Paying to ride the school bus

Jun 2, 2014
H. Micheal Miley


Skyline is one of 15 public high schools in Oakland and the only one located in the hills. The 42-acre campus is nestled among redwoods and million dollar homes.  Nearly 2,000 students attend this traditional campus and many value the diverse student body.  But that wasn’t always the case.

Skyline High opened in 1961, and was almost immediately surrounded by conflict. It’s proposed attendance zone was one mile wide, ten miles long, and based entirely in the hills, which excluded students from the flatlands. This kept the school racially, as well as economically, homogenous -- despite the fact that the city’s black population nearly doubled during the previous decade.

Bridging the language gap for immigrant parents

Jun 2, 2014

Oakland’s Skyline High School has one of the most diverse campuses in California, with students coming from a wide range of backgrounds. That means some parents are not fluent in English, making it difficult for them to communicate with teachers and administrators. That is where the school's Family Resource Center comes in, helping to bridge the language gap with translation services.

A Day in the Life of a Skyline High Student

Jun 2, 2014


For many high school seniors the future is filled with excitement and uncertainty-- college applications, the prospect of saying goodbye to friends and family, and that occasional touch of senioritis. At Skyline High School in Oakland one student is trying to squeeze everything she possibly can into her final year. Here is a day in the energetic and jam packed life of Skyline student Hydea’ Burgess.


In 2012 Skyline's Black Student Union filed a complaint charging the school with discriminating against students of color. They accused Skyline of short-shifting black students, providing lackluster support which led directly to students not graduating. A lawsuit resulted in an agreement with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and Skyline and the Oakland Unified School District agreed to make some serious changes. Included in those reforms was a voluntary resolution plan to oversee the disciplinary methods toward African American male students.


San Francisco is home to more than 5 thousand people of Arab descent. And despite living in what is perceived as one of the most culturally competent, tolerant areas in the country, since 9-11, Arab students have been complaining of abuse, taunting, and discrimination.

The Arab Cultural and Community Center of San Francisco has developed a toolkit and curriculum to help teachers better understand their Arab students’ backgrounds, and, give them the tools to address difficult issues they deal with.

Natasha Mahia, a student at El Dorado elementary school in Visitacion Valley, is one of ROCK’s biggest fans. ROCK stands for Real Options for City Kids, an after-school and mentoring program for youth in Visitacion Valley.

Under CC license from Flickr user Kevin Krejci

Steve Sacks is the PTA President at Alvarado Elementary School in Noe Valley. He takes a lot of pride in this small school and the education it provides to just over 500 students.

Life of the Law:  "School DisciplineAs the number of law enforcement officers on school campuses has gone up, so have the number of arrests. This month the Obama Administration issued recommendations for alternative forms of discipline -- but as the story of Kyle Thompson demonstrates, in the real world of schools, the issues are tricky.


Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth

Today we're talking about Restorative Justice and how some schools are shifting their approach to student discipline.  Eric Butler is the Restorative Justice Coordinator at Ralph Bunche High School in Oakland. There are over  20 schools in Oakland that have incorporated some sort of restorative approach to discipline. This means, instead of a punitive approach to issues at school, all parties are encouraged to address the harm that's done and then try to repair any harm that was caused in their community. Eric Butler says the approach is a complete shift from how schools traditionally deal with discipline.  

ERIC BUTLER: "We’re doing something different we’re apologizing for those messed up messages that we taught because we should’ve been teaching tolerance."

Click the audio player above to listen to the full interview.

Leila Day

Not long ago there was a food fight at Ralph Bunche High School. And Angel Hernandez is in trouble. He’s 18, a senior, and he’s not admitting anything happened. He’s slouched in his chair in a circle in a room whose walls are covered with positive messages: ‘Respect,’ ‘Listen,’ ‘Trust.’ His mom, Maria Ramirez, sits at his side. Also in the circle is the cafeteria worker Miss Mina, and she looks pretty ticked off. “Everybody starts throwing stuff,” she says. “I said excuse me, how old are you guys? You guys want to clean up my kitchen?”

Youth Radio podcast:  Civic Education for a New Generation

Contrary to popular belief, nearly 90 percent of high school students take a civics class. But what's the quality of those classes? This week's Youth Radio podcast looks at how racial and political diversity in the classroom affects what young people learn about politics and society.

99% Invisible:  Symphony of Sirens


Not long ago, I attended a lecture at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, the law school. It was just before sunset and about 100 Yemeni Americans – mostly young men – filled the room to see and hear their countrywoman, 34-year-old Tawakkul Karman. She’s the activist and revolutionary, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for sparking the revolution that ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdalla Saleh.

50 years beyond the dream

Aug 28, 2013

It was 50 years ago today that over 250,000 people gathered in Washington for the Jobs and Freedom March. On that day, Martin Luther King JR made one of HISTORY’S most famous speeches: “I Have a Dream.”

Youth Radio: Staying off probation, and teaching others how

Aug 22, 2013

In 2008, Reinaldi Gilder promised himself that he would never go back to jail. Since his release in December of that year, he’s not only managed to keep his word, he has also shown others that they can do the same.

At 23 years old, Safiya Martinez was looking for a job teaching in public schools in New York. To get her credentials faster, she chose to teach at one of the toughest middle schools in the South Bronx, in a program for challenged kids.

For those who do have little ones, the Bay Area has a lot of preschools for you. There are close to 200 in San Francisco alone. And that’s not even counting Head Start programs, which operate in all 50 states. 

Many people believe that Head Start was America’s first government-run educational program for young children. It launched in 1964. But World War II actually produced an earlier model, right here in the city of Richmond.

Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images

About 18 months ago, novice entrepreneur Sue Khim flew to San Francisco from her home in Illinois to take part in an uncommonly public version of a Silicon Valley rite of passage — the pitch. With thousands of other young techies in the audience, she was scheduled to be onstage at the Launch Festival, a showcase for “stealth” startups that have managed to keep their products out of the voracious tech press, or have as-yet-unreleased products to announce.

Bridging the Opportunity Divide in the Bay Area

Jun 18, 2013

What happens to young people in the Bay Area with no college degree? How can they navigate a labor market that demands high tech skills without adequate education or training? Producer and guest host Victoria Thorp and guests explore new strategies for addressing the opportunity divide in the Bay Area.


The story at City College of San Francisco has had a lot of twists and turns since last year, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s higher education reporter, Nanette Asimov, has been one of the public’s main sources for information on it. She sat down with KALW’s Ben Trefny to talk about how the school got to where it is today, and where it’s going next.

Commentaries: San Francisco high schoolers on the influence of music

Jun 13, 2013



For some, music is a source of inspiration, and even guidance. For others, it may be the beginning of a potential career path.

In these next two commentaries, high school students from the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco explore the significance of music in their lives.

shared by USAG-Humphreys on flickr

Have you ever had to command the attention of three dozen teenagers? It’s not easy. Especially when you’re still learning how to be a teacher.

“Classroom management, it’s about control,” says Oakland High School student teacher Diana Arbas. “Control of the students, sure, but it’s about control of self. It’s about demonstrating to them how an adult behaves.”

Diana, 27, is learning to lead in the classroom with the help of her Coordinating Teacher, or CT. She has felt a sense of responsibility to her students from the beginning. But, by December, when we last heard from Diana, she was ready for a break.

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has seen its share of upheaval over the past decade. In 2003, the state took control of OUSD after a series of financial missteps. In 2009, local control was returned to the district – with the understanding that it would pay back nearly $90 million in debt to the state. That was two days before Tony Smith took office as superintendent.


Karen Gordon

Diana Arbas, 27, is a student teacher at Oakland High School. She’s in a masters program at Mills College, where in order to earn her degree, she has to tackle a real classroom. Diana has the guidance of a more experienced teacher, known as a Cooperating Teacher, but the goal is for her to be able to stand on her own.

Oakland’s a hard city to teach in. Oakland High is in East Oakland. The student body is made up of kids with very diverse backgrounds, many from the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Not all come to the ninth grade ready to tackle that level of work.


It’s 7:55am at United for Success Middle School in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. Students are roaming the halls to avoid entering their classrooms. Talk of birthdays, high school classes, and juicy gossip are being shared in these last few minutes before first period.

Under CC license from Flickr user maltman23

For the past two months, KALW has spoken to families making their way through the special education system here in the Bay Area. A similar thread between all the families has surfaced: having advocates helping you navigate the system makes the special education waters a little less rough.

Roosevelt Middle School

What is the recipe for a good education and a great school?  That is the question that drives Oakland Public High School Principal, Cliff Hong.

Hong is at the helm of Roosevelt Middle School in the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland, which has about 650 students.

Mills College student and KALW reporter Karen Gordon met Hong a year ago, when he was in his second year as principal of Roosevelt Middle School. 

KAREN GORDON:  What is the recipe for a good education and a great school?

Schools and districts around the country are looking for ways to improve learning and safety for their students. And author David Kirp’s new book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System, tackles just that topic. He says we have to start with the way we think about education reform – and that means reforming the way we talk about it. He spoke about this with KALW’s Holly Kernan.

Special education is no stranger to California news. This past winter, a special education teacher in Oakland was accused of beating one of her students. The story got a lot of local media attention. But what about the majority of special education teachers not caught up in litigation, working every day to serve the 10 percent of all California students in these programs? What’s a day like like for them?