Dec. 13: New Haven Unified in Union City is one of 16 winners of the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top grant.
My colleague Chris De Benedetti reported this week that the district will get $29.3 million during the next four and a half years for summer programs, academic coaches, smaller classes for high school English learners and other strategies to improve its schools.
Like in some other large urban districts, including Los Angeles Unified, Oakland's teachers union didn't sign on to the proposal in progress, citing concerns about a lack of specifics and a sense that the agreement would replace negotiations at the bargaining table.
So Oakland Unified School District didn't apply. It had been told its chances of winning would be nil without its teachers on board, district spokesman Troy Flint said.
In a Sept. 24 letter to Troy Christmas, director of labor relations for OUSD, Oakland Education Association President Trish Gorham wrote that the union had only recently learned about the grant writing, giving it little time to work out the details before the October deadline. She expressed other concerns, too:
"We have grave reservations about the funding terms and conditions of this grant. In particular, we are concerned that the grant requires the development of data systems that do not yet exist to track students for five (5) years after graduation. We question whether such systems can be developed in a timely manner and at a cost that is sustainable under the grant."
I've posted Gorham's final letter to Superintendent Tony Smith on the blog. Do you understand and agree with the union's concerns, or do you think the district should have gone ahead and applied?
Dec. 10: Wednesday's Oakland school board meeting has a full agenda. Some of the highlights:
-- three charter renewal hearings (no decisions or recommendations yet), for Aspire Golden State College Prep, Oakland Charter Academy Middle School and East Oakland Leadership Academy
-- discussion of the oversubscription problem at Crocker Highlands Elementary, whose kindergarten classes were full before the district expanded its boundaries to encompass some areas that once belonged to Lakeview Elementary (now closed). The board is considering changes to the recently moved attendance boundaries at Crocker and Cleveland elementaries. They're scheduled to vote Jan. 9, shortly before the deadline for families to submit their school choices to the district.
-- a fiscal update (including school closure savings estimates)
School closure savings On slide 19 of the financial report, OUSD staff give an accounting of the costs and savings created by the closure of four elementary schools. It reports a net ongoing savings of $3.2 million, after accounting for enrollment losses.
One-time expenses totaling $2.67 million diminish that considerably, for this year anyway; those include transportation, portable classrooms and transition services.
I also didn't see a mention of Lazear Elementary School in the closure analysis, but maybe it's on another slide. If you recall, Lazear became a charter school, leaving the district, after the Oakland school board voted to close it, along with the other four schools.
Roughly 75 percent, or 160, of last year's Lazear kids in grades K-4 are no longer in OUSD, staff reported at the last meeting. That enrollment loss amounts to about $800,000 in general-purpose funding. Even if you factored that into the equation, the ongoing savings would be $2.4 million, above the original $2 million savings estimate.
Budget cuts likely
Student enrollment (to be precise: average daily attendance, or ADA) was 750 lower than expected this fall, to the tune of $3.9 million. Add to that an 8.5 percent increase in health care contributions in 2013-14 and in 2014-15, and that puts some pressure on the budget.
District staff members estimate they will need to cut $6.1 million from next year's budget and $4.3 million for 2014-15 (slide 18).