It’s 8:08am, the Friday before spring break, and under other circumstances Kathleen Byrnes would already be at work.

“We would be in our classrooms preparing for the day, which is where we would rather be,” she says.

Courtesy OUSD African American Male Achievement office

Young African-American men in Alameda County face a lot of serious challenges -- things like high rates of incarceration, homicide, poverty, and low academic achievement. In 2010, the Oakland public school district became the first in the country to create an office dedicated to addressing some of these issues.

How one Oakland school is getting kids to class

Dec 9, 2014
Isabel Angell

Chronic absence is one of the best indicators of future success in school. That’s when a student misses more than two days of school out of the month for any reason. Students with high rates of absence have lower test scores, and if it starts when they’re young, they’re more likely to drop out in high school.

I’m walking alongside the mural called “Beautiful Struggle” in front of Oakland High School. Frida Kahlo, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X are just a few of many social activists portrayed here. This mural also reflects a student body made up predominantly of students of color. Oakland High is 51 percent Asian, 29 percent Black, 16 percent Latino, and one percent white.

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.


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?