Archive for September, 2017

Carroll Fife Named Director of Oakland/San Francisco ACCE


Carroll Fife

By Ken Epstein

Carroll Fife, community activist and co-founder of the Oakland Justice Coalition, has been named interim director of Oakland Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment  (ACCE).

Fife is replacing Anthony Panarese, who recently left after serving in the position for 15 years.

ACCE Action has earned a strong reputation in Oakland for its work to fight home foreclosures and evictions and to pass Measure JJ to protect Oakland renters and raise the minimum wage in the city.

“I am honored to work for a member-driven organization that has dedicated its efforts to unite the community for dignified living wage jobs, affordable housing and the fight to stop displacement and hold Wall Street corporate interests in our community accountable,” said Fife.

“I look forward to helping build the Oakland/San Francisco ACCE into a stronger organization to represent the needs of the those who are being left out and left behind,” she said.

“It is through the hard work of day-to-day, base-building organizing that we will fight and win.”

Published September 6, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

OUSD to Renovate Historic Second Avenue Headquarters

The buildings are named after Marcus Foster and Paul Robeson

OUSD headquarters at 1025 Second Ave. will reopen in 2019.


By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District is on a fast track to renovate and reopen its historic administration building, which has been closed since January 2013 when a water leak flooded the building. The buildings at the site, located along the Oakland Estuary between 10th and 12th streets, is now named the Dr. Marcus Foster Educational Complex. The buildings at the site include the Paul Robeson Administration Building and the Ethel Moore Building – adjacent to a high school, Dewey Academy.

The “aggressive” timeline for completing design, permits and construction calls for moving into the complex in July 2019, one month before the district’s lease expires for its temporary headquarters in downtown Oakland, according to Joe Dominquez, the deputy chief who oversees the Division of Facilities Planning & Management for OUSD.

The plan to move back to the site of the old district headquarters has been in the works for a while, and now the priority is to let the public know what is being planned and to actively involve the community in the process, said Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

In the short run it may have worked to lease property, but “in the long run being housed in our own facility is economically effective,” she said.

The extensive renovation will involve seismic retrofits, ADA upgrades and replacement of all systems: heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing and IT. In addition, walls, windows and roofs will be repaired or replaced.

The cost of renovating the four-story Robeson Building, 56,000 square feet, and the three-story, wood-framed Ethel Moore Building, 14,000 square feet, is estimated at $40 million for the Robeson and Ethel Moore buildings and $49.5 million for the two buildings and the construction of a multi-purpose room for Dewey Academy, according to Dominguez, speaking at a recent school board meeting.

A building assessment is being completed, and a more exact cost estimate is being prepared, said Dominguez. The district will pay for the project with Measure J bond funds by utilizing a lease-leaseback agreements according to the district.
Under such a plan, the school district leases its property to a developer at a nominal cost and then leases the completed project back from the developer. At the end of the lease, the property reverts to the district.

The water leak that occurred during the night of Jan. 7, 2013 in the Robeson Building caused “excessive flooding on all four floors and significant damage to the entire structure,” according to 2015 district memo by then General Counsel Jacqueline Minor.

District staff vacated the building, moving temporarily to numerous school sites.

Paul Robeson

Instead of repairing its existing headquarters, OUSD leased space at 1000 Broadway in 2013 and in 2015 renewed and expanded its lease of space for central office functions.

The 2015 lease, which expires at the end of August 2019, is now costing the district about $3 million a

Marcus A. Foster


According the district 2015 memo, the insurance settlement for the damage covered the cost of  lease payments until May 2016.

Marcus A. Foster was an extremely popular OUSD superintendent, who served from 1970 to 1973. He was assassinated in 1973 after a school board meeting by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Paul Robeson, 1898 – 1976, was an athlete, singer and actor and an outspoken advocate for racial justice and workers rights. A revolutionary and anti imperialist, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Published September 1, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Outside Fiscal Team Examines School District´s Precarious Finances

Community questions FCMAT’s support for closing schools and restricting wage increases

By Ken Epstein

In an attempt to gain a better picture of its financial condition, the Oakland Unified School District has reached out for the help of the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team, (FCMAT), which has produced a report detailing it findings and recommendations.

FCMAT CEO Michael Fine was previously deputy superintendent for business services of the Riverside Unified School District. Photo courtesy of John Fensterwald, EdSource.

The 51-page report, released Aug. 15, focuses on 20 key fiscal indicators, including deficit spending, unbudgeted hiring of top administrators, maintaining financial reserves, miscalculation of enrollment, bargaining agreements and excessively growing costs of special education and cafeteria programs.

The district released its own estimate of its present situation to accompany the FCMAT report, which was presented at last week’s school board meeting.

“The current financial situation is stable but fragile. OUSD has little room for mistakes,” the district’s Aug. 24 statement said.  “It is imperative that we implement and sustain sound financial management practices to strength our financial position.

“It is especially important that OUSD spend within approved balanced budgets.”

FCMAT, which is state funded but independently run, has a contentious history in Oakland.

The organization played a major role in the district during the period of the state takeover from 2003 to 2009 when the power of the school board was suspended and voters had no influence over educational policy. At the time, the organization was blamed by activists for the lack of wage increases, closing of schools and the loss of many excellent teachers and administrators.

Some of FCMAT’s findings and recommendations are:

Deficit spending and fund balance – The district had a structural deficit in each reporting period last year except in one period when it overestimated enrollment and attendance. The district fund balance fell, which means its required financial reserves were in jeopardy.

“Deficit spending is eroding away your fund balance,” said Michelle Giacomini, FCMAT Chief Management Analyst at last week’s board meeting.

“We should not expect to see fund balances drop … when you had a lot of one-time money coming in from the state,” said Deborah Deal, FCMAT Intervention Specialist.

Growing costs of special education and early childhood programs – Special education grew last year by $6.2 million over 2014-2015 and now totals a $51.5 million “encroachment from unrestricted funds.”

The early childhood program was supported with $1.3 million of unrestricted and $2 million of Title I funds,” yet overspent by $1.2 million as the district hired staff for …(a) program while the numbers of anticipated students did not materialize, “according to the report.

The food service program required contributions of $2 million, about $1.1million more than budgeted, the report said.

Impact of charter schools – “Charter enrollment has a significant effect on the district’s enrollment and has increased by 1,965 during the last three fiscal years,” the report said.

Call for school closures – Recognizing that school closures are a hot button issue, the report criticizes the “abundance of small schools and failure of the governing board to address the issue.”

Restrict employee raises – The district is giving excessive raises to employees, the report said. “The district has bargained more than a cost-of-living increase in each of the last three years,” it said.

Former superintendent hired unbudgeted positions –  FCMAT said, “The former superintendent rushed new unfunded positions through the process without regard to budget appropriation.”

Hiring based on inflated enrollment estimates – District attendance turned out to be 426 students lower last year than estimated in the adopted budget. However, the district did not make cuts in staff and programs to match actual program needs.

Holding superintendent accountable – The FCMAT report both said the school board is responsible for district finances and should not interfere with the superintendent’s management of the district. FCMAT staff had no answers for what board members should do if they are not being kept informed or are given wrong information.

After the report, some members of the public commented.

Trish Gorham, president of the Oakland Education Association (OEA), said, “There´s a lot of good information here. But interpreting it and making conclusions from that data is a different thing. We can come to different conclusions.”
“To say that raises can only be based on the cost of living is incorrect,” she said. “It was based on increased revenue and was a sound decision.”

Kim Davis of Parents United for Public Schools criticized the  “unwillingness of the board to take hold of its responsibility and supervise the actions of the (former) superintendent.”

She said that top management increased by 550 percent in two and half years.  “You all approved the contracts,” Davis said. “Most of them were approved without discussion.”

Education activist Mike Hutchinson called for the district to hire an internal auditor, a position that has long gone unfilled.

Published September 1, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post