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The NRA calls for an armed officer in every school

By Katy Murphy
Friday, December 21st, 2012 at 11:50 am in Uncategorized

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?

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

By Katy Murphy
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 4:42 pm in Uncategorized

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.


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Discussing the Newtown tragedy in class

By Katy Murphy
Monday, December 17th, 2012 at 10:46 am in Uncategorized

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 If you have a break during the day, that might be best.

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

By Katy Murphy
Friday, December 14th, 2012 at 11:43 am in Uncategorized

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

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

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, December 13th, 2012 at 10:14 am in Uncategorized

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 »

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

By Katy Murphy
Monday, December 10th, 2012 at 5:29 pm in Uncategorized

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.
    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 »

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American Indian charter school parents speak out

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, December 6th, 2012 at 5:28 pm in Uncategorized

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 »

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Oakland Unified to score … everyone

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at 11:42 am in Uncategorized

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.

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Oakland’s American Indian charter schools respond to violation notice

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, November 29th, 2012 at 4:56 pm in Uncategorized

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 »

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

By Katy Murphy
Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 at 10:35 am in Uncategorized

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 »

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