Master Teachers at Hillcrest

Big congrats to Hallie Bahr and Christina Freshl, fifth-grade teachers at Hillcrest School.  Everyone of their students last year will enter middle school proficient or advanced in reading, writing, and math. It was the most successful 5th grade cohort of any Oakland public school.

Christina Freshl

Hallie Bahr

Oakland Unified is blessed with some fantastic teachers, but not all teachers are equal. The Los Angeles Times is about to publish the names of thousands of elementary school teachers next to a measurement of their effectiveness. Teachers in LA are ticked. But how are parents and guardians supposed to choose teachers? Any principal can tell you that some teachers are more popular than others. As the LA Times noted, popular teachers aren’t always the ones whose students earn the highest scores on standardized tests.

While Hillcrest goes all the way up to the 8th grade, we looked at the 5th grade test score results released Monday for all of the Hills’ elementary schools. It wasn’t a scientific study, but all of the schools improved scores for fifth graders with the exception of Glenview. We know that standardized tests are but one way to measure schools, and not always the best way. We looked at 5th grade, because it’s in middle school that test scores begin to decline for many students. The stronger the foundation a student has at the beginning of middle school, the better. You can see test results for all grades and schools in the state here.

Crocker Highlands: English Language Arts (ELA) – 88 percent proficient or above, Math – 82 percent proficient or above

Glenview: ELA – 56 percent, Math 29 percent *

Henry J Kaiser: ELA – 84 percent, Math – 70 percent

Hillcrest School (K-8): ELA – 100 percent, Math 100 percent

Joaquin Miller: ELA – 84 percent, Math – 68 percent

Montclair: ELA – 90 percent, Math – 90 percent

Redwood Heights: ELA: 91 percent, Math – 93 percent

Sequoia: ELA – 62 percent, Math – 76 percent

Thornhill: ELA – 91 percent, Math – 91 percent

* This is a pretty steep decline from the year before (ELA – 69 percent, Math – 67 percent), so we called the school district too learn if there any special circumstances to explain it. We’ll keep you posted.

Good News and Goodbye

Dear Today in Montclair members,

As you may know, your faithful blogger started the Today in Montclair site on a lark.  There just wasn’t enough coverage about our Oakland Hills and, as this site grew, it started to fill gaps in local reporting.  Over the past couple years, we somehow entered the firmament of Bay Area sites and are here to stay.  This membership site was also established to share events, listings and social posts here and on the main site.

Although we have been a little quiet, the past two months have been all about transition:  handing the keys to Alex Gronke and his team at The Oakbook.  It’s been a privilege to align with this well-known and respected Oakland publication.  We’re excited about what they have begun doing with the site, especially covering more news along with features.

The Oakbook has a thoughtful and reasoned take on what makes Oakland special.  The writers love Oakland, yet aren’t afraid to report good, bad and ugly aspects about the city.  Reporting about the hills was already attractive to Oakbook’s publisher, who coincidentally had written for The Montclarion more than a decade ago.

So why did your faithful blogger bow out?  While I am missing Oakland terribly now, I left California to accept a VP position at a higher-education marketing company.  My role is to lead marketing and product management, and focus on helping schools and students find each other.  While there’s no appropriate way to say good-bye, our transition is complete — and you are in even better hands now.


Debby Richman

P.S.  Please reach Alex anytime.  He’s on this network, and reachable at as well.

Oakland Blasts Piedmont’s Blair Park EIR

The Oakland Planning Department was quite hard on Piedmont’s Draft Environmental Impact Report about plans for a sports complex in Blair Park. This is what Eric Angstadt in Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency wrote in the city’s official response to the EIR: “In summary, the DEIR does not adequately address the impacts of the Moraga Canyon Sports Field Project, including most notably, impacts on the City of Oakland, which is immediately adjacent to the project site.”

The Canyon in Spring

City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jean Quan also commented: “The DEIR’s conclusion that many of the environmental impacts are “significant and unavoidable” without a more thorough analysis does not do justice to the Project itself, and to the people of Piedmont and Oakland who must live with the consequences should the project proceed without full analysis and mitigation. The DEIR must include a reasonable range of potentially feasible alternatives for all the impacts.”

What comes next? Piedmont has a couple of months to respond to the comments, and in November a final EIR will be produced. During this time (and after), officials from both cities can sit down and try to reach a plan that meets the needs of Oakland and Piedmont. It’s hard to imagine that if Piedmont continues to disregard the concerns of its neighbors, a lawsuit won’t be in the offing.

Friends of Moraga Canyon has a good summary of the anti-Sports Complex position as well as all of the relevant official document relating to the project.

Good Deeds, Good Drinks

Do you like to leaven your volunteering with a catered gourmet meal and cocktail hour? Then spending a weekend in September restoring a portion of the Big Trees Trail in Joaquin Miller Park may be just the good deed you’ve been looking for.

Volunteers for Outdoor California is recruiting folks to help build new sections of the Big Trails Trail which have eroded in two spots leaving the root network of adjacent trees vulnerable. It’s two days of moderate manual labor, and plenty of sustenance to maintain the aforementioned labor. On Saturday, September 11 the work day begins at 8 am and ends at 3 pm. Happy hour starts at 4pm, dinner and entertainment begins at 6:15pm. Volunteers are encouraged to start camping at the site Friday evening. This will be the second time V-O-Cal has partnered with the City of Oakland to work on projects in Joaquin Miller Park. In 2007, 200 volunteers came out to build half a mile of new trail.

Mayor’s Race Takes Shape

Well, Ron Dellums made the only decision he could have sensibly made Wednesday and announced that he wouldn’t try to win a second term as Oakland’s mayor. As of Wednesday, there were 10 candidates who took nomination papers from the City Clerk’s office with the hope of following Dellums as Oakland’s mayor.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, even at the local level money plays a huge role in elections. Here in Oakland, we’ve limited the amount candidates can raise and spend on elections. Each candidate for mayor can spend up to $370,000, or around $0.70 for every resident. Terence Candell, who just submitted his signatures and became an official candidate Wednesday, said he barely has $10,000 now. He said it takes people to win an election. True, but it also takes money. Here’s the cash on hand for mayoral candidates who’ve reported contributions to the City Clerk.

  • Joe Tuman’s campaign manager said that he hopes to report the size of his war chest by Friday.