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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.

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Big money flowing into Oakland school board races

Staff Photojournalist
Photo by Laura A. Oda/Staff

As we reported today, this Oakland school board election is a departure from past cycles — and not just because every race is contested.

The teachers union revived its political action committee after 20 years, throwing its weight behind Thearse Pecot (District 1), Richard Fuentes (District 3), and Mike Hutchinson (District 5).

But the $20,000 the Oakland Education Association PAC expects to spend on those candidates is dwarfed by that of another new PAC, for Great Oakland Public Schools. It had raised more than $123,000 as of Sept. 30.

About 80 percent of that sum came from two people: Former Dreyers CEO Gary Rogers, whose son Brian ran for school board in 2008 against Jody London (District 1), and Arthur Rock, a well-known venture capitalist based in San Francisco.

Rock gave $49,000 and Rogers gave $49,900 to support GO’s picks: Jumoke Hinton Hodge (District 3), Rosie Torres (District 5), and James Harris (District 7). GO has not endorsed either candidate in District 1.

The Rogers Family Foundation is clearly invested in Oakland’s education system — it’s given grants to district and charter schools, and it provided the seed money to start GO in the first place. But why would someone from San Francisco pour money into an Oakland school board race?

GO says Rock, who has supported (on a smaller scale) some of the group’s other initiatives, was inspired by all of the energy in the campaign. Rock wouldn’t give an explanation, saying in an emailed response that his contribution “speaks for itself.”

I talked to David Kakishiba about this yesterday. He’s on the OUSD board, but not up for re-election, so I wanted to get his thoughts. He said he welcomed the infusion of attention and money, saying school board races had been neglected for far too long. Do you agree?

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Oakland Unified comes back to its teachers with a proposal

The initial proposals to be presented — or “sunshined” — to the Oakland Education Association at Thursday night’s board meeting don’t mention any numbers. (The meeting is on Thursday, rather than Wednesday, because of the Yom Kippur holiday.)

Instead, they call for a restructuring of the step-and-column system, a career ladder for teachers, revamped evaluation systems and an agreement to give “school governance teams greater voice in determining the composition of their school staff teams.”

Thoughts?

District’s Initial Proposals to the Oakland Education Association

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Your new Oakland teachers union leaders

The results are in, and Trish Gorham, a teacher at Kaiser Elementary, will be the new president of the Oakland Education Association. She defeated Mark Airgood 639 to 201.

Steve Neat won first vice-president, beating out Tania Kappner 627 to 206. Other contested seats went to Chaz Garcia, Vincent Tolliver, Janan Apaydin, Manny Lopez, Vivian Romero, and Andy Young. All of the winners had been endorsed by out-going president Betty Olson-Jones.

Mark Hurty, the candidate I quoted about OEA needing to be in a better relationship with the district administration, received 314 votes to Apaydin’s 440. None of the three candidates he supported — Angela Badami, Marva McInnis and Cary Kaufman — won.

The turnout? 1,027 valid votes — about 40 percent of the membership.

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OEA elections: a new leader, more calls for change

It’s election week for the Oakland teachers union, and that has extra significance this year. Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president since 2006 (since I’ve been covering Oakland schools!), has reached her term limit. She’ll be succeeded by Mark Airgood or Trish Gorham, who are running to replace her.

Olson-Jones has endorsed Gorham — as well as Steve Neat, Chaz Garcia, Vincent Tolliver, Janan Apaydin, Manny Lopez and Andy Young for seats on the union’s executive board.

Ballots are due on Friday. You can find the complete list of OEA candidates and their statements here.

A year ago, I blogged about a small group of teachers called Oakland TIES (Oakland Teachers for Innovative and Equitable Schooling) that proposed a new set of priorities for the Oakland Education Association. Four of the candidates for the 16-member OEA executive board endorsed by TIES members were elected: Kei Swenson, Toni Morozumi, Benjie Achtenberg, and Isabel Toscano.

This time around, a group of four candidates with similar ideas as TIES (which is no longer very active) — namely, about shifting the union’s approach and embracing a diversity of viewpoints — has emerged: Mark Hurty, Cary Kaufman, Marva McInnis and Angela Badami. Emily Sacks, a Redwood Heights special education teacher whom I interviewed last year about TIES, said she is endorsing all four.

Hurty, a second-year teacher and career-changer, even created a website for his OEA campaign. He says he feels the union leadership needs to bring more light and less heat in its dealings with the OUSD administration, that it should be open to new ideas (from revamped teacher evaluations to an online voting system to encourage participation in OEA elections), and that it should stop trying to advance its cause by maligning those at the other side of the table.

“I want us to be the big kid in the room,” he said. “We have such high moral ground under us that we don’t need to resort to some of the dirty rhetoric that gets tossed around.” (When I asked him for an example, he cited the phrase “education deform.”)

Do you agree?

Last year, fewer than 900 of the roughly 2,500 OEA members voted — less than half, as you can see from the results. How do you think turnout could be improved?

Do you feel well represented by the union leadership?