At the school board: Supersonics’ Gary Payton back for kudos, aides complain about treatment in special ed classrooms
on September 25, 2009
At Wednesay’s regular biweekly meeting, the Oakland School Board honored several people for their contributions to the city’s schools, including one person who’s no stranger to the spotlight: Gary Payton, a 1986 Skyline High graduate and former Seattle Supersonics basketball star. Payton spoke along with a half-dozen other honorees after being recognized for his work on Back-to-School and Attend and Achieve projects. He told the small audience that he had enjoyed being a part of these efforts so much that he planned to “do a lot more in the future.”
Also recognized was Col. James Madison, who runs the Skyline High Junior ROTC program. Madison, formerly an instructor at West Point, pointed to his students, saying they have what it takes to be successful in demanding academic situations, and that adults and educators need to focus on encouraging the right kind of success for students. “The glass is half-full, just as much as it’s half-empty,” he said. Madison said it was just as important to acknowledge a recent McClymonds student admitted to UC Berkeley as the school’s state basketball championship. “She should have gotten just as much attention as the team did,” he said.
During the community comments period of the meeting, a number of cafeteria and special education aides asked for higher pay and increased security at their jobs. One special education aide, who identified herself as Ms. Roberts, complained that she had been choked by a student who wanted to take her lunch. Thelma Vasquez, another special education aide, stood before the board to explain that there were no men in her classroom except for the male students. “There are kids biting, scratching and grabbing our breasts,” she said. “It amounts to sexual harassment, but no one will listen when we complain.”
Vasquez did not say which school she worked for and declined to speak further with a journalist without first consulting her union. The aides also spoke about not being informed of job openings in other areas of the school or being considered for promotions. Superintendent Tony Smith nodded and made eye contact with each speaker while also taking down notes. Other board members appeared to listen intently as well. No more was said on the matter after the women sat down.
Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam reviewed the district’s recently released Academic Performance Index (API) scores and pointed out that though Oakland has a long way to go, the city’s schools have been on a steadily upward path. In fact, over the course of the last five years, Stam said, Oakland is the most improved city district in California.
Of special interest to Oakland North readers: North Oakland’s District 1 Director Jody London invited all to a town hall meeting with Superintendent Smith on Sept. 30 at Oakland International High School. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
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