The board of the Oakland Unified School District announced it has nominated Antwan Wilson from the nationally recognized Denver Public Schools where he is assistant superintendent, as the new superintendent for Oakland.

The Oakland Board of Education plans to vote on the nomination April 23, finishing up a year-long search for someone to continue to reform Oakland’s 46,000 student school district (including 10,000 charter school students). Former Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith resigned a year ago when a family health emergency called him to move out of state. Dr. Gary Yee has been acting superintendent since.

As assistant superintendent for Denver Public Schools, Wilson focused on improving education for middle school and high school students, particularly in troubled neighborhoods. During his tenure, high school graduation rates in Denver improved significantly and there were increases in the numbers of students enrolling in college preparatory classes and attending college, according to a biography supplied by OUSD. Denver Public Schools are often cited in education reform studies about what works.

Earlier, Wilson was High School Instructional Superintendent and earlier still a high school principal. OUSD said that Wilson gained acclaim for his work as principal of Denver’s formerly troubled Montebello High School, where he turned around achievement such that the percentage of students accepted into two and four-year colleges soared from 35 percent in 2005 to 95 percent in 2008.

“Antwan has numerous qualities to recommend him, but we were most impressed by his work in reinvigorating troubled schools, eliminating inequity and producing results for all students, and creating a strong college-going culture everywhere he’s worked,” said Oakland Board of Education President David Kakishiba.

The OUSD board said it considered 20 applicants for the Oakland Superintendent position. It sought someone who would continue with the strategic plan known as “Thriving Students” established during Smith’s tenure that calls for converting schools into full service community schools that would help students with needs such as food or counseling or healthcare that, if lacking, can prevent a student from being able to focus on academics. It also sought someone committed to closing achievement gaps “and directly confront issues related to race and equity,” that interfere with education and the district’s stated goals of getting kids to graduate high school ready for college or a career. Those goals, however, have been elusive for OUSD, which although it has improved graduation rates to 62 percent and student achievement overall, still sees nearly half of its black and brown male students not finish high school in four years. Among non-English speaking students, more than half do not finish high school in four years.

Wilson said “I am pleased and honored to be the finalist for the Oakland Unified School District Superintendent position. It is my belief that all young people have the ability to achieve at high levels, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they do,”  in a statement released by the OUSD board. “This includes having high expectations for students to succeed academically, socially, in their college and career pursuits, and in life,” he said.

Wilson was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1995 with a degree in History-Social Science Education and minors in Women’s Studies and Minority Studies, according to his biography supplied by OUSD. He then earned a Masters in School Leadership at Friends University in 2000. He is married and has three children, it said.

“I am pleased and honored to be the finalist for the Oakland Unified School District Superintendent position. It is my belief that all young people have the ability to achieve at high levels, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they do,” Wilson said in a statement released by the OUSD board. “This includes having high expectations for students to succeed academically, socially, in their college and career pursuits, and in life,” he said.

He said he is excited to work in Oakland because “I believe the Board of Education and the community share a similar interest in preparing all students for success, and I believe we can work together to help Oakland become a premiere district in educating students and helping them achieve success.”

Several national reform groups have done pilot work in the Denver Public Schools, which serves a student population with many immigrants and English language learners.  Generation Schools, the Ford Foundation’s More and Better Learning Initiative, the Rose Community Foundation, and the Public Interest Projects have all found success working in Denver schools.

Dr. Janet Lopez, education program officer of the Rose Community Foundation said that Denver Public Schools have had significant success in boosting student achievement and in attracting higher quality teachers.

A large part of the success in recruiting teachers was due to Denver voters passing a special tax measure to finance higher teacher salaries and implement some performance-based pay bonuses for effective teaching and for willingness to teach in hard-to-staff schools. Teachers can get bonuses of 11 to 15 percent.

“Denver Public Schools are able to recruit more high quality teachers into the system as a result,” Lopez said. But she said it is not clear that the program has allowed Denver to attract more teachers of color. She said that only about 17 percent of teachers in the Denver Public Schools are teachers of color.

Oakland has also sought to raise student achievement and recruit more teachers, particularly teachers of color.

Denver Public Schools have also experimented with longer school days and with integrating experiential learning into the school day.

Oakland has been looking at different education models to boost student achievement. It also wants to recruit more teachers of color.

70 Responses

  1. Libbycali

    Good. Finally. I hope he won’t be another carpet bagger like Tony Smith who crashed,burned and ultimately abandoned his tenure at the helm.

    I also hope he will not demonize the very, very few schools that have a substantial amount of middle class families (and waiting lists as long as the eye can see) but recognizes that hear families not only need to be retained but grow their numbers. There are a number if great private school options in Oakland, but there are an even larger number that are really sub par and only exist because they capitalize, prey on and perpetuate the fear of urban public schools.

    Last and most: Oakland Local- instead of capitalizing in eye grabbing headlines about mythic gentrification, why don’t you report on something that truly affects this town and really matters? Lower public education. From the hills to the flats, whether you have children or not what happens in OUSD is just as important as crime and oceans more effective than the price of coffee. The Trib used to pay one reporter, Katy Murphy, to regularly report on schools-and she was fantastic- but they moved her to higher education. It requires a lot of boring work like sitting in mind numbing board meetings. But with a budget if nearly 300 million dollars and a system that holds the future the most vulnerable and impacted citizens, what could be more pressing?

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  2. Barbara Grady

    Libbycall on, have you been reading Oakland Local? We have been covering education fairly in depth for more than a year. We were the only ones to report on Local Control Funding Formula means for Oakland, on the implementation of the Common Core, about the greening and improvement of school lunches, about teacher of the year for California and her teaching philosophy, about the plan to offer Linked Learning at all Oakland public high schools. We’ve done features about students in the African American Male Achievement Initiative, about student journalists and videographers and – most importantly – we’ve done multiple series called Education Voices in which we delve deeply into what high school students experience and we let the students write stories and tell in their own voices about their experience. The education reporter (me) is now double duty in covering tech as well for LiveWorkOakland so education reporting might be a little more sparse. However, we are doing more education reporting in Oakland than anyone else. You likely just haven’t been visiting OL very much

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  3. Susan Mernit

    Have you ever read this site? We’ve spent more resources covering education in the past 18 months than any other subject, The better comment I’d make would be that most people are not-sadly–as eager to read about education as gentrification.
    Ideas about how to support in-depth education coverage–and recognizing the option to make a tax-deductible contribution to fund coverage of critical topics like education–are welcome.

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  4. Libbycali

    Susan Mernit- yes, I read this site regularly and I have read many of the pieces you mentioned. However, most of the stories are “story of the moment” on specific schools or events and larger, much broader educational structures like state funding or the search for a superintendent rather than the inner workings of OUSD and how schools are doing. They are of course pertinent and valid, but this district (that I’m very familiar with) needs oversight reporting on its day to day functions as they affect the structure of the families within the district. For example: there’s little or no updating on contracts with OEA (very little on OEA in general, the union that represents the majority of the on site staff at schools and the president and spokesperson is acknowledged hardly at all) . Does anyone regularly check on school board agendas and plan on attending? The schedules are set, published and the minutes and videos are available.. It would be great if updates and summaries and some journalistic watchdog activity took place.

    Barbara Grady- Yes, I read this site….do you? What a rude comment from a reporter to a reader. My comment was specific to the district itself. Using the search bar, there are 17 articles on Oakland Local that are OUSD related. There are 18 articles focused solely on gentrification in the last month alone. Sorry if I touched a nerve, but perhaps some food for thought was put out
    there.

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  5. Pablo

    This article reads like a press release from the District. There is no content and no explanation of what improving student achievement really means – is it just that some more students passed standardized tests after teachers were forced to teach to the tests?

    And it would be of interest to Oakland to know who or what the “national reform groups” who were active in Colorado are and what there agenda is. Do Does Mr. Wilson plan to use the advice of “Generation Schools, the Ford Foundation’s More and Better Learning Initiative, the Rose Foundation of Colorado and the Public Interest Projects” to privatize public education, bring in more charter schools, authorize more contracts for the standardized testing companies?

    What is his view on protecting teachers from the union busting schemes of the ‘education reform’ (privatization) groups? Will Wilson work with the unions to make sure teachers are better compensated for their hard work or will he follow the lead of the reformers and his predecessor to blame teachers for the failings of public education caused by a lack of resources?

    The positive spin of this article/press release is OK, but surely there’s more to the story.

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  6. OaklandNative

    LibbyCali,

    As you know, the debate has often been on the difference between development and gentrification. Critics of gentrification argue that improving the schools is part of developing Oakland. Gentriification has focused on “coolness,” i.e., upscale restaurants, “trendy” bars and coffee shops and over-priced food markets.

    Many critics of gentrification want to focus on developing schools–just like youdo. So I disagree with you that the articles on gentrification are merely eye-catching.

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  7. Oakie

    @Pablo:”What is his view on protecting teachers from the union busting schemes…”

    I hope he has a higher priority on the performance of our students and doesn’t have a high priority on protecting the teacher unions position of power.

    For example, the union contract protects the rights of teachers to pick their job based on seniority in assignment or in layoff situations. This serves the teachers with the most seniority, but it ties the hands of school management to use the available resources to effectively deliver the teaching environment in the best interest of the students.

    And the unions are freaked out:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/21/los-angeles-teacher-layoffs-seniority_n_812464.html

    “This settlement is about giving our most disadvantaged children a fighting chance at their schools,” said Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU-SC chief counsel.

    The union VP : “What it is really saying is that experience in teaching has no value,” she said. “We feel that this remedy, if allowed to go through, will actually exacerbate the problem.”

    I am sick and tired of OUSD being run for the benefit of the unionized teachers instead of the disadvantaged students they are paid to serve. I hope Mr. Wilson also feels that way.

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  8. Libbycali

    Again, 17 articles on education–most of which are not specific to the families that actually attend Oakland schools–in a year compared to 18 articles against gentrification in ONE MONTH. Sorry, the well overplayed articles on how newcomers should look at and speak to old timers as the subordinates they should know they are, are not impact full on schoolchildren. Children cannot advocate for themselves. I am not a native of Oakland, but I’m willing to bet I was here before you were born.

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  9. OaklandNative

    LibbyCali,
    I don’t know if you were here before I was born. However, I went to public schools here. I’ve volunteered in the public schools. I’ve been to classes from Piedmont to East and West Oakland for contrast.

    I also went to grad school back East for comparison.

    I have my opinion on some changes that need to be made. Dog parks and Latham Square are not on my radar. Those articles you refer to are a backlash to our officials and developers ignoring us. This is my criticism of gentrification.

    So you and I really are on the same side.

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  10. Barbara

    LibbyCali, There actually have been something like 80 + education stories on this site in the past year that are about OUSD or statewide education changes that are being implemented at OUSD and (very much affect its students and teachers) or about students at OUSD. For much of last year and the beginning of this year there was about two education stories a week. When our Education Voices series( http://oak.lc/LugHO, http://oak.lc/2XhID, http://oak.lc/XH4Na and others) were published, about six stories a week would be published. I am sorry that you missed so many of the OL stories on education. Perhaps searching Oakland Unified School District rather than OUSD would bring them up.

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  11. Barbara

    Pablo, this news was announced late in the afternoon and we thought our readers would want to know right away. This is not a press release. But it also does not have as much context as we’d normally want to give because there was not time, although it did have some, such as the background about the Denver Public Schools being a center of reform. Note the headline said “Breaking…” However there WILL be follow-ups, with context on the issues and problems facing Oakland schools and how they differ or are similar to Denver’s. In the interest of getting important information out to the public as soon as possible, this one did not have the luxury of time for more.

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  12. Jim Mordecai

    Dear Okie: In your posting you live up to as least part of your name by employing what use to be called the Okie dokie. First you quote an article regarding Los Angeles School District layoffs: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/21/los-angeles-teacher-layoffs-.

    And, then you express outrage about OUSD being run in the interest of the powerful Oakland teachers: “I am sick and tired of OUSD being run for the benefit of the unionized teachers instead of the disadvantaged students they are paid to serve. I hope Mr. Wilson also feels that way.”

    The truth is that the Oakland teachers and their union has been not powerful but powerless to prevent the previous Oakland superintendents from spending millions below the minimum required to be spent on classroom teachers.

    This year’s OUSD budget is over $2 million short of the California state law requirement for unified school districts to spend on their teachers.

    Since the State take-over OUSD, with the assistance of the County Superintendent of Public Schools, hasn’t had to follow the law and spend the minimum of its budget on its teachers.

    We’ll just have to wait and see how Mr. Wilson feels about spending less than the minimum on his Oakland classroom teachers by looking at whether Mr. Wilson’s first budget meets the State law requiring 55% of its budget be spent on a unified district’s teachers.

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  13. Susan Mernit

    I’d love to see some of the people who want more education coverage, in-depth coverage, help us fund-raise or help us sell ads to make it happen. Or whatever.. we’re a news non-profit and costs and reporting are aligned together.

    And I value the discussion here, so thank you very much for sharing your views–that’s something important we can provide–a forum for discussion.

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  14. Oakie

    Jim,
    Actually I was responding to Pablo and his/her stridence in referencing “union busting” and framing charter schools as enemies (certainly they’re not enemies to the parents who choose to go that route to better satisfy their desire to educate their own children). I have heard these voices over and over again, over all these years that OUSD has failed so many children, mostly children of color in disadvantaged backgrounds. So I find myself very tired of that clique of union sycophants.

    You argue that the union is not strong here, at least in the one aspect you identify. I don’t know the details, but I would suspect that you are right that too much money is squandered outside the classroom. The few times I’d been required to walk into some of the district offices, I see what appears to be way too many employees doing way too little work under what too oppressive a work setting.

    But I contend that the reason classrooms are starved is that other special interests in the district fight and claw for their own betterment, including district management, office employee unions, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, janitors. They all have unions, except for management, working very hard to protect their own turf. And by turf, I mostly mean money.

    And, of course, the students (and their parents) have absolutely no part in this turf war except to suffer the consequences of a dysfunctional system.

    Mostly it’s all about the money. But here’s one aspect to judge the power of the teacher’s union in OUSD where there would be no conflict with the other special interests: firing bad teachers. Sadly, all those other special interests don’t care one way or the other.

    Exactly how many teachers in OUSD have been fired for incompetence in the last 10 years?

    Now you can claim that there is not, and never has been an incompetent teacher in OUSD. Or you can admit that the teacher’s union is plenty powerful to protect their members even though the consequence is that the students suffer.

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  15. Jim Mordecai

    Oakie: “Actually I was responding to Pablo and his/her stridence in referencing “union busting” and framing charter schools as enemies (certainly they’re not enemies to the parents who choose to go that route to better satisfy their desire to educate their own children).”

    As a believer in unions as a bedrock of American democracy, I stand with Pablo in being as strident as I can, hoping that the next superintendent will be supportive of negotiating with the District’s unions and not intent on busting them.

    And, as also a believer that charter schools are the means of privatizing public education and busting unions I seek to be as strident as possible in seeking the public’s support in reducing the Oakland charter school cancer that diverts public education dollars to the bank accounts of the charter school privatizers.

    When the charter school teacher is incompetent it doesn’t matter if he or she is an at-will employee if the mom and pop charter is governed by a family employing their relatives. And, if you don’t like the job your child’s teacher is doing, private management doesn’t have to talk with you– let alone– listen to you. These are the type of issues that arise when you privatize public institutions.

    However, I don’t the means of making public education better is to privatize it or create some kind of dragnet that catch incompetent public or charter school teachers and throw them away. In California most teachers in both institutions are credentialed and college graduates. But, both institutions usually challenge their teachers with large class size, and enrolled students often speaking other languages than English, and in addition often large percentage of enrolled students are living in the instability of poverty. The complexity of these challenges can’t be solved by charters or stripping workers of their rights.

    If the funding of charter schools by the legislature was not at the expense of public schools, charter schools would not be the enemy of public education.
    Charter schools, with a separate legislative funding stream would not be taking from the funding for public schools. Charter schools could then be a choice that didn’t impact and reduce the funding for public education.

    However, currently every parent decision to enroll their child in a privately managed charter school is a blow against public education. And, those economic blows of declining public education enrollment add up and negatively impact the education that districts such as OUSD can provided its enrolled students. Having super high percentage of publicly funded Oakland K-12 schools being charter schools and one-quarter of Oakland schools makes a mess of Oakland’s budget harming the programs of the District’s enrolled students now and in the future.

    In public school districts like Oakland, if the parents are a union family, enrolling their child in a charter school is also a blow against another union family. Charter school enrollment is a union busting action as much as crossing a picket line. The privatizers win unless union families walk the walk and just say no to charter schools.

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  16. Len Raphael

    Oakie expressed my tentative conclusions about OUSD perfectly.

    And I’m sure Jim is correct about excessive HQ costs but simply shifting the money to teacher compensation isn’t going to fix OUSD’s problems.

    We need a superintendent willing to organize public support for change at both OUSD headquarters and at the schools. Someone who works with everyone to get past demonizing greedy tenured teachers, finding capitalist conspiracies underneath every charter school, that the only successful charter schools are the ones that eliminate hard to teach kids, and saying that schools can’t make much difference against the effects of poverty on student performance.

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  17. Len Raphael

    LC, the media you should be criticizing is the upper management of the Oakland Tribune and the SF Chron for not covering the boring but very important details of OUSD administration. It’s hard enough for any newspaper to make a buck when people would rather get their info for free on the net. As Mayor Quan said about three years ago, she only subscribes to the NYT and gets her other news on the web. That was before the Chron and the Trib started restricting free access.

    Are you a paid subscriber to any local media? Have you contributed money to any online non-profit local media? It’s a “who will help me eat the bread” situation for many people.

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  18. Jim Mordecai

    Len:

    You misunderstood my point. I did not write that paying Oakland teachers the minimum percentage of the budget required by State law would solve the Districts problems.

    My purpose was to inform that the District continues to pay its teachers less than the minimum required by law. And, Oakland is the only district in the area that doesn’t pay its classroom teachers the minimum required.

    Nor did I want my comment on wage thief by the Oakland School Board; and the short changing of classroom teachers being ratified by the County Superintendent, being understood as comments showing participation in the debate over the percentage of how much of the District’s budget should provide for HQ costs verses school sites cost. But, whether teacher costs are classified as HQ costs or school site costs, I believe the law providing minimum amount for teacher costs should be followed.

    And of course I agree that Oakland needs a superintendent that will lead the public to support change. But, that begs the question of what kind of change does Superintendent Wilson have in mind and what will be the means for trying to implement his vision of change.

    So far as I can tell, the Board is picking Superintendent Wilson because he will defer to the Board’s vision of change. I fear that a new superintendent means nothing will change. And symbolic of that fear is my belief that the Board’s new superintendent will in next year’s budget, a budget he in theory is accountable but again will be a budget that short changes its classroom teachers millions.

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  19. Oakie

    Jim,
    I won’t respond to each and every point, although it is tempting. I will just observe that you did not answer the question I asked, and by doing that you did, in fact, answer the question.

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  20. Jim Mordecai

    Oakie: I thought I did answer your question by writing the following: “However, I don’t the means of making public education better is to privatize it or create some kind of dragnet that catch incompetent public or charter school teachers and throw them away.”

    Perhaps because what I wrote is missing key words to make sense of what I was trying to say, you didn’t get the message I was trying to convey. Here is my edited version:

    I don’t think the means of making public education better is to privatize it or create some kind of dragnet that catches incompetent public or charter school teachers and throws them away.

    There is little or no evidence that doing away with workers rights increases the effectiveness of the performance of teachers. If the idea had validity then surely charter school at-will employees would perform better than public school employees. There are probably a number of changes we both would like to see a new superintendent rally the community to support, but union busting is not one that we both could agree on even if it was the rapture and end time.

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  21. Oakie

    Oh, I didn’t see that. I was looking for a number: how many OUSD teachers have been fired for incompetence the last 10 years. I presume the number is zero.

    Not really requires a dragnet. I’ve had enough comments from parents of OUSD students to know there are some there. It’s certainly not zero.

    An incompetent teacher should not continue to be part of the school system. In the rest of the world, that’s pretty obvious. Incompetence is justification for firing doctors, nurses, lawyers, even auto mechanics. But it seems that if you are a teacher in a world of trade unionist zealotry, that’s not an option.

    And yet I am sure all will agree that the students are our number one priority.

    Except when it isn’t.

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  22. Jim Mordecai

    Oakie: There you go again trying to distort with your Oakie Doakie. Now the parents decided long ago in the case of Socrates his incompetency. And, that teacher not having a union to defend him, according to Plato, the parents deciding on their teacher’s competency wasn’t a good idea.

    And, you misrepresent the facts that teachers can’t be fired for incompetency saying: “Incompetence is justification for firing doctors, nurses, lawyers, even auto mechanics. However, all those categories of jobs, including teachers can in theory be fired for incompetency.

    And, if an auto mechanic was an at-will employee without being a trade unionist he or she could be fired without due process. However, if the other professional people were fired, the basis of the firing would have to conform to the professional contract they would likely have had with their employer.

    But, if say it was a Doctor that some felt was incompetent and wanted to take away their credential for practicing medicine. There would have to be a due process hearing. The other professions would require a due process hearing too before a professional board.

    Yet, in California the first two years of teaching teachers are let go for being thought incompetent by their principals. And, there is no data on how many teachers were let go because of a principals judgment of incompetency because a district will not say why they are not retaining a teacher. By not disclosing the reason for not hiring back a teacher, a district avoids the legal cost of having to prove incompetency.

    What happens in school districts is that teachers identified as not up to standard that are in the category of having been asked back starting their third year of teacher are suppose to be provided with help and then dismissed if they don’t measure up to the District’s standard. But, it is up the District administration to document their assertion of incompetency.

    The turnover in teacher personnel is huge and some of the teachers that leave are likely competent and some incompetent. If principals are doing their job, the teachers that make it to their third year will usually be seen by parents as competent if the teacher is not acting like Socrates and getting his/her students to question everything including ideas parents’ hold dear.

    So why does have a fixation on getting the Oakland incompetent teachers? I think it is because of not understanding that incompetent and competent teachers have rights as government workers under the U.S. Constitution 14 amendment that non-unionized workers do not have. When a teacher is hired he or she signs a contract for working the length of the school year. Unless criminal charges arise, that teacher has a job until the year ends or finances causes a reduction in the teaching force. The 14th amendment, among other things; such as making corporations entitled to the rights of citizens (boo), requires that property rights cannot be taken away without due process (yea). Courts have ruled that signing a contract is a type of property right. The courts have also ruled that charters are not government agents and court school employees usually are second class citizens in determines of workers’ rights unless they are that small number of charter school teachers with union representation.

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  23. LibbyCali

    ON, I am neither on nor not on your “side”. I refuse to see things in an us vs. them format. You hold extreme pride in your place of birth and I hold none. Why would i? I had nothing to do with that happenstance. I had no say or choice in the matter and it’s as far from a personal achievement as a thing could be. Two of my children were born in Walnut Creek but neither have ever lived there. Should they lay claim there anyway?

    I have a fundamental disagreement with your assertion that YOU have more rights than THEY simply because of your mother’s decision to birth and raise you here. That is as Un American as something can be to me. Freedom of movement, choice and travel has it’s consequences and the road is fraught with adversity, but would you have been ok with the town you went to grad school in placing restrictions on YOU simply because you were YOU?

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  24. Oakie

    So you are saying that no teacher has been fired in ten years at OUSD because none of them are incompetent.

    I like your frame on the issue to clarify how we differ.

    It is clear you see the fundamental relationship to be one of employee-employer, which fits your union mantra: teacher as factory worker. I do not. I view the fundamental relationship to be consumer-supplier. That applies whether the service being provided is of a professionally supplied service or not. When I engage an auto mechanic I take my car to a mechanic of my choice. If he/she has someone work incompetently on my car, I’m unhappy and I don’t go back. That is true of doctors, lawyers, or education.

    Therefore my view on education is that I am looking for a quality service. In judging OUSD, I see over the last ten years that they have deplorable results, gone through a state takeover, seen a dramatic fleeing of students from the district. And no one is fired for incompetence in the classroom. In fact there is a term for the year end process in which school principals trade employees: Dance of the Lemons. Are you claiming that is a figment of my imagination?

    That’s not a district I want delivering service to my child, or for that matter for any other child (but the parent should be in control to choose-not me or you).

    And why would you and Pablo so object to charter schools? They don’t have the Dance of the Lemons because the principal is responsible for operating an enterprise to deliver service and they pick and choose teachers to meet that goal (otherwise parents are free to withdraw their children from that school). You wish to stifle our options. You suggest, just give all the money to OUSD instead of to the parent to use in the school of their choice: you will only be happy with a monopoly in which your special interest is in total control. And I bet you say that your number one goal is the best interest for the children. Sorry, it doesn’t look like it from here.

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  25. OaklandNative

    LibbyCali,

    Your argument was that OaklandLocal spent too much on anti-gentrification than on schools. That us v. them was your creation.

    I argued that we were both making similar arguments but from different directions. In other words, criticizing gentrification is not mutually exclusive from our wanting the city to focus more on the schools.

    You also made the statement that you were in Oakland before someone was born. Were you referring to me without knowing how old I am?

    I made a statement about MY being a product of Oakland’s public schools and also having other experiences to contrast it with. I said nothing about your children because I knew nothing about them.

    However, I did say that based on my experiences, I had ideas for improvement. Once again, I said nothing about your children because I knew nothing about them.

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  26. Jim Mordecai

    Okie: My frame is that there is always an unknown number of teachers that are defined by Oakland principals to be incompetent in their first year of teaching and are not invited back for a second year. Then there is likely a smaller number that are not invited back for their third year. But, a California school district that returns a teacher to teach a third year and that teacher earned a rating of satisfactory, or higher, for two years, that teacher from then on has permanent status and a right to due process.

    I think your position is that you want teachers to be at-will employees like so many employees at the charter schools you favor. You believe at-will employees will provide better service. There is not evidence supporting your belief.

    The teachers’ due process right means a teacher must in writing be told why she or he is not being invited back at the conclusion of the school year. And, if a principal wants the teacher with due process rights not to return the next year because the teacher is now after two years determined to be incompetent, the principal must document his or her assertion. Also, the teacher is entitled to a hearing wherein the teacher can defend herself or himself against a District’s charge of incompetency.

    And, while the public does not know how many incompetent teachers were let go in those first two years of teaching in Oakland, the public also doesn’t how many competent teachers were let go because the principal was incompetent?

    Another unknown is how many veteran teachers left or took early retirement when an Oakland principal began documenting a case of incompetency.

    My frame Okie is not that there are no incompetent teachers in Oakland but whatever number is officially reported, that figure understates the number of teachers each year forced out of teaching in Oakland without a competency hearing. Some of the first and second year teachers judged incompetent are among those not brought back for an additional year. But, the reason they are not brought back is never stated to avoid the cost of a hearing.. And, some veteran teachers leave the District or take early retirement rather than be put through a competency hearing.

    I would like to see the system change and provide all teachers, including first and second year teachers, with a right to know why they were not brought back.

    But, I would not like to see the 14th amendment changed to make government employees at-will employees. And, I wished all workers had the right to know why they were fired.

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  27. OaklandNative

    Teaching is a very tough job. I know many people who taught for a year and left running.

    Also, many burn out from hassling with unsupportive (or even worse, know-it-all) parents and incompetent administrators.

    If a teacher can last three years, they get points right there.

    Reply
  28. Len Raphael

    No argument that there are plenty of incompetent school administrators and parents incapable of evaluating the people educating their kids. Teachers should be give due process after their first year. Lifetime tenure to protect college teachers academic freedom makes sense.

    Lifetime tenure for K-12 has to be replaced with a different mechanism.

    Back in the 60’s my dad was forced to retire from teaching music in a big Brooklyn High School (Carol King was once his student) when newly empowered community control board decided to cut back teaching dead white male music. Tyranny of the majority.

    On the other hand when my sons took advanced Spanish at Oakland Tech some 15 years ago, they had a very pleasant tenured language teacher who spent most of the time showing travel videos of Latin America and Spain. The contrast between that teacher and a Mr. Fuentes who used Spanish class to teach generations of Claremont MS kids an amazing depth and breadth of subject matter.

    I don’t know the answer. But if the teacher unions don’t come up with some solutions that address the problems of teachers who retire in place after getting tenure, other solutions will be imposed that throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Reply
  29. Jim Mordecai

    Len: It is repeating a lie that K-12 has “life time tenure”. Please don’t repeat your statement: “Lifetime tenure for K-12 has to be replaced with a different mechanism.”

    Teacher tenure is a policy that restricts the ability to fire teachers, requiring a “just cause” rationale for firing. That is not the same as “Lifetime tenure for K-12.

    The Vergara v. California case currently waiting a judge’s decision is about the claim that the current mechanism, the laws of California pertaining to teacher dismissal injured several California students because the laws prevent districts dismissing incompetent teachers.

    The record of California teacher dismissal is reportedly over years 91 dismissed and 19 dismissed due to poor performance.

    Obviously, if the 19 had lifetime tenure, they could not have been dismissed.

    And, the context of the above figure is that during the probationary period many teachers many do not survive the years of evaluation to become permanent employees and gain the right to have dismissal based on just cause.

    Major problem for school districts like Oakland is not cutting teachers, but their major problem is retaining teachers they recruit that gain experience and move to districts for higher pay and better working conditions.

    We are a country with a tradition of individual right to trial. We can’t maintain our tradition by passing laws that strip its citizens of their right to due process under the U.S. Constitution. We can’t say a teacher is incompetent without due process.

    Unions have a duty to protect their members’ right to due process. The enemies of teacher unions in the media twist that responsibility for teachers’ unions to protect their members’ right to due process to mean teacher unions are concerned with protecting incompetent teachers. Righteous concern of teacher unions is defending its member’s right to due process.

    However, I disagree with teacher union leadership that unions should settle for allowing probationary teachers to be dismissed without just cause.

    Reply
  30. Oakie

    At least it is clear that your primary concern is what’s best for the teachers and not the students.

    All this focus on at will vs unionized employment is a valuable tool in understanding the viewpoint of the dogmatic trade unionist element among the teachers in OUSD. From your viewpoint at will is an awful evil which threatens the 14th Amendment’s integrity (maybe even slavery will return?). Wow. It might be surprising to the uninitiated that 96% of private sector employment is at will and that most people living in Oakland work at will.

    Only in the public sector can the trade unionists corrupt the democratic process and ensure that friendly officials sit across the table from the union reps when contracts are negotiated. I’ve voted in Oakland for more than 30 years and have seen exactly zero people elected to the school board who were not endorsed and supported by the teacher’s union (just like there have been zero teachers fired for incompetence). And I think that is the primary reason we have OUSD in the condition it is in. I pray that some day a judge will rule that those contracts are invalid because The People are not represented fairly.

    But let’s see where do people work at will: Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, SpaceX….. and where do they work with union representation? Chrysler, General Motors, and ……… OUSD.

    I would never advocate that schools set up under your framework be eliminated. It’s true, I would like to see OUSD shut down and put in the dustbin of history. But I would love to see the trade unionists of your ilk set up schools and COMPETE with other schools for students. That way parents would actually get to CHOOSE the educational environment they want. Let the tax money follow the students, let the parents choose, and may the best academic environment win. Now THAT would make what’s best for the students the number one priority. What you argue for does not.

    Reply
  31. Oakie

    Here is a short video showing at will employees working:

    http://www.fastcompany.com/3029114/most-innovative-companies/watch-how-google-x-employees-deal-with-failure

    It’s enough to make a trade unionist’s head explode. All the employee employer framing Jim does is straight out of the Socialist Workers handbook, all derived from theories developed in the mid 19th Century when all work involved sweat shop factory and mining enterprises, as viewed by Marx sitting on his ass in England. The 19th Century called, and they want their dogma back.

    Reply
  32. Jim Mordecai

    Okie: But I would love to see the trade unionists of your ilk set up schools and COMPETE with other schools for students. That way parents would actually get to CHOOSE the educational environment they want. Let the tax money follow the students, let the parents choose, and may the best academic environment win.”

    Ah, Okie Oakie are not charter schools enough privatization of public schools for you and your libertarian ideologues? Now we’ll hear tell of the virtues of vouchers.

    Okie: But I would love to see the trade unionists of your ilk set up schools and COMPETE with other schools for students. That way parents would actually get to CHOOSE the educational environment they want. Let the tax money follow the students, let the parents choose, and may the best academic environment win.”

    Ah, Okie Oakie charter schools not enough privatization of public schools for you and your libertarian ideologues? Now we’ll hear tell of the virtues of vouchers.

    Both charters and vouchers are the selling of the virtue of private interest over public interest. The woman that puts her child in a charter school over a public school is supporting her family interest over the interest of the public. The Okie Oakie is that her action may seem to the parent as a private matter. But, the wider context is that the public sphere has been reduced with the enrollment in privately managed charter school. And, it is that competition between the public and private that libertarians seek.

    So what’s wrong with competition? For one thing the taxpayers have to pay inflated cost to supporting a second K-12 system of public education. Government to serve the people has to provide oversight on how the peoples’ taxes are spent.

    Charter schools for example were created as a deregulated system. But, over time the charter school scandals have born witness to taxpayers’ charter school dollars being misappropriated.

    Beyond misappropriation of dollars from charter school students’ education, additionally there has been the cost of prosecution of these charter school scandals that has diverted huge sums of taxpayers’ dollars from being used for the education of students.

    But, it isn’t just charter schools defending their charters from being revoked that diverts taxpayers public education money from educating students, but the authorizing charter authorities have a duty to oversee and prosecute charter schools.

    For example, given the FCMAT Report of misappropriation of charter school funding, the Oakland Unified School District acted on its duty, but has had to spent unreported thousands on lawyers and consultants that divert education dollars from the classroom to pay for its multiple hearings and subsequent defense of its revocation of the American Indian Model Charter School charters before the Alameda County Board of Education.

    Following the duty to uphold the law the cost of prosecuting that duty has to divert funding from public education budgets; and, at the same time, the cost of defending against prosecution is paid by the taxpayer out of dollars better spent on students not lawyers.

    This is but one example why charter school law, that created a competitive system to California K-12 public schools, is bad public policy and a duplication that is a waste of public dollars to satisfy the dream of a tiny group of libertarians.

    Reply
  33. Oakie

    ” Now we’ll hear tell of the virtues of vouchers.”

    I am reminded of Len’s comment suggesting that if the teacher’s union doesn’t figure out how to address the obvious problem of too many bad teachers protected from firing….

    This comment of yours is a “tell” of your mind set and suggests the echo chamber the trade unionists live in. I have no problem with vouchers, in fact I think it’s an excellent idea to try. Without showing overwhelming evidence as to why vouchers are the rebirth of Satan himself, you’d have to indulge me in actual argument that leaves no doubt in the Truth of your position. So far I haven’t been persuaded by much offered so far.

    OTOH I am persuaded that you indeed want what’s best for OUSD and your view of the public interest. I get that teachers feel unappreciated and under siege from all sides while you pour out every ounce of effort to do the best you can. I think that core experience has resulted in your defense of the status quo protections of teachers. But from the outside it seems defensive and small thinking in regards to where the problems are in the current environment, and I don’t think it will ever get to a good place for our students. I’ve indirectly come into contact with OUSD teachers who fall under the conundrum of strident trade unionist, and I don’t like it and wouldn’t want my kid in a classroom run by such a person. It’s one of the reasons I chose not to put my kid in OUSD from kindergarden on. I chose a public school district, though, and largely it was because I did not see that element among the teachers there.

    “Both charters and vouchers are the selling of the virtue of private interest over public interest.”

    I strongly disagree and would argue the exact opposite. Specifically, I have repeatedly pointed out why the teacher protections you defend, which have resulted in zero teachers fired for incompetence since, well, forever, is prima facie evidence that you are wrong: What is in the best interest of the student requires the most competent teachers and that is the public interest, anything else is not.

    Why else would everybody agree with this statement: The students are our number one priority. I will note that I have never heard: Teachers are our number one priority. Even from reps of the teacher’s union. Why is that?

    To my point of view, that is strong evidence. In fact, your term “private interest” actually is the teacher’s interest. You have what is good for the public interest exactly backwards. And it you were right I would have heard “Teachers are our number one priority” as the mantra of the school board elections.

    “But, the wider context is that the public sphere has been reduced with the enrollment in privately managed charter school.”

    I translate your use of “public sphere” to really mean union control and monopolization over taxpayer money. To me the public sphere is servicing the needs of students, and the current condition of OUSD demonstrates that that monopoly has not served the students well. One key part of that monopoly that is a disservice to our students is the protection of incompetent teachers from their removal.

    “So what’s wrong with competition? For one thing the taxpayers have to pay inflated cost to supporting a second K-12 system of public education. Government to serve the people has to provide oversight on how the peoples’ taxes are spent.” And then you enumerate school scandals, misappropriation and other forms of waste.

    My goodness, could we please stack up all the charter school scandals, misappropriation and waste of money versus that for OUSD? I would love to see that comparison. I am particularly amused by your reference to AIM, which was an outrageous use of trumped up charges and clear animus from OUSD management and the union to kill that baby. Unfortunately for you, the actual results of student performance should have made all of you ashamed. But, alas, it certainly did not. We even have the President of our school board loudly proclaiming that she is willing to break the law to prevent any further expansion of charters. But then again, she was just paying back those who funded and worked for her election. I’m quite sure the union will pay her back for this during her reelection campaign.

    What you fail to mention is that charters are not receiving the total per student allotment. First it goes through the authorizing agency (OUSD, Alameda Co Board of Ed, etc.) who manage to “pluck their fair share.” I would like that to be changed and the entire state funding should go directly to the charter. My understanding that stands at about 20%.

    Reply
  34. Jim Mordecai

    Oakie: There you go again with your Oakie Doakie: “I am particularly amused by your reference to AIM, which was an outrageous use of trumped up charges and clear animus from OUSD management and the union to kill that baby.”

    Read Alameda County Requested $30,000 FCMAT Report (cost started with the report and continues to grow with every appeal and illustrates that the true cost of charter schools scandal is unreported.) The findings of FCMAT Report that Dr. Chavis and his wife misappropriating charter school funding to his multiple private business accounts are documented. Your Oakie Doakie is to assert that the facts in the report are trumped up charges. Can you back up your assertion with a facts, or you feel you can do your Oakie Doakie thing of dancing around facts by throwing out the assertion the report trumping up charges? i suggest you check with a lawyer before you put in writing the assertion that FCMAT “trumped up charges” against Dr. Chavis and his wife.

    Apparently Okie your libertarian love of market competition dogma forces you to turn a blind eye to misappropriation of taxpayers’ money when it shows up in a charter school scandal. It appears you just don’t want accountability for your charter school babies.

    I would be curious if your market competition fixation extends to a love of the California Office of Reform Education (CORE) because it is a private (non-profit Corporation) interest. Perhaps you view through your libertarian glasses a corporate group of superintendents using its access to school districts to push their idea of education reform without the baggage of public view a clever use of incorporation to bypass the frustration of representative government. The CORE Corporation has privilege access to school districts because it is a consortium of ten (10) California school district superintendents.

    In May the school districts that want to continue with the NCLB waiver that last year was applied for by the private CORE corporation will be applying to the Obama Administration to continue the waiver. The Sacramento City School Board has voted not to apply for another year of the NCLB Waive.

    My guess is that you could care less about decisions of the OUSD School Board, except if those decisions impact your charter school babies. But, such an attitude is yet another reason that privatizing public education was a bad idea: because creating an alternative competitor to public education not only is a wasteful duplication; but the existence of competitive public education system, reduces the interest the members of the public invested in charter school have in seeing its public school system works democratically for the public good. Such is a down side of to love of competition.

    And, as a libertarian you could care less about democratic process because your priority, your God, is a competitive market, a view you will defend with your Oakie Doakie evermore.

    Reply
  35. Oakie

    I am very pleased. Although you would not clearly state whether or not your top priority is the students or the teachers, I think it should be very clear by the end of this entry in this very long thread that you and your cohort of like minded trade unionists who dominate OUSD could not possibly have the student’s interest as your top priority. I will respond to the AIM issue to demonstrate even more clearly evidence to this conclusion.

    I will admit that I really had no more knowledge about the AIM doings than reading maybe a half dozen newspaper articles could provide. My comment about trumped up charges was based on the smell of the controversy: here we have the OUSD judging AIM and concluding that they were not financially responsible and therefore denied their charter to continue operating at a time when they produced outstanding academic achievement. Does anyone else see the irony of this? A district that had to be taken over by the state for 6 years because they could not function competently to, well, be financially responsible for operating the district, and producing depressingly poor academic performance. Talk about pot calling the kettle, ….

    And, of course, the OUSD school board, to a person elected with the financial and manpower support of the teacher’s union, who (as demonstrated by commentary from you and Pablo) pour vituperation on any and all charter schools, gives clear evidence of motivation to close down the school using any basis available.

    After being ordered to be shut down by the OUSD school board, and then appealing to Alameda County BofE and being turned down, AIM went to court to appeal. And what did the judge do? http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/local/judge-allows-oakland-charter-school-stay-open/nYjSN/
    The judge granted AIM a preliminary injunction to continue operating until it could appeal. The judge said “he believed American Indian would prevail on the merits of the case if it went to trial.” Got that? Merits of the case.

    But here is the shocking part:
    “The judge also said that the school district failed to comply with a new federal regulation that improvement in student achievement must be the most important factor in considering whether to revoke a school’s charter, according to Yamakawa.”

    Got that? OUSD school board violated the law by doing this. And, don’t forget, the school board President has publicly said she will violate the law and not allow any more charters to exist under OUSD. They are an unlawful bunch, aren’t they?

    Now that Jim has tweaked my interest, I found this article which I will quote from:
    http://www.city-journal.org/2013/23_3_snd-aims.html

    “A new state law requiring district officials to make students’ academic performance and improvement the “paramount consideration” in deciding whether to revoke school charters.”

    That’s a stunner: student academic performance is the paramount consideration. Can you see why my head is exploding? Let me explain by citing what I discovered by looking at objective measurements of academic performance.

    AIM “ranked first in the district and fourth in the state. U.S. News and World Report placed the system’s third campus, the American Indian Public High School, 38th on its list of the best high schools in America. In the state’s English language arts tests, 87 percent of AIMS students score as “proficient” or “advanced,” compared with 47 percent [OUSD] district-wide. In math, the breakdown is 88 percent for AIMS versus 46 percent for the [OUSD] district; in history and social science, it’s 98 percent versus 31 percent. Oh, and AIMS accomplishes all that while spending roughly half the amount of money per pupil that the district does.”

    I particularly enjoyed the kicker in the last sentence: all these academic comparisons are accomplished at half the cost of what OUSD spends. How bout that? If the charge of AIM financial impropriety would be true, how would this be possible? Any decent embezzler would be ashamed with this performance alleged against Chavis.

    The Washington Post ranked AIM High School as the number one most challenging high school in the entire nation:
    http://apps.washingtonpost.com/local/highschoolchallenge/

    According to Wikipaedia :
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Public_Charter_School

    In 2001, AIPCS had an API of 440, near worst among Oakland middle schools.[That’s when Ben Chavis took over the school]

    In 2006, AIPCS had an API of 967, eighth highest in the state, where the median API is roughly 750, and highest in the state among schools serving mostly low-income children, which typically score around 650 on the measure.

    OUSD score is 728. Nice job, OUSD/Union.

    Was 2006 a fluke year? Uh, no:
    In 2010, AIPCS had an API of 988 – making it the highest performing middle school in all of California.

    I was particularly please by comparing that API of 967 that AIM achieved to the local standard of excellence in a very wealthy district:

    Piedmont Middle School, with few low-income students, had an API of 918 and 8th-grade proficiency levels of English 83%[AIM was 100%], Math 88%[AIM was 100%], Science 81%[AIM was 98%] and History/Social Science 80%[AIM was at their worst!! at 93%].

    If the rich parents in Piedmont sniff this out, I would bet they start thinking about transferring their kids…

    I was shocked, and I thank Jim for tweaking my interest to find these informative (and objective) measurements of student performance at AIM, especially compared to what OUSD has done under the domination of the teacher’s union.

    So let’s return to my theme: Is your number one priority the students? All I can see in your responses is focused on employee-employer rights, at will versus unionized employment, free market vs I-don’t-know-what-you’re-offering. Here, I am talking about objective measurements of academic achievement, and your enemy, AIM and apparently any charter school that dares to challenge the monopoly of OUSD/Teacher’s union, demonstrates success and accomplishment on what I consider the number one priority: educating the student.

    And the sweet sweet kicker? AIM accomplishes this at HALF THE COST of what OUSD requires for quite miserable objective and quantifiable results.

    And are they cherry picking students?
    “Approximately 97% of AIPCS students are ‘socioeconomically disadvantaged'”

    And are they shutting out underachieving minority groups?
    23% are African-American
    22% are Latino
    < 2% Caucasian

    Most impressively:
    "The school's Asian, African-American, and Latino students perform similarly on standardized tests."

    Now I could easily engage in evaluation of the charges made against AIM for financial impropriety (a total of under $4 million of questionable spending, btw, compared to OUSD where they easily misjudge budgeting to the tune of up to $100 million per year-they squander $4 million between coffee breaks). Based on the cited articles and other readings, I believe I can easily show that the charges against AIM and the basis for closing down the school are somewhere between minor aberrations and essentially all trumped up charges.

    But I don't think that would be particularly purposeful. Instead, I will offer this conclusion:

    If I were a member of the Cohort of Jim/OUSD/Union, and professed (but haven't had the time to say it yet) that educating our students is the number one priority, then I would take the experience of what AIM has accomplished and respond thusly:

    OUSD/Union should immediately call an emergency task force to evaluate how a school could spend half as much money as OUSD/Union does per student and outperforms Piedmont, produces what is called the most academically challenging high school in the nation, scores in the top ten statewide and is number one educating the disadvantaged (97% of the student body is socioeconomically disadvantage, more than 98% nonwhite).

    If OUSD/Union made the students in their charge their number one priority, that is exactly what they would do. Instead of using that mighty effort to discredit, scandalize, slander and shut down the AIM experiment.

    Over to you, Jim.

    Reply
  36. Oakie

    All rightie. I reflect back on my fundamental question: Are you agreeing that the interest of our students is our number one priority, or not? Your responses have talked a great deal about employee-employer relationships, at-will versus unionized employment, free market versus I-don’t-know-what-is-your-alternative-other-than-monopoly-control. But no clear throated response to that simple question.

    So I will respond to the AIM charter school issue you bring up, but at the end I will return to this very same question: Are our students the number one priority?

    I admit I have very little knowledge about the attempt by OUSD to close the AIM charter school for financial malfeasance. I’ve read maybe a half dozen newspaper articles on the matter. My belief that the charges were trumped up are based on the appearance of non-neutrality of OUSD, the school board and the teacher’s union. After all, the amount of money involved in the charges amount to under $4 million, and I remind you that OUSD has been under state takeover for 6 years in which the core issue was, well, financial malfeasance. Annual budget decificits involved numbers upward of $100 million occurred. OUSD squanders $4 million between coffee breaks. I will also point out the rabid dislike in comments here about charters in general, and specifically I found some of the words used by Pablo were downright uncivil. So it is quite clear where the cohort of support of the teacher’s union stand. And since every single School Board members was elected with the full support of that union, both in terms of money donated and manpower, the fact that our school board would deny the right of AIM to continue operating is suspect, at least. And given the financial malfeasance that has already been proven against them, then it’s the pot calling the kettle….

    So now you’ve tweaked my interest and I’ve done a little research about AIM. Here are my sources:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Public_Charter_School
    http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-charter31-2009may31,0,1709683,full.story
    http://oaklandwiki.org/American_Indian_Model_Schools
    http://www.city-journal.org/2013/23_3_snd-aims.html
    http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/local/judge-allows-oakland-charter-school-stay-open/nYjSN/
    http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2013/2013GrowthDstApi.aspx?cYear=&allcds=0161259&cChoice=2013GDst2

    In July last year AIM appealed the OUSD School Board’s decision (voting 4 to 3) to revoke AIM’s charter for fiscal malfeasance based on primarily certain transactions involving Chavis personally and the district, which he ran. The Alameda County BofE agreed with OUSD (voting 5 to 10).

    The judge issued a preliminary injuction in favor of AIM, blocking the revocation, which allows them to continue operating until the trial process completes. According to AIM’s attorney, the judge “ believed American Indian would prevail on the merits of the case if it went to trial.”

    Got that? The judge indicated that he thought AIM would win their appeal on the merits of their case. “The judge also said that the school district failed to comply with a new federal regulation that improvement in student achievement must be the most important factor in considering whether to revoke a school’s charter, according to Yamakawa.”

    Got that? Federal law requires that the most important factor is student achievement at the school. Furthermore, state law “requir[es] district officials to make students’ academic performance and improvement the “paramount consideration” in deciding whether to revoke school charters”

    Got that? “Paramount Consideration” is the standard by which the revocation process MUST by state law be the hurdle.

    So how did AIM students perform?

    “The American Indian Public Charter School II, which serves 650 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, ranked first in the district and fourth in the state. U.S. News and World Report placed the system’s third campus, the American Indian Public High School, 38th on its list of the best high schools in America. In the state’s English language arts tests, 87 percent of AIMS students score as “proficient” or “advanced,” compared with 47 percent district-wide. In math, the breakdown is 88 percent for AIMS versus 46 percent for the district; in history and social science, it’s 98 percent versus 31 percent. Oh, and AIMS accomplishes all that while spending roughly half the amount of money per pupil that the district does.”

    Got that? 87% Proficient overall vs OUSD 47%. In math 88% vs OUSD 46%; in History 98% vs OUSD 31%.

    And the real kicker? AIM spent HALF AS MUCH PER STUDENT than OUSD to accomplish these incredibly superior results.

    The Washington Post identified AIM as having the most challenging high school IN THE COUNTRY. Won’t find any of OUSD’s on that list, no matter how long.

    “In the five years since Chavis arrived, the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) had more than doubled. API scores range from a minimum of 200 possible points to a maximum of 1000 possible.
    In 2001, AIPCS had an API of 440, near worst among Oakland middle schools.
    In 2006, AIPCS had an API of 967, eighth highest in the state, where the median API is roughly 750, and highest in the state among schools serving mostly low-income children”

    Was that a fluke? Uh, no:
    “In 2010, AIPCS had an API of 988 – making it the highest performing middle school in all of California.”
    OUSD districtwide API is 728.

    The school’s 41 8th graders’ Proficiency Rate in 2009:
    English: 100% vs OUSD nearby Westlake 30%; Math : 100% vs OUSD Westlake 34%
    Science : 98% vs OUSD Westlake 46%; History: 93% vs OUSD Westlake 23%

    But let’s compare to one of the wealthiest schools in our area, Piedmont Middle School:
    API: 988 vs Piedmont: 918
    English proficiency: 100% vs Piedmont 83%; Math proficiency: 100% vs Piedmont 88%
    Science proficiency: 93% vs Piedmont 81%; History proficiency: 93% vs 80%

    Ok, so what about the demographics?
    23% African-American
    22% Latino
    < 2% Caucasian

    Ok, what about the socioeconomic status?
    “Approximately 97% of AIPCS students are ‘socioeconomically disadvantaged’”

    Ok, what about the performance of the underachieving minority groups?
    “The school's Asian, African-American, and Latino students perform similarly on standardized tests.”

    Here’s the thing: we could get into the details of the charges made against AIM for financial impropriety. I’ve read enough to be able to argue that the truth is that the charges are somewhere between minor to totally bogus. The bulk of the money involved has to do with rent paid because he was the landlord (and he claims he charged half market prices) and remodeling projects which he performed as a licensed contractor (and he says he was the lowest bidder). But in no case has anyone shown that the problem is more than a tiny fraction of the $4 million (they had to pay rent to someone, the question is did he overcharge, same goes for the remodeling work). Remember: AIM spent HALF what OUSD spends per child. If Chavis really is an embezzler, he did a terrible job of it.

    The reason I really don’t want to get into the weeds of those charges is that they are minor, and, by federal and state law, the “paramount consideration” in the revocation issue must be the academic performance achieved by the students. And I think the evidence in that regard is quite clear.

    So to conclude, I ask once again: Is the single most important priority the students?

    If OUSD and their unions really had the student’s interest as their number one priority, I would expect that the results you see above should cause the district to immediately organize an emergency task force and figure out how AIM dramatically increased student performance while cutting the cost of delivering that education in half.

    The fact that the district and those special interest parties do not, and instead try to figure out how to revoke AIM’s charter and close the school, suggests otherwise.

    Reply
  37. Oakie

    I’m sorry I submitted a rewritten version of my previous reply. When I checked, it was removed and thinking it got lost, I redid it from scratch (since Java doesn’t save my work in the web form. Sorry about that. (To make matters worse, there’s no way to delete my submittal once submitted)

    Reply
  38. Jim Mordecai

    Okie: I see that you have back peddled from your earlier assertion: ““I am particularly amused by your reference to AIM, which was an outrageous use of trumped up charges and clear animus from OUSD management and the union to kill that baby.”

    Perhaps my cautioning you to lawyer-up had an impact. You have now done a little research and checked various newspaper accounts that you listed as the basis of protecting you from a law suit. Interesting that you assert the charges against AIM were “trumped up” and clear animus from OUSD management and the union BEFORE you did your research!

    If you would have done your research and actually read your listed newspaper accounts, without your bias blinding you, you would have learned that the basis for the Oakland School Board bringing an action to revoke the AIM charters was a $30,000 dollar FICMAT report. That report remains online and can be found by Goggling “FICMAT and American Indian Model Charter Schools. The FICMAT report was commissioned by the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan after receiving a whistle-blower tip of possible misuse of AIM funding.

    And, I suggest you read the FICMAT report before asserting in your Oakie Doakie that FICMAT investigators took part in creating “trumped up” charges with intent to destroy AIM.

    Let’s for the sake of argument say you actually read the FICMAT report and find that you are convinced that millions were diverted into the private businesses of Dr. Chavis and his wife. Would not your reference to making the interest of students a priority lead you to want to hold the management that diverted charter school funds accountable?

    Reply
  39. Len Raphael

    Somewhere in between the current limited tenure protection given OUSD teachers after their probationary period and zero protection under the “at will” status that most non union, private sector employees get, there has to be something that will protect teachers from arbitrary capricious administrators and parents, but will also make it easier to fire teachers who burn out or simply stop trying at some point after the probationary period.

    Jim, if I read your comment correctly, only a tiny fraction of OUSD teachers have been fired in recent years after their probation period ended?

    Teachers are only human. Some real fraction of them need to find other work if they can’t be trained and counseled to be effective teachers.

    It’s not an issue limited to teachers or to Oakland but for reasons I don’t understand, it seems to be more prevalent in ours than in others.

    if we switch from focusing on teachers, and look at Oakland police officers you’ll a situation where police and fire fighters were given something teachers might prefer: binding arbitration for all personnel matters from pay to working conditions to terminations for alleged civil rights abuse.

    Politically the voters were persuaded to approve binding arbitration because state law forbids police and fire fighters from striking.

    I see the equity argument but in practice, extremely few police offers have been fired in the decade or so since binding arbitration was approved by Oakland voters. The cause of that might be the process by which arbitrators are selected. Each side has veto power but arbitrators want to get selected next time and take a ‘splitting the baby” approach to discipline that results in very few firings. The arbitration for compensation takes the form of the arbitrators surveying the pay and benefits of fire and police in nearby cities that also have binding arbitration, eg. SF and Berkeley, so that’s a feedback loop that ratchets up compensation for police and fire fighters.

    The result of that has been that compensation costs for police and fire, currently employed and retired, are eating up taxpayer capacity to pay local taxes. That means less money for OUSD facilities and teachers.

    We have to find procedures that are equitable and effective at improving outcomes for the residents of Oakland. Not just for teachers but for all of our public employees

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  40. Jim Mordecai

    Len:

    The figures I found for official termination were for the whole state and not for just Oakland. But, understand the big problem is retaining teachers in Oakland with the factors of relative low pay and challenging working conditions.

    Also, in practice, teachers that have pass through their probationary years successfully, and earned a right to due process hearing, whereby a district administration must establish by documentation a case of just cause for dismissal, simply leave when a district has a documented case against them rather go through the hearing process and be branded a lemon.

    That is why the small number of teacher dismissals each year is so low for the state and doesn’t reflect the whole story. There is no data available in Oakland on how many permanent teachers left because the Oakland administration has built a case against them.

    And, wouldn’t you want a dismissal system built on the current system practice of releasing the bulk of the teachers it wants dismissed during their probationary period?

    Can the laws for teacher dismissal be improved? Of course.

    From my point of view I would like to see the process of dismissal applied to probationary and permanent teachers. However, I recognize a real world problem is that the cost to unions and school districts would sky rocket if due process was extended to probationary teachers.

    Binding arbitration may be less costly but if all inclusive binding arbitration law would likely still generate greater costs; whereas, it is cost effective for districts and unions not to pay for additional hearings under the present system.

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  41. Len Raphael

    Firing teachers who don’t improve enough with training and mentoring sure wouldn’t help students if we can’t find anyone better to replace them.

    Jim, what are the stats for teacher turnover here compared to say Hayward, Alameda, San Leandro, and Berkeley?

    Have there been any independent exit surveys done to find out why teachers leave OUSD?

    How does OUSD compare in total compensation, pay plus benefits etc. compared to those school districts?

    Do most of them leave teaching or just OUSD?

    I can only guess that it’s more the challenges of teaching inner city kids than the pay that motivates teachers to leave.

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  42. Jim Mordecai

    Len:

    You raise key and important questions that I hope someone better informed that myself will post answers.

    Jim Mordecai

    Reply
  43. Oakie

    Jim,
    At first read, your response puzzled me. I have admired your rigorous advocacy and argumentation. But this post seems so small and petty, focusing on a Gotcha Game, claiming I’m “lawyering up” at your suggestion against some mysterious lawsuit headed my way so I should fear for speaking my mind. What’s all that about?

    I don’t really want to get into the weeds of the claims which were the basis of OUSD’s revocation of AIM’s charter, I would summarize briefly my position:

    1. The total amount involved in the claimed malfeasance is $3.4 million, most of which went to rent and remodeling costs. And no one seems to claim that any of it was excessive or contrary to market prices, only that the administration was sloppy or failed to meet proper arms length standards, a claim for which I point out is galling given OUSD’s propensity in regard to their own operations. The amount of money actually contested as misspent is almost zero. The fact that the money went into Chavis’ pocket because he is the landlord and he is the licensed contractor has zero value in this claim (see #2). The fact that this is the focus of your response is telling. As is the fact of who are the driving forces behind this revocation: OUSD (spent 6 years in state takeover for fiscal malfeasance), its School Board (whose president, elected with teacher’s union vigorous support, has publicly said she would break the law to ensure no more charters are authorized), Sheila Jordan’s BofE (a former OUSD school board member, again, elected with the support of the teacher’s union) and some mysterious and unnamed “whistle blower” who clearly could be sourced out of the animus from the teacher’s union rather than some independent nonpartisan voice.

    2. The appeals judge has indicated he believes that AIM will beat OUSD’s revocation at trial due to the merits of their case. Entirely disregarded by you.

    3. Federal and state law make it very clear the “PARAMOUNT CONSIDERATION” in a revocation of charter process MUST BE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE of the students. I hate shouting, but this is such a profoundly important point, I feel I must. Entirely disregarded by you.

    4. The evidence I provide regarding the astounding academic performance at AIM relative not only to OUSD but even Piedmont has in no way been challenged by you, by OUSD, by OUSD School Board or by Sheila Jordan’s BofE or the mysterious whistle blower. Entirely disregarded by you.

    That is just a rehash of what I have already said, so I think I will end my participation in that topic because I have nothing really to add and it’s going to get boring if it hasn’t already. I will let third party independent eyes look at our arguments and they can judge for themselves.

    I appreciate Len’s attempt to find some ground of compromise. But I think nibbling at the edges over binding arbitration or recruitment modifications is entirely of the “rearranging chairs on the Titanic” variety.

    All those economically disadvantaged kids in the Kill Zones of Oakland, suffering disorder and poverty and PTSD in their life cannot wait for middle class white people to play small ball while they suffer the consequences of a dysfunctional school system. Those of us on the affluent outside just don’t get the urgency and the evidence of what AIM has done. AIM’s academic performance results cannot be ignored if those kids are your number one priority. I can’t see any other way of viewing it. [Insert Nero reference here ;)]

    As to the teacher shortage, I googled it and found one article from 2009 saying there’s a glut of new teachers now because of the Great Recession, which is probably outdated at this point, and a number of hits for a very serious teacher shortage: in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan.

    But I would not doubt that there is special difficulty in OUSD’s recruitment effort: you’re asking twenty and thirty somethings to become a union member in a fierce worker/management struggle that resembles General Motors in the 1930’s. I’m guessing even your offer of lifetime employment no matter how incompetent they are isn’t much of an enticing offer to them: You’re trying to sell a corded AT&T rotary dial phone to kids who would scoff at even a flip phone. You spice the offer by pointing out that they now get a choice of color!

    And I also googled charter school teacher shortage and found nothing (except a recruitment firm clearly using FUD to scare schools into using their services). Remember that video I linked to showing Google X employees? They were twenty and thirty somethings working in an enviously pleasant job. THAT’s the opportunity recruits want, and that’s what the charter school environment can offer rather than that shiny new red AT&T corded home phone.

    A recruitment problem at OUSD is a symptom not a cause of the problem. Wake up folks.

    Reply
  44. LibbyCali

    ON,
    My children are white (almost entirely). You have made many, many statements about white people, therefore you have made many statements regarding white people with no mincing of words. Therefore, you have said many things about myself, my children and all peop,e who resemble us without knowing us. Your words,you put out there and you own them.

    Once again, I will state this: Reporting on OUSD is not the same as reporting on the state and happenings in education in a broad sense in Oakland. Again, the district, this district, the one that the two gentleman continue to debate the debate they have had for the last few years on various comment sections…that is what I’m referring to. The single largest slice of the pie budget wise of the city. OUSD. It is not the same as “education”.

    Reply
  45. LibbyCali

    Oakie-

    You really should not keep commenting and commending AIPCS. It’s so clear you are doing jam research on the spot. Chavis stole millions and millions of dollars. His own board attempted to disthrone him, but were unable to. Test scores? Read the accounts of ex-teachers and board members re: the test taking methods. Research how AIPCS students fair post AIPCS. It’s a travesity and you undermine your argument.

    I don’t have the answers, I will never claim that. My experience is that OUSD teachers (like all public California teachers, only more so) are under-paid and grossly under-supported in terms of extra staff and supplies. The powers that be agree to the absurdity of things like to 2 year tenure to get out of paying a 2 year year teacher a remotely livable salary. This is what The Union busters have created, not the other way around. I’ve had children in over 45 different OUSD classrooms now and I wholly disagree with you that they care more about teachers than students. How many OUSD classes have you been exposed to again? How district teachers do you actually know?

    Your experience with teachers in a wealthier district also includes extra staff, support and supplies without the continuing threat of pink slips looming to knock out half your colleagues each year. You know not what you speak of.

    Reply
  46. Oakie

    LibbyCali:

    Help me out here, I’m googling about and can’t find any credible evidence regarding test taking fraud or longitudinal tracking of AIM graduates demonstrating that the school’s a travesty. Can you or anyone else please provide references for your claims? Given the rabid opposition he has, I would have expected any factual evidence like that would have been plastered all over the public web space. The fact is that the best argument mustered that I see is that he “stole millions,” and that is easily refuted with simple logic (IMHO, admittedly, but I see no one successfully refuting my logic). This indicates to me that there is much more smoke than there is fire to the scandal. He has never been charged with a crime, which stealing is, and even his enemies with power (OUSD, its School Board and Sheila Jordan’s BofE) have basically come up with bubkis as evidenced by the judge’s statement that he believes AIM will win their appeal on the merits of their case.

    As best I can understand from your criticism: I will admit to not knowing everything, researching as I go along (even changing my mind when I get convinced!) and having minimal contact with OUSD. The only exception in my case was the annual hajj I was required to take to the Personnel offices to get a signature on my kid’s inter-district transfer, which I started with kindergarten and continued until OUSD was forced to stop requiring that form to allow me to have an unrestricted right to choose what district to put my kid in (this added to my animus toward OUSD). I am allergic to OUSD. I have known a dozen or two of teachers working in the district, and it is in fact as a result of what they had to say that I concluded it is an unresolvable disgrace. I voted with my feet.

    From my reading it is very clear that Chavis is a very antagonistic person. I found his web site for Crazy as a Fox at http://crazylikeafoxthebook.com/

    I was surprised to find that a lot of my own conclusions appear to match what he is saying to defend himself. If you check out the web site (sadly moribund and not updated in a while) you will find a number of videos of him that will surely provide a reason for anyone to hate him. He is a lightning rod, for sure.

    He savors controversy. Here is a part, apparently, of AIM’s application form: “Multicultural specialists, ultraliberal zealots, and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply”

    He’s controversial, no doubt. He won’t be to everyone’s taste. But Deng Xiao Ping said it best: black cat, white cat, makes no difference-it’s whether the cat catches mice. From what I can see so far, AIM is catching mice.

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  47. Jim Mordecai

    Okie: Let me make it simple for you. Google the $30,000 FICMAT report and don’t tax yourself with a search for AIM testing fraud as testing fraud was not the basis of the District’s revocation of AIM charters. And, the FICMAT report was the reason the vote of the Alameda County Board of Education upheld the revocation. And, if the State Board of Education upholds the revocation, the FICMAT report will be the basis for the decision.

    Let me clear up another misunderstanding you seem to have. The State Board of Education will be the decider on the revocation of the AIM charters. Why you correctly have found and referenced the sub-paragraph of Education Code 47605.5 that makes student test scores the priority in a decision to revoke a charter, it is ambiguous whether the State Board will consider that language in its decision making because the placement of the language seems to be in reference to the authorizing authority making the decision of revoking. Perhaps the State Board of Education will look at the language of sub-paragraph (2) as not part of its decision making process.

    The second sub-paragraph I’ve posted clearly refers to the State Board’s narrowing its decision on whether the basis for revocation was “supported by substantial evidence”.

    Will the Board think the $30,000 FICMAT report was “substantial evidence”? The Board’s decision may reflect an answer to that question. Or, it may reflect that the Governor of California is the founder of two Oakland charter schools and his influence on the State Board of Education is decisive. And, of course there will be speculation on what determined the State Board of Education’s decision.

    From Ed Code Section 47605.5:

    (2) The authority that granted the charter shall consider Increases in pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils served by the charter school as the most important factor in determining whether to revoke a charter.

    (4) The state board may reverse the revocation decision if the state board determines that the findings made by the chartering authority under subdivision (e) are not supported by substantial evidence. The state board may uphold the revocation decision of the school district if the state board determines that the findings made by the chartering authority under subdivision (e) are supported by substantial evidence.

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  48. Oakie

    Jim,

    Okay, that seems like a wrap. Thanks for the added detail.

    I’ll let stand my 4 points as my best argument regarding AIM. My Point 1 is challenged but I believe my logic showing how little money is really in dispute for being misspent and the rest is trivial and blown out of proportion to the crime because of the obvious animus of the people involved. LibbyCali makes claims about “stealing” but I have seen no evidence to support that and the fact that there have been no charges by the DA as my evidence. My Point 2 seems to be a question as to the role of the court case, which seems to be going in support of AIM side and may or may not be relevant to how the revocation will play relative to the State BofE. My Point 3 is only challenged in the sense that state regulation may or may not be ambiguous about making academic performance the paramount consideration (it’s hard for me to see how that word could be ambiguous), although my understanding is that there are federal regulations to the same affect also. My Point 4 was challenged by LibbyCali but hasn’t provided any evidence to support it yet, otherwise it is entirely unchallenged.

    Since my Point 4 is evidently unchallenged then I would conclude: AIM catches mice, and OUSD has not, is not, nor is capable of catching mice. If Mr. Wilson’s number one priority is the students, then he will demonstrate that by being concerned about whether he can change OUSD so that it is capable of catching mice. If not, he’ll be calling us on that rotary land line phone. But it now comes in colors! And I’ll be voting on their next parcel tax accordingly.

    Reply
  49. Barbara Grady

    OUSD Board postponed voting on the superintendent nominee until April 30. It cited “logistical reasons” for changing plans from voting this week. The April 30 special meeting for the vote will be at 5 p.m. at the La Escuelita Education Center on Second Avenue, the same place the board has its regular meetings.

    Reply
  50. Christian Mannhood

    Earlier, Wilson was High School Instructional Superintendent and earlier still a high school principal. OUSD said that Wilson gained acclaim for his work as principal of Denver’s formerly troubled Montebello High School, where he turned around achievement such that the percentage of students accepted into two and four-year colleges soared from 35 percent in 2005 to 95 percent in 2008.

    It was such as success that two years later Denver Public Schools would close Montebello.

    http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16653885

    The student acceptance rate doesn’t really tell one anything with our knowledge of the denominators, does it?

    Reply

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