The Oakland Ed Week in Review 4/27/24-5/3/24 

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  

We’re back with our roundup of education news from around The Town, the Bay Area, state, and nation for your weekend reading. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices.  

Here’s what’s been going on: 

Here in Oakland |  Emiliano Zapata Street Academy commemorates 50 years, recognized for aiding at-risk students; Oakland High and Oakland Tech basketball teams honored for state championship, spotlighting leadership and bringing positive attention to Oakland.

In the Greater Bay Area |  Berkeley Unified faces layoffs amid budget shortfall; Bay Area students struggle to secure SAT and ACT seatss; Dublin opens new high school, reflecting community investment; FAFSA glitches impact college decisions, threatening institution closures; Antioch district investigates boss accused of bullying; Berryessa district settles teacher abuse lawsuit; Lawsuit against Benicia district raises alarms on teacher vetting and student safety.

Throughout the State of California |  State Ed Chief Thurmond backs SB 1115 for educator training; California debates financial literacy curriculum control with AB 2927; SB 333 proposes cash aid for homeless high school seniors; Silicon Valley schools face mental health funding cuts; Career pathway programs gain momentum in California; Fresno Unified appoints interim superintendent amid controversy; LAUSD implements reading curriculum; Poway superintendent fired over alleged student intimidation; El Dorado sees trade program interest rise; California sues Rocklin over gender notification policy; Berkeley High unveils all-gender bathroom; West Contra Costa USD faces teacher vacancy complaints; Rural counties struggle to recruit teachers due to distance from universities.

Across the Nation |  Illing Middle School’s ban on cellphones with Yondr pouches showcases a national trend combating distraction; high school seniors consider campus protests in college decisions; a Missouri apprenticeship program tackles special education teacher shortages; Newark installs AI cameras in schools; North Carolina debates school choice; Florida’s teacher “indoctrination” bill raises free speech concerns; Georgia implements school vouchers; a D.C. student club sues over pro-Palestinian views censorship; Teachers adapt to post-pandemic literacy challenges; Montana grapples with charter school expansion; MacKenzie Scott’s donation aids Boston non-profit.

What did we miss?  Hit us up in the comments below: 


Emiliano Zapata Street Academy celebrates half a century in Oakland 

What’s happening: Oakland’s Emiliano Zapata Street Academy marks its 50th anniversary, celebrating its legacy of providing individualized education and support to students on the verge of dropping out.

Why it matters: The academy’s alternative education model, rooted in social justice and ethnic studies, has helped hundreds of students graduate who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks in traditional high schools.

Notable quote: “Street Academy really taught me a lot about how nurturing adults can be, and that having great teachers is so important,” reflects student Camilo Ochoa

by Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

Oakland Unified Basketball State Champions Receive Special Recognition at State Senate and Assembly

What’s happening:  The Oakland High and Oakland Tech basketball teams, recent state champions, are honored with special recognition at the State Senate and Assembly in Sacramento.

Why it matters:  The acknowledgment highlights the teams’ achievements and celebrates their success, showcasing their leadership both on and off the court and bringing positive attention to Oakland amid recent challenges.

Notable quote:  “When it comes to high school basketball, Oakland is the Town of Champions.” – Senator Nancy Skinner

OUSD Newsroom

The Bay Area

Berkeley Unified approves staff layoffs as state budget tightens

What’s happening: Berkeley Unified School District faces budget constraints, leading to the approval of layoffs for roughly 20 district employees, mostly from non-teaching positions, amid stagnant state funding and the end of COVID-19 relief money.

Why it matters: The layoffs, although difficult, are a response to a $7.1 million budget shortfall, highlighting the financial challenges many school districts are grappling with as they navigate post-pandemic budget realities.

Notable quote: “These are positions and people that have very direct relationships with students,” – Jennifer Shanoski

By Ally Markovich for Berkeleyside

Bay Area High School Students Scramble to Find Seats to Take the SAT and ACT

What’s happening:  High school students in the Bay Area struggle to secure seats for the SAT and ACT exams due to fewer testing centers, decreased demand, and the transition to digital testing.

Why it matters:  Limited testing availability poses obstacles for college-bound students, exacerbating educational inequities and hindering access to higher education.

Notable quote:  “The test sites that I commuted to were in rich neighborhoods, and like, I had to go to a private boarding school in order to take it.” – Leslie Cruz Urquilla

By Sydney Johnson for KQED

Issues with FAFSA financial aid applications plague Bay Area high school students

What’s happening: Bay Area high school seniors face uncertainties in college decisions due to widespread technical issues with the FAFSA financial aid application system.

Why it matters: Glitches in the FAFSA system delay aid decisions, impacting college choices, enrollment, and potentially threatening the closure of some institutions.

Notable quote: “You have all these dreams and aspirations… but it might not happen… because you don’t have your financial aid packages yet,” – Oakland’s Fremont High School Senior Marlay’ja Hackett, underscoring the frustration and uncertainty faced by students awaiting aid decisions.

By Len Ramirez for CBS News Bay Area

Dublin students, parents and staff excited for opening of brand new Emerald High School

What’s happening: Dublin, facing rapid population growth, opens Emerald High School, its first new high school in 50 years, to relieve overcrowding.

Why it matters: The opening addresses overcrowding, provides modern amenities, and reflects a community’s investment in education amid demographic shifts.

Notable quote: “Very exciting. Our Dublin community has needed a second high school for over a decade now,” – Emerald High Principal Francis Rojas.

By Juliette Goodrich for CBS News BAy Area

East Bay school district plans independent investigation of boss accused of bullying; places him on leave

What’s happening:  Antioch Unified School District places supervisor Kenneth Turnage II on leave amid accusations of bullying and harassment, launching independent investigations into the district’s handling of complaints.

Why it matters:  Allegations of misconduct highlight concerns over workplace culture and leadership, prompting calls for Superintendent Stephanie Anello’s resignation and an examination of the district’s handling of complaints.

Notable quote:  “The reason that it’s been so long before it became public, is that we trusted the district to do the right thing. We all did exactly what we were told to do.” – Kim Atkinson

By Judith Prieve for Mercury News

West Contra Costa USD  responds to complaints filed over teacher vacancies

What’s happening:  WCCUSD is facing complaints over ongoing teacher vacancies, prompting concerns about the quality of education students are receiving. Despite acknowledgement from district officials, complaints suggest the district lacks a sufficient plan to address the issue.

Why it matters:  The teacher vacancies are impacting students’ education and teachers’ ability to effectively do their jobs. With some classes being taught by long-term substitutes or day-to-day substitutes, concerns about stability and quality of instruction are rising, particularly in schools with high populations of students of color.

Notable quote:  “Our work is being harmed, our ability to do our job is being harmed. But what truly hurts me the most is knowing that these students — I care about them so much — aren’t receiving an education.” – Sam Cleare, a West Contra Costa teacher.

By Monica Velez for Ed Source

The State of California 

State Ed Chief Tony Thurmond Pushes Bill to Train Educators 

What’s happening: State Superintendent Tony Thurmond is championing Senate Bill 1115, advocating for comprehensive training for educators in reading and math to address student academic outcomes in California.

Why it matters:  Thurmond’s support for SB 1115 highlights the critical need to equip educators with evidence-backed strategies, especially considering existing funding gaps and the moral imperative to improve literacy rates.

Notable quote:  “In the fifth-largest economy in the world… it should be unacceptable to train only some educators in the best strategies to teach essential skills.” – State Superintendent Tony Thurmond

By California Black Media via Post News Group

California could require kids to learn how to manage money. Should voters decide curriculum?

What’s happening: California voters might decide whether high school students must take a personal finance course, sparking debate over curriculum control. AB 2927, a financial literacy bill proposed by Democrat Kevin McCarty of Sacramento would require financial literacy as a graduation requirement.

Why it matters:  While financial literacy is crucial, concerns arise over politicizing curriculum decisions and encroaching on educators’ expertise and local school board autonomy.

Notable quote:  “We have these political interests unabashedly trying to control what’s taught in the classroom, instead of leaving it up to teachers and locally elected school boards,”  – Bruce Fuller, education professor at UC Berkeley

By Carolyn Jones for Cal Matters

A new California bill could provide cash to homeless high school seniors

What’s happening: State Senator Dave Cortese has introduced a bill, SB 333, aimed at providing direct cash assistance to homeless high school seniors in California through a guaranteed income pilot program called California Success, Opportunity and Academic Resilience (SOAR). The bill seeks to address the challenges faced by homeless students transitioning into college or the workforce after graduation.

Why it matters: Student homelessness in California has risen to pre-pandemic levels, and many homeless high school seniors lack the necessary support once they graduate. SB 333 aims to bridge this gap by offering financial assistance to help these students transition into adulthood more smoothly. The bill reflects a broader effort to support vulnerable populations and address poverty through guaranteed income programs.

Notable quote: “The minute they hand you that diploma, all of your federal benefits end,” Cortese said. “For every other non-homeless student, this is a day of total joy and celebration…These students – they have no home to go to.” – State Senator Dave Cortese 

By Molly Gibbs for East Bay Times

Silicon Valley schools face end of federal mental health funding

What’s happening:  Silicon Valley schools face closure of federally funded mental health wellness centers due to the end of a $13.2 million grant program amid a $250 million budget shortfall.

Why it matters:  The closure threatens vital student mental health services, emphasizing the need for sustainable funding to support student well-being and academic success in Santa Clara County schools.

Notable quote:  “The youth mental health crisis manifests every day in schools, contributing to higher drop-out rates, student disengagement, chronic absenteeism and increased disciplinary actions.” – Santa Clara County officials 

By Lorraine Gabbert for Jane Jose Spotlight

More California high school students want career training. How the state is helping

What’s happening:  More California high school students are enrolling in career pathway programs, offering diverse opportunities from agriculture to film production, supported by significant state investments.

Why it matters:  These pathways offer students practical skills and exposure to various industries, potentially leading to higher graduation rates and improved employment prospects. However, challenges remain, including budget uncertainties and ensuring equitable access to quality programs.

Notable quote:  “This program is what I look forward to every single day,” Sophomore student Mason Tucker said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished so much. It makes me think, what else can I accomplish in life?” 

By Carolyn Jones for Cal Matters

Fresno Unified board names interim superintendent ahead of national search

What’s happening:  The Fresno Unified school board has appointed Misty Her as interim superintendent while they conduct a national search for a permanent replacement. Her, currently the district’s deputy superintendent, brings stability amid community outrage over the superintendent search process.

Why it matters:  Her appointment as the highest-ranking Hmong education leader in the nation  – and California’s 3rd largest district – offers representation and continuity for Fresno Unified. However, concerns about transparency and community trust persist following controversies surrounding the search process.

Notable quote:  “We need an interim superintendent who will continue to implement the important initiatives that the district is pursuing and who will ensure that we are fully prepared for the first day of school in the fall,” – Board President Susan Wittrup 

By Lasherica Thornton for Ed Source

LAUSD schools roll out science of reading and training, state lawmakers reject mandate

What’s happening: LAUSD implements science-based reading curriculum despite state legislature’s rejection, aiming to improve literacy rates amidst national reading crisis.

\Why it matters:  LAUSD’s adoption of evidence-backed reading methods contrasts with state lawmakers’ opposition, highlighting the challenge of addressing reading deficiencies in a diverse district.

Notable quote:  “Families understand that if their children can’t read, it’s essentially game over.” – Yolie Flores, CEO of Families in Schools,

By Ben Chapman for LA School Report

El Dorado high school district sees uptick in trade program interest

What’s happening: The El Dorado Union High School District observes increased student interest in trade programs over traditional college paths, reflecting a broader trend in career-focused education.

Why it matters: The shift highlights evolving perceptions of career opportunities, providing students with viable alternatives to college and addressing workforce needs.

Notable quote: “We do see students going straight out of our high school district into their career choice, also straight into post-secondary,” said Teri Whiting, Administrator at the El Dorado Union High School District.

By Shelby Reilly for CBS New Sacramento

California sues Rocklin Unified School District over “discriminatory” gender notification policy

What’s happening: California sues Rocklin Unified School District over a controversial gender notification policy, alleging discrimination against marginalized students.

Why it matters: The lawsuit highlights the tension between parental rights and student privacy, drawing attention to the broader debate over LGBTQ+ rights in education.

Notable quote: “It’s a big deal… We’re talking about fundamental rights here,” says California Assemblymember Bill Essayli

By Steve Large, Richard Ramos for CBS News

Trans students at Berkeley High celebrate new all-gender bathroom

What’s happening: Berkeley High School has converted one of its multi-stall bathrooms into an all-gender restroom following months of advocacy by trans and nonbinary students, providing a crucial space for students to feel comfortable and respected.

Why it matters: This change is significant for the school’s LGBTQ+ community, addressing the challenges and discomfort many students faced with the previous lack of adequate restroom facilities. It reflects a commitment to inclusivity and creates a safer environment for all students.

Notable quote: “The laws are lagging behind the needs of our kids,” said Jasmina Viteskic, the school district’s Title IX coordinator. “We as schools have a responsibility to figure out how we can be creative and accommodating and responsive to our community’s needs. 

By Ally Markovich for Berkeleyside

Rural counties far from universities struggle to recruit teachers

What’s happening:  Nine rural counties in California, situated more than 60 miles away from university teacher preparation programs, are experiencing challenges in recruiting enough teachers to meet classroom needs. A recent report from the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools highlights these counties’ struggles and proposes solutions to address the issue.

Why it matters:  Teacher shortages in these counties impact student achievement and educational outcomes. The lack of nearby teacher preparation programs exacerbates the problem, leading to a higher percentage of underprepared teachers and difficulty in recruitment and retention efforts.

 Notable quote: “We know that research suggests that teachers are more likely to complete their student teaching and also secure employment close to where they receive their teacher training.” – Kai Mathews, project director for the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools,

Across The Nation

How a Connecticut middle school won the battle against cellphones

What’s happening: Illing Middle School in Connecticut bans cellphones, employing Yondr pouches, amidst rising concerns over distraction and social media conflict.

Why it matters: The move reflects a nationwide trend in combating cellphone distraction in schools, impacting student focus, social interactions, and reducing disruptive behaviors.

Notable quote: “Students confirmed the disappearance of cellphones has stimulated something old-fashioned: face-to-face conversation. That’s a crucial part of growing up,” remarked Gabe Silver, an eighth-grader

By Joanna Slater for The Washington Post

High School Seniors Eye Campus Protests as High-Stakes College Decision Looms

What’s happening: High school seniors face tough decisions amid campus protests, influencing college choices like Columbia vs. Dartmouth.

Why it matters: Seniors navigate complex factors including academic quality, social atmosphere, and campus activism in their college selection process.

Notable quote: “Being Middle Eastern, I have a lot of feelings about what’s going on.” – Safa Al-Omari, a high school senior weighing college options.

By Amanda Geduld for The 74

A Missouri registered apprenticeship program helps fill special education teaching vacancies

What’s happening:  Hollister R-V School District in Missouri overcame special education teacher shortages by partnering with Missouri State University’s Pathways for Paraprofessionals program.

Why it matters:The program addresses critical shortages of certified special education teachers, providing a pathway for paraprofessionals to become licensed educators while working.

Notable quote:  “I have personally experienced that critical shortage and not having qualified applicants… that’s not the case the last two years because of this program.” – Kristina Smith, Director of Special Services,

By Anna Merod for K-12 Dive

Newark Public School awards $12M contract for new AI camera system aimed at keeping schools safe

What’s happening:  Newark Public Schools greenlights a $12 million contract to install over 7,000 AI-equipped cameras aimed at enhancing school safety, funded partially by expiring federal COVID relief dollars.

Why it matters:  While intended to bolster safety, concerns arise over privacy invasion and potential misidentification, highlighting the delicate balance between security measures and individual rights in educational settings.

Notable quote:  “In no way shape or form will this result in an invasion of privacy of anyone’s students, staff, or otherwise. Cameras and devices will not and cannot be placed in areas that are not approved and authorized.” – Valerie Wilson, Newark School Business Administrator,

By Jessie Gómez for Chalkbeat

North Carolina lawmakers, governor divided on school choice

What’s happening:  North Carolina lawmakers approve $500 million for Opportunity Scholarships despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s push for a moratorium, sparking debate over education priorities.

Why it matters:  The divide highlights contrasting views on school choice and teacher pay, with Republicans prioritizing scholarships while Cooper advocates for higher teacher salaries.

Notable quote:  “This is catastrophic for the hardworking educators who deserve higher pay and the families with children in public schools whose education is threatened by this reckless desire to give a government handout to millionaires.” – Gov. Roy Cooper

By Alan Wooten for Chalkboard News

Gov. DeSantis signs measure that “prohibits indoctrination” of prospective teachers

What’s happening: Governor DeSantis signs a bill aiming to prevent “indoctrination” in teacher-training programs, sparking debate over free speech and historical accuracy in education.

Why it matters: The legislation reflects broader tensions over educational content, raising concerns about censorship, the teaching of sensitive historical topics and its impact on open discourse in education.

Notable quote: “There is no greater threat to our democracy than efforts to scare Floridians out of exercising their right to free speech,” says Sam Boyd of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

By CBS News Miami 

Georgia Governor Signs School Voucher Bill to Give $6,500 Toward Private Tuition

What’s happening: Governor Kemp signs bill granting $6,500 vouchers for students in low-performing schools to attend private or home school.

Why it matters: Supporters claim it empowers parents for better education; opponents fear it drains funds from underfunded public schools.

Notable quote: “Today’s signing of SB 233 is a great step in the right direction, however, there is still more work to be done to give parents the choice and resources that can meet their child’s unique educational needs.” – Lt. Gov. Burt Jones

Ross Williams for The 74

A student club is suing its school, saying its pro-Palestinian views were censored

What’s happening: Students from a Washington, D.C., public school, represented by the ACLU, are suing the school district and principal for censoring their pro-Palestinian views, alleging violation of their rights.

Why it matters: The lawsuit highlights ongoing tensions over free speech and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reminiscent of historical cases like Tinker v. Des Moines, indicating broader debates on student expression rights.

Notable Quote:  In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Tinker v. Des Moines that “made clear that high school students had a right to peacefully express their views about the war,” – Art Spitzer,  ACLU-D.C. Senior Counsel 

By Jaclyn Diaz for NPR News

Science teachers, math teachers, history teachers — we’re all reading teachers now

What’s happening:  In this First Person Piece, Ian Hartigan –  Science Teacher, Springfield Preparatory Charter School –  highlights how teachers, including science educators, are grappling with post-pandemic literacy challenges, adapting methods to help older students with foundational reading skills without compromising curriculum content.

Why it matters:  He explains that With pandemic disruptions exacerbating literacy gaps, educators are innovating approaches to integrate reading instruction into subject-specific lessons, ensuring students can comprehend complex content effectively.

Notable quote:  “Post-COVID, it has often felt like there are few readers who are not struggling. It was clear that a new approach to literacy instruction was needed — one that leveraged every teacher in our building…” – Ian Hartigan for Chalkbeat

Experts say Montana must monitor its charter school boom

What’s happening:  Montana welcomes charter schools following a 2023 law, prompting debate on monitoring their impact amid parental enthusiasm for diverse education options.

Why it matters:  The expansion of charter schools introduces alternative learning models but raises concerns about diverting funds from traditional public schools, prompting calls for careful oversight.

Notable quote: “It was estimated that maybe there would be three or four charter schools open for this coming school year, and we actually have 19 charter schools that were approved…which just shows the interest that local school districts have and Montana people have.” – Doug Reisig, Executive Director of Montana Quality Education Coalition

By Julian Roberts-Grmela for Chalkboard News

MacKenzie Scott’s $2 million donation lets Boston non-profit “say yes” to helping more kids

What’s happening: MacKenzie Scott donates $2 million to Massachusetts Advocates for Children, empowering the non-profit to expand its support for marginalized students.

Why it matters: The significant donation illustrates the transformative impact of Scott’s donation, enabling MAC to enhance advocacy efforts, ensuring more children, regardless of background, receive the support they need to thrive in school.

Notable quote: “For the next child that calls, we can take that case… we don’t have to say no, we can say yes,” says Executive Director Anna Krieger

By Chris Tanaka for CBS News Boston

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