Oakland school board to consider new charter approval, teachers’ contracts
on September 23, 2014
A new superintendent has taken the reins. A new proposal to lower class sizes is in discussion. A new chance for high school students to access critical courses and programs is on the ballot. And, as in recent years, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) continues to field charter school applications.
Though specific, these examples represent broad changes and challenges facing OUSD and its Board of Education as it prepares for its upcoming meeting at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, September 23 at La Escuelita Education Center, located at 1050 Second Avenue.
The board’s public sessions of the meeting start at 5:00 PM, with a discussion of the district’s newest charter school application: Roses in Concrete Community School. The proposed K-8 school would be set up in East Oakland. But Jody London, the board’s director for district one, which covers North Oakland, said last week she plans to stick to her previous vow to vote no for any new charter school applications.
London said the board needs to work toward making existing charter schools successful, rather than creating new ones. And if consistently voting “no” for new charter schools should be questioned as illegal, she said, then she considers her actions “civil disobedience.”
The board has already approved two new charter schools that will open for the 2015-16 academic year: Castlemont Primary Academy, a TK-5 school in East Oakland’s Castlemont neighborhood, and the French American Charter School of the East Bay, a TK-8 school.
Three more charter schools have been proposed. Castlemont Junior Academy, a 6th through 8th grade school also in the Castlemont neighborhood, and Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts (COVA) High School, were proposed during the board’s September 10 meeting. This is COVA’s third new petition submission, said Troy Flint, communications director for OUSD. Roses in Concrete Community School, a K-8 school in East Oakland with its name inspired by Tupac Shakur’s poetry book The Rose That Grew From Concrete, will introduce its application during Tuesday’s meeting.
Roses in Concrete, if approved, hopes to succeed where other East Oakland schools have not by using a “5R’s” approach–Resources, Relationships, Relevancy, Rigor and Responsibility–to address all the needs of its students. The board will decide the fate of the proposed schools by December, said Board of Education president David Kakishiba.
The board is also negotiating a multi-year agreement with the city’s teacher’s union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), which OEA president Trish Gorham has said she hopes to resolve during the upcoming meeting. The OEA is proposing lowering class sizes, especially in schools with higher-need students–the item that has become the stalling point behind reaching a deal, according to Gorham.
The Board of Education and the State agree that class sizes need to be lowered, she said, but are reluctant to “put it on paper.” A student to teacher ratio of 20 to one is ideal, Gorham said, though in the pending deal the OEA is asking for a 24 to one ratio. Gorham said it is important for schools with higher-need students to drop to that ratio faster than other schools.
“The negotiations have respectful, they have been productive,” Gorham said. “But it’s time to wrap it up.”
OEA also wants a 2 percent teacher’s salary increase this year and for the 2015-16 academic year. In the past ten years, Oakland public school teachers have received a total salary increase of 3.25 percent, according to Gorham.
Some principals have felt the central office has not heard their voices in the past about the needs of their students due to a hierarchy that is “too steep,” according to Kakishiba. Antwan Wilson, OUSD’s new superintendent, has “flattened” OUSD’s administration hierarchy, eliminating the number of people information goes through when traveling from principal to superintendent. Wilson wants resources at the central office to be out at school sites, London said.
In an effort to implement this plan, Wilson has proposed two new job titles, Data Assessment Partner and School Improvement Partner, which the board will vote on Tuesday. The Data Assessment Partner is responsible for the collection, management and reporting of data from schools; while the School Improvement Partner will provide guidance based on that data to make instructional improvements. The new positions will have no impact on the budget, according to the legislative file.
Since Wilson began work on July 1, Flint said, the new superintendent has been asking for staff and community opinions on pushing the “full-service community school district” plan first adopted three years ago under then superintendent Tony Smith.
According to Flint, a full service school district is one that not only gives every student a high-quality education, but also places at the school site, necessary mental and social health support, healthy meals, medical care and language learning services.
Flint said Wilson has been to come up with the money to fund this. To achieve the same goal, Measure N, an annual parcel tax of $120 for the next 10 years, has been added to the November ballot.
In others matters, the board will board will also vote whether to approve an up to $50 million loan from the Alameda County Treasury to cover the district’s operating requirements. The loan will cover operating costs until the district receives its deferred payments from the State.
The board will also be asked to accept a $5,270 donation from the Sequoia Dad’s Club to Sequoia Elementary School, as well as a $6,000 donation from Chevron/Project Lead the Way, Inc. to fund Oakland High School’s Engineering course this school year.
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