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OUSD board stands firm on American Indian charter school recommendation

The Oakland school board voted 6-1 last night to issue a “notice of intent to revoke” the charters for three schools run by American Indian Model Schools: American Indian Public Charter School (6-8), American Indian Public Charter School II (K-8) and American Indian Public High School.

The next hearing will be Feb. 13. The final decision comes in March, possibly on March 20.

The OUSD board members — with the exception of Chris Dobbins, who cast the dissenting vote — made it clear they didn’t want to hear defenses or excuses. They said they wanted better accounting controls and governance practices — and assurances that the organization’s founder, Ben Chavis, and his wife, Marsha Amador, would be separated from all aspects of managing the organization and its finances.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 26 Comments »

Closure threat is mounting for Oakland’s American Indian charter schools

CHARTER SCHOOL EXTENSION
2012 file photo of Ben Chavis by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

The American Indian Model Schools organization, whose governing board was accused last year of allowing its founder, Ben Chavis, and wife to funnel millions of tax dollars into their own companies and pockets, has failed to make the necessary fixes and should be shut down at the end of the school year, Oakland school district administration has concluded.

In a letter to families, written in English and in Chinese, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith has this to say:

The students, teachers, school-site staff, and families deserve recognition for their considerable work and for their outstanding academic achievements. We are committed to ensuring that every child in Oakland has access to a high quality public school in their neighborhood and that they are on a clear path to a successful future. You have found this in the schools you are in now. I will work with you to ensure that your children continue to benefit from a school community that is similar to where they are and that they continue on the pathway to success they are currently on.

However, due to many serious legal issues, I am recommending to the governing board of OUSD that they approve a notice to revoke the charter of American Indian Model Schools. Those responsible for the governance and management of the charter organization have broken the law, a conclusion reached after investigations by three separate government agencies. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 58 Comments »

OUSD headquarters is out of commission, indefinitely

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group

It’s not looking good at 1025 Second Avenue, a week after a major flood in the four-story building.

A letter from Oakland school district spokesman Troy Flint this evening said the “initial assessment phase” will last eight to 10 weeks.

Wondering where to go? He lays it all out: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Online education: a leg up for high school kids?

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photo by Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group

I’ve been at San Jose State today, learning about an online education experiment that could affect high school and college students – and would-be college students – alike.

The latest idea is to offer three entry-level or remedial courses online, for CSU credit, at $150 each. San Jose State professors created the course using the platform of a Palo Alto-based online education startup, Udacity.

The pilot will start with just 300 students – 150 from San Jose State and another 150 from community colleges and the two high schools Gov. Jerry Brown started when he was the mayor of Oakland — Oakland Military Institute and Oakland School for the Arts.

If the experiment works – and, as Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun acknowledges, it might not — the courses might be available to students throughout the U.S. as soon as this summer.

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Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for CA schools

STF
AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli

Today, the governor unveiled his first budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The plan would increase K-12 spending levels by $2.7 billion next year.

It would also, as expected, overhaul the funding formula for school districts.

Brown’s proposed funding formula would lift a number of spending restrictions that have long been in place for specific programs, instead granting school boards the latitude to allocate the funds where they see fit.

And here’s the biggest change: Brown’s proposal would give a base amount to school districts for each student — roughly $6,700 per pupil, on average. Then it would give districts an additional 35 percent to educate every child who is low-income, an English learner or in foster care, according to Nick Schweizer, of the Department of Finance.

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Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Flood shuts down OUSD headquarters

Well, 2013 is not off to the best start for the OUSD administration. Here’s a slightly modified report I just filed:

A flood — apparently caused by a tap left on overnight — shut down the Oakland school district’s four-story administrative headquarters today. The roughly 150 employees who report there will have to work elsewhere for the rest of the week, and Wednesday’s school board meeting will be held at the newly rebuilt La Escuelita Elementary School across the street.

The problem appears to have started in the custodian’s closet, gushing three gallons of water a minute overnight until the swampy mess was discovered at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

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Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 18 Comments »

In 2013, another proposal to change California’s education funding formula

Next week, when he lays out his 2013-14 budget proposal Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to introduce a new version of an old idea: a simplified funding model for California school districts.

The so-called “weighted student formula” Brown proposed last year and then dropped would have given districts a base amount of money for each student — $5,421, on average (it varies by grade) — and an additional 20 percent for English learners and low-income students. It also would have permanently lifted restrictions on seven more of the state’s special-purpose grants, including economic impact aid and K-3 class size reduction, leaving districts to spend it however they wish. (In 2009, California did the same thing with about 40 such pots of money, including adult education, which has since been dramatically cut back in many districts, including Oakland Unified.)

The Legislative Analyst’s Office suggested some changes, but said it was a “positive first step.”

In a story my colleague Theresa Harrington wrote today, School Services of California CEO Ron Bennett said the proposal’s introduction last year was “an absolute disaster,” with critics saying the new formula would hurt districts with few disadvantaged students.

Of course, we don’t yet know the details of the 2013 proposal, but it’s expected to be conceptually similar. What are your thoughts about it?

 

Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 38 Comments »

The NRA calls for an armed officer in every school

That’s what the NRA proposed in its news conference today, responding to the Newtown massacre.

Lobbyist Wayne LaPierre said this about installing an armed police officer at every school: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Charles Wilson, principal of Oakland’s Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, called the proposal “chilling” and “insane.”

“I believe that this is one of the most outrageous things that has ever been said by the NRA,” he said.

Do you agree?

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 23 Comments »

Who will represent District 7 on the Oakland school board? James Harris — for now.

Staff PhotojournalistStaff Photojournalist

On Jan. 7, James Harris is sworn in as the new representative for OUSD’s District 7 seat.

But just two weeks later, he goes back to court, where a judge might declare him ineligible to serve on the board because of where he lives (in Oakland City Council District 7, but in the San Leandro school district) — and the seat, vacant.

Judge Evelio Grillo initially sided with Harris and against Alice Spearman, whom he beat handily on Election Day. But at a hearing today, Grillo raised more questions — and set another court date for Jan. 23.

Spearman says she’s confident that not only will she prevail in court, but that she’ll get her seat back, either through appointment or a special election.

Predictions?

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

Discussing the Newtown tragedy in class

Oakland/East Bay teachers: We’re doing another follow-up piece about the school shooting in Connecticut. We plan to include how teachers are talking to their students about what happened, and the perspectives that students are sharing.

If you’re up for a short interview today about the approach you took, email me with a contact number and time at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. If you have a break during the day, that might be best.

Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »