Emerson Elementary, and Oakland International High.
More money? Yes, say the riders, in order for California to get to the national average in state funding per student. California would need three times the revenue expected under Prop 30 to reach the national average, according to the California Budget Project. Ride for a Reason didn’t mention Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula.
CBP just released its analysis of the proposal, which changes the way school districts are funded by giving districts with low-income and ESL K-12 pupils extra money.
Our regional education reporter Theresa Harrington wrote about it here in February and will have an update story soon. It’s too early to apply specifics to OUSD because state lawmakers are still dueling, armed with separate bills. My take is that they fear even the hint of losing money for their district (which is not what the local formula does) or letting another district get a cent more then theirs.
Brown’s proposal is weak on oversight and accountability for local school boards who would be in charge of spending the extra money on the low-income and English learning students based on “what makes most sense” based on local needs, Steven Bliss of the CBP said during a call-in this morning. His organization favors the proposal but conceded there are “issues and problems with the accountability piece.” The he local school board comes up with an accountability plan spelling out how the money would be used to address specific issues. The plan gets vetted before board members vote to adopt along with the district budget. The budget and local funding formula align are supposed to align. In the case of OUSD, the Alameda County Board of Education would decide whether they do. But the governor’s proposal does not specific what to do if they do not align and doesn’t go far enough to make sure local school boards are doing a good job prioritizing and spending.
The second catch is the money. Where is the additional $15 million going to come from? Theresa’s story will explain the short-term answer. But as far as the long term answer, the proposal depends on economic growth. The Ride for a Reason cyclists might be pedaling to Sacramento for a few more years before the plan is fully funded.
As for Saturday: Most riders will depart Oakland near sunrise and arrive in Sacramento in the afternoon for a 4:30 p.m. rally on the north steps of the Capitol building. State Superintendent of Education, Tom Torlakson, is the featured speaker.
Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »
The original flyer.
The City of Oakland Youth Commission, the City’s Neighborhood Services Department, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, Strategic Policy Partnerships, and Councilmember Lynette McElhaney will facilitate the Youth Forum on Crime and Safety on Thursday, May 9, 2013 from 4:30-7:30pm. The forum will take place at Laney College at 900 Fallon Street in the Forum Lecture Hall (off 10th Street). This forum is one of the six town hall meetings with the consultants of the Strategic Policy Partnerships which took place throughout the City this spring.
These town halls are intended to seek input from residents about the community’s public safety priorities as the Strategic Policy Partnership consultants develop a comprehensive crime reduction and suppression strategic plan.
Questions for these small groups will include:
- · What do you want to see the police do differently?
- · What can young people do to make Oakland safer?
- · If you were a police officer, what would you do to earn people’s respect and trust?
Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
I’Asha Warfield, a seventh grade teacher Frick Middle School, was honored today as a California nominee for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Although not among the finalists or beating out Jeff Charbonneau, a Washington teacher who received the award, Warfield was the only California teacher nominated for the national award. The English teacher is one of five teachers who were recognized as Teacher of the Year for California.
Go here to see the article about Warfield.
Go here to see more about Charbonneau.
Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »
Teachers, parents and public are planning to show up at Friday’s special AIMS Board meeting to call for the resignation of Nedir Bey and Jean Martinez (more about that here).
AIM Schools Special Board Meeting
WHEN: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 7 P.M.
WHERE: AIPCS II 171 12th Street Oakland, CA 94607
Posted on Thursday, April 11th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 38 Comments »
At 6 p.m. tonight, the OUSD board is expected to speak publicly for the first time about the resignation of schools superintendent Tony Smith last week. There is nothing on the agenda but the board will say a few words and maybe we should expect some public comment.
In the meantime, at 5 p.m., AIPCS teachers will be “laying all details on the table” about efforts to oust AIMS board members Jean Martinez and Nedir Bey. The teachers have invited parents and the public tonight (at the AIPCS II campus, 171 12th St.) to hear why the two should leave the board — as of tomorrow, Thursday. I can’t get to the rally tonight because of a breaking story and the OUSD board meeting at 6 p.m.
“Our goal is to inform the public, and put pressure on Dr. Jean Martinez and Nedir Bey to resign,” an AIMS teacher wrote in an email about their efforts.
Bey and Martinez are allies of former AIMS Director Ben Chavis, accused of fraud by state auditors. The OUSD board yanked the schools’ charter on March 20.
As long as Martinez and Bey are on the board, the thinking goes, Chavis is not far behind pulling the puppet strings. And as long as that’s the case, AIMS doesn’t stand a chance of keeping its charter. The teachers and other board members blame Bey and Martinez for standing in the way of hiring an outside consultant to get the AIMS finances in order. It was one of the key requirements of the OUSD board and may have cost them the charter.
“In order to bring Chavis down and hold him accountable for his actions we need to remove these two members from our school board,” the teacher wrote.
If the Alameda County Board of Education declines to overturn the OUSD revocation, AIMS can go to the state. That will be playing out in the coming months. But about a 1,000 pupils, their parents and teachers might not know the fate of the charter until summer break.
Bey is the “spiritually adopted” son of Your Black Muslim Baker founder Yusuf Bey. In 1994 Bey (Nedir) was charged with abducting and torturing a man who ran afoul of the bakery. He pleaded no contest to a felony charge of false imprisonment. He launched a failed health care company with more than $1 million in city money he never repaid. He also received public financing for a 2002 run for City Council. He was once a school site council leader at Fruitvale Elementary School. He used his birth name Victor Foster in documents filed to open a public charter school in West Oakland that he later withdrew. BART awarded him a contract for lighting work but had to reverse the decision because Bey had none of the required licensing and bonding.
But I am curious about business and other ties he and Martinez have to Chavis and I’m betting there are some of you who know a bit more.
Posted on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Under: charter schools, lawsuits, OUSD central office, superintendent search, Tony Smith, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune
Superintendent Tony Smith announced in a closed session with the board last night that he is resigning as superintendent, effective June 30.
His reasons are family-related, as his wife’s father was recently hospitalized, and he and his family will now be moving to Chicago.
Smith wrote a letter to the board about his resignation, saying how proud he is of the accomplishments that have been made since working with the board.
While there is still much work to do, the district is well positioned to achieve the objectives outlined in the balanced scorecard and meet the goals described in our ambitious strategic plan.
Click here to read Smith’s letter to President David Kakishiba.
The board also released a statement on the district’s website to the community about the board’s reaction.
Also read Tribune reporter Angela Woodall’s story regarding the resignation.
Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 76 Comments »
On Monday the Children’s Defense Fund hosted a forum at City Hall for public officials, community organizations and youth advocates to discuss school safety and keeping violence out of the classroom.
Since the shooting in Newtown, Conn. last December, there have been major waves of demand for policy change and action in school safety. To address this call for action, the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged children, to evaluate what schools and the community could do to help increase school safety on a local basis.
The forum had two panels: the first discussing the role of policy, the second discussing the role of the youth. There was also a presentation highlighting the results of a telephone survey from California voters regarding their opinions of school safety in the state.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 32 Comments »
Alleged corruption in leadership weighed more than excellent test scores and perfect graduation rates when the OUSD board voted 4-3 in last week’s meeting to revoke the American Indian Model charter schools’ charter.
It took one tip more than a year ago; five months of investigation and auditing; $3.8 million of questionable spending that accuses director Ben Chavis and his wife, Marsha Amador of taking that money for themselves; endless pleas from AIMS students, parents and teachers to keep the school’s charter regardless of what may be happening on the business end of running the charter schools; and one vote to shut the operation down.
There are plans to repeal the board’s vote. If the county and/or the state uphold the board’s vote, the vote will take effect on June 30.
Would it have been as hard of a decision to make if the students weren’t performing well?
Read Angela Woodall’s coverage of the meeting’s vote here and here.
Also, Andrew J. Coulson’s editorial about why closing the schools is a mistake.
Here is a look at Katy Murphy’s past coverage of events leading up to the final vote last week.
Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Tony Smith and a small panel, including two principals, presented the Balanced Scorecard Accountability Report. The topic: suspensions.
One major focus of the report is to work toward reducing suspension rates overall, but specifically with African American male students.
In the 2011-12 school year, African American students accounted for one-third of enrolled OUSD students and 63 percent of the students who were suspended. Of the male students, African Americans make up 16 percent of all OUSD students and 41 percent of suspended students. Compared to other ethnicities in the district, this figure is disproportionate and raises a few red flags.
Latino students, for example, have proportionate suspensions compared to the total students enrolled in the district. They make up 38 percent of all OUSD students and 27 percent of suspended students. Latino males in the district and those who were suspended make up 38 percent and 27 percent respectively.
The report also details possible root causes of student suspensions and strategies schools are and should be utilizing to reduce the number of suspensions and be more proactive to all student success. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on Friday, March 15th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 37 Comments »