Another Oakland student news blog: Castle Crier!

High school newspapers, ready to be distributed (not at Castlemont) from elizasizzle’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons.

Student journalism in Oakland has popped up at yet another high school. At Castlemont High, students have launched an online site with a wonderfully old-school newspaper name, the Castle Crier.

AP English language students are the publication’s first reporters.  Guided by teacher Marguerite Sheffer, they post updates three or four times a week. This winter, the Crier will have its first print edition.

Today, we can read all about John Lynch, the new principal of the newly consolidated school, an ethnic studies partnership with San Francisco State, and what it’s like to be an Asian-American at Castlemont. Not to mention an exclusive interview with Castlemont’s Freshman Princess, photographed in a Raiders hat and Holy Names University sweatshirt. Continue Reading


Small beginnings, big difference

Stacey Smith is an Oakland school district parent and volunteer who has served on the District GATE Advisory Committee, the school board’s Special Committee on School Based Management, and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. What she writes about does not reflect the view of any group.

Burbank Preschool fanWhen I walked into the room I was struck by the sunlight pouring in across a classroom of tiny tables and chairs.

The woman next to me was immediately struck by a small body hurdling itself at her knees for a hug.

Christie Anderson, director of the Burbank Preschool Center, paused mid-sentence to disentangle and chat with the child (and a few others) before we continued our tour.

Moving from classroom to classroom I felt like this could be any preschool in Oakland. Parents were dropping off little ones. Teachers and aides were giving multi-lingual direction to students (Burbank families speak over 15 languages). The reading nook, the imagination corner, and the riot of colors and activities tempted me to just get right onto the floor and start playing. The children were totally engaged.

I did notice in one room a child was using an electronic board with pictures that the child would touch to communicate instead of using words. In another room a wheelchair was pushed up to the snack table with the other chairs. And in one classroom there was a nurse, always, because the students have such severe health impairments that there must be medical support available at all times.

This is what special education preschool looks like. Continue Reading


How would you rate Oakland’s superintendent, three years in?

photo by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

After three years, Tony Smith can no longer be described as Oakland Unified’s new superintendent. Still, he’s said the systemic changes outlined in OUSD’s strategic plan — approved a year ago — will take several more years to take root.

We have a profile of Smith in the paper today — and we’ve just posted an online poll on his leadership and on his community schools vision that I invite you to take.

What’s the most important thing Smith has done so far? What decision disappointed you the most? If he accomplishes one significant thing in the year ahead, what do you hope it is? What advice would you give him?

Please remember to keep your comments civil, free of name-calling and personal attacks.