Tagged Health & Education

The Invention of Lying, Opens Oct. 2

Sandra Varner’s Celebrity Profiles

“Lying never felt so good…it’s true.” Sandra Varner, Talk2SV.com

These days, Ricky Gervais (“Night at the Museum” I & II) is in high demand and he handles the attention well.

Gervais has become today’s “poster boy” for the ordinary, lackluster guy who gets the girl and does so with classic dry, British wit and clever aplomb.

Making the rounds at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival to promote his new movie, “The Invention of Lying,” Gervais, seated on a dais next to Rob Lowe (TV’s “Brothers & Sisters,” “The West Wing”), blurted out before an eager band of reporters, “Oh yeah, put me next to Rob Lowe, brilliant. What a great comparison that is.”

In response, Lowe offered the comparison, “Twins,” referring to the 1988 Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, the story of a physically perfect man who goes in search of his twin, a small, non-threatening figure.

Gervais fires back, “Yeah, twins. I’m Danny DeVito (Schwarzenegger’s movie twin) and Lowe flips it right back, “It’s good to be sitting next to Simon Cowell.”

These two are having fun.

Lovable yet acerbic, Gervais is not your typical leading man rather he epitomizes the everyman we can all relate to. His character in LYING is Mark Bellison, simply put, a borderline loser with few options for success. Mark struggles as a screenwriter for a history-based film company and –finds in telling lies– an out to his inability to pen a worthwhile script.

Co-written by Matthew Robinson and co-starring Jennifer Garner (“Juno”), Tina Fey (NBC’s “30 Rock”) and Hollywood film producer Lynda Obst (“How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days”), this movie is a hoot.

Plainly speaking, if there is a logical reason as to why “we” lie, who wouldn’t want to know why?

“The Invention of Lying” attempts to make sense of the reasons why we do.

I asked about the premise of the film that allows one to think of the lies you want to tell, have told, or wish you had wondering if the filmmakers refrained from telling certain lies because they wouldn’t work in the context of the story nor be funny.

“We didn’t cut anything because we thought it was too offensive or shocking but we did cut down the amount of jokes because we didn’t want people constantly searching in the background or looking for too many advertisements or commercials. We really limited the amount of “small lies” that were littered around … just so that the ones that were there would work,” explained Robinson.

Gervais added, “Yeah, we wanted you (the audience) to concentrate more on the bigger story as well because there’s quite a lot going on in the film. I mean it’s all high concept comedy, and then moves to drama. There’s a lot of stuff going on so we had to cut down on the peripheral stuff, just so people would concentrate. But the decision we made about the lies we couldn’t tell, there was one just to show that Mark was a decent guy; that he had three chances to lie to get the girl and he didn’t because as he said at the end, ‘it wouldn’t count.’

“It’s funny when you’re making those decisions as a writer/ director: what you should and shouldn’t do. Because in a world without lying there’s no fiction; so I play a screenwriter and the films of the day are just readers, reading out facts like the history of the fork, things like that. We had the holocaust and we thought about it and we thought there wouldn’t be a holocaust because prejudice and race is built on a lie.”

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Oakland Grows Its Own Teachers

By Ken A. Epstein

<p>Cicely Day Butler, teacher.</p>

Cicely Day Butler, teacher.

Andrew Wilson, president, All City Council.

Andrew Wilson, president, All City Council.

Betty Olson Jones, president, Oakland Education Association.

Betty Olson Jones, president, Oakland Education Association.

Cicely Day Butler, a graduate of Castlemont High School and Holy Names University, is about to become an Oakland teacher, thanks to a unique new program designed to “grow-our-own” talent to work in the city’s classrooms.
“It’s huge. I’m going to be able to give back to the community. I will show my nieces and nephews that you can become something,” she said. “My family is so excited that I’m going to teach.”
Day Butler is one of 25 teachers in training who will start in September, as part of Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, which has just received a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the program’s efforts to train 160 local residents to become teachers over the next few years.
The program is designed to train educators who are from Oakland and represent Oakland’s diversity in culture, language, and experience.  Local adults and college students are provided assistance with the multiple fees, tests, and application procedures required to earn a teaching credential.
Teach Tomorrow is based on a collaboration between the Oakland Unified School District, Mayor Ron Dellums and residents’ Community Task Forces, as well as the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and Cal State East Bay.
“We’ve been part of this from the beginning, when it was just an idea,” said OEA President Betty Olson Jones, who has served on the applicant screening panel.  “We’re going to grow our own,” she said. “We’re looking for people who will make this a career, not just a stepping stone.”
The idea for Teach Tomorrow in Oakland was born out of the work of the Community Task Force on   Effective Teachers, according to Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, an education professor at Holy Names University and co-convener of the Mayor–initiated task force.
“For us this grant is significant for Oakland for two reasons – student achievement and local hiring,” she said.
“It’s extremely important to have local teachers because they know us and can connect to our day to day struggles,” said Andrew Wilson, president of the students’ All City Council and a student at Metwest High School.
The federal funding grew out of discussions with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said Mayor Dellums, who emphasized the program is based on Oakland residents’ vision and planning that began before the money had been identified.
“One of the (Community Task Force) recommendations was to do something about creating a permanent, stable, diverse teaching corps,” Dellums said. “We accepted the challenge of that recommendation. With minimal resources we began to go down that road.”
For more information on Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, contact Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard at (510) 879-8916 or rachelle.rogers-ard@ousd.k12.ca.us.

$500,000 to OUSD

Sandre R. Swanson

Sandre R. Swanson

The State Assembly has passed a bill that would help the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as well as other districts in state receivership to pay back their state loans while continuing to provide quality education programs.
AB 980, authored by Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (D-Alameda), cleared the body on a 48-31 vote.
“This is an issue about fairness. When a district is recovering from financial crisis, it is only right that all parts of the district pay their fair share to help retire the loan. In fact, on February 3, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell ordered the State Administrator to transfer $60 per student from Oakland’s general fund to charter schools,” said Swanson.
Estimates vary, but the district would gain an additional $500,000 annually from charters not currently contributing.
The OUSD Board of Trustees ratified their support of the measure in a recent board meeting.  Speaking before an earlier Assembly committee, Board Member Alice Spearman stated,  “This bill will help evenly distribute the burden of debt repayment across all schools in our district. I consider this matter one of basic fairness.”

Meet Finalists for Schools’ Superintendent

Roberta Mayor, interim superintendent.

Roberta Mayor, interim superintendent.

Members of the public are invited to meet the top candidates to become the first permanent chief of the Oakland Unified School District since the state took control of the local school system in 2003.

The board is expected to announce its final decision by May 22 but will first hold the public meeting for the public to meet the final two or three candidates.
The meeting will take place Wednesday, May 20, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the district’s main administration building, 1025 Second Ave. The finalists will appear individually, make a brief presentation and take written questions.
For the past six years, the city’s public schools have been run by state-appointed administrators representing State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O’Connell. Since July, Roberta Mayor has served as interim superintendent.

Sulaiman Mohamed, 16, Earns 2 College Degrees Before High School Diploma

By Ken A. Epstein

Sulaiman Mohamed, though only 16 years old, is already making waves in academic circles.
He graduates next month from Skyline High School, two years ahead of his class. Meanwhile, he already has earned two associate of arts degrees from Laney College and is accepted for the fall as a junior at UCLA.
Sulaiman is a political science major and plans to attend law school. While at Laney, he earned honors in both his AA degrees, which were in liberal arts and social science.  His grade-point average in high school is over  4.0.
Born abroad, he attended Bay Area Technology School, a charter middle school, which is now located in North Oakland. He also attended Bella Vista Elementary.

Sulaiman Mohamed, 16, (left) with father Mohamed Mohamed, a West Oakland business owner. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

Sulaiman Mohamed, 16, (left) with father Mohamed Mohamed, a West Oakland business owner. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

He likes to play basketball and volunteers in a number of projects, including Lake Merritt cleanup and at the public library. He is in the environmental club at Skyline High.
He went with some students from his school to Barack Obama’s inauguration. “It was inspirational,” he said. “I’ve been following his polices, even when he was a senator.”
Sulaiman says he has had a lot of adult support as he has progressed through school “It’s been a mixture of friends, teachers and family. My family has been behind me 100 percent,” he said.
He believes he is an example, not of personal genius, but of hard work and determination. “If you surround yourself with people who will help and work hard, you can make it,” he said. “What drives me is the outcome. Education can take you where you want to go.”
Sulaiman is the third of six children. His father, Mohamed Mohamed, is a 29-year resident of West Oakland. “We should concentrate and focus on education instead of money and business as a way of living the American Dream,” he said.

Dellums Wins $2.1 Million for Local Teachers

By Post Staff

Kitty Kelly  Epstein

Kitty Kelly Epstein

The U.S. Department of Education this week announced that it is awarding $2.1 million dollars to Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, a program that is working to train and hire to a team of educators who are diverse in culture and experience and who reside in the local community.
The project is a collaboration between the Oakland Unified School District, Mayor Ron Dellums, the Community Task Forces, and the Oakland Education Association.
Teach Tomorrow in Oakland is developing middle, high school and college students who have an interest in education as a career and providing support for them to eventually teach in Oakland.  In the short term, the program recruits community members, OUSD classified employees and student teachers from local universities who reflect the city’s cultural and racial diversity, providing support as they complete their credentials.

Dr. Rachelle  Rogers-Ard

Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard

“This is an important step in localizing our recruiting efforts as we move away from the idea that Oakland people are not willing or able to teach Oakland children,” said Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard, director of the program.
Kitty Kelly Epstein, education director for the mayor, emphasized that this program can be copied by other cities that want to create a stable, high quality teaching staff.  “We hope the program will become a national model,” she said.  The mayor has explained at several recent conferences that he considers developing diverse, local teachers one of the most important issue facing urban schools.”
The Mayor’s office is very appreciative of task force members such as Professor Kimberly Mayfield who have worked diligently for two years to institutionalize the program, Kelly Epstein said.
Laura Moran, OUSD Chief Services Officer, said the program is successful because it has a broad base of support among organizations and leaders who care about good teaching.
“Teach Tomorrow in Oakland came out of many, many sessions with teachers, community and principals who feel the need to create a diverse and local teaching workforce that will support the students of Oakland,” she said.

OUSD, youth groups recieve grant to prevent relationship abuse

By Post Staff

barbaramcclungmug.jpgThe Oakland Unified School District – along with the Family Violence Law Center, Youth Alive! and Youth Radio – has received a $1 million grant to prevent relationship abuse among adolescents.

The four-year award will expand  “intimate partner violence” prevention efforts through expanded leadership training and policy work, as well as classroom education, after-school and summer activities at five Oakland schools. The programs are expected to reach 1,600 Oakland students.

“Violence between teens who are currently, or were previously, in a relationship is an underreported issue that requires a significant combination of vision, resources and commitment to address,” said Barbara McClung, the OUSD Integrated Support Services Manager who will administer the grant. Read more

A Miracle on Pier 48: Feeding 5,000 San Francisco Families

sfawards.jpgTop, from left to right: Warrior Anthony Randall handing out boxes, Willie Brown surrounded by Warriors Anthony Randall, Rob Kurz and Corey Maggette, Volunteer Bobby Jones and daughter Chantal; Middle left to right: Warrior Anthony Morrow, Willie Brown and Warrior C. J. Watson, NBA Union Chief Billy Hunter, BART Board President Lynette Sweet and Feed The Children Founder Larry Johnson; Bottom,  left to right: Volunteer Marina with recipient Maria Henderson, Volunteer Carlton McAllister of True Hope Ministries, Terilyn Love of Avon, Joe Nurisso of 311 Call Center, and recipient David LeGrand. Photos by Kevin Jefferson.

By Wade Woods 

The holidays arrived early this year for an estimated 5,000 San Francisco families, as they received free food, personal care items and toys in a relief effort called the “Miracle on Pier 48”.

The event kicked off the first of four nationwide food distributions that will also be held in Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit.

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), Feed the Children, and the Willie L. Brown Institute on Politics and Public Service hosted the event which started at noon Thursday, December 11, with individuals and families lined up at Pier 48 just south of AT&T Park. Read more

Free Class to Help Your Child in School

By Post Staff

Are you a parent who wants your children to succeed in school? Common sense and lots of research tell us that parent involvement is crucial to student success, but sometimes parents find it difficult to help.

Oakland Adult Education, in partnership with the Office of Mayor Ron Dellums, is sponsoring a fun-filled class which will help parents who have important questions like these:  What can I do to make sure my child graduates from high school?  What is my youngster actually learning in school?  How can we finance college education for my children?  Read more

Lee calls for "Renewed Commitment Against AIDS"

By Post Staff

_barbaralee.jpgIn recognition of World AIDS Day, which was Dec. 1, Congresswoman Barbara Lee has called for renewed commitment to combating the global pandemic that has taken more than 25 million lives and continues to devastate the African American community.

“We have made great strides over the last 20 ears in combating HIV/AIDS at home and abroad, but we still have much to do, “said Lee, who this week received a “Hero in the Struggle” Award from the Black AIDS Institute at a ceremony in New York City.

The release of two new reports, one by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the other from the Black AIDS Institute, have underscored that HIV/AIDS continues to devastate the African American community and men who have sex with men – and that young gay black men are especially at risk, Lee said.

“In my district in Alameda County, over 6,800 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed since 1980, and nearly 4,000 people have died,” she said. “Of those numbers, African Americans represent well over 40 percent of the cumulative AIDS cases and AIDS deaths in the county, while Latinos represent around 10 percent of all AIDS cases and about 9 percent of all deaths.” Read more

Oakland Survey Shows Young People Want Jobs

Drugs, violence, trash on the street, and lack of job opportunities for youth are among the top problems youth see in their communities today, according to members of the Oakland Youth Movement (OYM) and their adult supporters at a recent presentation to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The young people based their findings, which they presented to board members Nov. 18, on a survey they conducted of 1,000 youth in West Oakland, Sobrante Park, Cherryland and Ashland.

In West Oakland, 91 percent said drugs were a problem, and 8 percent said violence was a problem. In Sobrante Park, 73 percent said violence and drugs were a problem. Read more

New Liberation's “Field Trip” to Marcus Books

By Carol O. McGruder

The New Liberation Presbyterian Church field trip to Marcus Books had been planned before Barack Obama’s historic election, but the resounding victory certainly made the trip sweeter.

New Liberation has declared family literacy a church priority and through collaboration with the Communities Under Siege project, church members en masse visited the historic San Francisco bookstore and received a free book.

Church members were greeted with light refreshments, and as Ray Charles, Bill Withers and others sang in the background, young and old picked a book of their choice.  It was standing room only, and despite the national backdrop of financial meltdown, attendees began to feel that the holiday season really had begun.

Karen Johnson of Marcus Books invoked the spirit of the ancestors as she presented a brief history of Marcus Books and the Fillmore. Read more

Funding for School Lunches May Run Dry

In another grim indication of the state’s economic downturn, so many students are seeking subsidized meals at school that state funding for free or reduced priced-meals will run dry before the end of the school year, according to  State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

“More students than anticipated have consumed school meals this year, which means we will likely run out of state money to support the Free and Reduced-Priced Meals program this fiscal year, ” said O’Connell in a press statement this week.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that low-income students have access to nutritious meals because hungry children do not learn.

Regardless of the many other economic challenges California is facing, I strongly urge the Governor and the state Legislature to find revenues to fully fund nutritious school meals as well as the critical education programs that are aimed at closing the achievement gap in our schools.” Read more

116 OUSD Students Receive Awards for “College-Level Achievement”

The College Board, the organization responsible for the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) exams, has named 116 Oakland Unified students as “AP Scholars” in recognition of their exceptional results on the college-level test.

Just 18 percent of the 1.6 million students who sat for the AP exams earned this distinction, which gives students an advantage in the college admissions process and, at many institutions, college credit upon enrollment.

“We were thrilled to see that so many Oakland students are not only taking advantage of the rigorous college-level curriculum offered in Advanced Placement courses, but also demonstrating mastery of the material on the AP exams,” said OUSD Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam.” Read more

Elementary School Options Fair Dec. 4

On Thursday, Dec. 4, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Oakland Unified School District will hold its fourth annual School Options Fair at the Downtown Oakland Marriott, 1001 Broadway in Oakland.

Open enrollment for students who want to attend a school other than the one to which they are assigned will begin Dec. 10 and continue through Jan. 15.

Unlike previous year, this fair focuses exclusively on elementary schools to provide additional support to pre-K families who have never experienced the Options/Open Enrollment process.

Elementary Schools also will offer site tours and open houses. Similarly, Middle and High schools will host open houses and school tours targeted at prospective 5th Grade and 8th grade families throughout the month of December. Read more

Lack of Response To AIDS Epidemic Protested by Marchers

About 50 people marched recently from the Alameda County Administration Building to the federal building and state offices, ending with speeches in front of Oakland City Hall.  At each location they placed coffins and held “die-ins” reminiscent of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in protest of the lack of governmental response.

“I welcome the protests by African American residents in Oakland,” says Dr. Tony Iton, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), referring to the march that was held Nov. 18.  “The need for increased funding is exceeded only by the need for greater public awareness of the threat of HIV and AIDS in minority communities.  HIV/AIDS prevention funding in California,” he observed, “is a casualty of the state’s ongoing budget crisis.” Read more

Partnership to Mentor High Risk Youth In Oakland

By Post Staff

jacksondellums.jpgMayor Ron Dellums and the Oakland Police Department are working with the national O.K. (Our Kids) Mentorship Program to create a local partnership between police, schools, students, community members and the faith community to provide positive guidance for youth who are at high risk for incarceration and homicide.

The focus of the program will be young African-American men between the ages of 12-18 years old. Utilizing one-on-one mentoring, the program is designed to reduce the high incarceration rate of African American males, reduce gang affiliation and gun violence and promote healthy life styles and academic performance.

“This program is one of the ways we can step up” to meet the needs of young African American men,” said Mayor Dellums, speaking at the program’s kick-off press conference last Saturday at Acts Full Gospel Church.

“One reason I’m here today is because someone stepped up and gave me an opportunity,” he said. “Life is a marathon; it is my generation’s job to pass the baton to the generation of our youth, and it is their job to pass the baton to the next generation.” Read more

Ralph J. Grant’s Crowning Glory

ralphgrant1.jpgRalph Grant has been added to the list of great baseball stars whose names appear on Oakland’s playing fields, ballparks and recreation centers. When Greenman Field was renamed in Grant’s honor last week, he joined his friends Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan and Curtis Flood and other baseball and professional stars who have guided youth. His wife Gloria (upper left), councilmember  Desley Brooks, former Mayor Elihu Harris and John Burris were among the hundreds who dedicated the field and placed Ralph Grant’s name alongside of other Oakland Hall of Famers. Photos by Gene Hazzard and graphics by Alapi Bhatt.

Friends, fraternity brothers and family of Ralph J. Grant came together on Sunday, November 23 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center to honor a great man in the community.

The City of Oakland held the ceremony, changing the name of Greenman Field Park to the Ralph J. Grant Park, located on 66th Avenue near International Boulevard. Widely recognized for his passion for baseball and his commitment to his profession as an accountant, he dedicated his energies in both to serve the community for a span of 30 years. Read more

Tapping Into Your Child’s Potential One Word at a Time

First 5 California Offers Tips on Promoting Family Literacy

Reading and telling stories are enjoyable pastimes that are also essential in building a foundation for your child to succeed in school and in life.

Unfortunately, studies show that many of the children entering California’s kindergartens haven’t acquired basic learning and social skills. These students, many of whom are African American, are likely to struggle throughout their school careers. A simple remedy lies in encouraging family literacy as well as making sure parents and caregivers understand that a child’s learning begins long before the first day of school.

The National Center for Family Literacy reports that family reading time improves literacy, language and life skills for both parents and children.

Read more

Great Opportunity For Oakland Kindergartners

By Post Staff            

If you want to do one thing to make yourself more employable, learn a second language….and that goes for your children also. A new Oakland program is offering the opportunity for your children to learn the skill early and for free.

In Fall 2009, kindergartners will be able to enroll in a public “dual-immersion” program in East Oakland.    Private dual-immersion schools are often expensive.  Most private schools, even those that are not dual-immersion, such as Head Royce, begin teaching foreign language in kindergarten and first grade.

Children enrolled in dual immersion programs learn the regular basic curriculum of reading, math, and other subjects.  At the same time, they are immersed in both English and Spanish. And in a globalized economy anyone who speaks a second language has a better opportunity at both higher education and employment.

Read more

Investigation of Schools’ Facilities Deflates, Questions Raised

By Ken  A. Epstein

An Oakland Unified School District investigation of its Facilities Department seemingly has all but collapsed, while raising serious questions about the accountability of the state overseers who have been in charge of the district for the past six years.

“As the district went forward, it was determined that there were no improprieties – I think the investigation is over,” said Boardmember Alice Spearman.

The matter became public in October, when the  district issued a press release announcing its intention to investigate the facilities department and refer the matter to the Alameda County District Attorney, saying that a “pattern of irregularities” indicated the “possibility of flawed protocol and insufficient vendor oversight in the department.” Read more

Pan-African Art, Food, and Music Potluck

Come and share your artwork, your favorite dish, music, or just yourself at this family friendly community event. Musicians and poets, please grace us with your message and talents. There’s no cost to participate. All that we ask is that you reserve your beverage purchases for Coffee With A Beat, which was generously donated by owner Nate Smith.

The event is Sunday, Nov.16, at Coffee with a Beat, 458 Perkins St., in Oakland. Art and music setup is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The main event will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For information, email to eid@eidart.com or check out at the flyer at www.eidart.com/events.

Hall of Fame To Recognize Star Student Athletes

By Ken  A. Epstein

A group of local residents is working to create an Oakland Athletic League (OAL) Hall of Fame to recognize the historic legacy of  the many star athletes and gold-medal winners who started out at the city’s high schools.

“It’s long overdue – it’s an idea whose time has come,” said “Raider” Rob  Howard, Manager of the Black Hope Family Organization and one of the active participants in the informal hall of fame committee.

“The ultimate vision is to institute something that students and all of Oakland can be proud of – a hall of fame dedicated to the great history of the incredible athletes who have come through the OAL,” he said.

The plan is to create a website, find a permanent location to house plaques and memorabilia and hold a celebration once a year to induct new athletes into the hall of fame. Funds that are raised would support all the high school sports, as well as scholarships for young people.

The first celebration is expected to take place next July. Read more

Oakland Receives $1 Million to Construct Safer Routes to Schools

The City of Oakland has been awarded a $920,300 federal grant to improve safety on pedestrian and bicycle routes to neighborhood schools, according to Mayor Ron Dellums.
The project, “The Neighborhood Connection: Improving Oakland School Walking and Bicycling Routes,” is funded by the Federal Safe Routes to School Program and will focus on Bret Harte Middle School, Manzanita Elementary, Manzanita SEED, Peralta Elementary, La Escuela Internacional de la Comunidad (International Community School) and the Pacific Boychoir Academy.
“Providing our children with safe routes to school is vital to their educational success,” said Mayor Ron Dellums.
“Wrapping our arms around our young people by addressing their needs simultaneously is a significant investment in the future of this city and the future of all urban areas throughout this country,” he said. Read more