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How to talk to kids about the school shooting in Connecticut?

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Photo by Douglas Healey/Getty Images

As many as 27 dead, including at least 18 children. At Sandy Hook Elementary in western Connecticut this morning, one of the worst massacres we’ve had yet.

Teachers and parents: When and how do you talk about the tragedy with younger children, and with teens — especially when so few details are known?

I just spoke with Melia Franklin, an Oakland mother and director of the Parent Leadership Action Network, for a story my colleague Matthias Gafni is writing.

“I think the main thing is children need to know that the people with them are keeping them safe,” she said.

Below, I’ll post a resource that parents and teachers might find helpful.

Tips for parents on coping with traumatic stress

Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

New Haven Unified wins Race to the Top grant; Oakland wasn’t in the running

new haven unifiedNew Haven Unified in Union City is one of 16 winners of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant. (More information about the district competition here.)

My colleague Chris De Benedetti reported this week that the district will get $29.3 million during the next 4 1/2 years for summer programs, academic coaches, smaller classes for high school English learners and other strategies to improve its schools.

Like in some other large urban districts, including Los Angeles Unified, Oakland’s teachers union didn’t sign on to the proposal in progress, citing concerns about a lack of specifics and a sense that the agreement would replace negotiations at the bargaining table.

So OUSD didn’t apply. It had been told its chances of winning would be nil without its teachers on board, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

This week in OUSD: Budget cuts for next year, closure savings, and possible new attendance boundaries

Wednesday’s Oakland school board meeting has a packed agenda.

Some of the highlights:

  • three charter renewal hearings (no decisions or recommendations yet), for Aspire’s Golden State College Prep, Oakland Charter Academy Middle School, and East Oakland Leadership Academy
  • discussion of the oversubscription problem at Crocker Highlands Elementary and possible changes to the recently moved attendance boundaries at Crocker and Cleveland elementaries
  • a fiscal update (including school closure savings estimates)
  • retirement tributes to school board members Noel Gallo and Alice Spearman. Though last I checked, Spearman fully intends to keep her seat, so this seems a bit premature.
  • SCHOOL CLOSURE SAVINGS
    On Slide 19 of the financial report, OUSD staff give an accounting of the costs and savings created by the closure of four elementary schools. It reports a net, ongoing savings of $3.2 million, after accounting for enrollment losses. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, December 10th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 37 Comments »

American Indian charter school parents speak out

Staff Photojournalist
American Indian Model Schools supporters, seen here at an April Oakland school board meeting, before the final state report on the charter organization was published. Photo by D. Ross Cameron.

The fate of the American Indian Model Schools won’t be on Wednesday’s regular Oakland school board meeting agenda, but we can expect a large group of parents and students from the three schools at the meeting.

Bernadette Coleman, president of the schools’ new Family Advisory Committee, told me today she believes the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team’s scathing report about the AIMS governance, operations and suspected financial fraud — which came out this summer, prompting OUSD to issue a “notice of violation” in September — was full of errors.

If and when the OUSD board holds a hearing on the subject, Coleman said, “it’ll be public knowledge what is true and what is not.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 82 Comments »

Oakland Unified to score … everyone

matrix 2

The above matrix of nine elementary and six middle schools — which underwent a pilot School Quality Review process last school year — is just a sample of the kinds of targets and scoring systems being put in place in Oakland Unified.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the OUSD board holds a special meeting to discuss this and other parts of its “Balanced Scorecard,” which sets goals for student achievement, attendance, discipline rates (racial disparities, in particular), effective teaching, teacher satisfaction, teacher retention — and, yes, for a balanced budget that maximizes teaching and learning with an equitable (read: not equal) base funding model for its schools.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 18 Comments »

Oakland’s American Indian charter schools respond to violation notice

CHARTER SCHOOL EXTENSION
photo of Ben Chavis, founder of American Indian Model Schools, by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Thirteen binders of material from the American Indian Model Schools were delivered to the Oakland school district offices this week in response to the “notice of violation” the charter school organization received this fall from OUSD.

The prospect of OUSD shutting down three of the city’s top-scoring schools stems from a damning Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team investigation which cited numerous examples of self-dealing and conflicts of interest by the organization’s founder, Ben Chavis, and his wife (and former accountant for the organization), Marsha Amador.

The case has been turned over to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. So far, no word on what, if any, criminal charges will be filed.

The Oakland school district has not released the response from AIM Schools, but Troy Flint, the district’s spokesman, says we can expect a summary from OUSD next week.

No word yet, though, on when the board will respond to the response.

“We just received a voluminous response – thousands of pages – from American Indian on Monday night and are still sorting through it. No determination has been made on when this matter will be heard by the Board.”

What happens next? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Oakland’s new youth theater company opens its season Dec. 6

Gritty City Rep rehearsal
photos by Willy Haug, courtesy of Gritty City Youth Repertory Theatre

Gritty City Rep opened in January, and its executive artistic director, Lindsay Krumbein, says it’s the first stand-alone youth theater company in Oakland.

The group rehearses six hours a week in downtown Oakland. Its first show of the season opens at the Berkeley City Club Theatre on Dec. 6 and runs for two weeks. The actors will be performing “Anon(ymous)” by Naomi Iizuka, which Krumbein describes as “very physical, minimalist, dealing with issues of war and immigration, exploitation of refugees – relevant stuff. Not your typical `high school theatre’ by any stretch of the imagination.”

Here’s a photo of the cast: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

OUSD District 7 race not over yet: Spearman files legal challenge

Staff PhotojournalistStaff Photojournalist

As promised, Alice Spearman’s attorney has filed a motion to declare James Harris, the candidate who beat her on Election Day, ineligible for the seat.

“I’m going to do what I said I was going to do,” Spearman told me last week.

The motion, filed Tuesday, essentially makes the same case as the pre-election challenge: Harris might be an Oakland resident, living in City Council District 7, but his neighborhood is part of the San Leandro Unified School District.

Harris votes for City Council District 7, but for a San Leandro school board representative. He wasn’t able to vote in his own race.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 37 Comments »

With Prop. 30 passed, Oakland teachers give thanks — and return to the bargaining table

OEA pic 1
photo courtesy of Janet Lau

On Wednesday evening, you might have seen teachers standing at various Oakland intersections holding “thank-you” signs (as well as the more commonplace posters calling for a fair contract). The act of public thanksgiving was meant for voters who supported Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

The measure’s success at the polls spared California school districts billions of dollars in midyear cuts. It’s also opened the door to renewed contract negotiations between two groups that have long been at odds: the Oakland school district and its teachers.

That’s right, a new teacher contract could be in OUSD’s sights for the first time in — could it be? — nearly seven years. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, November 16th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 40 Comments »

Meet the Oakland Tribune’s three health reporting interns

Mack meeting
At McClymonds High School, from left to right: Romanalyn Inocencio, Breannie Robinson and Pamela Tapia. Photo by Alison Yin.

I mentioned a few months ago that I was working with photojournalist Alison Yin on a project about childhood asthma and its disproportionate impact on families in Oakland and elsewhere along the I-880/80 corridor. It’s a project for The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism.

Now we have some help! I’m happy to announce the names of our three reporting interns, who will be producing stories and videos for the project with a grant from Annenberg: Pamela Tapia, a recent McClymonds graduate; and Pearl Joy Balagot and Henry Jean-Philippe, both from Fremont High.

Their adviser for the project will be Lisa Shafer (below, left), and I’m sure they’ll get some support from Nadine Joseph, a writing coach who advises the McClymonds journalism club. Pearl and Henry are standing in the back, with their cameras, in the picture.

Mack 2
Photo by Alison Yin

We met with them yesterday, along with some other McClymonds and Fremont high school students, who shared their stories about asthma and helped us brainstorm ways to reach students and families with the finished projects.

My favorite piece of advice came from Breannie Robinson, a no-nonsense Mack student-athlete (basketball star), who had asthma as a child.

After listening to us go back and forth about Twitter, Facebook, video screenings, newsletters and other ideas, she jumped in with this tip: ”Make it interesting.”

Well said!

If anyone has an idea for the interns — someone you know with a story to tell about asthma, or an issue you feel needs attention —  please share it, either on the blog or to me, at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Congratulations, Pearl, Henry and Pamela. I can’t wait to read (and watch) your work.

Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »