How should OUSD respond to declining enrollment?

This Thursday, Great Oakland Public Schools will be hosting a conversation about how the Oakland Unified School District should deal with declining enrollment (rescheduled from last month).

Here’s the event info, via GO Public Schools:

Oakland’s Changing Demographics: OUSD’s Hard Decisions

How many schools does Oakland Unified need in its portfolio? How many students should our district aim to serve? What data will be reviewed to make these decisions?

Featuring data and analysis from partner MK Think, GO Public Schools invites you to Oakland’s Changing Demographics: OUSD’s Hard Decisions, a community convening to discuss the capacity, enrollment and demographic data being used for OUSD strategic planning. Click here (PDF) to view a 2009 MK Think presentation that outlines the facilities and assets of OUSD.

Please join us on Thursday, March 3, from 5:30-8:00pm at the Jack London Aquatic Center to discuss these important issues. Refreshments and child care will be provided.

If you’re planning on attending (or even if you aren’t, but have an interest in OUSD’s sustainability), it is definitely worth downloading the MK Think presentation (PDF), which does a good job outlining the types of decisions facing the District.

It also includes some pretty sobering charts illustrating just what a poor job OUSD is doing of capturing Oakland’s school age population.

OUSD captures only 56% of Oakland's student aged population

Their study finds that the Oakland Unified School District, with nearly 6 million square feet of property throughout the city, has 900 more classrooms than it needs. In fact, it has more classrooms than required to meet the needs of its peak enrollment year, 1999.

OUSD enrollment - 1992 to 2009

The costs associated with managing too many facilities are very real. OUSD certainly isn’t the only agency that struggles with it. Any agency providing government services has to find a way to balance the desires of the people they serve, who generally all want services immediately in their neighborhood, and the increased administrative needs created by having more sites.

So how do you deal with that? In a district as cash-strapped as OUSD, does it make sense to have all this unneeded space? Should the District stop operating so many campuses, find alternate (and hopefully, income-producing) uses for unused space that may be needed in the future, and sell off properties that aren’t part of long term need projections? Or, if the District is going to keep using all of its campuses, what do you do with the extra space?

I think it should be a really interesting discussion, and I’ve been tremendously impressed with every GO Public Schools event I’ve attended so far. If you’re planning on going, I think they would appreciate it if you could RSVP online so they have an idea of how many people to expect. But if you don’t get around to that and find yourself with some free time on Thursday night, go check it out.

41 thoughts on “How should OUSD respond to declining enrollment?

  1. Jenn

    OK, fine – I’ll start having babies to do my part to help with enrollment! Dammit, the things I do for you people!

  2. Max Allstadt

    One thing I think needs to happen immediately: the school board should re-submit measure L, verbatim, for the impending special election (has the deadline passed?)

    L failed by a hair last time. Teacher layoffs are imminent. The ruckus in Wisconsin has helped push public opinion in the right direction about funding teachers.

    Who knows, maybe the Teachers Union will actually support their own raise if we try to give them one for the THIRD time in two years!

  3. MarleenLee

    The teachers union seems more interested in mobilizing support against the gang injunction than addressing the abysmal dropout rate, truancy rates, and other issues actually affecting the quality of education. They don’t get a dime from me.

  4. ralph

    If the teachers want additional money, I suggest the following: eliminate LIFO, implement career paths, end the DB and stop mobilizing support against a restraining order that pertains to adults who have demonstrated a lack of respect for the community. Until then, I will camp out with Marleen.

  5. livegreen

    It is almost criminal that OUSD is looking at most cuts at school sites (about $250,000 for Elementary schools, about $400,000 at middle schools) when

    a) Central HQ receives and spends almost 50% of funding, exceeding State requirements (it’s been reported that they pay fines for this);

    b) OUSD has way too many schools and capacity yet is delaying it’s tough decisions, until after massive cuts to fully enrolled &/or successful schools.

    Further to a), OUSD is justifying this saying Central HQ took most of the cuts last year. But this ignores the central point that it is still allocated far too much of OUSD’s budget.

    OUSD is ignoring these central questions that they should be compelled, if necessary forced, to answer.

  6. Ken O

    LG, not to worry. As you are doing, so will Oaklandites. You and they will stop taking the authorities seriously. Then the authorities will stop taking each other seriously. (Cue CC and Mayor.) Then the party’s over.

  7. Dax

    I attended the Oakland schools.

    If I were a parent today, I might send my child to the elementary school if it was one of the few exceptional ones.
    Of course I’d have to add in a significant amount of parental help and time at home.

    After fifth grade, no more.
    Not a chance I’d send them to a OUSD middle school.

    Imagine if Steve Jobs had come up on stage today and offered up the OUSD’s version of the iPad.
    Designed and produced by the staff of the OUSD, the board of education, and the OEA.

    Imagine what it would look like, the features it would have, the capability it would possess and how much it would cost.
    And when a working model would finally be on the shelves…

    Think of what the reaction would be in the audience.
    Isn’t that the reaction the parents in Oakland are giving to the current product?

    Oakland’s schools are a bit like the guy in the film 127 Hours… facing a slow death, but unwilling or unable to cut off the limb in order to survive.

  8. Ken O

    Dax, great review of OUSD!

    I know an OUSD teacher working in “East” Oakland at an elementary school. The principal there is a joke, he only got the position because no one else was left (there was some kind of mass purge or exodus) but he’s a TOTAL IDIOT. Random dictator who does nothing. None of the teachers like him. “Good enough for government work” embodied in the flesh.

    I’m really unsure of what a principal is needed for at an ES, and further why they’d need a VP, if there is one.

    Teachers should be principals on rotating basis, seems far more democratic and COST EFFECTIVE to me. Empower the workers in the trenches!

    If there are too many schools, and not enough money in the next decades to use them, OUSD should rent them out.

    For: any and all types of residential, commercial, nonprofit uses. Whatever a neighborhood decides it wants a room or plot of dirt for, they should write up a proposal and go about it.

    Selling the land? Well, it’s probably worth more today than it will be in the future (in 2011 dollars vs 2021 dollars) but land is generally something that should be kept…

    If OUSD does sell off some properties, it will be at low distress sale pricing (which is fine, since it will move ie actually sell) but any proceeds will just be utterly WASTED on sustaining the failing status quo edifice. Sort of like Obama’s or any big US institution’s actions. Right?

  9. Max Allstadt

    Marleen,

    OEA didn’t do a real district wide vote on that issue. I find it hard to justify keeping OUSD salaries lower than salaries for teachers in surrounding cities, just because some OUSD teachers took an ideological stand that I disagree with.

    The salary disparity creates brain drain that compromises Oakland kids’ education.

    If you think OEA is taking an ideological stand that has negative consequences on our youth, why would you retaliate by doing the same thing yourself?

  10. Andy K

    OUSD does need a kick in the ass, but not everything is so horrible.

    After sending my son to private school k-8, he started his freshmen year at Oakland Tech. He has had some great teachers, and others that are just o. k. – similar to his private school experience. Tech is of course an exceptional school in Oakland, and what OUSD needs to do is try and duplicate what has happened there – where are core group of teachers got together and decided that they could provide a great public school education. The results are in – Tech’s enrollment is up. They got 200 more students than they expected and had to hire more teachers.

    The overall enrollment trend is surprising, given the economy.

  11. Peter

    Well this is pretty typical… a post about public schools and it appears 1/10 people who posted have any first hand experience with our current schools.
    To address some issues: first of all, it is a state educational code requirement that every school have a person with an administrative credential to serve as principal or director. The amount of work that person has to do is already enormous and very specialized, it is ridiculous to expect that someone could step out of their classroom for a week every once in a while and supervise the custodians, recesses, observe teachers, make the budget, do the ordering, etc. It is also an insult to teachers that they should step away form their classrooms to go run a school occasionally. Lastly, common sense begs the question… “who wants to work for a different boss every week?”
    In terms of cuts, its true that the district is unwilling to cut centrally. It’s also true that the district had exceeded the cap set by the state when the district was under state control (as in, the state came to take over to “fix” the budget, and left the district in more debt that it started off with). However, last year’s cuts were excessive… and employees were not happy that paychecks were not at school sites because the mail carriers had been cut back so severely. The reality is that there isn’t much left to cut.
    As for declining enrollment, Dax’s comment is very telling. Oakland is the most improved urban district in the state three years in a row. Compared to when I was a student, instruction, expectations, student safety, and test scores have risen dramatically to say the least. Yet, this generation of parents is literally scared of the our schools. So what has changed? Perhaps we are more likely to be governed by fear in this area. Perhaps we not as willing to embrace diversity as we proclaim. I’m not sure, but then again I get to enjoy these schools everyday.

  12. ralph

    The salary brain drain is a myth. I think OUSD attrition is consistent with other districts of similar demographics.

    A few years ago I was cursing NCLB because it penalized poor performing schools. Today, I’ve come to conclude that you need to use the purse to force some changes. Pushing money at the situation is not working.

    OUSD should sell off the excess property and place the money in trust. Use the income to reward teachers, provide for arts and sports programs and STEM labs.

  13. Max Allstadt

    Thank you, Peter, for reminding us that there is an unbelievable amount of legal and technical wonkery necessary to fully understand the issues of running a school district.

    I have a very good friend who teaches special ed, and when we talk shop about schools, I always find the complexity of the issues staggering.

    I don’t feel I have the knowledge to deeply opine on most schools issues, but I do know that we need to retain teachers for longer, and paying them a little better than surrounding school districts would go a long way to making that happen.

  14. Dax

    Peter,

    “Oakland is the most improved urban district in the state three years in a row”

    Could you give me your source for that data?

    “Perhaps we’re not as willing to embrace diversity as we proclaim. ”

    I’m sure there is a school somewhere in Oakland that isn’t diverse, but focusing on “diversity” this far into the 21st century in the Oakland schools, is taking ones eye off the problem, off the mission.

    For Oakland, embracing math, reading, science, etc. are the issue, not embracing diversity.
    Raising that banner over the past dozen years has done little to improve scores or graduation rates, especially in African American males for example, where the failure to graduate is 65%.

    As Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said,

    ““We can’t wait 250 years for equity. We need a disruption of the current system,”

    But as you said, I’m not in the schools like you are.
    I also admit that even with perfect change, perfect teachers and adequate funds, the improvement won’t be instantly dramatic.

    Witness the battle in the Washington DC. schools. Perhaps that is influencing Kevin Johnson’s opinion.

  15. ralph

    Max,
    Have you spent any time in Oakland school or worked with the students?

    There are a few national newletters you can subscribe to as well (google Accomplished Teacher by Smart brief).

    Michelle Rhee has some good insights. Heck, she made a stmt that actually made me reconsider my position on vouchers.

    Ken O,
    Really? I am surprised you did not suggest we convert excess schools into bowling alleys.

  16. Peter

    http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/ousd/site/default.asp

    here’s the info on most improved urban district, right on the front. It was actually six years, not three. Pretty damn impressive, really. I’m sure there is more info than that, but lets be real, if we’re going to discuss OUSD we might want to have that real basic fact straight.

    I agree that diversity is not the goal, achievement is. But here’s the thing: the achievement is there (as the data clearly posits), so what is the problem? The only thing I can imagine (especially after giving school tours every year) is that people are afraid of the diversity.

    Ralph, as far as pushing money… who’s doing that? We’ve had budget cuts each of the last 5 years, and the cost of living is not going down, and the private sector is certainly not stepping up to make up the difference. This year, our school of 650 is looking to cut an additional 15% off our budget, on top of roughly 15% last year. And yeat our enrollment is UP. And that has nothing to do with poor performance, that’s just a decline in funding from the state.

    There is a systematic problem with OUSD though: the unfunded federal special education mandates. An average district spends up to 20% of its budget on special ed, Oakland spends over 40%… and believe me, families in special ed definitely don’t feel that their needs are always met. BUT under federal law (and moral need) we provide kids with the appropriate “free appropriate public education,” for which we do not receive any extra federal funding, and it is simply unsustainable—but it mainly affects the poor and developmentally disabled, so it’s easily brushed under the carpet.

  17. MarleenLee

    You can find the link to OEA’s offensive resolution opposing gang injunctions here: http://stoptheinjunction.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/oakland-education-association-joins-growing-opposition-to-the-gang-injunctions/ Voting against yet another miserable parcel tax would not be retaliating against students; it would be a message to OEA to start supporting real education reform and not reward and encourage criminal behavior and resistance to authority. I hardly think that’s what public school teachers should be endorsing.

    The brain drain is a proven myth. Here are the survey results: http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2010/10/13/why-do-so-many-new-oakland-teachers-leave-some-have-no-choice/

    In this economy, with all the pink slips, I am not worried about teachers leaving OUSD because of low pay. And I am one of those “education wonks” who has a pretty good understanding of running a school district, since I advise school districts for a living. I also happen to be married to a tenured public school teacher (who works in a neighboring district), who is looking at seven furlough days for the coming school year, who hasn’t had a raise in probably five years, and who has no health benefits. OUSD loves to paint itself as so bad off compared to its neighbors, but survey shows that low pay is barely a blip on the radar for why teachers leave.

  18. oakie

    When is the last time OUSD fired a teacher for incompetence?

    Why is the teacher’s union protecting bad teachers?

    I am the parent of one of those in the yellow bar of the first graph. In the early year’s of my kids public education, I had to go into the HR department of OUSD to fill out a form (because, at that time, OUSD had a policy of limiting the rights of Oakland parents to enroll their children in another district). I can tell you, that half day was quite enough to know why I would never put my own kid in that dystopia.

    There is a very very good solution to the problem. Dissolution of OUSD. It is putrefied and there is absolutely no hope that it would become a functional system. Every single interest group puts themselves above the interest of the children. There is no talk whatsoever here of real reform, like the kind of things Michelle Rhee advocates. So—I’m outta here. And apparently I’m not alone.

  19. len raphael

    Peter, both my kids went thru oakland flatland middle and high schools. i know other parents with kids in them now, and a couple of teachers also.

    Both of my kids played on Tech’s football team and one of them was class and school president.

    understood that ousd faces huge obstacles teaching the majority of its kids who come from homes with long established pattern of sub high school parents.

    but ousd’s overall response to that massive challenge has been anemic. not obvious to an outsider like myself whether that’s a result of leadership or (more likely)the decades of cronyism, racial politics at hq and in the schools, and a union that largely developed in reaction to that envoirment.

    Tony Smith says the right things and as you point out OUSD has greatly improved its scores.

    On the other hand, when you start out at the bottom like OUSD, that’s not enough to persuade many residents to contribute even more money by raising some the highest real estate taxes in the Bay Area.

    The parent’s scared of diversity move out of Oakland before their kids are school age or send them to the Head Royce’s.

    All of the several african american parents I know are the ones most skeptical of the touted huge improvement in OUSD. it’s not diversity that scares them but mediocrity.

    -len raphael, temescal

  20. Livegreen

    Peter, The failure of the mail to arrive on time has been mentioned in different conversations on this topic, but that does not prove OUSD has cut enough from Central HQ. The only thing it might show is they cut too much on delivering the mail.

    Is the District still exceeding the cap on central administrative spending or not?

    And what about the excess capacity of OUSD and the roughly 900 extra class rooms cited? Surely there is some savings there.

  21. Livegreen

    The diversity is rather more complex than some would like. Yes, some avoid the district because of first impressions based on racial steryotypes. However many r trying the elementary schools. They’re just not moving on in big #s to the middle schools (that’s where about 50% of Proficient and Advanced students drop out). So they went to a diverse elementary school, then awoke to the diversity and dropped out? That just seems far-left simplistic.

    Also, one of the biggest populations to flee OUSD (or it’s diversity, depending on your POV) is African Americans:

    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/dev/PopTrendsDisplay.asp

  22. Dax

    Peter
    —————————————————-
    http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/ousd/site/default.asp

    here’s the info on most improved urban district, right on the front. It was actually six years, not three. Pretty damn impressive, really. ….. if we’re going to discuss OUSD we might want to have that real basic fact straight.
    ————————————————-

    Look, improvement is good.
    I’m not so sure I’d describe the results as “pretty damn impressive”
    I must say, I have some skepticism about the state’s general year to year improvement over all, but within that framework Oakland numbers went up more than other large districts.

    As to Oakland’s leading the other districts over the past 6 years in points of growth per year, it does call a few things into question.
    Were Oakland’s prior scores so low that coming off the very low end allows for more growth to just get to approaching average.

    I did look at several of the other large districts and for the most part, Oakland started from a lower base.

    We have to be careful when proclaiming the results as proving Oakland is doing a better job then those other districts.

    I do note that in their African American students, even after the gains, scores tend to still be well below other districts results for African American students.

    There were also some interesting and impressive results from a brief evaluation.

    Seems that Oakland might want to duplicate what is going on at Manzanita SEED School.
    I don’t know to what extent the students are “self selected” by involved parents such that parental involvement would account for much of the difference.
    SEED went from API 653 to 736 to 842, over three years.

    Apparently Manzanita SEED was given special permission to NOT follow the district’s plans.

    “The teachers write their own curriculum, a flexibility granted by the school district when the school was designed.”

    You have to wonder when you see things like that. Why is their alternative method working so much better?
    I do realize, like I mentioned, that the students may be “self selected” by a different type of parent.
    Could be possible that alone could count for 90% of the difference compared to the rest of the district. I don’t know.

    http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/schools/oakland/manzseed.html

    Interesting…here is a article about SEED, money, foundations for progress and many of the items regarding smaller schools in general.

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_16085586

    Difficult… in the era of budget cuts, difficult to establish entire new settings as seen at SEED.

    I guess the question might be, “how can we do this even though we don’t have the same money?”
    Is it simply impossible or can it be done in very creative ways?

    Obviously its easy to pontificate from afar and tell people to wave magic wands for success. I realize that.
    If it were easy, it would already have been done.

  23. Peter

    If it were easy, it would already have been done.

    That’s definitely the quote! I certainly acknowledge the shortcomings of the district that educated me and employs me.
    The reality is exactly that, though, and as a result—as Len points out—the response appears anemic. But that is because it simply hasn’t erased the deficits our society has already saddled so many of our stakeholders with. That certainly doesn’t mean we are done trying or moving forward, but that we are trying to undo hundreds of years of history as quickly as possible. The reality is that there is no known answer. And OUSD is doing just as good a job as anybody finding one… actually better, according to the numbers.
    At the same time, that is another huge problem in public education: we don’t know what we want. OUSD has the greatest growth of any “urban” district for SIX STRAIGHT YEARS—but then the question has to do with whether or not it started too low. Being in math classrooms everyday, I know that is a very valid question, but at the same time… what else can we do? I mean, I’d love to ignore the APIs etc., but our school’s rank/score/funding/my job is dependent on those, and when they raise that much, it is still not good enough? (That being said philosophically/emotionally, mathematically I think it would be tough to be the most improved that many years in a row because we were that low… and having worked in Los Angeles and Hayward, I’d say there is more than just our being “low” at work).
    In terms of my “diversity” remark, I apologize and should have respected my audience spoken frankly earlier. There is a huge flight when middle school begins, and I see it every year, and literally watch it happen. The reality is that for many of our parents, choosing a kindergarten with cute little black kids is a great way to cement your commitment to the “diversity” of our city. However, those warm fuzzies often disappear 6 years later as they visit middle schools and see two black 8th graders horseplaying in the hallway during passing period. And that is true for everyone… just as it was when you all made the transition as students, middle school is a scary place!
    In terms of the 900 classrooms, there are two things at play there. First of all, the way the state calculates that number is 1 secondary classroom = 30 kids. So 100 kids = 3.3 classrooms, which is rather low, especially since what is called a classroom on some state chart may not be used that way, and that teachers have a “prep” period where the classroom is dormant (and if you want higher test scores, you don’t want “itinerant” teachers, just like you don’t to get to the hospital and wait for the doctor to arrive!). Secondly there is just no answer when it comes to how to get money from those classrooms. Close schools in your neighborhood? (Great if you don’t have kids, lousy if you do!) Rent them out? Sell the whole school? And what does this do to the neighborhood/city? And will it REALLY generate revenue? Also of note is that many unused classrooms have been turned into offices (Tilden for example) and charter schools.

    The whole thing is a fascinating and brain-numbing discussion. Glad to see we’re having it! (And Len—go bulldogs!)

  24. Naomi Schiff

    In my younger daughter’s years at Oakland Tech, she was among a sizable number who transferred from private schools, including Head Royce, to attend public high school. I don’t think we should assume the school transfers are all going in one direction, particularly at a time when more people have trouble paying for private schools.

  25. len raphael

    P, ousd under Smith seems to outsiders like me to be better run than it has in many years. Whether it’s something he’s done, i have no idea.

    Just biking around tech every day, the grounds are actually free of litter. (not so at Emerson Elementary). Very few cop emergencies and none of the false fire alarms of several years ago.

    Mostly from news articles, Katie what’s her name columns, the impression i get is that Smith has run smack into the double whammy of the most severe financial crisis and the refusal of OEA like most teacher’s unions to budge on what they see as fundamental threats to their existence, aka tenure.

    i can appreciate the oea’s position on tenure, remembering the politically correct hiring and firing decisions that went on in the 1970′s days of “community control” of the NYC schools. (long since reversed).

    but if the oea and other teachers unions don’t come up with a solution to mediocre teachers and ineffective schools and stop blaming everything on poverty and highly paid administrators, the Bloomberg if not the Wisconsin path will be the way here too.

    -len raphael
    Go Bulldogs!

  26. Max Allstadt

    Marleen, that resolution is misguided and misleading, but not exactly offensive when you compare it to the stuff I heard at the public safety meeting.

    As for teachers not leaving because of low pay, I guess you’re right, since the economy is down, we should… exploit teachers as much as possible?

    Nope. I voted for L once and I’ll do it again if they try it again. They’re underpaid. Even if they’re not leaving.

    I think they should be paid more, and I think they should be easier to fire when they underperform.

  27. len raphael

    Max, teachers are not overpaid, especially compared to how much harder the good ones work to all too many City of Oakland employees.

    But to say they’re exploited when they get excellent benefits, excellent retirement, and only work for 10 months or so per year is odd. Pay is what, 50k to start and goes up to close to 70k? for what is still basically an 8 hour day for most of them.

    -len raphael, temescal

  28. len raphael

    on the density rezoning/growth is the answer to oakland’s problems front, i understand and respect most of the positions except for two that run just below the surface of quite a few of the younger advocates:

    1. what i calll “ageist baloney” that the motivation and source of most opposition to high density in the neighborhoods is the fearful greed of the middle aged baby boomers trying to hold on/increase their property values of their low density housing stock, and

    2. the other theme that bothers me is the undercurrent that it’s the “wealthier” residents who are trying to deny affordable housing to the poorer residents.

    Proof of number 1 is that the typical neighborhood activist who shows up at committee and council meetings are usually over age 55.

    Haven’t heard any evidence to support the class struggle analysis, other than the power ascribed to Rockridge.

    ==============

    i haven’t seen such baby boomer bashing since the last real estate of the 90′s when young buyers then in their 30′s enviously looked at boomers at having grabbed the single family housing for cheap.

    Irony now, is that a high percentage of the owners of the single family stock in areas like lower rockridge and temescal are people in their mid 30′s and early 40′s.

    They are too busy working and getting kids to school and after school activities to attend city meetings. eg. Recently I got stuck going to two such meetings simply because the 30 something person who was supposed to go had last minute work committments.

    The denial by younger smart growth advocates that much of the opposition to higher density in the neighborhoods comes from their yuppie contemporaries nicely avoids conflicts with people they might interact with.

    But it avoids the basic reality that there is an income divide among younger people in Oakland, people usually from middle and upper middle income backgrounds.

    Many of them have chosen to work in low paying jobs at non profits, construction, arts, and the food industry, publishing etc. Some had no choice.

    What seems a common theme is the sense of entitlement that they deserve to live in lower density neighborhoods that are currently priced out of their reach.

    One of the Transform people expressed that very directly at a recent committee meeting when he described how terrible it was that his family had not been able to afford the nicer low density sections of oakland years ago, and that he couldn’t either.

    I described that to a lower 40 something friend who lives in her own low density home in East O. Her response was that there were plenty of great houses for cheap in East O. Higher crime yes, even if only good mexican and asian restaurants.

    This economic criticism of low density advocates, follows quite nicely in the tradition of the same old new leftists like Quan and Siegel, who also tend to see everything as a attempt by the petty bourgeosie to hold on to their own at the expense of the exploited working people and people of color.

    -len raphael, temescal middle aged nimby

  29. Naomi Schiff

    Len, Quan doesn’t actually see it that way (I don’t know anything about Siegel). Her district 4 included plenty of single family homes in a hilly part of town with an economic range from abject to quite wealthy, and she has been a strong advocate for neighborhoods, including loads of home-owning middle-aged people like herself. What struck me throughout the zoning discussions was the intense focus on North Oakland, with occasional glancing looks at the east side of the lake, and very little focus on the vast stretches beyond, where there are many liveable neighborhoods and involved citizens. Many people don’t go to East Oakland much, and have not experienced the wide range of what is there. It is a vibrant part of the city, with more sunshine, and great for gardening. Yes there are plenty of problems, but where not? I hope people will get out of their immediate surroundings and explore our fascinating city.

  30. MarleenLee

    Here’s a link to an article showing that teachers’ salaries in Oakland are fairly average for California. http://www.ehow.com/info_7835155_average-salary-oakland-public-schools.html Don’t know how accurate the data is, and it is always more relevant to look at the immediate surrounding area rather than statewide, but keep in mind that the unions will always try to manipulate the statistics to convince people how underpaid their members are, e.g. by not mentioning the value of their benefits, their hours, the number of days off etc. If people feel they are underpaid they are always free to look for a job elsewhere.

  31. Max Allstadt

    Actually, in the public sector, if teachers or citizens feel teachers are underpaid, they’re also free to support a tax measure that would raise money for their salaries.

    You’re free to oppose it along with every other tax that comes along, and you’re free to simultaneously demand better service while refusing to vote to create funding for it.

  32. Dax

    Peter,
    —————————————————-
    -”The reality is that for many of our parents, choosing a kindergarten with cute little black kids is a great way to cement your commitment to the “diversity” of our city. However, those warm fuzzies often disappear 6 years later as they visit middle schools and see two black 8th graders horseplaying in the hallway during passing period. And that is true for everyone… just as it was when you all made the transition as students, middle school is a scary place!”
    —————————————————–

    OK, If I go to my nearest elementary school the API score is normally a bit over 800.

    My nearest choice for middle school has a API score about 680. Elmhurst on 98th.
    Four difficult miles away in a very dangerous neighborhood. No direct bus service.

    I can assure you, that nearly ALL the parents avoid sending their children to that school after 5 years at the nearby school.

    You seem a little too focused on the “diversity” or lack thereof as being the main driving force in middle school choice.

    If the graduation rate in a certain middle school, high school, area is well under 50%, do you really think that is a atmosphere you would choose for your child?

    On the other hand, Elmhurst did raise their API test scores for the 74 African American students from 623 to 705 so they seem to be doing something good.
    Actually, since the school apparently changed with the African American students numbering a range of 91-109-96-74, the 2007 thru 2010 scores have gone as follows, 568-625-623-705.

    Seems like something is working there for that group of children.

    I still don’t think I would send a child 4 miles from their local API 800+ school to that middle school, in that more troubled area.
    Just a common sense parental choice…if you have a option for other schools.

    While one or two years are not conclusive, it make me wonder what Elmhurst is doing to raise the scores of their African American students in a considerable fashion.
    Lots of interesting stories in individual Oakland schools.
    Perhaps the Tribune ought to have a focus article each month on schools that are working, and perhaps even a story on a few that are going in the opposite direction.

  33. ralph

    How exactly does giving a pay raise to the worst performing teachers promote more effective teaching and better outcomes?

    What incentive does the best performing teaching have to do better if the worst performing teacher gets the same pay bump? Should we not use pay to distinguish the good from the bad?

  34. len raphael

    Naomi, what i should have said was that a chunk of our local younger smart growthers share Quan and Siegel’s assumption that city policy should be used to achieve goals of economic justice/equality. Didn’t mean to say that Quan/Siegel saw zoning as a tool to reach that goal.

    In a larger sense, smart growthers would probably say that income and wealth has to be redistributed from western countries to “third world” countries.

    -len

  35. Naomi Schiff

    In a larger sense, if we don’t want to have an unstable world, we should indeed strive for less income inequality, both in our own country and with regard to others. The alternative is war, unrest, and famine. I feel pretty angry myself that B of A pays no tax, while I do. Seems that the gulf between extremes in our own economy is getting wider very fast, and the middle class getting smaller. Is this good?

  36. len raphael

    San Leandro BRT situation is reverse of North Oakland. According to an acquaintance in the SL chamber of commerce, the business owners along E14th want BRT but a chunk of residents do not.

    In North Oakland it’s more the other way around with most businesses publicly or more often quietly opposed to BRT and the public split.

    The big difference between the business positions is that SL has tons of off street parking and Oakland has none..

    The SL RDA already had planned two additional parking garages off E14th St. The merchants were looking forward to the benefit of turning E14th into a walking mall.

    -len raphael, temescal

  37. livegreen

    For those of you who want a chance to vote to continue taxes that will help fund Schools, here’s a link that makes it easy to mail CA legislators:

    http://www.congressweb.com/cweb2/index.cfm/siteid/educateourstate

    Urgent Action Issue

    The students of California need your help! Please take action and send an email letter to your state legislators requesting that we, the citizens of California, be given the chance to vote on extending current taxes that will help stem some of the devastating budget cuts to education. Click on the link below to send an email letter NOW!

  38. The Boss

    I have spoken with teachers in OUSD who have told me point blank that there is widespread cheating on the standardized tests. Just FYI.

    I mean, do you really believe that kids’ scores can go up so fast? Isn’t that kind of a mystery to you?

  39. len raphael

    TB, but of course there’s widespread cheating.

    NYC which was an early adopter of testing, has known that for years and only recently has seriously tried to reduce it.