Leadership Public Schools Administrators Respond to Criticisms

By Ken Epstein

Administrators at Leadership Public Schools (LPS), a charter school with campuses in Oakland and other Bay Area cites, are saying that the Oakland Airport Business Park is a fairly ideal location for the school despite apparent drawbacks.

Louise Waters

Louise Waters

Developers of the school site, Mark McClure’s and Phil Tagami’s Oakland-based California Capital Investment Group (CCIG), have not returned calls to the Post.

The school, currently located on the campus of Castlemont High School on MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland, has been “been searching for a new location for years and years,” says Soo Zee Park, Chief Operating Officer of LPS.

School staff has been working with the port to find a place at the business park, across Highway 880 from the Oakland Coliseum, for the past three years.

Park responded to concerns about placing a school so close to a parole office.

“We recognize that is going to be an issue,” she said, emphasizing that she did not foresee the high school students and parolees “comingling.”

“We operate a closed campus,” she said. “Our students will be riding public transportation or will be dropped off by their parents. There is no street parking, (and) we don’t allow students to drive to school.”

Louise Waters, superintendent of LPS, said the school is taking appropriate steps to protect the students.

“They’re probably at the same amount of jeopardy at their (present) location at Castlemont,” said Waters, adding that there is no record of increased crime incidents in the area around the parole center.

“We are going to be working with the State of California,” she added. “We have a closed campus and tight monitoring. We will have people at the bus stop.”

In addition, she said, the population on the bus line will “not be hugely different” than those who generally take the bus.

Addressing the air quality issues, Park, said the school has conducted air quality reviews and found the site safe.

Specifically, the proximity to the freeway has been determined not to be a serious issue, she said, and the location is on the edge of the airport’s flight path, not directly under it, and has been ruled to be safe for a school.

Citing past precedent, Park said a former charter school, Oakland Aviation High School, had been located in the business park. In addition, Lighthouse Community Charter School is located on Hegenberger Road, just outside the business park.

School Supt. Waters says the business park is an ideal location for the school, which “will become a flagship for the using technology and flexible workspace,” giving the students opportunities for internships and to start their own high tech businesses.

“I think one of the reasons the Port of Oakland and the City of Oakland are considering this is because we are trying to create a school that is a pipeline that prepares our students for 21 Century careers,” said Waters.

By press time, port staff had not returned calls from the Post.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 12, 2014 (www.postnewsgroup.com)