Budget Cuts Kill Choir, Shrink Staff

Over $700,000 in salaries slashed in mid-year crisis

By Fatimah Abdulla

One of Victoria Smith’s dreams was to sing at her own graduation as part of the Skyline Choir.

“Choir is part of my heart,” said the senior. “I’ve been doing it all my life.”

Unfortunately for Smith, mid-year budget cuts at Skyline killed her wish when the school decided not to hire a new choir/piano teacher and disperse students in those classes to other elective classes.

“Choir has been a rich tradition for Skyline; when I had a bad day I went to the choir class and listened to something beautiful. It always made me feel better,” said Mr. Johnson, a social studies teacher.  

Choir is not the only program harmed by the current cuts, and a budget crisis in Oakland schools means that more may be cut next year.

Some three-quarters of a million dollars was cut from Skyline’s budget after the school year had already started, in two separate cuts. First, about $300,000 in savings had to be trimmed as a result of under-enrollment in the previous year. Then, at the holidays, the Oakland School Board approved big emergency budget cuts officials said were needed to prevent OUSD from running out of money in future years; Skyline’s share of these cuts was the biggest in the district, at nearly $450,000.

Although no teachers were laid off as a result of these cuts, Skyline’s Business Manager Yesenia Alamillo said that several positions — including the choir/piano teacher, a counselor, an assistant principal, and a school security officer — were left unfilled in order to balance the accounting books.

Additionally, $204,426 in federal Title 1 funding that is intended to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds was reallocated by the School Site Council (SSC) at the request of the school administration, to help pay a fifth of the salary of 17 teachers in the school’s Atlas freshmen houses who do some academic intervention for struggling students.

According to the SSC’s Jan. 25 meeting notes, administrators told the SSC that if their proposal was rejected, three teachers, as well as the textbook manager and a member of the clerical staff, would be laid off mid-year. However, it passed unanimously.

Despite these cuts, however, Assistant Principal Garrett-Walker claimed that a “common misconception is that Skyline is poor, or Skyline does not have a lot of money, which is definitely not true.”

Skyline embraces the pathway model to partially organize how money is spent, she said. The pathways, through which students have the opportunity for personalized learning and can focus on their career goals, have separate budgets based on income from the state, local Oakland taxes, business donations, and fundraising. However, while we do have pathways specific to students’ passions, many students have been upset year after year that these pathways do not get an equal amount of funding and resources.

For example, while three of the school’s pathways are California Partnership Academies (CPA) eligible for additional funding, the Visual and Performing Arts Academy (VPA) is not, and has to scramble to fund performances, travel to competitions like the Reno Jazz Festival, and art supplies.

The Visual and Performing Arts Academy are struggling with affording supplies.   

“Because we are the newest academy, and we don’t have a lot of the materials already, …. also our art’s materials need to be replaced every year,” said Mr. Treacy Visual Arts Department Chair and Art Teacher.

“Performing arts is as important as any other academy,” said Victoria Smith. Since VPA is not a CPA, it does not have access to as much extra funding. Computer academy students also complain about not having enough field trips.

The district-wide cuts could have been even worse: Officials originally proposed to slash $15 million, but, under pressure from outraged community members, ultimately brought the amount down.

Some teachers and parents are accusing former OUSD superintendent Antwan Wilson, who left the district suddenly last year when he was offered a new job in Washington D.C., of being the reason why so many problems are arising following the budget cuts. Critics say he hired many of his own friends and spent money on consultants and on unnecessary programs.

The district is no stranger to financial problems. In May 2003, the State of California authorized an emergency loan of $100 million to OUSD while also appointing a State Administrator to take over the powers and responsibilities of the school board. Eventually, control of the district was returned to the people of Oakland, but we are still in the progress of paying back the loan.

In addition to OUSD’s long history of financial mismanagement, declining enrollment, rising pensions, excessive spending, and systemic challenges such as large numbers of charter schools are just a few of the reasons  offered to explain the current budget crisis.

Partial Block Schedule Next Year

2 days a week to have long periods

By Devon Nutting

For several years, debate has been ongoing among Skyline’s administration, faculty and students about whether to change the school’s schedule to some form of “block” schedule, with longer periods and fewer classes per day.

Now, with the announcement that the 2018-19 school year would have a hybrid schedule with two days of block each week, the school’s leadership has finally taken the leap.

However, since the administration has said this schedule is “transitional,” it leaves the big question of what schedule will be implemented in later years.

“For the 2018-19 school year, this is a transitional schedule and a positive way for all of us to learn what works well for students while also allowing us to adjust our instructional practices in a block,” wrote the administration team in an letter to the school’s staff on March 13.

“The 7-period hybrid block schedule will also allow us to gather essential data next year on block days vs non-block days that will be used to determine a final schedule for Skyline.”

The major advocate for the move to block has been the district and school administrators, who have argued that that extended periods in each class and fewer transitions between classes will lead to more academic success.  

Both representatives of the teachers union and the administration also released at the same time several surveys of teachers and students which showed widespread support for the hybrid schedule over an innovative but controversial alternative plan championed by OUSD officials and known as “four by four” (4×4).

The approved schedule will see two out of the five school days (either Tues./Wed. Or Wed./Thurs.) swapped with an “A/B” block format. On one of these days, students will follow the “A” schedule which may involve for example periods 1, 3, 5, and 7. On the second block day of the week, students will follow the “B” schedule that include periods 2, 4 and 6. On block days, each class will be approximately 90 minutes long.

The other three days of the week will remain unchanged from what they are now. Each course will remain at the current two-semester length, unlike the 4×4.

In a 4×4 schedule, students would have taken a full year’s course in a single semester, four at a time for a total of eight per year.  (Some yearlong classes could be fit in a 4×4 if you allow a block to be cut in half.)

In the Oakland Educators Association online survey, teachers were asked to rank the hybrid, the 4×4, and the current, traditional 7-period day. Of the 58 responses, half chose the hybrid, nearly 40 percent wanted to stick with the current schedule, and only one out of eight supported the 4×4. [See graphic, above]

The administration’s own survey, which 62 staff members filled out did not give the current schedule as a choice, but the results were otherwise similar, with only 4 out of 5 choosing the hybrid over the 4×4. A survey of 41 students split almost identically.

At the end of the previous school year, according to Mr. Scheer, Principal Bloom had told teachers at the year’s final staff meeting that the school was definitely going to a  block schedule by 2018-19 and that teachers who didn’t want to teach in such a schedule should look for jobs at different schools.

There are numerous methods of organizing a school’s schedule, and the two presented as finalists by the administration offered a contrast. The schedule chosen, in fact, was less dramatic a change than an earlier finalist which would have had four block days each week and two minimum days. However, a cost analysis by AC Transit claimed adapting to extra short day would lead to between $1.3 and 2 million dollars in extra charges, so it was replaced with they hybrid, which would keep all start and end times the same as the current schedule.

Along with the longer periods, lunch and passing periods will likely be longer on block days, although no exact version has been released.

As the dust cleared, students and teachers interviewed generally were breathing a sigh of relief as the potential problems of the 4×4 block were being avoided altogether. When asked to compare the two finalists, several students concluded block was the better way to go — but also dismissed the situation as “not a big deal.”

English teacher Ms. Vu is excited for the new opportunities the change may bring. She is hopeful the change will provide more time in class to experiment with activities such as seminars and community circles in order to provide a more intimate and detailed experience for students.

The teachers union is pursuing a grievance based on claims that the school staff was not adequetely consulted about the change. If the grievance is affirmed, it could roll it back.

As the general consensus of the schedule change are mixed, Assistant  Principal Camarena is one of the Titans that takes a more hopeful view of the situation.

“Block schedule can be effective if the students and staff are behind it,” he said.

 

The Scary Senior Project

Elder reassures a nervous junior

By Aden Jibril

The prospect of a huge project at the end of high school is a bit daunting for us lowerclassmen, and some may just not think about it.

To many senior year is when your grades don’t matter anymore, and all you need to do to graduate is to get a 2.0. It’s a chance to do the minimum amount of work after an arduous sophomore and junior year.

As a junior, throughout the last few years we are told very little about the year-long project that we must do. Different academies have different ideas of what we should do, and what else they tell us is ambiguous at best. To clear some things up for me (and hopefully for you underclassmen), I asked senior Kayshawn Goodwin about his experience while working on the project. He said that in the beginning of the year he “thought it was gonna be hard, and I had realized it was an important project, but I didn’t think it would start in the first week of school.”

I thought senior projects would be stressful, but Kayshawn and a few others I spoke informally with only were “a little stressed”; so it does start early, but isn’t the worst thing in the world. For the seniors I talked to they weren’t too worried about it. However, according to Kayshawn, “right now it’s not hard, but when you start it will be a lot harder than you think.”

School is, to put it mildly, a nuisance for practically every being that exists on campus. I hope I’m not the only one who was a little nervous about senior projects, and hopefully someone else has had some questions or worries put to rest.

 

Titan Trio Participate in Sports Signing Day

Seniors sign letters of intent for scholarships

By Ms. Rivezzo

It is estimated that 1.9 million students participate in high school athletics across the country and only 6.5 percent of them go on to play at the NCAA college level.

On National Signing Day, Feb. 7, Skyline was one of the few schools in the Bay Area that had three seniors receive and sign letters of intent to NCAA football programs and either receive full or partial scholarships.

“This type of accomplishment from Skyline student-athletes is an example of how successful students on the hill can be if they take advantage of all the resources our school has to offer,” said Skyline Football Coach Joe Bates.

Naseme received a full scholarship and will attend Weber State in Utah this fall.

Ronald also received a full scholarship and will attend Lincoln University in Missouri this fall.

Joshua received a partial scholarship and will attend Black Hill State University in South Dakota this fall

In addition, senior Steven Lopez was awarded the Tony Fardella Pride Scholarship. Steven will soon be making a decision about where he will attend school this fall.

Engineering Club Builds ‘Solar Suitcase’

 

To be sent to poor nation for village power

The Engineering Club has just finished building a “Solar Suitcase” that will get sent abroad to developing villages to act as a more reliable and stable power source for important facilities.

The We Share project sends these suitcases, built by students, to locations around the world. These suitcases provide incomparably useful electricity to places that previously had no reliable access.

Previous suitcases have gone to schools in refugee camps in Kenya, to a women’s community center in Peru, and hospitals around the globe.

The students are really proud of building this, and are excited to have the opportunity for their skills to have a global impact.

But the final step in this project relates to the funds required to send this suitcase abroad and includes quality testing, shipping, hiking it to the village, and teaching the local villagers to maintain it.

The club is now working on raising enough money to send the suitcase abroad.

Read more and learn how you can help send the suitcase to a community in need at: http://www.gofundme.com/send-a-solar-suitcase-abroad

Winter Ball at the Oakland Zoo

By Noah Mitchell

If you did not attend Skyline’s Annual Winter Ball 2018, you missed out on a great time!

This year, it was held in the Snow Building at the Oakland Zoo from 8 to 11pm. The dance floor was sprinkled with lights and the DJ table was wired up and ready to go.

The multiple food tables were covered in everything from chicken tenders to some amazing fruit juice, even chocolate fountains. The tables were beautifully decorated and placed indoors as well as outdoors, and the view of the late night city was perfect for pictures and stargazing.

Bottom line was leadership did an outstanding job. When it came time to dance, however, only about fifty people had shown up. There was sort of a silent panic as the realization struck that no one else would show up.

When the DJ started getting down and everybody gave up on more people coming, one by one, people began to dance the night away as a tight-knit group.

OUSD Lops Off a Week of Summer Break

District moves up first day so fall semester ends  before holidays

By Paul Phelan

Most students at Skyline are aware of the pending plans to change to block scheduling in the near future, but that’s not the only upcoming change at this school. In addition to a new schedule, school will now be starting a week earlier than last year.

That’s right, one week removed from our summer break this year. When talking to students who hadn’t heard of this change, they were shocked.

One sophomore, upon hearing about this change, could only say, “No way, that’s not happening.”

After explaining that it isn’t a joke, she was severely disappointed. She thinks that this change won’t help anything at this school, and just will give students less time to spend doing independent activities, less time with family, and less time to de-stress.

When she found out that the main reason for this change is to have finals before winter break, she simply stated that they should speed up the process instead of taking time off break.

“They should just teach faster.”

Teachers, on the other hand, may feel differently. To determine this, we got an opinion from

Mr. Jensen is a history teacher here at Skyline. When asked what he thought about this change, he simply replied, “It’s alright.”

Students who overheard him say this were not thrilled, and questioned why he thinks so. He replied by saying that it will help the school by allowing finals to take place before winter break, which he believes will help students who tend to forget what they learned over breaks from school.

Although he makes a good point, not everyone agrees. Students who already knew about the change had much more to say about it,

“F*** that s***, it’s stupid,” one vocal junior told me.

It seems that most students are not happy with this change, and won’t be unless they give the time off back in some way, such as adding a week to winter break.

Overall,  while this change isn’t popular with students, opinion may change if finals end up being easier next year. If it helps things go more smoothly and helps with academics, people may have a change of heart.

The first day of school for 2018-19 is set for August 13.  The current school year began on August 21. Just four years ago, school started as late as August 25.  

AC Transit Bus Service Confirmed for Next Year

Deal is only for one year though, so talks will go on

By Anika Hua

Due to the recent budget cuts of our district, there has been concern for over a year about whether OUSD and AC Transit would discontinue their arrangement to run 50 buses to and from school.

After months of meetings between the two, however, it was announced that the buses will continue to carry hundreds of students to Skyline, Montera, and Community Day, all of which are public schools along the Oakland Hills.

Earlier in the 2016-2017 school year, Skyline was faced with the possibility of having several bus lines terminated, resulting in an outcry of protests.

This would have caused considerable damage to the students and Skyline itself, leaving many without a way to get to school.

Principal Bloom noted that two-thirds of Skyline’s students come to school by public bus, most from lower-income areas far from the campus situated  in a wealthy, hills neighborhood.

“If that [bus service] goes away, those kids go away. If it is reduced to a neighborhood school, that would completely segregate it,” Bloom was quoted as saying by the Oakland Post. “That’s not OK.”

She blamed concern about the bus service for underenrollment at Skyline, which has cost the school budget money.

“We can’t wait until May to know what is happening,” she said. “Families are already making up their minds for next year. We can’t leave huge numbers of families in the dark.”

What will happen to the hundreds ot students that rely on the bus to get to and from school everyday? What can be done to ensure the security of our future mode of transportation?

Another issue that has come to the attention of the Skyline community is the idea that students are still required to pay to get on the bus even though OUSD pays for the AC Transit to provide us with their services.

11th grader, Nathan Van, voiced his opinions on this situation,“Ya boi is broke too okay, so I think we shouldn’t be required to pay to get on the bus or at least make it available for students who are low-income.”

The idea of not having AC Transit  commute to Skyline has also concerned him as he says, “If the buses are no longer available, ya boi can’t go home.”

While it is a small victory, the debate over  bus usage beyond the 2018-2019 school year continues on.

Buses will continue to run for the rest of the year, but the decision beyond that is still up in the air. The buses are here to stay, for now, and we have only been given a  little breathing space.

Skyline Walks Out Against School Shootings

Staff, students make signs, hear speeches

By Noah Mitchell

In light of recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students from all over the United States joined together to rally against gun violence. In a sense to walk out and say, ‘We will not tolerate this anymore, this issue must stop!’

During 3rd period, teachers gave 15 minutes and supplies to students and the outcome was ammazingly creative, loud, expressive posters, banners, and picket signs with #Enough as an overall slogan. Then all students and staff walked to the field and held their artworks proudly as ASB president, Nadia Brooks, gave an extremely heartfelt speech dedicated to those who lost their lives and how it is never ok for anyone to have to deal with fear of violence in schools.

She also spoke about the laws that need to be changed surrounding guns in today’s society, and even broke into tears while speaking about why she hopes this never happens to her brother or anyone at Skyline.

Overall this walk out was needed, not only to support students all over the world or open the eyes of Skyline students to these threats, but to help end the generations of mass shootings in schools and to provoke change.