Welcome back to the Oakland Ed Week in Review! This is our weekly roundup of education news articles from Oakland and around the state and nation to help you stay up-to-date with what’s going on. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices. Here’s what we have for you this week: the Oaklandside profiles District 5 school board candidate Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez; California bans suspensions for willful defiance; and a look how can schools are trying to adapt rapidly to climate change. (Photo credit: KALW)
Meet Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez, candidate for Oakland school board
Upon arriving in Oakland, Ritzie-Hernandez was enrolled in the newcomer program at Havenscourt Middle School (now Coliseum College Prep Academy), later attended Roosevelt Middle School for one year, and spent two years at Oakland High School before dropping out. She enrolled that same year at Oasis High School, a charter school that closed in 2009, and eventually graduated from there.
“I fell out of love with education very quickly as I came to the states. I loved the part that was learning in English and being educated, but the bullying and the harassment that I experienced … I wanted to be anywhere else but school,” she told The Oaklandside in an interview. “I dropped out as a result of the harm that I received from OUSD.”
Read the article by Ashley McBride in The Oaklandside
Oakland Youth Commission sets sights on housing and mental health services for young people
One of their major projects this year is the Career Technical Education for Transitional Aged Youth Hub, at 1025 Second Ave.. The facility will provide housing, mental health support, and hands-on job training for young people. The Oakland Youth Commission has been working with the Hub coalition to design the housing project and advocate for funding to complete it. In 2020, the Oakland Unified School District board voted to include the proposed Hub in the Measure Y school facilities bond project list and committed $15 million toward it.
Read the article by Meg Tanaka in Oakland North
OUSD is staring down tough budget decisions
With declining attendance and enrollment rates, a hefty new contract with teachers, rising costs elsewhere, and county and state officials closely monitoring their every move, district leaders are faced with charting a path forward to not only make ends meet, but achieve a level of financial sustainability that OUSD hasn’t seen in a long time.
To get there, the board will almost certainly need to accept one or more of several controversial cost-saving options like closing or merging schools, reducing funding for school sites, and reorganizing the district’s central office. The board recently began discussing its financial priorities, and has until the end of October to submit a list of budget adjustments to the Alameda County Office of Education.
Read the article by Ashley McBride in The Oaklandside
Oakland students greatly benefit from mindfulness & yoga classes
The film asks how we can provide students with the support they need to thrive and pursue their dreams, especially those who deal with violence and poverty. The students featured in the film say yoga and breathing classes have transformed many aspects of their lives.
The number of homeless students attending Oakland Unified schools grew nearly 70 percent over the last three years—up to 1,780 students in 2023, according to The Oaklandside based on data from the school district.
Read and listen to the article by Rose Aguilar and Jehlen Herdman in KALW
Parents and youth host candidate forum for District 5 OUSD board representative
The event was well-attended, with every seat in the room filled to hear what each candidate had to say about issues concerning the parents and teachers. However, Lerma was the only candidate present at the forum, leading to disappointment among some organizers about Ritzie-Hernandez’s absence.
“When someone who is running doesn’t have time for the people in the community, it’s very disappointing, it’s like putting our children last versus putting them first,” stated Tunisia Harris, a mother with several family members in D5 schools and a parent leader with Families in Action.
Read the article by Magaly Muñoz in The Oakland Post
The State of California
Gov. Newsom signs bill banning public school suspensions for ‘willful defiance’
SB 274 “extends the ban on suspending a student on the basis of having disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel.” Skinner prefers “restorative justice” measures, and uses the Oakland Unified School District as exemplary of this policy. “Oakland Unified School District has banned the suspension or expulsion of students based solely upon willful defiance. Oakland Unified offers restorative justice programs in their schools.”
Read the article by Katy Grims in California Globe
WCCUSD partners with firm to help more students access mental health counseling
WCCUSD is among the latest to partner with Care Solace, which provides service to 3 million of the state’s 6 million K-12 students, reaching 377 districts, according to company representatives.
Contra Costa County Office of Education paid $186,626 for the 2023-24 school year for Care Solace in 12 school districts, including WCCUSD, according to spokesperson Marcus Walton.
Read the article by Julia Haney in Richmond Confidential
Families fume over Newsom’s veto of children’s hearing aid bill, call his plan ‘a nightmare’
“Quality is top of mind for us. Some districts are treating it like a second year of kindergarten, which we know doesn’t work,” said Benjamin Cottingham, with Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent, nonpartisan research center. “To be effective, TK needs to be a play-based, developmentally appropriate course of study.”
Read the article by Kristen Hwang in Cal Matters
A fix for California’s teacher shortage? Pull back the retirees who’ve already left
Senate Bill 765 would make it easier to claim exemptions to waive the waiting period to hire a recently retired teacher, and boost the post-retirement compensation limit from 50% to 70% of the median teacher income across the state. The state Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Oct. 14 to sign or veto it.
Read the article by Elissa Miolene in The East Bay Times
Sunol school board refuses to reverse Pride flag ban as tensions simmer
The Sunol Glen school board declined to reverse its Pride flag ban or affirm support for their superintendent on Tuesday night in the first regularly scheduled board meeting since the controversial resolution was approved in September.
Read the article by Will McCarthy in The East Bay Times
Despite new pension law, thousands of retired California teachers are still paying for others’ mistakes
“We still don’t know what a solution looks like, but we’re very concerned about the issue,” said Jennifer Baker, a legislative advocate for the California Retired Teachers’ Association (CalRTA). “That’s a much more complicated conversation. And though we’re exploring it, there are a lot of legal roadblocks.”
Read the article by Elissa Miolene in The East Bay Times
Across The Nation
Large-scale student loan debt forgiveness likely off the table in President Biden’s Plan B
But this process, which leans on a committee of stakeholders to deliberate those rule changes, may not result in the kind of sweeping student loan debt forgiveness Biden’s first plan aimed for. The first neg reg meeting wrapped up Wednesday, and throughout it Education Department officials stressed its limitations, redirecting the conversation on specific borrowers. Threats of litigation are also top of mind.
Read the article by Alia Wong and Zachary Schermele in USA Today
Heat, high water, hurricanes: schools are not ready for climate change
As climate disasters become more commonplace, school districts are learning that a strong storm can put learning in a state of disarray. In New York, a driving rain recently flooded the city, with water seeping into more than 300 schools. Cafeterias and kitchens were unusable; students’ 45-minute commutes turned into two hours; one school was temporarily evacuated.
Read the article by Colbi Edmunds in The New York Times
A new preschool is the sole charter school in D.C.’s wealthiest ward
Parents have criticized a dearth of options in the city’s preschool program, which is intended to be universal. The city guarantees every child a seat in a classroom — somewhere in town, not necessarily in their neighborhood school — through the school lottery process. But there are no pre-K3 seats in Ward 3’s traditional public schools and pre-K4 slots are in high demand. Nearly 2,300 families applied for a total of 363 lottery seats offered at the area’s elementary schools, though it is unclear how many of those families live within the ward.
Read the article by Lauren Lumpkin in The Washington Post
Why are students still so behind post-COVID? Their school attendance remains abysmal
The U.S. Education Department data, analyzed by Attendance Works and Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center, shows that in the 2021-22 school year, 2 in 3 students attended schools with high or extreme levels of chronic absence. Chronic absence typically refers to missing at least 10% of the school year, and the analysis considers a school’s levels to be high or extreme if at least a fifth of its students are chronically absent.
Overall, roughly 30% of students were chronically absent during the 2021-22 year. It was an era still reeling from the devastation of COVID-19 – quarantines were frequent, health needs were vast and hardship was widespread.
Read the article by Alia Wong in USA Today
Who runs the best U.S. schools? It may be the Defense Department.
With about 66,000 students — more than the public school enrollment in Boston or Seattle — the Pentagon’s schools for children of military members and civilian employees quietly achieve results most educators can only dream of.
On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal exam that is considered the gold standard for comparing states and large districts, the Defense Department’s schools outscored every jurisdiction in math and reading last year and managed to avoid widespread pandemic losses.
Read the article by Sara Mervosh in The New York Times
Some colleges pull students from study abroad programs in response to Israel-Hamas war
USA TODAY reached out to more than two dozen colleges, many with a history of having a presence in Israel or large study abroad programs, in the last two days to ask how their programs have been affected by the unfolding crisis. Some schools confirmed students had safely left the area. Others said students and staff remained in the region while their institutions monitor the situation and put in place new safety protocols. A small number of schools reported that by chance, this semester, they have no students and faculty studying in Israel.
Read the article by Zachary Schermele in USA Today
At colleges, violence in Israel and Gaza ignites a war of words
The violence in Israel and Gaza has reignited tensions on U.S. college campuses over a conflict that for decades has fueled student and faculty activism, and divided academic communities. The reaction at Vanderbilt is just one example of the tightrope some college leaders appear to be attempting: renouncing the violence and pleading for security and civility on their campuses, while often sidestepping the contentious politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Read the article by Jack Stripling and Laura Meckler in The Washington Post
3 reasons why more students are in special education
The increase in the percentage of students on IEPs isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to experts. While it could signal that traditional classrooms are less suited to meet the instructional needs of a growing segment of America’s student population, it could also mean that educators have become better at identifying when students need special services and parents have become less resistant to seeking them out for their children.
Read the article by Eesha Pendharkar in Education Week
Banning smartphones at schools: research points to higher test scores, less anxiety, more exercise
Parents, teachers, and education leaders across the United States have entertained similar proposals in recent years as devices have increasingly become a fixture in students’ daily lives. The near-ubiquity of electronics in American homes (a 2021 study from the nonprofit Common Sense Media showed that 43 percent of children aged 8–12 personally owned a smartphone), as well as their potential links to worsening mental health for young people, moved U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to release an advisory warning against excessive social media use.
Read the article by Kevin Mahnken in The74million