Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Ron Rosenbaum, Principal, 2001-2002
I moved to Oakland from the East Coast in 1970, partly to be involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement here. I began as a substitute teacher in Oakland junior high schools in 1971, and spent 19 years as a teacher, counselor, and head counselor. I went on to counsel and to be an Assistant Principal at Berkeley High for 6 years and then was the Principal at Alhambra High School in Martinez for 5 years.
I was recruited to the OT principal position by then Superintendent Chaconas in the spring of 2001. He was primarily concerned with the violence that was occurring at and around the school at the time, and recruited me to help put an end to it. At that time, students were locked out of all bathrooms but the outside ones and were locked out of class at the tardy bell. One reason I came was that my assistant principal would be an old friend of mine, Marty Price. I left when the state of California took control of the district in the Fall of 2003, when I felt I would no longer be able to work with the school in the manner I felt appropriate. I went from there to become principal at Albany High, where I retired in June, 2007. I am currently an elected school board member in Albany.
There was a major shift in the atmosphere at Tech within the first few months I was there. We cleaned and opened all the restrooms, and made letting students into class a non-negotiable item, no matter if they were late. I worked diligently with my assistant principals, Marty Price and Teresa Williams, to have a strong and friendly presence in the halls. Many students learned from their relatives that I had been a favorite teacher and counselor of theirs in earlier years. Within months, students were calling me “Dad” and “uncle”. We gave the school its first dance in five years, which went smoothly with no neighbor complaints. We continued to have school dances on a regular basis.
Here are some of the achievements in my two-year tenure:
Significant improvement in test scores, including a 47 point increase in the Academic Performance Index for the 2001-2002 school year
full implementation of Small Learning Communities for all freshmen, with strong emphasis on academic and strategic literacy
implementation of a Parent Patrol of about 45 parents with rotational schedules to improve safety and positive climate in the school halls
re-establishment of a relationship with the University of California MESA (Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement) program, which originally was founded in partnership with Oakland Technical
strengthened and empowered Site Decision Making Team (SDMT)
establishment and staffing of full-time conflict resolution program
significant increase in student attendance and decrease in number of violent behavior incidents
I remember, generally, the warmth that we had with the students. I remember how school pride developed, how students would greet strangers, how TryUmph met in the front hall with Derrick Smith every morning, how I marveled at the strength and dedication of our athletes, including Marshawn Lynch and Leon Powe (and how I stood on a chair in my office to tie Leon’s tie for his graduation photo).
I think that adversity in public education can be overcome to create a strong, nurturing comprehensive high school which can meet the needs and expectations of all students.
My advice to current students: stay involved and empowered in your school. Demand excellence from those in charge and from yourselves.