Heads up: Special Ed Community Committee meeting tonight

I was planning to attend the Programs for Exceptional Children Community Advisory Committee meeting tonight after writing about the departure of OUSD’s special education director Karen Mates. I can’t make it but there is a lot to talk about from what I hear:

The Special Education Teacher Caucus will be presenting, there will be
discussion about plans for next year’s Special Education program, and there
will be legal advocates on-hand to help staff the break-out consultation
groups (below). The meeting is from 6-9pm
tonight, potluck at 6. Location is United for Success Academy, 2101 35th Ave., and there will be
childcare and Spanish language translation.

1: Setting Strong Goals and Ensuring Academic Progress in the General
Education Classroom
Estableciendo metas fuertes y asegurando el progreso académico de los
estudiantes en los salones de educacion general

2: Setting Strong Goals and Ensuring Academic Progress in the Special Day
Estableciendo metas fuertes y asegurando el progreso académico de los
estudiantes en los salones de día especial

3: Behavior Plans & Behavior Support
Planes para el apoyar el comportamiento y apoyo al comportamiento en general

4: School-Site Concerns—Beyond Special Education Staff
Preocupaciones relacionadas a la escuela—Mas allá de los empleados para la
educación especial

5: Ensuring the Effective Use of Accommodations & Modifications
Asegurando el uso eficaz de los acomodos y las modificaciones

6: Making the Transition to Middle School
Haciendo la transición a la secundaria

7: Making the Transition to High School and to Adulthood
Haciendo la transición a la preparatoria y a la adultez

8: Supporting Special Education Staff (*Intended as a support session for
staff who need their own consultation)
Apoyando a los empleados de educación especial

9: When Everything Goes Wrong: Hitting Up Against the Wall
Cuando todo no funciona y chocamos contra la pared

Many thanks to Stacey Smith for the reminder.


Community group wants OUSD board to slow down on D4 appointment

A letter from the Block by Block Organizing Network to OUSD Board of Education chairman David Kakishiba asking for a little more public access to the appointment process that will fill Gary Yee’s District 4 seat. The board is planning to appoint a replacement by June 12 and already closed the applications last week. Here is a list of the candidates with one change: Carlos Carmona sent me an email this weekend explaining that he was disqualified due to his “residency.”  Here is the letter:

Dear Mr. Kakishiba,

We are writing as Oakland citizens to ask you to assure that the process of filling the District 4 opening on the Board is transparent and allows for input from concerned members of the community. We appreciate that the Board wisely decided not to hold a costly election to fill a year-and-a-half vacancy. However, we believe that six people alone should not decide whom to choose without input from the electorate. We hope that you assure that the criteria for your selection are clear and that the public has opportunity to express concerns and opinions.

It is our recommendation that the Board hold at least one special meeting (a town hall, if you will) where a panel of representatives of the public have a chance to ask questions of all the candidates. Given your timeline, we hope that that meeting will be held on an evening (or weekend day) between May 29 and June 12 – the sooner the better, of course.

The people deserve to have a voice in the process of selecting someone to fill a seat that is normally an elected position.

Yours truly,

Evans Daniels

Sharon Rose

Sheryl Walton

Co-chairs, Block by Block Organizing Network


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


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


Flood shuts down OUSD headquarters

Well, 2013 is not off to the best start for the OUSD administration. Here’s a slightly modified report I just filed:

A flood — apparently caused by a tap left on overnight — shut down the Oakland school district’s four-story administrative headquarters today. The roughly 150 employees who report there will have to work elsewhere for the rest of the week, and Wednesday’s school board meeting will be held at the newly rebuilt La Escuelita Elementary School across the street.

The problem appears to have started in the custodian’s closet, gushing three gallons of water a minute overnight until the swampy mess was discovered at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

Continue Reading


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

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.



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.

Continue Reading


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

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. Continue Reading


Oakland Unified to score … everyone

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.

Continue Reading


Oakland’s American Indian charter schools respond to violation notice

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? Continue Reading