Friday, March 20, 2009

The Battle Begins

2007-08 SARC Template in Word - School Accountability Report Card (CA Dept of Education)

March 20, 2009

Dear Oakland School Board member,

Next Wednesday, you will receive petitions and proposals for two new charter schools. One is for Oakland Collegiate, a middle school, and the other is for Aspire Public Schools’ ERES Academy a K-8. I strongly, strongly urge you to decline both proposals.

And more importantly, I strongly urge you to IMMEDIATELY place a cap on the number of charter schools which OUSD will permit! For if you do not, the OUSD school board will soon be out of business.

Since 2002-03, the rate of charter enrollment for OUSD middle school students has increased an average of 2.8% per year. It currently stands at 21.74% of the total middle school enrollment of the district. I recently read in the Tribune that the district’s entire charter school enrollment is about 18%.

In 2005, we already had the state's highest percentage of students in charter schools, according to Gary Larson, spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association. Only Dayton, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., had a higher percentage of students in charters.

At the current rate of growth I mentioned above, charter middle school enrollment in OUSD will hit 30% in 2011-12. It will hit 55% in 2020-21, and 100% in 2036-37. Every school level in the entire district is on exactly the same course.

What this means is that, unless the OUSD school board stops approving new charter schools, the school board will become absolutely obsolete. The future management of public schools in Oakland will be by the UNELECTED boards of directors of charter management organizations. It is very likely that most of them will NOT be Oakland residents, nor ever were.

For example, here are the 10 members of board of directors for Aspire Public Schools. Aspire already runs five of the 32 OUSD charter schools.

  • Walt L. Hanline: Superintendent of Ceres Unified School District.
  • Bill Hughs: former CEO of Noah’s Bagels, President of AG Ferrari Foods, President of and his current position as President of DaVita Rx. He is also a Director of two medical technology firms, Sensurtec and Fulfillium, and is Managing Member of Silicon Valley Investment Partners.
  • Beth Hunkapiller, President, San Carlos School District Board of Trustees
  • Bill Huyett, Superintendent, Lodi Unified School District: (Chartering District for University Public School and River Oaks Charter Academy)
  • Melvin J. Kaplan, Chief Executive Officer, Wellington Financial Group: Mel Kaplan has been a real estate investor since 1960. He is CEO of Wellington Financial Group, an entity that invests in commercial real estate nationally.
  • Steven L. Merrill, Venture Capitalis, former president of BankAmerica Capital Corporation, founder of Merrill, Pickard, Anderson & Eyre (MPAE), a privately held venture capital partnership.
  • Louise Muhlfeld Patterson: HR executive and trustee of college-preparatory schools. She was Vice President of Human Resources for American Express for 14 years. She implemented a Quality of Work life Survey for startup companies in Silicon Valley for Klein Associates.
  • Don Shalvey, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Aspire Public Schools, formerly Superintendent of the San Carlos School District in Northern California, a district of approximately 2,600 students and six elementary schools. He is also the co-founder of Californians for Public School Excellence, the organization that sponsored the California Charter School Initiative that raised the cap on the number of charter schools. Don has been a member of State Superintendent Delaine Eastin’s Charter School Committee as well as an advisor to the California Network of Educational Charters.
  • Richard C. Spalding, Founder, Thomas Weisel Healthcare Venture Partners and the ABS Ventures Healthcare investment group in January 2000, again leading the firm’s investments in life sciences. Prior to joining ABS Ventures, Dick was a Chief Financial Officer of public and private companies, an investment banker with Alex Brown, and a co-founder of the Palo Alto office of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison.
  • Joanne Weiss, Partner and COO at NewSchools Venture Fund: At NewSchools, Joanne focuses on investment strategy and management assistance to a variety of the firm's portfolio ventures, and oversees the organization’s operations. As part of this work, she serves on the boards of Aspire Public Schools, Education for Change, Green Dot Public Schools, Leadership Public Schools, New Leaders for New Schools, Revolution Foods, Rocketship Education and Teachscape.

And to give you another example of people who are on the boards of directors of charter management organizations, here are the board members of Education for Change. They have three schools in Oakland.

EFC’s board of directors:

  • Desten Broach, President of the Board, and a group product manager at Sun Microsystems. He is responsible for the complete life cycle and business success of several Sun software products. Prior to joining Sun, he held similar positions at America Online, Netscape Communications, and Intuit, Inc. As an aide to US Senator David Pryor, Mr. Broach focused on education.
  • Joanne Weiss, Vice President of the Board, (THIS PERSON IS ALSO ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR ASPIRE PUBLIC SCHOOLS): Partner and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, where she oversees the organization's operations, as well as investment strategy and management assistance for many of NewSchools' ventures nationally and on the West Coast. As part of this work, she serves on the boards.
  • Jonathan Garfinkel, a Vice President at Texas Pacific Group, a private investment fund with $15 billion under management. Has also worked at NewSchools Venture Fund. He received a BA in Economics, an MA in Education, and an MBA all from Stanford University.

Harold Jones, the Deputy Director of External Affairs for the Port of Oakland.

NONE OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ELECTED BY OAKLAND RESIDENTS, YET THEY ARE RUNNING EIGHT OF OUR CITY’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS. In the not-to-distant future, similar people with different names will be your replacements. What will their accountability to the public, and the way public money is spent, look like?

This is certainly NOT Democracy. It is definitely something else.

These people, and others like them, are the future operators of OUSD, unless charter school expansion is halted NOW. Remember, this course was not chosen by Oakland’s citizens after public debate and discussion. It was pushed on our district while our local control was blocked.

Dear OUSD Board member, before this charter school future is a fait accompli, please make sure that it is the future that the citizens of Oakland want, after being informed of the dire consequences.

You must be aware that so many of Oakland's parents do not understand the future implications of this charter school movement, and won't speak up as I am. At this point I am nearly alone, but my voice is right and strong.

Please don't hand over our district to private individuals. Please give Oakland citizens the right to decide who runs their schools.


Most sincerely,

Sharon Higgins

Loyal OUSD parent since 1993


ed notes online said...

Hey Sharon
I'm just back from a meeting with the head of the Puerto Rico teachers union. We all talked organizing and tomorrow is the Labor Notes Troublemakers conference in Manhattan. I know you'll be there in spirit.

Anonymous said...

At least these fore-mentioned Board Members are doing something/anything to improve the schools in Oakland. What have you done?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Wow. What a question. If you knew anything about my history for the past 18 years, you wouldn't dare challenge me with such an incredibly arrogant question.