An unwise cut: help for new Oakland teachers

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and occasional blog contributor, writes about a cut to a program that supports hundreds of new teachers each year.

Since my retirement I have stayed involved with the district by providing coaching and mentoring to new teachers as part of the district’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. Last week those of us who provide that help were told that the program will suffer a huge budget reduction for the coming year, with only about 70 new teachers receiving mentoring support instead of the 320 receiving that help today. Since each coach receives a $1,300 stipend for each teacher supported, this reduction will save the district about $400,000 next year.

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Ride for a Reason: Bike for school dollars + Jerry Brown’s plan to fund locally

For those of you who fought for more school funding and are resting easy after the passage of Prop 30: You might be planning a backyard barbecue or some spring cleaning this weekend but not the annual Ride for a Reason bike to Sacramento, whose organizers would like to remind you that it’s not over ’til it’s over. The group takes off from Oakland Saturday at sunrise to advocate for additional state funding and to raise money for enrichment programs in four North Oakland schools: Claremont Middle, Oakland Technical High, Emerson Elementary, and Oakland International High.

More money? Yes, say the riders, in order for California to get to the national average in state funding per student. California would need three times the revenue expected under Prop 30  to reach the national average, according to the California Budget Project. Ride for a Reason didn’t mention Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula.

CBP just  released its analysis of the proposal, which changes the way school districts are funded by giving districts with low-income and ESL K-12 pupils extra money.

Our regional education reporter Theresa Harrington wrote about it here in February and will have an update story soon. It’s too early to apply specifics to OUSD because state lawmakers are still dueling, armed with separate bills. My take is that they fear even the hint of losing money for their district (which is not what the local formula does) or letting another district get a cent more then theirs.

Brown’s proposal is weak on oversight and accountability for local school boards who would be in charge of spending the  extra money on the low-income and English learning students based on “what makes most sense” based on local needs, Steven Bliss of the CBP said during a call-in this morning. His organization favors the proposal but conceded there are “issues and problems with the accountability piece.” The he local school board comes up with an accountability plan spelling out how the money would be used to address specific issues. The plan gets vetted before board members vote to adopt along with the district budget. The budget and local funding formula align are supposed to align. In the case of OUSD, the Alameda County Board of Education would decide whether they do. But the governor’s proposal does not specific what to do if they do not align and doesn’t go far enough to make sure local school boards are doing a good job prioritizing and spending.

The second catch is the money. Where is the additional $15 million going to come from? Theresa’s story will explain the short-term answer. But as far as the long term answer, the proposal depends on economic growth. The Ride for a Reason cyclists might be pedaling to Sacramento for a few more years before the plan is fully funded.

As for Saturday: Most riders will depart Oakland near sunrise and arrive in Sacramento in the afternoon for a 4:30 p.m. rally on the north steps of the Capitol building. State Superintendent of Education, Tom Torlakson, is the featured speaker.



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.

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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: Continue Reading


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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Oakland, Alameda teachers named Alameda County Teacher of the Year

I’Asha Warfield (center) with Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan and Board of Education Vice President Joaquin Rivera. Photos by David J. Erikson, courtesy of the Alameda County Office of Education.

Congratulations to the two Alameda County teachers of the year: I’Asha Warfield, from Oakland’s Frick Middle School, and Chris Hansen, from Alameda’s Lincoln Middle School.

They learned of the distinction last night, at an awards night organized by the Alameda County Office of Education. Now, they go on to compete for California Teacher of the Year.

In this video of Warfield, she talks about the conversations and debates that take place in her classroom. “I really, really believe in my students,” she said. “Their intellectual capacity is so great.”

Stephen Davis, a kindergarten teacher at Global Family Elementary School, was Oakland Unified’s other nominee for 2012-13. At a school board meeting last week, he said he had three rules for his students: 1) Be kind. 2) Be kind. 3) Be kind.


Here’s a list of all of the teachers in Alameda County who were honored this year: Continue Reading


Oakland schools that went way over budget

Some of you have been asking for this information, as I reported it a couple of years ago: A list of OUSD schools and how closely they’re sticking to their budgets.

The closing-of-books presentation on last night’s agenda contains that very list, starting on page 26. I’ll embed it below as well.

NOTE:  Some schools received an extra sum of money last fall through the district’s $3 million “balancing pool” — extra money for schools that end up in a fiscal bind, often because of bad enrollment projections or tiny enrollments. (You’ll find a spreadsheet I put together with the money requested and rewarded in 2011-12 here.)

That extra money was rolled into those schools’ working budgets and did not count against them in the over/under column.  But, even with the extra help, you’ll see that some of them still overspent.

Elementary schools, combined, spent $917,276 more than they had; middle schools, by $456,130; and high schools by $784,047. That’s more than $2 million.

Schools that went well over their general-purpose budgets, according to the district presentation: Continue Reading


Scolding, threats and security escorts — and it’s only August

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The fall semester is weeks away, but after a brief summer recess, tension came flooding back to the Oakland school board room this week.

I wasn’t at the Wednesday night board meeting when this went down, but it didn’t look pretty from my screen.

One minute Joel Velasquez — a Westlake and former Lakeview parent who has been perhaps the most outspoken and persistent critic of Oakland’s school closures — was at the podium, speaking about working closely with the superintendent and school board and becoming “allies.”

In the next, he was being escorted out of the school board meeting room by Oakland School Police after having threatened to stage protests at board members’ homes.

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An Oakland parent on OUSD’s special education proposal

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. I invited her to contribute periodically to The Education Report; any topic she writes about — including the below piece – does not reflect the view of any group. — Katy

I’m trying to understand the June 12 memo from outgoing Special Education Director Sharon Casanares to Oakland school district program specialists that eliminates their jobs as of June 29 and lays out over $4 million dollars of staffing and program cuts for special education in Oakland — cuts that may severely impact the support special education teachers and over 5,000 special education students receive.

According to the memo, personnel costs make up the bulk of the department’s budget so the majority of reductions are in that area. The number one criterion used to make cuts was to “make changes that will have the least impact on students in classrooms.” Substantial cuts are proposed in several key areas: Continue Reading


Wednesday: Researchers, Oakland district staff, to discuss the recent reports on black male achievement

An earlier thread about African American male achievement elicited some thoughtful comments and ideas. Want to learn more about what the district is doing in response to this data, or to share your ideas with the researchers and the head of OUSD’s black male achievement office, Chris Chatmon?

Urban Strategies Council is hosting an hour-long webinar on the subject at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). You can register here.