Education in Oakland

Archive for July, 2007

On Break

Posted by novometro on July 29, 2007

I’ll be taking a break from this blog for one week.


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They All Look Alike on You Tube

Posted by novometro on July 23, 2007

Oakland blogger and businessman Zennie Abraham shames the New York Times and reminds us all why no one trusts the media anymore. Mr. Abraham is actually pretty good natured about the whole thing considering that NYT reporter Katherine Seelye mistakes him for another black guy on You Tube, and writes that he is standing in front of a check-cashing place when he is actually standing in front of a B of A ATM.

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Ben Chavis Quits

Posted by novometro on July 23, 2007

Ben Chavis is no longer the principal of American Indian Public Charter School. His last day was June 30, and follows a spring in which Oakland Unified School District looked into allegations that he verbally abused a group of visiting graduate students and made inappropriate racial comments to administrators at another school. Chavis says that his retiring from the school has nothing to do with OUSD. “I’d stay to fight,” he said. The high school is also losing its principal, Carey Blakely, who is leaving Oakland for San Diego. Isaac Berniker, the former site administrator, is the new principal of the middle school.

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The Automatic Ron Dellums Speech Machine

Posted by novometro on July 17, 2007

I was reminded of something when I read in Tuesday’s Tribune that Mayor Ron Dellums said, “We have to think to the size of the problem to think to the size of the solution,” in response to the problem of teenage prostitutes working in and out of Oakland. Someone I know, who is no fan of the mayor, once suggested  that it would be fun to make an Automatic Ron Dellums Speech Generator. Push a button and a series of familiar phrases would be strung together in a  semi-coherent speech. Some of the mayor’s gems that he can’t speechify without; “I don’t have an “S” on my chest,” “We Shall Overcome is a great song, but we’ve been singing it too long,” “We have to have the audacity to [fill in the blank].”

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Cops, Charter Schools, and Stings: Tuesday News

Posted by novometro on July 17, 2007

The Oakland Tribune has a good, but depressing, story about a city plan to use redevelopment money to pay for the cops reassigned from the airport to Oakland streets. The proposal, and the apparent lack of planning on the part of OPD and Mayor Ron Dellums, is sure to pit North Oakland against East and West Oakland in a struggle for scarce police services. I wouldn’t be surprised if secession talk picks up again.

The Oakland Tribune confirmed Monday that Liane Zimny will become the new interim director of Uprep charter school in East Oakland. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that people in the know think Ms. Zimny is a good choice. Why the OUSD official charged with overseeing Uprep when the school’s director was orchestrating massive cheating is such a great find remains unclear to me.

Dubbed “Operation Strikeout,” federal and local law enforcement nabbed 140 prostitutes and pimps in a sting aimed at cracking down the traveling sex trade in the area for the All Star game. The Oakland Tribune story tells us that Mayor Ron Dellums is on the job. He is creating a “task force” to come up with an “action Plan” to combat the sexual exploitation of minors. From the Trib:  A model city, [Dellums said], can’t be one where young people are exploited. “We have to think to the size of the problem to think to the size of the solution,” Dellums said at the news conference.

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Posted by novometro on July 16, 2007

As of July 1, it costs $400 to appeal a Planning Commission decision. Should it be more? The sloppy and error-ridden appeal to a five-story, 44-unit condo development slated for 4801 Shattuck in Temescal provides evidence for those who would answer with a “yes.”

In April, the Planning Commission approved the condo project, which will require the demolition of buildings on three lots. A group called STAND (they are often seen hustling for signatures and cash on the fringes of the Temescal Farmers Market) appealed the approval 12 days later saying that the Planning Commission erred by granting the project an exemption for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Among their complaints, STAND claims that the building’s five stories give it an unusual height, will create too much traffic, and will remove a historic building from the street. STAND is wrong on all three points. A taller building than the proposed project stands less than two blocks away, a traffic study backed by the city found that the project will not result in “significant impacts” to traffic flow in the area, and 556 48th Street is not an “historic resource.”

In addition to missing the taller buildings in the area, STAND’s attorney also cited the wrong city reports, and mistakenly claimed that a new traffic light on Shattuck Avenue was a mitigation offered by the developer rather than a project already approved by the city completely independently of the proposed development.

On Tuesday, Oakland City Council will reject STAND’s appeal. While asking for money at the farmers market, STAND says this appeal cost the group more than $700. They clearly got what they paid for. It’s a shame we have to pay, too.

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An Odd Twist in the Uprep Story

Posted by novometro on July 13, 2007

Liane Zimny, the OUSD official who used to oversee charter schools for the district before she stepped down earlier this year, is reportedly top of the list for taking over University Preparatory Charter School now that Isaac Haqq has resigned.

Ms. Zimny was a champion of Uprep when it nearly lost its charter one year ago. She now runs her own educational consulting business.

It’s important to note that as recently as last year, Mr. Haqq has officially stepped down from the helm of Uprep only to continue running the school from the sidelines. novometro

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UPrep Governing Board President Cowers

Posted by novometro on July 11, 2007

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Wednesday that Uprep’s governing board officially denies accusations of cheating on standardized tests, grade fixing, and intimidation of staff and students. It’s telling that the document delivered to OUSD last week was signed simply “Governing Board.” No one wants to go on the record defending the school. Prentice Deadrick, the board’s president and an associate of Isaac Haqq from his days in Pasadena, refused to speak to the Chronicle. He refused to speak to me last week.

The person responsible for overseeing $3 million of taxpayer money last year runs from his responsibility. It’s easy to see why he and Mr. Haqq are friends. They have a lot in common.

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OPD Offers Email Crime Bulletins

Posted by novometro on July 10, 2007

Not getting all the Oakland crime news you need when you need it? Tired of hearing about crimes in neighborhoods you could care less about? The Oakland Police Department has a nifty new online tool that allows you to receive crime alerts by email for an area that you choose. It’s called CrimeView CyberWatch.

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The Chron on UPrep and Haqq Fights Back

Posted by novometro on July 8, 2007

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story Sunday about Uprep’s myriad troubles, as well as a sidebar about Isaac Haqq’s previous life as a Pasadena city councilman. I wrote about Uprep and Mr. Haqq last month. Mr. Haqq let the Chronicle take his photograph, a privilege he denied to us. His exact quote was, “I don’t care about your little website.” The Chronicle’s higher profile must have seduced him. His entire career seems devoted to proving wrong the adage that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Perhaps in anticipation of the Chronicle piece, Uprep reportedly sent this letter to parents on Thursday.

July 5, 2007

Dear UPREP Parents,

We have a crisis and we need your help.

Last year UPREP hired an employee to help our students continue excelling on standardized exams. The employee worked for salary, and was promised a bonus for superior scores. Unfortunately, the tests for the state, known as STAR tests, were mailed late. The employee admitted mailing the exams late and was fired. The matter is now in litigation.

We were informed by the state later the next school year that many answers had been erased and changed from wrong to right. We can’t prove it, but we believe it is not a coincidence that the tests were mailed late. The employee used the time to change the answers to increase his bonus. Period!!

Unfortunately, UPREP got the blame and the state nullified our 2006 scores.

Now the state is calling our 2007 scores into question. Apparently another ex-employee called the state after he ‘found’ a test booklet from the 2005 exam. This booklet was never used to prepare our kids. We believe the booklets came from the fired employee.

Over 59 colleges and universities have accepted our students. They’ve offered our students over $12 million dollars in financial aid. We are a good school, a hard working school that stays open for 11 months and allows students to take college classes. We don’t have to cheat, but people are treating us like we do.

It’s time to fight back. We are organizing a parent meeting at the Oakland Unified School District for August 8th at 6pm. We will speak briefly and leave, asking only that the evidence be reviewed, and that we be treated fairly. We are providing transportation, babysitting, and dinner. Please bring your supporters. We need them.


Uprep Staff


One more thing: The press will be reporting that UPREP’s founder once served on the Pasadena City Council. He changed the voting districts and increased minority council representation 200%. He got benefits and vacation for 200 minority employees that had none before. And he steered over $500 million in affordable housing and commercial development to the minority area of Pasadena. He is very proud of his accomplishments.

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