A Tone Deaf, Dumb Deciding, and Blindered Board of Education in Oakland

OUSD’s  Board of Education is a mess.  It is so messy the board doesn’t even know how messy it is.  The first meeting of the year was a joke, and not the funny kind.  They gave themselves a raise, while schools are cut, and they inadvertently approved a charter renewal that some members were trying to block—and the they didn’t even know it.

They may still not.

More on that below.

I don’t mean to demean those with sensory disabilities by comparing them to OUSD board, and I use those terms figuratively.  But the board is acting like it is completely tone deaf, so dumb it doesn’t even know its own decisions and willingly blind to the whole reason for its existence.

Tone deafness to community

The SF Gate headline covers this one, “Amid Budget Cuts OUSD Board gives Itself a Raise”- Given the current situation where schools are short on supplies, you gotta wonder why they did this now.  I personally don’t even disagree with paying them something, the Board should not only belong to folks with leisure time, but this is not the time to do it.

Dumb decisions that they didn’t even understand

They also voted to shut down one of Oakland’s best charter public schools.  Or at least they thought they did.   Thing is, they don’t even understand their own rules or the charter law.  So the charter is being automatically renewed.

Yeah you heard that right, while the anti-charter folks were patting themselves on the back, they didn’t even know that they actually approved the school through their inaction.  You can’t make this shit up.

So yeah that pay raise weren’t no merit raise.  And OUSD’s misguided war on charter schools, actually took a comical turn, but it’s not really funny.

The Case for Oakland Charter Academy (OCA)

OCA is one of Oakland’s highest performing schools, and it takes in some of the lowest performing students.  It was also recommended for renewal by the district staff, who historically have been a very rigorous reviewer.  There were some issues raised 2 years ago that had been resolved.  There was no other real evidence against renewal.

And given a chance to explain any of the historical issues, the school had good answers, answers they gave to the staff during the renewal process—however the critical board members never actually asked or visited.

And at one time I remember we used to talk about school performance at the board meetings, and how children are doing, so let me bring us back there, in our first look at OCA

Here are some key data points, that you can check yourself

Complaints that OCA only takes high achieving students are blatantly false-OCA has very low proficiency levels of incoming students, with roughly 1% of incoming students exceeding standards on the SBAC the prior year– check the ERS report

 

 

And let’s look at the district’s own performance framework—OCA performs significantly better than similar schools and has shown real gains with underserved students.

They can stack up against any OUSD or charter middle school and they start with much lower performing students.

Here is the district’s own peer school analysis from the renewal report

So this is the school the OUSD board wants to shut down?  The Board must have a ton of great other options for these families—No it doesn’t.

A Board ignorant of the law and its own rules

So even besides the merits of the board’s decision—its actual actions were completely dumb.  If the goal was to block renewal—they got exactly the opposite.

Let me explain.  The board needs 4 votes to pass a motion.   That night 3 trustees voted in favor of OCA, 2 against and Director Senn abstained (which itself is puzzling since folks are elected to vote not sit on their hands) and one trustee was absent.  So the motion to approve the renewal didn’t pass.

The no votes patted themselves on the back, and the anti-charter members of the crowd were pleased.  But like I said they have no idea what they are doing—their failure to pass a motion denying it (with 4 votes) means that the charter is automatically approved.  These folks don’t even know the rules governing their own actions.

Here’s some free legal advice—for those who want to deny charters at least do your freaking homework (and don’t drive away qualified staff that could help you—too late).

From the ed code

  • (c) If within 60 days of its receipt of a petition for renewal, a district governing board has not made a written factual finding as mandated by Education Code section 47605(b), the absence of written factual findings shall be deemed an approval of the petition for renewal.
  • (1) The district governing board and charter petitioner may extend this date by an additional 30 days only by written mutual agreement.

It’s an unfunny joke.

Blindness to what is good for families

The OUSD board seems to have forgotten why it is there.  I hardly heard a comment from the board focused on student outcomes or the student experience or the schools our families need.   This is a willing blindness with specific blinders.  We are increasingly focused on the politics of schools rather than policies or programs.

This is an election year for many board members and I hope we can refocus.  We need to start asking what is good for kids and families rather than what is good for ourselves, the system, or the bureaucracy.  Until we go back to that north star, I think we will be wandering further into the wilderness, with our most vulnerable families increasingly lost.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “A Tone Deaf, Dumb Deciding, and Blindered Board of Education in Oakland

  1. Dirk: Can you provide the California Education Code section you quoted? I was unable to find this reference.

    From the ed code

    (c) If within 60 days of its receipt of a petition for renewal, a district governing board has not made a written factual finding as mandated by Education Code section 47605(b), the absence of written factual findings shall be deemed an approval of the petition for renewal.
    (1) The district governing board and charter petitioner may extend this date by an additional 30 days only by written mutual agreement.

  2. here tis
    Section 11966.4 Submission of a charter school renewal petition to the governing board of a school district
    (a) A petition for renewal submitted pursuant to Education Code section 47607 shall be considered by the district governing board upon receipt of the petition with all of the requirements set forth in this subdivision;
    (1) Documentation that the charter school meets at least one of the criteria specified in Education Code section 47607(b).
    (2) A copy of the renewal charter petition including a reasonably comprehensive description of how the charter school has met all new charter school requirements enacted into law after the charter was originally granted or last renewed.
    (A) The signature requirement set forth in Education Code section 47605(a) is not applicable to a petition for renewal.
    (b)(1) When considering a petition for renewal, the district governing board shall consider the past performance of the school’s academics, finances, and operation in evaluating the likelihood of future success, along with future plans for improvement if any.
    (2) The district governing board may deny a petition for renewal of a charter school only if the district governing board makes written factual findings, specific to the particular petition, setting forth specific facts to support one or more of the grounds for denial set forth in Education Code section 47605(b) or facts to support a failure to meet one of the criteria set forth in Education Code section 47607(b).
    (c) If within 60 days of its receipt of a petition for renewal, a district governing board has not made a written factual finding as mandated by Education Code section 47605(b), the absence of written factual findings shall be deemed an approval of the petition for renewal.
    (1) The district governing board and charter petitioner may extend this date by an additional 30 days only by written mutual agreement.

    1. The reference you provide Dirk is not Education Code but Regulation from the State Board of Education. But, the State Board Regulation references Education Code 47605 requirement of 60 days for a Board decision to deny a renewal and provide written factual finding to back up the denial.

      The petition for renewal was received at the Board meeting of 10/25/17. 60 days would have put the meeting mid December. If the petitioner had agreed to the additional 30 days the Board would have time to provide written facts for not having renewed.

      The question is did the petitioner agree to the extension because of the holidays?

      If an extension was not agreed to by both parties, then yes, by the Board not having a majority to renew, the petitioner was denied their right to have statement of facts for not renewing within the timeline and therefore their petition is renewed.

      Final point is if the timeline was not complied with, it was NOT the Board but the Boards administration that did do their job. I’m often a critic of the Board not doing their homework but in a big organization the Board is dependent on the Superintendent’s administration not to make timeline errors. Seeing that timeline regulations are complied with is not the job of the School Board.

      1. there was a short extension agreed to that has expired, I actually do think its the board because they didnt seem to understand that not passing a renewal vote does not mean non renewal– you need to vote to deny renewal or approve it, and again I think folks should vote and have their vote counted one way or another.

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