Robert Menzimer 
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Re: “The Local Arts Conservatory

The excitement of a vibrant, full-blown arts community is certainly in evidence as you take your first steps down an OSA hallway. And we're acutely aware of the heartbreak of arts programs disappearing from other public schools, particularly schools full of under-resourced student populations. Our WriterCoach Connection program serves four Oakland high schools with a trained community-volunteer writer coach for every student in a grade level -- every 10th grader at Media Academy, Mandela High School, and Architecture Academy on the Fremont Federation of Schools campus in the Fruitvale, and, for the first time this year I'm delighted to say, Oakland School for the Arts. One-on-one attention from writer coaches, all year long, has generated remarkable increases in writing achievement at the Fremont Federation schools, and we look forward to more of same as we work with every 9th grader starting this spring at OSA, where the administration and parent community have worked hard to raise funding for the program to make sure that the school's high academic standards remain on a par with those in the arts.

Even in the face of the loss of arts funding, we can work to set high academic standards and generate increased academic achievement at all public schools with dedicated and consistent involvement from members of our communities. And when you take a closer look, you might be surprised at the sophistication of the curriculum at schools like Media, Mandela, and Architecture. We shouldn't be surprised at the supreme dedication and skill of so many of the teachers and administrators in these schools, and at what we can help them achieve for all students with focused community support.

We are training community volunteers as writer coaches right now for all four of these Oakland schools. You don't need to be a writer, editor, or teacher to do this. The training is free, and after two three-hour training sessions, you can be sitting next to a student at OSA, Media, Mandela, or Architecture, guiding him or her to more effective writing and critical thinking skills. It's something tangible you can do to raise achievement on the academic side, to help offset the disappearance of arts programs that has put so much pressure on admission to OSA, where the competition to get in the door has become understandably intense. For more information or to register for writer-coach training, go to Our coaches call it the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime.

Robert Menzimer
Executive Director
Community Alliance for Learning

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Posted by Robert Menzimer on 01/12/2012 at 5:40 AM

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