Oh District, my District.
It’s been said that if the people lead, the leaders will follow… but what happens if they don’t. What happens if the young people pick up a megaphone and the district does not answer the call?
During the seven day Oakland Education Association strike, students often led protests and rallies. The students were inspiring. They reminded many of us why we teach. On Monday, March 4th, the Oakland Unified Board of Education reminded many of us why we lose confidence in our educational leaders.
See links to galleries at the end of this post.
Day 3 – Marching on Broadway
If not for the support of the students and community members, the Oakland Unified School District would not have agreed to the pay raises for the teachers. If not for the teacher pay raises, the district would not have cut programs… at least that was the argument when the school board voted to cut popular programs earlier this week.… Read the rest
In 2009, the first two classes of Melrose Leadership Academy dual immersion kindergarten students started school. Last month, the first two classes of 8th grade MLA dual immersion students finished middle school. I photographed the June 7, 2018 promotion ceremony and a celebration dinner the day earlier.
When we started at the school, we could only imagine the first 8th graduation class. Now, these students are part of the school’s legacy. I have included photos from the first kindergarten graduation as well as photo galleries from the Promotion Ceremony and 8th Grade Party.
I have collected nearly 100 photography galleries in my MLA Photography Collection. I started photographing some of the graduating Melrose Leadership Academy students when they were still in pre-school. My daughter was part of the first kindergarten class; my son started two years later. My children did not finish at MLA, but they are also part of the legacy.… Read the rest
This is the first school year that one of my children have not attended Melrose Leadership Academy since the school began it’s dual immersion program in 2009. I have been taking pictures of the school before my kids started attending.
During the first year of the dual immersion program, my daughter was a kindergarten student. I began photographing all the kindergarteners. When my son started at MLA, I continued photographing the kindergarten class.
When the school moved to the new site, I kept taking pictures. After my kids left the school, I did not know what to do. Eventually, I decided that I would continue. My kids may have left the school, but I will always feel connected.
This year, Harold Lowe helped me when I photographed the kindergarten class. Harold has three children at MLA. Harold and I have become friends; our children are friends too. To view the gallery from this year, click the link.… Read the rest
People often contact me and ask me questions about photography, but a couple weeks ago I received an unusual phone call about some of my photographs. A woman found pictures of the 2011 San Marin High School basketball team’s North Coast Section championship season.
She wanted the pictures for a memorial service.
That’s how I learned that San Marin’s basketball coach Craig Pitti died. Craig had been diagnosed with Cancer this September. He died last month. San Marin High School held a memorial service last week.
I taught at San Marin High School during the 2010-2011 school year when SMHS won it’s first section title. For the five year anniversary, I created a photo book and sent it to Pitti. I neglected to include my name, but he responded with a beautiful message that I plan to keep as long as possible. During the playoffs last year, I attended one of San Marin’s games when they played at another one of my former schools.… Read the rest
Last month, Ginga Mundo Capoeira Oakland held their fourth annual Festival da Caopeira. The three day event includes sessions for youth at Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, California. (MLA is my children’s elementary school.) My fifth grade son has attended all four. The first festa da capoeira was held in December 2013; the last three have occurred in May.
Until my children began capoeira, I was unfamiliar with it. I did not appreciate capoeira’s history nor the dedication of the capoeira community. Because I had not seen capoeira, I did not appreciate the complex lessons my son would learn.
Capoeira is inter-generational and participatory. Younger students learn from older masters and professors. Many of the teachers travel from other states or other countries to share their knowledge. Knowledge is valued… the sharing of knowledge is valued.
Young students learn how to share their knowledge with other younger students.… Read the rest
Last month, Melrose Leadership Academy’s fifth graders traveled to San Francisco’s Chinese Historical Society of America. We walked to a nearby playground in Chinatown before we visited the new permanent exhibit “Chinese Americans: Exclusion/Inclusion.”
We took a bus across the Bay Bridge from Oakland. I took some pictures. I included the photo gallery here. (The individual photos are from the gallery.)
San Francisco’s Chinatown is a popular tourist destination, but its history is often overlooked. Chinatown was almost lost after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act restricted the number of people who could become legal citizens. Americans enforced the restrictions. During the field trip, the students learned how some of the immigrants were tested at Angel Island and other sites.
The new exhibit asks, “What does it mean to be American?” This is a recurring question for our country. It seems that some people are allowed to sail across oceans and land on our shores and become Americans.… Read the rest
This is the eighth year that I have photographed the Melrose Leadership Academy dual immersion kindergarten students. I have photographed every kindergarten class since MLA introduced the Spanish bilingual program. My daughter was in the first class; my son started two years later. I have also photographed other activities, often as the Historian. (See the MLA Collection of Galleries.)
MLA is an OUSD district school. We have created something special in a place where failure is expected. If I did not have my pictures, I would question whether we ever built the school. Some days, I still wonder if I am hallucinating.
One of my mentors, Jim McNay, recently sent me an article about long-term projects from the Magnum Photo Agency site. The authors provide “Five lessons in developing and sustaining a long-term photographic project.” The first lesson: have a mission statement. Why is this story important?
My goals have changed during the eight years, but my reasons have remained consistent.… Read the rest
I wanted to publish positive images today… reminders about the beauty of my children’s world.
On Wednesday January 18, 2017, Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland held their Winter Performance Expo. Here is my photo gallery slideshow of 121 images.
On Wednesday night, Oakland Unified held another board meeting to discuss budget shortfalls. Today, our new President said in his Inaugural Address that America had “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.”
It has not been my experience, first as a teacher in OUSD, and now as a parent in OUSD, that we are either “flush with cash” nor depriving students. We have not deprived students the 8 years that I have had a child at MLA.
We have often struggled in our neighborhood and in our school… we have often struggled at the neighborhood school, but there has always been something to celebrate.
This is the 8th year I have photographed students at MLA.… Read the rest
“Imagine all the people living life in peace”
Yesterday, my son’s Spanish bilingual school, Melrose Leadership Academy, organized a march through our Maxwell Park neighborhood in Oakland, California.
The march had been planned before the recent tragedy in Oakland; however, our school community benefited from the supportive event. If you are avoiding news, Oakland has experienced the deadliest fire since 2003 in the United States. The Oakland Ghost Ship Fire was about two miles from MLA. National news outlets have asked questions about the fire that our community might not be prepared to ask. We needed a reason to gather.
I was also aware that the peace march was held on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Some people might view these images and not find the march patriotic. I don’t. My son wanted to paint his face red, white and blue, because he sees America in his classmates and teachers.… Read the rest
This feels more like an obituary than an anniversary… an acknowledgement that a language has died, or as John Lennon sang, “Everybody’s talking and no one says a word.”
13 years ago today, I began working at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. At the time, Brooks was a visual art college respected throughout the world. If you believe the press reports and Facebook postings, Brooks closed last month. I don’t believe everything I see about Brooks. While working for Brooks, I learned how imagery can be manipulated. I also learned to question the parent company that owned Brooks during the nearly five years that I worked for the school.
I was going to start the post with the phrase, “Life is a paradox,” and so it was with Brooks. Many of us who worked for Brooks were loyal to the college, but not the company. We searched for a safe harbor, so that we could live with the turbulence caused by our dysfunctional parent. I am still searching for the right balance that is part appreciation, part confession and part warning.… Read the rest
Last week my children started school again. My son attends a Spanish dual immersion school in Oakland, California. (My daughter attended Melrose Leadership Academy the first six years of MLA’s bilingual program. Now she attends 7th grade in a neighboring district middle school.) MLA is not for everyone, but I believe in the school.
When my daughter was in the first class of bilingual students at MLA, I was concerned, but confident. I know what it means to be the first at something. I have also known people who were the first. I have known trailblazers, and this experience has given me comfort. I have probably taken these experiences for granted.
This last year, my son started playing baseball. He loves playing catcher. I attended a high school that is known for producing Major League pitchers and catchers. Fresno High School also produced the first Mexican American MLB manager. When I was a kid, my grandfather had married into his family.… Read the rest
Twilight, lost my way
Twilight, can’t find my way
In the shadows, boy meets man (from U2’s Twilight)
Last week I photographed Inventing Our Future 2016 at Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, California. The three day event was the Fifth Annual Integrated Learning Summer Institute sponsored by Alameda County Office of Education and other regional partners. The conference emphasizes how art can improve education across the curriculum. I have attended the last four summer workshops.
As the photographer, I visit all 33 workshops. I also meet the morning plenary speakers. I follow each day’s theme as I follow the schedule. On day one, we explored “compassion for self and others.” Several of the workshops focused on trauma. How do we help ourselves? How can we help our students?
Each year, I listen to music while driving to the workshop. This year I listened to U2’s first album Boy.… Read the rest
I have been photographing performances at Melrose Leadership Academy longer than many people have been taking pictures. Earlier this month, I photographed my 14th “Performance Expo” at my son’s dual immersion Oakland public school. You can access the Spring 2016 photo gallery here.
I am an educator as well as a parent, so I probably view these performances differently than some people. I look at the educational and developmental value. As a photographer, I am continually looking for the visual opportunities. Every time I photograph the performance expos, I find opportunities and value.
Earlier this year, I shared some photos from previous expos. In the January 2016 post, I also wondered if educators could create a standardized test for collaboration. You have probably heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone is working on the standardized test yet, so I keep dreaming.
When I attended an art educators meeting last month, I claimed that art is an afterthought… it is an add on.… Read the rest
“Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good.” – Garry Winogrand
I regularly ask my students to choose their favorite photographs and their best photographs. These are separate activities; however, for the reason that Winogrand mentions above, beginning photographers often confuse the difference. Students can mistake their positive memories for positive assessments. Other times, students’ memories cloud their ability to judge (or see) their best work. In other words, if a picture doesn’t feel good, it must not be good… or so it would seem.
Gary Winogrand is not my favorite photographer. Nor do I think he is the best, but there is no doubting his influence, especially in the world of street photography. Three years ago, during the JEA/NSPA 2013 Spring National High School Journalism Convention, I visited SF MOMA ‘s Winogrand exhibit. Two days earlier, I had taught a photo workshop to student journalists. Until recently, I assumed that the workshop was a failure, because I measured the workshop by my emotions at the time.… Read the rest
This is the seventh year that I have photographed the Melrose Leadership Academy kindergarten students.
I started the project when my daughter was in kindergarten. My daughter is no longer a student at MLA, but some of her former kindergarten classmates still attend MLA and they helped me with this year’s shoot.
Last year I wrote about how the project began. Each year I search for a new idea. I wish I had thought about including the original kindergarten students earlier.
I want my images to reflect MLA’s community spirit. By including the older students, the kindergarten portraits show more of the community spirit that I have always witnessed. I remember when my fourth grade son started MLA. He liked having the older role models. Did the older kids realize how much they were appreciated?
Today is Cesar Chavez Day. Some agencies and districts honor the holiday. It’s a complicated holiday for many reasons. I think that the holiday is even more complicated, because it calls for us to honor community building.… Read the rest
On Valentine’s weekend, I photographed The Crucible’s 2016 version of their Hot Couture fashion show. This year’s theme was Alchemy & Ardor, “A Fusion of Fashion and Fire.” This was the third year that I photographed the show. Every year I learn something unexpected about creativity; each year I learn something about myself.
from runway 1 – click to launch gallery
Before I photographed fashion, I assumed that designers were boring. I don’t know how I arrived at this preconception. The designers at Hot Couture are a little too exciting for this blog. I don’t even upload some of my photos, because the designers are too interesting. I am the boring one.
from runway 2 – click to launch gallery
While I don’t have much style or since of fashion, I have learned that I like fashion. I haven’t changed how I dress. I would need a personal stylist to help me match colors and textures, but I appreciate style more.… Read the rest
The Melrose Leadership Academy after school program students presented the 2016 Winter Performance Expo on January 20, 2016. I believe that I have photographed each performance expo since my daughter started MLA in 2009. If I am correct, this is my 13th.
A baker’s dozen
I enjoy watching our younger students prepare for their first assemblies. I enjoy watching them grow into confident performers.
I also cherish seeing older students. Some of these older students I have been photographing since they were in pre-school. I wish our school system would create standardized tests that measured collaboration and presentation abilities. Our students would exceed expectations.
Technology has changed since I first started photographing MLA students… and the marketing of photography products reminds us that “everything has changed about photography.”
But it hasn’t. Kids are still kids.
And adults teach children how to find their place on the stage.… Read the rest
Two weeks ago I photographed the Women Who Code Executive Council celebration. Women Who Code is a global non-profit that increases women’s participation in technology fields. As of last month, WWCode has connected more than 50,000 women.
For Giving Tuesday, Google featured Women Who Code on Google’s “One Today” page. This is another indication that WWCode has led more than 2,000 successful events in 20 countries.
Even if I do not understand computer languages, I related to the community bonding. I just did not realize that it would be so three dimensional. One of the WWCode organizers, Kaitlyn Hova played her “Hovalin,” a 3-D violin that she and her husband designed and printed. The instrument looked and sounded like a violin.
Hova is an incredible performer. She hears music in code too, so it was probably natural that she would design a 3-D printed instrument.
There were other multi-dimensional conversations… several people discussed 3-D printing. The participants supported each other.… Read the rest
Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand…
And you can tell right away at letter A….
Stevie Wonder, “Sir Duke,” album “Songs in the Key of Life”
Where do we begin?
Last week I photographed the three day Inventing Our Future Integrated Summer Learning Institute at The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California. The Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership organizes the ILSI so that area educators will be better prepared to integrate art into their curriculum. After I photographed last year’s conference, I wondered if educators would love connecting with each other as well as the content. This year I will remember how students inspired me to wonder about a different question.
How does one distinguish between Courage and Good Art?
The institute is one place where everyone accepts that art education is important. I can relax and learn from others without feeling that I must continually justify arts integration. Let’s face it, America is just not that into integration.… Read the rest
When my 11 year old daughter began kindergarten at Melrose Leadership Academy, I had a simple idea. I thought I could photograph each kindergarten class as long as my children attended the school. I live in the neighborhood. How difficult could it be?
As I tell my photography students, simple and easy are not the same. “Simple” is difficult and my simple idea has become more difficult this year. I teach in a district an hour away from my home. We have the same breaks, so I don’t have a week to visit the school.
There is another complication. I try to create something different each year. MLA was at a different site the first three years, so those pictures all look different from the more recent images. Each year I wonder how I am going to create something interesting. Last year, I gave the kids magnifying glasses. This year, the students photographed me with my smartphone.… Read the rest
On a standardized test, what does a leader look like? How do you build standardized assessments that reward collaboration and creativity? If you wanted to identify the next Julia Morgan, would you rely on the SAT?
The two 5th grade pioneer classes from Melrose Leadership Academy visited Mills College in Oakland, California. Mills College is in our neighborhood, so the students walked to Mills. Melrose fifth graders are the architects who have built MLA into a model for urban education. This year, I photographed Ms. Jessica’s 5th grade students during their neighborhood field trip to Mills. In April of 2012, I photographed the 2011-2012 kindergarten classes for their expeditionary learning project at the campus creek. That was also our the last year that MLA was at the old Elizabeth Sherman site. The walk was shorter.
During both visits, students learned about native plants and the natural environments supported by a native ecosystem. This year, Mills College students taught MLA students how to remove invasive plant species so that natives can return to the creek bed.… Read the rest
On Thursday March 5th, Melrose Leadership Academy held the first TK-5th Grade Choral Concert in Oakland, California. (You can view a photo gallery of The Choral Concert here.) Earlier this school year, MLA held its annual Dance-a-thon. (I have included dance-a-thon images at the bottom and a gallery here.) Since today is International Women’s Day and yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I thought that I would revisit a quote painted on one of the murals where my two children attend school… the quote is about dancing across bridges.
Si no puedo bailar tu revolución no me interesa – Emma Goldman
Melrose Leadership Academy is a dual immersion public school in Oakland. (It is not a charter school.) The kids at MLA are smarter than I am. I can only speak English, and I often forget how to speak and write in my first (and only) language. When my daughter translated the Goldman quote into English for me, I understood that Goldman was advising advocates that social movements needed charisma.… Read the rest
The last time I attended an Oakland Unified School Board meeting, I taught at an OUSD elementary school. I was an active Oakland Education Association (OEA) union member. People read newspapers. Nobody had a Facebook profile. Board meetings were held in the old district office, but everything else felt oddly familiar.
If anyone is interested, they could probably find an old Oakland Tribune article titled “The Classroom Shuffle.” A reporter learned about classroom consolidation and how it disrupts entire schools six weeks into the school year. Consolidation almost always occurred at low-income/ low-performing schools. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. I could not continue teaching for a district that allowed consolidation to continue. One night I was called by someone who I believe tried to warn me. He told me that if I kept exposing the situation I would lose my job. I kept exposing. I lost my job. Was it related?… Read the rest
Before I became a father, I started working for a photography college as an admissions officer. I thought that I would work for Brooks Institute for a year and then return to teaching. My life changed and I remained at Brooks for nearly five school years. Now I have a ten year old daughter and an eight year old son. I returned to teaching (a few times), but I never completely left college admissions. Earlier this month, I took my two children to the Sonoma County College and Career Readiness Fair that I helped start. I wanted my kids to learn about “my college fair,” and begin learning about the different college options. You can see more photos from the 2014 Sonoma County College and Career Ready Fair here.
Of course, I do not own the college fair. It is not really mine. Chris Vetrano, one of the Windsor High School assistant principals, calls me the founder of the Sonoma County College Fair.… Read the rest