NovoMetro

Education in Oakland

Archive for March, 2007

Reservoir Bogs

Posted by novometro on March 28, 2007

Ever wonder what it looks like inside an EBMUD reservoir? Edward Goehring of the Bay Area Public Safety Partnership sent out this video of a dive inside Oakland’s Central Reservoir. It looks like a scene from a horror movie, and while watching it you keep waiting for the EBMUD monster to behead the hapless diver. Goehring says it’s more like a disaster movie. According to him, an earthquake could ruin the leaky reservoir and send a small tsunami toward Alameda.

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Arson, Soccer, and Test Scores

Posted by novometro on March 28, 2007

Arson damaged Peralta Elementary school late Monday night. The highly dedicated Peralta family is moving fast to fix the damage. You can make a donation to speed the progress here.

The 50,000 soccer fans expected to cheer on Mexico in its match against Ecuador at the Coliseum tonight points to a possible purpose for the stadium when the A’s are in Fremont and the Raiders are back in LA.

There was little good news for OUSD yesterday when the California Department of Education released  test scores for 2006. Four out of 10 Oakland schools are in the bottom 10 percent statewide. According to the Tribune, that’s not much better than years before. The article did point to bright spots, including the Think College Now elementary school in Fruitvale.

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The Chron on Disabled Parking Abuse

Posted by novometro on March 26, 2007

A front-page article in Monday’s Chronicle about the proliferation of disabled placards in California fails to mention that the problem of bogus placards is set to grow worse. This from the DMV: “Before this year any physician, surgeon, chiropractor or optometrist could authorize disabled placards.  A new law that went into effect at the beginning of this year also allows any physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or certified nurse midwife to authorize the placards.” 

The article notes that in some parts of downtown Oakland more than half of the parked cars have disabled placards.

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Friday Round-up

Posted by novometro on March 23, 2007

Oakland faces a $13.5 million budget shortfall one year after a $16 million surplus. An article in the Trib shows how various interests are using the deficit to advance their own positions.

A Trib article reports that Mayor Dellums wants time to offer his own ideas about how to create jobs in Oakland’s industrial zones. Sparking the discussion is a mega-project called the Mandela Gateway, which would put residential high-rises on top of light industrial buildings.

The New York Times writes about the state takeover of the St. Louis school district. The scary thing for Oakland readers? The financial problems and academic problems prompting the takeover are not as severe as Oakland’s.

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Shock & Awe in OUSD

Posted by novometro on March 20, 2007

A column in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle opens with precisely the wrong metaphor for the Oakland Unified School District. In a piece that goes on to describe parental frustration with the “de-facto lottery” system used to assign students to popular schools, the column compares OUSD to a vending machine on the fritz. OUSD is anything but coin-operated – malfunctioning or otherwise. No one puts money into the system expecting anything in return. What’s missing in the metaphor is also what’s missing in the column: Why is one school so much more desirable than another?

The column highlights the outrage of a couple who recently learned that their kid was one of 15 neighborhood children assigned to a nearby, mediocre elementary school, rather than the really good school right across the street. Redwood Heights is a better school than Carl Munck because for at least two decades, parents and guardians have not been treating their local school like a vending machine: Put in your money, take your education, and leave.

The active parents at Redwood Heights would be better compared to Oakland’s dogged, hard-working, creative, and often highly annoying creek people. During the course of a school year, Redwood Heights benefits from donated muscle and brain power that equals many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Build that sweat equity up over several years and you have a school where 81 percent of students score at the proficient or advanced level on standardized reading and writing tests. In OUSD overall, 28 percent of elementary school students meet that mark. At Carl Munck, the figure is 40 percent. It should be noted that Carl Munck students do very well in math, with 58 percent scoring at the proficient or advanced levels.

Still, Parents would rather have their kids go to portable classrooms on the Redwood Heights campus than send them in as the shock troops of change at Carl Munck. You can’t blame them.

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Poor, Black, and Healthy

Posted by novometro on March 14, 2007

The new mayor’s task force looking at health care released their findings and suggestions yesterday, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. According to the story, the recommendations identify the still shocking gaps in health that divide races and social classes.

The recommendations will be criticized for being impractical and expensive. And some do sound bad. The idea of a mobile health clinic should be dumped immediately. An RN in an RV will have about as much effect on the health of poor people as mobile libraries have had on literacy. If a new city health czar wants to bring the medicine to Mohammed, they should consider putting a Berkeley Bowl on wheels. I know that there already are some city farm pushcarts making irregular routes through poor Oakland districts, but there is only so much appetite for kale, turnips, and eggs in any neighborhood. Let’s get some frozen pesto pizza on an organic crust and some garlic pita chips out on Peralta and 14th Streets.

If the mayor pays especially close attention to any of the recommendations listed in the Chronicle story, I hope it’s the idea of putting more health care in schools. I’ve heard good things about the clinic at Youth Uprising, which serves the students attending the schools formerly known as Castlemont, and its sister clinic at one of the McClymonds spin-offs. It would be interesting to see if there is any research looking at how those clinics have improved the academic performance of students. After all, education is the real secret to longevity and health. This from a January article in the New York Times: “The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.

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Shamans and Dirty Bombs

Posted by novometro on March 13, 2007

The Los Angeles Times has a story about a 52-year-old woman who runs a shamanistic center in South Central. Born in New Orleans to a sugar cane farmer and a housewife, Sri Natha Devi (nee Claretta Cayette) moved to LA in 1973. It makes me think that there are not enough alternatives to Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim worship in Oakland’s poorest neighborhoods. It also reminded me of what Danjuma, a New Orleans-born Oakland writer, told me about his native city. Of all the North American centers of the African Diaspora, black New Orleans maintains the closest ties to African religions.

Meantime the Chronicle has an article about a voluntary RFID tag program at the Port of Oakland that underscores the spotty nature of port security.

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Friday Crime

Posted by novometro on March 9, 2007

The New York Times has a front page story Friday about a bewildering nationwide violent crime spike in certain cities. It’s a timely story for Oakland readers, who are now witnessing the Oakland Police Department reorder itself in response to a rise in violent crime in 2006. The New York Times story, which mentions Richmond, but not Oakland, suggests that Oakland’s increase in violent crime is due to a more complex set of factors than a story this week in the East Bay Express would lead readers to believe. That article’s chief aim was to describe the police chief’s painful political contortions in the face of a new administration in City Hall. The most interesting story here may be that the new mayor’s embrace of Chief Tucker is not as tight as it first looked. The fact that violent crime in Oakland is down almost one-fifth of the way through 2007 has not been reported.

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Thursday News

Posted by novometro on March 8, 2007

The Oakland Police Department and the Mayor announced a stop-gap measure toward community policing Wednesday that would put 50 more patrol officers on the street.

The Bay Area World Trade Center is sending Mayor Dellums, his wife, and a handful of other locals with urgent business in China on a junket to Shanghai and Dalian (Oakland’s sister city).

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Wednesday News

Posted by novometro on March 7, 2007

The Port of Oakland reported record traffic in 2006 Tuesday without a lot of fanfare. Ports in California have reason to be wary of too much attention. The state’s ports would no doubt like to tackle issues like pollution and congestion in their own way, and on their own timetable. But a couple of bills introduced in the Legislature this year seek to change the way the ports do business. One bill would establish “port community advisory committees.” A second bill would tack a $30 user fee on each container moving through the state’s three major ports. In Oakland last year, that would have raised $36 million for programs that eased pollution and traffic congestion caused by the port. Expect a fight, and more events like this.

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