Archive for March, 2015

Parents of Mexico’s 43 Disappeared Students Will Speak in Berkeley Thursday and Friday

Street protest in Mexico for the disappeared 43

 

Special to the Post

 

A group of parents of 43 disappeared students and surviving students from the teachers’ school “Raúl Isidro Burgos” of Ayotzinapa, Mexico will be in Berkeley this week.

The parents are on a speaking tour in the United States to explain the struggle of the people in Mexico, share and explain their demand and seek solidarity with Latino population and others who believe in justice and human rights.

On Thursday, April 2, 2 p.m., to 4 p.m., there will be a rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley.

On Friday, April 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. parents and “normalistas” will speak at a forum, “Ayotzinapa: Mexico at the Crossroads,” in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

On Sept. 26-27, in Iguala, Mexico six people, among them three students from the “Raúl Isidro Burgos” teachers school, were killed by the police, one of them brutally tortured before being killed, and 43 other students were forcibly disappeared.

This has been a watershed event in Mexican history. There is a radical difference between the before and the after of these events, in spite of the Mexican government insistence on continuing business as usual.

According to many people in Mexico, the killing and disappearance of the normalistas have made evident the moral abyss of the political class governing the country – a corrupted state deeply infiltrated by drug cartels at every level.

Many Mexicans had hoped that the sheer magnitude of the tragedy—Who would kill students in such fashion? Who would disappear them? Who would attack people belonging to a particularly unprotected social class?—would make the government react, force it to turn around and correct its many years of its shameful behavior and corruption.

Unfortunately, the investigation of the case has been plagued by inconsistencies, omissions, and inexplicable gaps, according to observers.

Renowned scientists, journalists and independent investigators, along with the Argentine forensic team whose collaboration the Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGR, the Mexican Department of Justice) was forced to accept, have strongly challenged the PGR’s version of what occurred on Sept. 26.

Many people are saying that this version lacks an explanation of why a group of petty drug dealers would be interested in killing and erasing every trace of the normalistas—especially when we know that drug dealers seem to take special pains to leave visible traces of their activities.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, March 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Latino Students Are “Overlooked and Poorly Represented” in Oakland Unified

By Jorge Lerma

Latinos are not getting fair representation.

Latinos make up 41 percent of Oakland’s student population and are still overlooked and poorly represented in the policy and decision-making apparatus of the Oakland Unified School District.(OUSD).

Jorge Lerma

Jorge Lerma

OUSD is a multicultural, multiracial and multilingual urban blend of students of whom most are poor, of color and immigrants. The largest single ethnic group, to the surprise of many, is the Latino and Mexican-American population.

Because the system often lacks the knowledge, sensitivity and awareness of the differences in the Latino community, it routinely categorizes all Spanish surnamed Latinos as either English Language Learners or as immigrants. T

This completely ignores the large, multigenerational and historic presence of not exclusively, but predominantly, Mexican Americans who, like Native Americans, share a common history of not being immigrants but being an indigenous people.

Mexicans have had a presence in the United States, particularly in the American Southwest, since before this area became part of the United States with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Since this time, the citizenship and ability to exercise their rights as such has been an uphill battle.

Despite this long presence in society, Mexican-American students, families and the community continue to be disenfranchised. They are poorly represented in all areas within the OUSD, including teachers, administrators and classified workforce.

We in the Mexican-American community consider this widespread underrepresentation to be a contributing factor that directly correlates with the violence and physical mistreatment Latinos are receiving at the hands of the school site security officers of the Oakland Unified schools.

The gross underrepresentation, coupled with little to no cultural competence, is only compounded by the lack of sensitivity to the needs of special-needs students. This has been demonstrated in the events that have recently been at the forefront of the media.

The new Oakland Unified School District leadership must break from its biased past and begin to work with the Latino community to ensure a better, safer learning environment for Latinos and other students of color.

Brown lives matter, too. Let’s be a district that embraces and responds to the needs of our new urban blend and the realities of our district. It is time to discard the black-and-white paradigm used to define our discussions on inclusion and equality.

Our world is ever changing and evolving, it is multicolored, multilingual and multicultural. Our urban school districts must also evolve to better serve the needs of this population.

Jorge Lerma is a lifelong educator and member of the Educational Coalition for Hispanics in Oakland (ECHO) and Latino Education Network (LEN).

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

New City Report on Protest Arrests Raises Ferguson-like Concerns

Standing at the podium during the City Council's public hearing were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Standing at the podium during a recent public hearing at City Hall  were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ashley Chambers

A new city report highlighting how Oakland police responded to protests in the city last year – sparked by the failure to indict police officers in killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement around the country – has raised concerns of Oakland residents.

According to the report recently released to the public by the Oakland Police Department (OPD), 23 protests took place between Nov. 24 and Dec.31 last year, resulting in 116 arrests and 230 citations issued.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office has charged 14 protesters from cases reported by OPD, which is nearly half of the charges against protesters in Alameda County during the same time period. There are still ongoing investigations.

As of March 24, 2015, “We have charged 39 individuals from cases brought to us by Oakland PD, Berkeley PD, BART PD, CHP Oakland and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office with incident dates between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31,” said Rebecca Richardson, Communications and Publications manager at the D.A.’s office, in an email to the Post.

This number also includes the 14 Black Friday protesters who shut down service at the West Oakland BART station on Nov. 28, 2014.

Community members are questioning why the report does not provide a breakdown of arrests, citations and charges based on race.

“I hope we go back to this issue to talk about some of the inequities that happened during those demonstrations,” an Oakland resident said at a recent City Council meeting.

“One of the questions I get about this from constituents is, where are the police to fight crime when they’re being redeployed to demonstrations,” said Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. She also suggested that the city “look at bringing civil enforcement actions against those who engage in destruction…so that we can sue them civilly for the costs” of the damage they’ve caused.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee and one of the Black Friday 14, agrees that “For that report to mean something or to be able to be utilized by community, it would need to be disaggregated by race.”

“What I’m betting that we’re going to find is that the vast majority of folks that had charges actually brought against them were people of color,” Brooks said.

“If you look at the Black Friday 14, an all-Black planned and executed action – we are being prosecuted, and they’re refusing to drop the charges and pushing the issue,” Brooks continued.

“Whereas, we knew before this report that there were protesters who utilized a diversity of tactics that resulted in property damage etc., who were also white, who are being released with a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“It just continues the conversation about the racial disparity and inequity in Oakland,” Brooks said.

The concerns of local business owners were also raised at the City Council meeting, including those whose establishments were damaged during protests. One of the cases reported by OPD involved an individual charged with vandalism, the report shows.

“What this shows is that there were a couple dozen criminals who committed violent acts against either fellow residents or small businesses and were arrested, and some will be prosecuted,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb.

He continued: “That’s how it should be, in contrast to the 97 or 98 percent of legitimate protesters who were marching passionately with a very righteous and very important message to share. I just want to highlight that dichotomy because it’s very important that we continue to acknowledge that.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Support Grows for City of Oakland Department to Address Racial Inequality

By Ashley Chambers

A number of community leaders are speaking out in support of a new city department designed to decrease inequities and racial barriers in city policies and operations, such as housing, development contracts, employment, and education.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposal to create a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, developed and led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and supported by several councilmembers, seeks t address some of the main issues are frequently being raised by Oakland residents: gentrification and the lack of affordable housing, jobs at city-funded projects and access to city contacts, environmental and air quality, as well as other health conditions in minority and disenfranchised communities.

“We think about gentrification and displacement, and we think about the role that the city plays in perpetuating the invasive class remake of our city,” said Robbie Clark, housing rights organizer with Causa Justa: Just Cause.

“We know that a department like this is at the core of the types of change that we need to see on a local level to stop that tide of displacement and to stop gentrification from continuing to happen,” Clark said.

The department would answer directly to the City Administrator and would be implemented as soon as December of this year – if approved by the City Council.

The department would provide education and technical support to city staff and elected officials to address systemic racism in city operations “with a focus on how the city does business, including human resources, contracting, access, funding and decision-making,” according to the proposal.

“The city spends enormous amounts of money on development in Oakland. Twenty-eight percent of the people who live in this city are African American, yet they get only five percent of the hours on those jobs,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, an education professor and member of OaklandWorks.

“What happens when you don’t have anything specifically devoted to dealing with an issue as major and primary and hurtful as racism in this society is, people get afraid to bring it up,” Kelly Epstein said.

“If we do the work of actually allocating and designating a department to that work, then people won’t be shut down when they want to bring up the fact that there is great inequity,” she said.

There is the notion that there are two Oaklands, residents have said: one has access to minor investment from the city, declining jobs and parks and schools that are closing operating limited resources. The other Oakland has access to better schools, parks, greater investments that benefit the community and more responsive government.

Imagine East Oakland’s Havenscourt neighborhood compared to the Glenview. Some neighborhoods require a bus ride or long drive to complete such daily tasks as grocery shopping or going to the bank.

“There’s no way that a city should be able to develop, do any type of business and not represent the citizens that live right there,” said Esther with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). “It’s time for all of us to step up, be responsible and understand that we need to start leading with our hearts before our pockets.”

“There is an urgency with respect to people of color being able to have equal participation in this city,” said Councilwoman Brooks.

In response to inquiries of how much it will cost to operate this new department, Brooks said, “Think of the costs that communities have suffered for far too long not being able to participate fully in the government that they pay into. When do they get that return in dividends?”

“We will have to look like we have looked for other things that have been unbudgeted and find a way to make this happen. I would hope that we don’t just look at the dollars and cents, but we will look at truly moving a full community forward,” said Brooks.

Some of the organizations supporting the Department of Race and Equity are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), ONYX Organizing Committee, and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

The proposal will go to the City Council on March 31.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

OUSD Public Relations Move by Backfires

By Ken Epstein

For someone who does not understand unions and negotiations, it might appear perfectly innocent that the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) put a “polite invitation” on the teachers union Facebook page to read the school district’s latest salary proposal.

Isaac Kos-Read

Isaac Kos-Read

That’s what happened on Tuesday afternoon, and to many teachers and parents, this appeared to be a violation of the confidential negotiations that are continuing this week and an attempt to go over the heads of union leaders to sway teachers with misleading information.

Outraged, bargaining team members of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) were ready to walk out of the negotiations Tuesday afternoon when they learned of the Facebook posting.

Members of the school district’s bargaining team were also caught unaware. The statement had been posted on Facebook by the district’s public relations team without knowledge of the district’s team, said OEA President Trish Gorham.

President Gorham asked teachers to go on line to respond to the district.

“Please politely tell OUSD how you feel about a 10.5 percent raise that is contingent and still leaves Oakland educators at the bottom of Alameda County,” she said in an email to teachers.

“Please politely tell OUSD that 1.5 percent is offered for an increase in the workday, therefore not a raise,” the email continued. “Please inform OUSD that you will not take a 1.5 percent offer that will result in a pay cut for your brothers and sisters enrolled in Health Net.”

The OUSD “polite invitation” to read the district’s salary proposal was also posted on the OUSD Parents United Facebook page, and the parents responded:

“It seems inappropriate for you to be posting about this proposed raise on a third party site while you are having confidential and purportedly good faith negotiations with OEA,” the parent statement said.

“Further, the information you posted is misleading and clearly intended not to inform but to turn support away from your teachers and toward your proposal,” the statement said.

The district removed the post and apologized to the union, according to OEA President Gorham.

Isaac Kos-Read is the recently hired OUSD Chief of Communications and Public Affairs.

In response to questions from the Post, school district spokesman Troy Flint said, “It was a poor decision to post bargaining information on OUSD’s Facebook page because it was predictable that this action would be seen as an imposition and create a backlash. Nevertheless, the posting was a mild and well-intentioned–if clumsy– effort to introduce information into the discussion that has sometimes been overlooked.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Revives Proposal for Civilian Intake of Police Complaints

OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

Nikolas Zelinski

The Oakland Public Safety Committee at its meeting this week unanimously approved consolidation of all complaints against police to go through the Citizens’ Police Review Board (CPRB).

For many years, complaints against the Oakland Police Department have gone two different agencies: the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the Oakland Police Department and the CPRB.

There have been serious concerns in the community that this dual system has created administrative problems and a confusing situation for people who want to know how to file a complaint.

It is expensive to continue to have sworn officers sitting behind a desk doing complaint intake at a time when the community wants more police. In addition, a number of residents have said over the years that they were pressured to withdraw the complaints they had tried to file with Internal Affairs.

The decision came as a relief for those who have been working on the issue for years. Rashidah Grinage, former Executive Director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), thanked Committee Chairperson Desley Brooks and Councilmember Noel Gallo for their leadership on the issue.

Grinage said PUEBLO and the City of Oakland conducted a survey of Oakland residents in 2005 and found that only one in 10 people who had negative experiences with law enforcement actually reported the incident.

When people were asked why they did not report anything, the most common response was that they did not see the purpose, because nothing would become of it, said Grinage.

After much work by PUEBLO, the City Council voted to house intake of all complaints against OPD officers outside of the department’s Internal Affairs Division. However, former City Administrator Deanna Santana said she would not move ahead with the implementing the decision until she had met with the Oakland Police Officers Association.

Finally, intake of complaints by the CPRB was set to move ahead when it was overruled by federal Compliance Director Thomas Frazier, who was removed from his position soon afterwards by federal Judge Thelton Henderson.

Anthony Finnell, executive director of the CPRB, sees the council committee’s vote as a step forward.

“Having dual sources to file complaints makes it difficult to keep track of them, and also makes it difficult for people to know what to do,” he said in an in interview with the Post, adding that it is important that people do not give up on filing a complaint because of frustration with the system.

“There is a trust factor in having to look at these cases independently from the IAD,” Finnell said.

Councilmember Gallo made the motion to send the proposed change to the full council.

“I have all the faith and trust in the leadership of the CPRB, and have witnessed the work personally. It’s the right thing to do for the citizens of Oakland,” said Gallo.

Before the proposal goes to the full council, OPD will prepare a report on technical and administrative issues related to the switch, which will be discussed at the April 21 meeting of the Public Safety Committee.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 27, 2015 (postenewsgroup.com)

Opinion: As Coliseum City Project Moves Ahead, Councilmembers Vote Not to Sacrifice Jobs for Growth

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Thank you to Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid and Annie Campbell Washington for removing residential zoning from the area of the Airport Business Park at this week’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

The councilmembers’ vote shows there no need to sacrifice 150 businesses and over 8,000 jobs. This has nothing to do with saving the sports teams or building the stadium that would be on the opposite side of the freeway”

This is a super-important issue in Oakland. Lots of wealthier people want to live here because of our great weather and cultural diversity.

The problem is that the affluent move in and the diversity stops, because the jobs and affordable housing needed by regular Oaklanders are pushed out. So then Oakland ends up like San Francisco – a sort of Disneyland for the affluent – with lots of jazz clubs and soul food and no soul and no African-Americans.

The speakers at the council committee were powerful – parent leader Henry Hitz; education professor Kimberly Mayfield; socially-minded business leader Bob Schwartz; great organizer and graduate student Carroll Fife; Oakland native and business leader Dexter Vizinau; educator and public safety advocate Rashidah Grinage; workforce development professional Gay Plair Cobb; community leader Saleem Shakir-Gilmore; and others.

Fred Ellis, Jaron Epstein, Robyn Hodges and lots of others have given big support to this effort.

This change will need to pass the City Council next Tuesday, but we are confident that this will happen, because it is completely logical for Oakland’s growth as a city where people can live, work, and thrive all in the same place.

Isn’t that the green, sustainable goal for the planet? Let’s make it happen right here.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 27, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Residents Oppose Proposed Luxury Apartment Tower on East Side of Lake Merritt

Among the members of Eastlake United for Justice  which is opposing the new apartment tower by Lake Merritt, are   (L to R) Teresita Bautista, Nyia McClendon, Nischit Hegde, D. Alwan, Monica Garcia, Kah'lea McClendon, Mari Rose Taruc and son Kawayan, Victoria McClendon, Alma Blackwell andAmy Vanderwarker.

Among the members of Eastlake United for Justice which is opposing the new apartment tower by Lake Merritt, are: (L to R): Teresita Bautista, Nyia McClendon, Nischit Hegde, D. Alwan, Monica Garcia, Kah’lea McClendon, Mari Rose Taruc and son Kawayan, Victoria McClendon, Alma Blackwell and Amy Vanderwarker.

 

By Ken A. Epstein

Local residents are organizing to attend the Wednesday, April 1 meeting of the Oakland Planning Commission to oppose the proposed sale of public land on East 12th Street across the roadway from Lake Merritt to a development company that wants to build a 24-story, 298-unit luxury apartment tower with rents that will go for about $3,000 a month.

The residents, who belong to a neighborhood group called East Lake United for Justice, are urging the city to reject the sale of the parcel. They are saying public property should only be used for the “public good,” not sold to developers for a one-time profit.

“We feel public property should be used for public benefit,” said Amy Vanderwarker of the East Lake United.

Rendering of Lake Merritt Boulevard Apartments, courtesy of UrbanCore.

Rendering of Lake Merritt Boulevard Apartments, courtesy of UrbanCore.

“We are renters and homeowners who are concerned how this tower will lead to a rise in rents and will lead to displacement and is part of the rising tide of gentrification in Oakland,” she said.

“We are going to lose our diversity, our depth of culture,” if gentrification is allowed to go ahead, said Vanderwarker. “East Lake is one of the areas in the city that is just barely affordable. The area around the lake should be maintained for the public, not just people who can afford $3,000 a month.”

The developer who wants to purchase the property from the city is Ronnie Turner and his company Urban Core. In addition to the 298 residential units, the project would include a cafe, parking, seven townhouse units and a lounge area.

Seeking to answer community criticisms, Urban Core recently started a petition on Change.org, a web-based site for writing and publicizing petitions, calling on Oakland residents to support the project as a way to “increase housing supply and the growth of Oakland’s economy.”

The company defended the market-rate price for its units: “Rents (not for-sale condos)…are in the $3,000-per-month average, which is well below the San Francisco market,” the petition said.

“This project will not increase gentrification and displacement in Oakland, but by adding a new supply of units, offers an opportunity for balanced growth, given the increased market demand for living in Oakland’s growing community,” according to the petition.

The petition added: “The development of the project will contribute new market-rate housing to the city that adds to the housing stock providing opportunities for new residents to the city, and further options for those existing residents seeking to live near one of Oakland’s finest amenities – Lake Merritt.”

A mix of unit types is proposed, including seven lofts, eight penthouse units, 113 studios, 110 one-bedroom units and 60 two-bedroom units. Parking would be available for some of the residents, with spaces for 209 cars and 86 bicycles.

City staff is expecting to sell the land for $4 million and has included the proceeds in Oakland’s 2013-2015 budget, according to the staff report.

City staff noted that community members are asking that the project provide more community benefits, especially affordable housing. “(But) there is no requirement in the Planning Code requiring that the project provide affordable housing,” the report said.

In response to the criticism of the lack of community benefits, the report said, “The developer has agreed to include designing, improving and maintaining the (nearby) stormwater treatment facility. The developer has also agreed to not sell condominium conversion rights from the project site.”

The .92-acre parcel – adjacent Dewey Academy, a public high school – was created during the construction projects related to Measure DD, a $198 million bond passed in 2002.

Measure DD, which was financed by taxpayers, paid for the renovation and restoration of the western end of Lake Merritt and the Lake Merritt Channel, the narrowing of the roadway between the convention center and the lake, and the connecting of the two properties by pedestrian bridges.

The Oakland Planning Commission is scheduled for Wednesday, April 1 at 6 p.m. in Hearing Room 1 of Oakland City Hall.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 26, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Three Generations of a Family Continue the Fight for Voting Rights

By Tasha Ellis

Have you ever believed that you can change the world? Have you believed that you could help to eradicate injustice?

Thomas Chatmon

Thomas Chatmon

Growing up in a family that was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, I learned that we win as we unite with a common purpose to support the evolution of humanity.

My grandfather Thomas C. Chatmon Sr. was one of my greatest examples of someone who was an agent of change. In 1961, he and eight others founded the Albany Movement because they were weary of blatant injustices in Albany, Georgia.

When white-owned banks would not approve funding for his business, the Black community supported his endeavors by purchasing his products, and eventually he was able to franchise in three different states.

In December 1961, about 700 demonstrators were jailed for staging sit-ins and freedom rides. My family used money from their business, Chatmon’s Beauty Supply, to help finance the Albany Movement.

My grandfather often emphasized the importance of voter registration. And so voting, for me, became a sacred act.

In the meantime, my father Fred Ellis moved to Oakland and carried out another sort of civil rights effort. He started a successful program to help more African-Americans become teachers, and he used his own voting rights to campaign for candidates who supported this mission.

Fred Ellis

Fred Ellis

In 2014, I personally discovered, like those before me, that we still have to help people carry out the right to vote., and I became committed to voter registration.   Personally, I found great inspiration in my pastor, Dr. Raphael Warnock of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. He passionately advocates against society’s injustices, and he was a spokesperson for the New Georgia Project.

The New Georgia Project works to decrease the number of unregistered voters in the state of Georgia. In 2014, Georgia had approximately 800,000 unregistered voters.

The group collected more than 87,000 voter registration forms. Other groups working in conjunction with the New Georgia Project collected as many as 20,000 more voter registration forms.

Challenges occurred and nearly 40,000 of the registered applicants did not show up on the registrar’s roll.

New Georgia Project filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Date Brian Kemp in October 2014 alleging that the “missing” voters were being ignored.

Tasha Ellis

Tasha Ellis

The judge dismissed the case that the New Georgia Project filed. Kemp said that the case was “frivolous.”

Fifty years after my grandfather’s involvement in the struggle, voter suppression is still alive and well. In spite of this inequity, progress is essential.

The New Georgia Project will continue to build upon the work from 2014 and looks forward to registering and engaging even more Georgians in 2015.

For additional information about the New Georgia Project visit www.newgeorgiaproject.org

 Tasha Ellis is a voting rights activist and graduate student.

 

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Oakland Unified: Fremont, McClymonds and Castlemont Will Not Be Turned into Charter Schools

McClymonds High School

McClymonds High School

By Ken Epstein

 The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has announced that by a March 12 deadline, it has received letters of intent to design proposals for four schools that are part of the district’s intensive support school initiative, and none of these letters have come from a charter school.

The district said in a press release that it has received multiple letters from site-based volunteer committees: one letter from Castlemont High, one from Fremont High, one from McClymonds High and three letters from Frick Middle.

As a result, none of these of four schools will be become a charter school next school year as a result of the district’s Request for Proposals. The timeline for the fifth school facing redesign, Brookfield Elementary, has yet to be announced

Bella Vista Elementary School may share its campus next year with  charter school

Bella Vista Elementary School may share its campus next year with a charter school

Proposals for the four schools must be submitted by May 21 to a District Academic Review Board and the superintendent.

“We are gratified to learn that these four schools will continue to be public schools,” said Trish Gorham, president of the teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA). “We don’t know what’s going to happen with Brookfield yet.”

The OEA, as well as numbers of students and community members vociferously objected at school board meetings and school site meetings to the district redesign process, which had allowed charter schools as well as school-site committees to run the schools.

A number of the community groups and students were not so much “anti-charter” as opposed to a takeover of their schools by outside organizations that they said knew nothing about them or their schools.

While a number of people are mystified by the opposition to charters, over the years many students and families already have had their schools closed or turned into charters. Some neighborhoods have no nearby public schools left to attend.

Charter schools have been growing dramatically in Oakland, especially since the takeover by the district by the State of California in 2003

According to the district website, there are currently 33 charter schools functioning in OUSD authorized by the district and six charter schools in Oakland authorized by Alameda County Office of Education.

Some of the charters are in located in their own buildings, some are in closed Oakland schools, and others share buildings with existing public schools.

For next school year, the district is looking at a K-8 charter school on the Castlemont High campus, which will be operated by Youth Uprising alongside the public school. There is also already another charter on the Castlemont campus: Leadership Public Schools: R&D.

In addition, there is a proposed Francophone Charter Academy at the Toler Heights campus: American Indian Charter School 6-8, which would share a campus with Bella Vista Elementary; and American Indian Charter School II K-8, which would operate at Edward Shands in East Oakland, which was closed when the school district largely abandoned its Adult Education courses.

These school sites have been offered under terms of state law, know as Prop. 39, but not all have accepted yet.

“Charter schools rob a city, its schools and its community of the will to support a common good for all. They foster an attitude that, ‘I’ve got mine, you take care of yours,’ said OEA President Gorham.

“With public schools, we have a obligation to work for the public good, and we have public oversight of the process,” she said. “There is no adequate monitoring of the charter school system, and the charters often do not serve students who are English Learners or have special needs. Harder to teach students are often counseled out of the school.”

When charters were begun years ago, she said, they were “bottom up” initiatives that were creative and innovative, and some of them still are,” she said.

But, increasingly, charters have become a business that operate at a corporate level – supported by some for profit motives and others because of the desire to reduce government support of most public services, she said.

School districts lose funding to charter schools, and charter employees have no job security or union rights, said Gorham.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 21, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)