7

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.

 

5

An Oakland Unified parent’s wish list for 2013

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.

I know it’s late, but I was just at the check-out counter reading magazine covers still touting magical resolutions that would change us for the better in 2013. I was musing about what I would list for OUSD to tackle in 2013 that would benefit students with disabilities. My partial list, in no order:

1. Identify and publicly celebrate those achieving positive results for these students. There are a lot of success stories out there – programs and individual educators and administrators who are helping students to reach their full potential. It continues to surprise me how infrequently OUSD highlights these achievements and we only hear about the same few examples. C’mon, OUSD – brag a bit!

2. Stop withholding resources from special education by limiting funds and cutting supports. In 2012 it was the budget cuts, avoidable staffing shortages and impossible caseloads for front-line resource specialists. In 2013 there’s more. OUSD wants to increase the ratio of students per aide in high-need classes. Continue Reading

58

Enrollment plunges in Oakland schools

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group

On the 20th day of school, Oakland’s district schools counted about 36,260 students. That’s 1,750 fewer kids than there were a year ago, a drop of 4.6 percent, according to 2012-13 enrollment figures recently released by OUSD.

Multiply that loss by $5,000, a rough estimate of general-purpose, per-student state funding (otherwise known as the revenue limit), and you are approaching $9 million. OUSD will have that much less to spend in 2013-14, in addition to any statewide trigger cuts and reduced special-purpose money, according to that crude calculation.

So much for the district’s optimistic projections. What’s more, this year’s drop follows several years of relatively flat enrollment. The school system experienced a crippling loss of students in the early to mid 2000s, a major factor in its infamous fiscal meltdown, but the trend began to level out a few years years ago.

The two most apparent factors influencing this sudden development are last year’s school closures and this year’s charter school openings — though as I’ve reported, Oakland’s school-age population (5-17) dwindled by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Charter schools: Continue Reading

54

In Oakland, new player eligibility rules and forfeited games

Staff Photojournalist
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Castlemont High has canceled its second football game on Friday because it lacks enough eligible players.

Skyline High, a school of nearly 2,000 students, forfeited its very first football game of the season — also, because it couldn’t field a team. At the time, its coach wrote a widely circulated letter to Superintendent Tony Smith saying the Oakland Athletic League’s new rules were keeping many of his otherwise-eligible players off the field.

The new rules, passed in the spring by high school principals who sit on the Oakland Athletic League policy committee, caused a big stir and plenty of confusion and alarm in the prep sports world. The policy originally stated that a student needed an overall 2.0 GPA, or C average, to be eligible (rather than a 2.0 in the previous marking period) as well as a certain number of credits. If not, the student would be sidelined for the entire school year.

So in the last few weeks, after plenty of, well, `input’ from coaches and others, the policy has softened. The GPA policy went back to the way it used to be (and the same as nearly every other league).

And perhaps more significantly, some players with poor academic records will have a second chance to participate on a team if they show they’re making up credits and raising their GPAs — if not for the fall season, possibly for a sport they play in the winter or spring. The OAL policy committee on Wednesday created an appeal process for players who are behind on credits or who received a GPA below a 2.0 in their last 6-week marking period.

What’s new this year, after all of the changes, has to do with making sure players aren’t falling behind on their course credits. Continue Reading

2

Want to work with Oakland kids? Volunteer fair this Saturday

Attention prospective volunteers! If you’ve ever wondered how you might lend your skills and time to some Oakland schoolkids, the answer might be awaiting you — in a middle school multipurpose room.

The annual volunteer fair is from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Westlake Middle School (2629 Harrison), and it’s organized — at least in part — by the neighborhood group Volunteering for Oakland.

On Saturday, 20 organizations are expected to send representatives to the event. Organizers say there’s free parking in a lot off 27th Street.

Katie McLane, a retired OUSD principal, wrote this in a letter to the editor:

This is a special opportunity for those of us with a little extra time on our hands to find out about the amazing range of volunteer opportunities to work with the youth of Oakland.

Have you gone to this fair — and gone on to volunteer? Tell us about it.


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11

Share your back to school photos, stories

eoak0830firstday04
photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

So much happens on the first day of school. There are so many moments — funny, sweet, poignant, awkward — that I’d like to collect some of them, straight from you.

The simplest way for me to do this, I’m told by our social media experts, is through Twitter.

If you’re game, tweet your pictures, funny stories, anecdotes, thoughts and even breaking news — and include the hashtag #oaklandschools so I can find it. If we get enough material, we might create a Storify page to highlight your collective photos and musings from the day.

I’ll be tweeting too, from @katymurphy.

Best wishes in your final back-to-school preparations!

49

OUSD: Changes in the principal’s office

Here it is, your long-awaited account of who’s in and who’s out of various Oakland schools this year. From this 2012-13 directory, I count 15 new principals — seven at elementary schools, three at middle schools and five at high schools. Did I miss any?

This means that about 17 percent of OUSD’s 86 schools will have new leaders. Last year, if you recall, there were 20 new principals for 98 schools.

Two schools are also trying out the co-principal model — two people who share the job. Burckhalter Elementary School, which expects to take on dozens of children displaced from the shuttered Lakeview Elementary, will take on Lakeview’s former principal as well — along with its existing leader. Claremont Middle School, which has undergone some serious turnover in recent years, was appointed co-principals as well: twin brothers whose mother attended Claremont.

I’m curious about this setup — the financial implications (Are they paid the same as if they were the sole principal? Who’s covering the additional cost?), the potential benefits, the division of labor, and the reasons those two schools were chosen to have two leaders — and will have more for you later.

SCHOOLS WITH NEW PRINCIPALS

Elementary: Brookfield, Burckhalter (which will add a co-principal; Carin Geathers is not leaving), Esperanza, Grass Valley, Lafayette, Sobrante Park (which will share a principal with Madison Middle School, even though the schools aren’t supposed to merge until 2013) and International Community School

Middle: Claremont, Elmhurst and Montera

High/alternative: Bunche Continuation, Castlemont High, Dewey Academy (continuation), Oakland High and Community Day School

Where did the principals of the five closing elementary schools go? Continue Reading

11

Oakland’s special education reorganization: a parent’s critique

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

By now you may know that the Oakland school board voted to reinstate $1.75 million in cuts it was asked to approve on June 27. The program specialists still have their jobs, and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education was assured that class sizes and caseloads would not increase and that vacant positions would be filled for 2012-13.

In a press release vetted by high-level special education, finance, and Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction staff that came out late the day before the board meeting, OUSD described the reorganization and the position cuts as something very different than the Sharon Casanares memo I blogged about.

The press release focused on program specialist cuts and additional cuts that would occur and also contained misrepresentations about the program. It said teachers and staff were “versed in the law, theories of learning and disabilities” but not in academic areas, so OUSD had to move students into general education classrooms. This, while so many veteran special education teachers hold general education and special education degrees. This, when the district refuses to accept general education credentialed teachers into their special education credentialing program despite widespread community support for the idea.

Continue Reading

42

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

OUSD SUPERINTENDENT SMITH
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.

22

Mission accomplished? OUSD’s structural deficit, closure savings and other budget questions

This spring, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith heralded the elimination of a $40 million structural deficit that he had inherited when he came to OUSD in 2009. Soon thereafter, his financial services team discovered a multimillion-dollar shortfall, which was followed by major reductions in the proposed special education budget for 2012-13 and other adjustments.

Then, last Friday, the administration made the deficit-eradication claim once again. A public statement about the Lakeview Elementary School sit-in, which is now in its second week, said that the closure of Lakeview and other elementary schools had allowed the district to “eliminate a $40 million structural deficit…”

If you look at Slide #23 in the budget presentation (second-to-last link), and your eyes automatically run to the highlighted green line, that sure looks to be the case: You see a $665,071 surplus. But scan a bit further down and you’ll find a different number — a structural deficit of $10.28 million. Continue Reading