Category: Charter schools and privatization

Commentary: Data Points and Dollar Signs: Roots, School Closure, and the New “Demand Rate” Metric

Roots International Academy in East Oaklad

By Jane Nylund

 Ultimately, the growth of charters will be fundamentally constrained as long as districts fail to consolidate or close under-enrolled district schools. Serious attention needs to go into developing a strategy that requires or incentivizes these actions and provides political backing to district and board officials who are trying to make these adjustments.”   

So, in order to follow the direction of CRPE, the district must close and consolidate schools to make room for charter schools. Because of the predictable, crushing loss of revenue, the district is now trying to find ways of generating new revenue. Like clawing back students from charters into district schools.

Hence the proposed closure of ROOTS. In my opinion, ROOTS is also being thrown under the bus to satisfy the requirements of both FCMAT and the terms of AB1840. The students are in danger of losing their school because of political theater. Closing the school won’t save money, won’t improve student outcomes, and won’t create more “opportunity.”

But it will disrupt the education of a student population (ELL/newcomers) that has been extraordinarily communicative as to why their children need and deserve a neighborhood school like ROOTS that supports their unique needs.

That word “opportunity” has been tossed around lately as a silver lining to the ROOTS closure. It has morphed into the concept that some schools have “opportunity” and some don’t. Really? ALL Oakland schools have opportunity. Every single one.

The question is whether the adults in the room have the courage to admit to the students and parents at ROOTS that they aren’t worthy of the district’s attention or finances; that splitting up their population and scattering them like leaves is in the best interest of the community.

History of ROOTS and the Small Schools Initiative

Both ROOTS and CCPA were part of OUSD’s Small School Initiative. It was a huge redesign experiment on our kids, and I want to emphasize the “experiment” part.

The experiment allowed Bill Gates to use our kids as lab rats, collect some data, with the idea that we would learn some really cool stuff about how schools should work and create a lot of new schools.Even though the educators already knew how existing schools should work because, well, they actually do the work. At the school.

Inevitably, part of the experiment would involve merging/expanding the smalls schools that were deemed “successes” and closing the ones that “failed.”

Fast forward, and a lot can change. Neighborhoods, economics, demographics, political climate. Both ROOTS and CCPA are now coexisting, until…the powers that be decide to close ROOTS, supposedly to save money, manage our “portfolio”, and generate some additional revenue. What’s the fun of having a portfolio district if you can’t actually close schools and massage data? (Remember, data points and dollar signs, that’s the theme).

There are rumblings about test scores compared to CCPA, and that CCPA should expand because it has higher test scores. Meaning what?

Meaning not much. Difference in test scores between schools is generally correlated with several factors: ELL, SPED, wealth, demographics, and test prep. In addition, the populations are self-selected at both schools.  The student populations are NOT THE SAME, and therefore you can’t make any meaningful comparisons regarding test scores (as proxy for learning) when comparing the two schools, or any two (or more) schools for that matter.

Just for starters, ROOTS has nearly half of their students classified as ELL, compared to CCPA which has about one-third. In addition, CCPA received more funding than ROOTS (could be because of the grade makeup), and ROOTS has more inexperienced teachers. In 2016-17, nearly all of the teachers at ROOTS had 1-2 years’ experience. All of these factors can affect outcomes, so it is simply not a fair comparison and should not be the justification for school closure.

The Demand Rate

So, what other metric can the district use to support school closure? The latest weapon in the privatization tool box is something called the demand rate.

The district invented a way to quantify “demand” for a school. It’s a way to manufacture a metric that stands as a proxy for “quality”, but is actually disguised as nothing more than a way to judge a beauty contest; a way to show which schools are more popular, but not necessarily better for certain populations with unique needs, such as ELL (newcomers) and SPED. Oddly enough, the district does not include second or third choice in the demand model. Only first choice.

The district doesn’t consider second or third place worthy of inclusion in the demand calculation. Only winners and losers. And in this case, the loser is ROOTS, and the parents and students who chose it. According to the district, they chose the wrong school. This is not how school choice is supposed to work, but no one should be surprised by this. Nothing about school choice is working the way it was supposed to because the entire concept has been hijacked by billionaires who know what’s best. For them and their kids.

The demand rate will never qualify the reason behind the enrollment at school sites, and this is one of its greatest flaws. This metric will no doubt be used as a tool to justify school closure, not just for ROOTS, but for other district schools. Corporations and billionaires who support the portfolio model believe that schools should be run like businesses (data points and dollar signs). Data can then be manipulated in all kinds of ways to justify school closures.

Finally, the closure of ROOTS is one more way of showing disrespect for the parents and students who chose the school. They are being told that they have better opportunity elsewhere, but not at CCPA (CCPA has indicated it doesn’t want to enroll the ROOTS students). Encoded in this decision is that neighborhood schools aren’t that important.

That having a school within a safe walking distance isn’t important. That having peer, community, and ELL support isn’t important. That it’s better to get into your car (or a bus) and drive across town (assuming you have that luxury) to a different school environment (but not CCPA) because someone who doesn’t even know you or your child’s needs think that’s best. Because of test scores.

Finally, the district did put a price tag on all the disruption and displacement for those families. $81K. That’s all the immediate savings they project the first year for closing ROOTS. If any ROOTS students decide to move, leave the district and/or attend a charter, that’s $8-10K per student. Gone. You do the math. Pitiful.

There happen to be two charter schools right down the street from ROOTS, Aspire and Aurum. Maybe the parents will just decide their student needs to stay in the neighborhood, so they will go to those schools by default. If CCPA won’t enroll them, there aren’t any other neighborhood middle schools left, except for charter schools.

Finally, OUSD has a duty to engage with these parents/students/caregivers openly and honestly, and that isn’t happening. The district has no business closing the school,or any other school, if they aren’t even willing to publicly articulate the reason for the closure (data points and dollar signs).

Parents and students deserve that much. Better yet, leave ROOTS open and get them the support they need. The ROOTS community has exhibited far more courage, honesty, and integrity through this challenging time, and they deserve the same in return.

See: www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/crpe-slowdown-bay-area-charter-school-growth.pdf

Posted at Oakland Crossings, January 23, 2019

Sick Outs and Solidarity Schools: Oakland Teachers Prepare for Possible Strike

Oakland teachers hold one-day walkout and picket school district headquarters. Photo courtesy of KQED.

 

By Zack Haber

Pressure is mounting as Oakland teachers and their supporters push for decreased class sizes, a 12 percent pay increase for educators, the hiring of more counselors, and for the district to cancel plans to close up to 24 schools in the next few years.

After teachers have worked for over a year and a half without a contract with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), a vote to strike has been scheduled from Jan. 29 – Feb. 1 for all 3000 members of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) union.

While the OEA is leading negotiations and strike preparations, school-based coalitions of teachers are also taking action. Teachers have begun holding one-day sick-outs and marches to the district headquarters at 11th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland.

One group, the Wildcat Underground, made up of Oakland High School teachers, has called for and participated in two sickouts.

“The sick outs are our way of flexing. We’re showing that teachers are ready to strike, that we’re organized and mobilized,”said Oakland High School teacher Alex Webster Guiney.

The momentum behind sick outs is growing. While the vast majority of those who participated in the first sick out in December were teachers from Oakland High School, many teachers from at least nine different schools, including Skyline and Fremont High Schools, called in sick and participated in the second sick out.

On the morning of the second sick out, at 8 am, several hundred community members joined an Oakland teachers’ protest, meeting in front of Oakland Technical High School and marching – while chanting and carrying signs – about two and a half miles to OUSD’s headquarters.

In an email to OUSD staff, superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said the district was disappointed in the sick out actions. Since OEA did not officially sanction the sick outs, Trammell characterized them as “unauthorized.”

After the Wildcat Underground led action, OEA president Keith Brown and vice presidents Ismael Armendariz and Chaz Garcia wrote a letter to the district sympathizing with the sick out teachers.

“When we tell our members to ‘let the process work,’ they look at us like we’re fools,” the letter stated. “I can’t blame them. They’re being priced out of their apartments when negotiations seem to go nowhere.”

OEA and individual teachers are working to set up solidarity schools, also called strike schools.

“Strike schools are places in the community that are holding space for people to send their children during the exact same hours that schools are open,” said Fremont High School teacher Kehinde Shalter, who thinks it’s important to provide parents safe educational places to leave their children while parents work.

Salter’s been working to secure spaces for these schools. The East Bay Youth Center, Peralta College, and the main and MLK branches of the Oakland public library have already agreed to host students during the strike.

Coliseum College Preparatory Academy (CCPA) teacher Becca Rozo-Marsh wants help from community volunteers at solidarity schools so more teachers can spend their time on the picket line. She’s been happy at the response she’s gotten so far as she’s reached out to parents and activists.

“We’ve had an outpouring of support from community members, and our role has been to bring those resources together and coordinate them,” she said.

Published January 22, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Parents Ask: “Who’s Behind Roots School Closure?”

“Who are really the key players here. It appears board members don’t have any control,” said a Roots parent

Roots International Academy parent leaders Sylvia Ornelas and Adelaida B Rios, with teacher Quinn Ranahan and a contingent of Roots students at the march and rally for public education in Oakland, Saturday, Jan. 12. Photo by Mona Lisa Treviño.

 

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District is moving full throttle with the closing of Roots International Academy, even though the proposal has not yet been approved by the Board of Education and though the district so far has not determined how much money closing the school would save, if any.

Nor does the district provide answers why the up to 24 schools that are being considered for closure are in flatland East Oakland and West Oakland neighborhoods. None of those affected are Oakland’s 44 charter schools or schools that serve more affluent students.

Studies about the wave of closures across the country, which have hit predominately Black and Latino schools, indicate that school districts save no money and that the long-lasting effects are detrimental to the education of students who are displaced as well as those who attend the receiving schools.

A big question about the closing of Roots, located at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland, is one about democracy: Who made the decision to close the school if it is not the elected school board.

School district officials say that the decision to close the school in June means they have to move ahead quickly, so Roots students will have other schools to attend in the fall. The board is scheduled to discuss the issue on Jan. 23 and make the final decision Jan .28 at a special meeting.

According to OUSD spokesman John Sasaki, “Staff is making a recommendation, and the school board will make the final decision.”

However, the administration  seems to have been decided the issue without waiting for the board to act on its recommendation. Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell met with the Roots community in December, the week before the holiday break, to notify teachers and parents that their school would close.

The district is already starting to counsel students and parents about other schools in East Oakland they can attend next year instead of Roots. No decision has been announced about paying for bus transportation for the families.

And CCPA (Coliseum College Prep Academy), the more favored public school that shares the campus with Roots, called a meeting this week about what to do with all the extra classroom space once Roots shuts down.

“Parents are invited to give input about CCPA’s expansion plan. Roots is scheduled to close next year, and CCPA is planning to grow to serve more students in the community,” according to a CCPA newsletter. The CCPA administration told parents the school is not willing to take more than about a half dozen current Roots students.

“What’s the real deal? Who made the decision? Asked Sylvia Ornelas, a parent leader at Roots.

“We’re not getting any answers,” she said.  “Who are really the key players here? It appears the board members don’t have any control.”

The Oakland Post this week filed a Public Records Act (PRA) Request with the district asking for communications related to Roots and other school closings.

In addition to communications and reports by district officials, the PRA requested said, “The documents should include exchanges with the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), the Alameda County Office of Education, Oakland’s state-appointed trustee, representatives of the State Department of Education and atate legislators and representatives of GO Public School, Educate78, New Schools Venture Fund and the California Charter School Association.”

Asked why the district objects to sending current Roots students to CCPA, which would minimize disruption of the tightknit Roots school community, District spokesman Sasaki emphasized that the merging of the two adjacent schools would have a harmful impact on students.

“Merging the two schools was not an option as that would have been too disruptive for all the students, families and staff,” he said

Presumably, displacing Roots families to schools around East Oakland – Elmhurst Community, Greenleaf, Madison Park Upper and Urban Promise Academy, according to the district – would not disrupt the educational stability of those schools or the displaced students.

Sasaki said the reason for closing Roots has to do with saving money and efficiency:

“All the changes the district is look at are aimed at making the district function more efficiently with better schools while saving money. The changes for Roots have to do with declining enrollment and problems with staff retention.”

However, Sasaki says the district still not know how much will be saved by closing the school.

“The district is still working to determine what the savings will be  with the closure of Roots,” according to KQED, citing an email from Sasaki.

In a strong statement of support for Roots, Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Keith Brown said:

“Our association firmly believes that every student deserves a quality public education. So, we are dismayed by discussion of school closures and consolidations,  particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods. We should be building up our community schools, not shutting them down.”

Published January 19, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Teachers Demand State Increase School Funding

“The state owes OUSD – I stand in solidarity with you,” said Senator Nancy Skinner

East Bay teachers and supporters march through the streets of Oakland, Jan. 12. Shown are California Teachers Association Secretary Treasurer David Goldberg (third from left) and Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown (fourth from left). Photo by Amir Saadi.

 

By Zack Haber

As Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) teachers prepare for a possible strike, many teachers, students, and community members are showing support for their demand to increase public education funding.

On Saturday, Jan. 12, several thousand East Bay teachers and their supporters gathered at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater and marched to Oakland City Hall for a “Rally to Fund Public Education Now,” organized by the Oakland Education Association (OEA).

Many in the enthusiastic crowd wore #RedforEd t-shirts and carried signs reading, “Fight for the Schools Students Deserve” and “Ready to Strike.”

At Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, musicians showed support by playing brass instruments and drums while union leaders and educators led chants such as “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Where did all the teachers go?” – addressing OEA’s concern that because OUSD teachers are paid so much less than neighboring districts, between 20-25 percent of Oakland teachers leave every year.

“We’re fighting for essential resources for our students, smaller class size, investment in student supports, and we’re fighting for a living wage to keep good teachers in Oakland,” OEA president Keith Brown, a Bret Harte Middle School teacher.

Brown said OUSD would be able to raise teacher salaries if the district cuts its spending on central office administrators and outside consultants, and stops handing over students, state funding and school sites to charter schools. He also called on the state to increase funding for the long term health of public education.

“We want to have a competitive salary so people stop leaving the district,” said physical education teacher Toussaint Stewart, who added that positive long term relationships with teachers are crucial for young people.

“It’s traumatizing for our kids when so many of their teachers leave,” he said.

The City Hall rally was organized by The East Bay Coalition for Public Education, which called for increased funding for all East Bay schools with a special focus on Oakland, and was supported by over a dozen local teachers unions.

Speakers also spoke out against OUSD’s proposal to cut 24 schools. Teachers and parents from Roots International Academy in East Oakland have been pushing for a dialogue with Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammel and the school board since December, when Trammel announced that Roots was closing.

The Roots’ speakers said their school needs increased funding, not closure. They want the district to strengthen their neighborhood school, not scatter students and families to other schools throughout East Oakland.

One of the speakers was David Goldberg, Secretary Treasurer of the California Teachers Association, who flew up from Los Angeles to show solidarity.

He said the teachers’ fight for better salaries and the students’ fight for a better education are inseparable.

“Our struggle for dignity for our teachers has to be connected to our struggle for social justice for our students,” said Goldberg.

In her remarks, East Bay Senator Nancy Skinner said the state has contributed to the financial difficulties OUSD is currently facing, including the state takeover in 2003.

“The state owes OUSD,” said Skinner. “I stand in solidarity with you.

Published January 18, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Teachers Are Getting Ready to Strike as Contract Fight Escalates

Educators across the state are demanding more funding for California’s underfunded public schools

Rally for Oakland teachers

Starting this week with solidarity events before school Friday and a huge rally Saturday of educators from many East Bay districts in Oakland, the Oakland Education Association (OEA) is escalating its contract fight and is strongly considering a strike authorization vote by the end of this month.

Living wages to end teacher turnover, smaller class sizes and more resources for the district’s 37,000 students remain the OEA union’s urgent priorities. OEA is demanding a 12 percent raise over three years, while the district is only offering 5 percent.

In addition, educators and parents will also spoke out, Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Oakland Unified School District school board meeting about the district’s disrespectful ongoing plans to close up to 24 neighborhood school sites in the next few years, many in low-income areas. Parents and teachers have launched a petition to save Roots International Academy and all of the targeted schools. Roots middle school could close in June.

The Oakland educators’ showdown comes as more than 30,000 Los Angeles Unified School District educators represented by the United Teachers Los Angeles union are mobilizing for a potential strike on Monday, Jan. 14, in the nation’s second-largest school district.

After seven Oakland mediation sessions and working a year and a half without a contract, Oakland educators are considering all options to protect public schools, said OEA President Keith Brown.

“Educators in Oakland are ready to fight for the public schools our students and our community deserve,” Brown said. “We are tired of being undervalued and disrespected at the bargaining table. We are being loud and clear about our priorities. We demand a living wage, lower class sizes and the resources our students want and need.”

The union expects to take the final steps this month in the bargaining process before it can legally strike – a fact-finding hearing by a state-appointed neutral and a strike authorization vote that would allow OEA leaders to call a strike.

Local teachers’ unions statewide are organizing a #RedForEd Day of Action on Friday, Jan. 11in solidarity potential looming strikes by the Oakland Education Association and United Teachers Los Angeles.

Many teachers will wear red, joining parents or students and starting the school day by walking in together.

Also in support of Oakland and Los Angeles Unified teachers – and calling for more funding for California’s underfunded public-school system – hundreds of East Bay educators from many school districts will converge for a rally at noon Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Oakland City Hall Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The rally is organized by the East Bay Coalition of Public Educators, a group of at least 13 CTA union chapters that will be joined by parents and students. The Oakland contingent will meet at 11 a.m. at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, and then march at 11:30 a.m. to the nearby rally.

In a special community solidarity event, the OEA is hosting three days of a public “art build for public education” to show support for Oakland educators during their potential strike. The art could be used in rallies, marches and picketing.

The family events are all at the OEA offices, 272 East 12th St., Oakland, 94606. Local food vendors will offer meals. These events will be held from 4-10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, and then from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 19-20.

For more details, call OEA at (510) 763-4020 or go to www.OaklandEA.org

Posted January 9, 2019 in Oakland Crossings

Roots Families Heat Up Fight to Save Their Neighborhood School

Roots International Academy in East Oaklad

By Ken Epstein

Students, parents and teach­ers at Roots International Academy in East Oakland are reacting with shock and deter­mination since learning right before the holiday break that their neighborhood middle school will be closed in June.

Responding to Oakland Unified School District Su­perintendent Kyla Johnson- Trammell and her staff, who held a meeting at the school on December 18 to announce the closing, an eighth-grader at the school wrote a letter to the superintendent, accusing the district of “destroying/interfer­ing with our education and our relationships with our teachers and peers.”

Students at Roots

“You (aren’t) closing Roots about equality,” the student wrote. “It’s about money, the money you are supposed to pro­vide, but you are not providing. You provide (it) for CCPA and OUSD schools in the hills.” CCPA is the better funded school that shares the campus with Roots at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard.

The district has already closed 15 schools in the last dozen years or so. Once the justifications were no longer needed, nobody mentioned anything about the closings saving any money, improv­ing the quality of the remain­ing schools nor the poor test scores of many the charter schools that replaced the pub­lic schools.

One teacher at Roots told the Oakland Post that she does not buy the arguments she has heard that Roots is a failing school. District officials and local charter school propo­nents frequently justify school closing based on statistical analysis of test scores.

Students at Roots

“We don’t feel it’s a failing school,” she said. “They’re displacing a community, a community that is often over­looked and underserved.”

More resources go to fa­vored schools than those that are neglected, which can be seen at the school next door that shares the campus with Roots, according to the teacher. The other school even has wa­ter fountains that work better, she said. “You can see the dif­ference in how they’re served by the district.”

Student athletes at Roots International Academy

Speaking on “Education To­day,” a program on radio station KPFA 94.1 FM, Roots parents Addy Rios and Silvia Ornelas explained what Roots means to them and their children.

“For me as a parent, it was devastating,” said Rios. “My kid still doesn’t comprehend or doesn’t want to believe (it).”

She said her son is doing well at the school. “It’s a good school. With the help of us, the parents, he is doing really good (in) his classes, with his teach­ers and his classmates,” Rios said. “I don’t understand why they are saying that it’s going to be closed because it’s not doing good. We asked questions, but just don’t have an answer.”

Ornelas said Roots has been a great fit for her daughter. “It’s a smaller school (than her previ­ous school) where she didn’t get the necessary attention. With her teachers at Roots, all the staff is so committed to ev­ery single student who walks through those doors.”

In the mornings, she said, the teachers and staff mem­bers “greet the kids with a high five, a hug, a handshake, a smile on their faces. Every single child feels accepted at Roots.

“The school district is try­ing to take it away from our kids.”

Rios said the real reason for closing of schools in Oakland has to do with “money, gentri­fication.”

“They’re going to sell the (schools) to build housing, which is going to be very expensive, for the techs and everybody (who) is going to come and replace us and push us out,” she said.

The message they are giv­ing to the kids is that they are no good, that “they don’t de­serve education, they don’t de­serve to have a public school,” said Rios.

The parents said there is no community engagement: no­body is listening to them, not the superintendent, not the school board, not even Shanthi Gonzales, who is supposed to represent Roots families on the board of education.

At the December 18 meet­ing, Gonzales said she support­ed closing Roots but would not answer the parents’ questions or even look directly at them, according to the parents.

Added Ornelas, “This is a public school – it is not private­ly owned. t’s not funded by bil­lionaires. They need to answer our questions before taking such drastic measures. “

According to a message on her email account, Board­member Gonzales is out of the country and not available for comment until late Janu­ary. Questions emailed to the district were not answered be­cause most staff are on holiday break, according to OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki.

In an email newsletter dated December 30, Supt. Johnson- Trammell said, “The effort to re-imagine OUSD relates di­rectly to the work we are doing to address the Community of Schools Board Policy, which is moving forward towards a right-sized district with the aim of offering a high qual­ity school in every neighbor­hood…In order to right-size, changes will be made that will be challenging.”

The Roots community is are asking for people to attend the school board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 5 p.m., at La Escuelita Education Center, 1050 2nd Ave. in Oakland.

Published January 4, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Community Reacts to Proposed Wave of School Closures

Social studies classroom at Roots International Academy at 66th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland.

 

By Ken Epstein

The announcement that the Oakland Unified School District is planning to close up to 24 schools in the next few years, starting with Roots International Academy in East Oakland in June, is stirring concern throughout the city.

“We need to protect and strengthen our public schools, including to protect neighborhood schools for the

Rebecca Kaplan

areas being proposed disproportionate closures,” said Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan.

Though names of most of the schools facing closure have not yet been released, they are all located in poorer neighborhoods in East and West Oakland. None are located in the more affluent Oakland hills, and none are charter schools.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District in East Oakland, says the school district needs to do a better job of improving performance and marketing its schools to the local families.

Noel Gallo

“I know we’ve got to balance the budget, but we have to be very selective in what schools we choose to close – because we are going to lose more families. I’ve seen that in the past,” said Gallo, who served 20 years on the school board before being elected to the City Council.

Newly elected Councilmember Loren Taylor represents District 6, which is where Roots Academy is located, is reaching out to learn more about the issue.

“I know there are some financial realities, but it’s important that we look at the needs of the community in all the planning,” said Taylor. “I’m in the

process of meeting with school board members and members of the school community so I can have a

fuller perspective on what’s going on.”

Loren Taylor

Esther Goolsby, a community leader and longtime East Oakland resident, says she is deeply concerned that OUSD is closing public schools, promoting charter schools and preparing to sell public school property to

private investors.

“What do they want to do with this land?” she asked. “I’m sure they already have plans. They want housing for the new people with the new money.”

“Who are the people (in the school district, the city and the state) who are making these decisions? What are their morals and their values?” she asked. “They talk about an Oakland Promise, but none of their actions change this cycle (of school neglect) that has been happening for years.”

Esther Goolsby

The only way to change the situation will be through community organizing, said Goolsby.

Pamela Drake of the Wellstone Democratic Club and the Block-by-Block Organizing Network said she has seen the district close schools and cut educational programs for years.

“Year after year, the parents go begging for schools they love and the teachers the love,” said Drake. “I hate to see a school closed that teachers and parents care about. It seems a real tragedy.”

Sylvester Hodges, a former school board member and president of the McClymonds High School Centennial Alumni Committee, says the school board and district administration are betraying their responsibility to the public.

“They are giving up on public education,” he said. “They are selling or giving up on public schools. They are helping to destroy the school system that was designed for the public.”

The growth of charter schools nationally and locally represents a “reversal of integration,” creating a new school system that is “separate and unequal,” he said.

“School officials are contracting out their responsibilities,” Hodges continued. “I think they should all resign from their positions. They are not qualified to handle the problems facing the Oakland
schools.”

The teachers’ union, the Oakland Education (OEA), says school closings are a threat to the continued existence of public education as the district moves into high gear in its merger with charter school

Pamela Drake

organizations, noting that Oakland is now in danger of following in the footsteps of New Orleans.

“The privatizers on the New Orleans school board handed the very last public school in the city over to a charter company (in December). There are no more public schools left in New Orleans,” according to statement on Facebook released by the OEA.

“Wonder why OUSD is threatening to close 24 public schools in the flatlands when our city’s population is growing? The same people who privatized New Orleans schools have their sights set on Oakland and are trying to push our public school system past the point of no return,” the OEA statement said.

“We won’t let them privatize our schools. We will fight for justice, equity and democracy. We will fight for the schools our students deserve.”

By the Oakland Post’s deadline, Mayor Libby Schaaf, a charter school supporter, did not respond to request for a comment on school closures.

Published January 3, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: School Board Plan to Close Flatland Schools Is a Rerun of a Failed Policy

 

Protest in 2012 against closing Lakeview Elementary School on Grand Avenue near Lake Merritt. District said the school was next to the 580 freeway, and it was unhealthy for any students to go there.  Site now houses a charter school. Photo courtesy of indybay.org

By Mike Hutchinson

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD school board has released the first draft a proposal it calls the “Citywide Plan,” which would reduce the number of schools in Oakland by 24 through a combination of closures and mergers.

Mike Hutchinson

The school board, which released the draft in November, will vote on the final plan by March 1 and soon will be announcing the names of the first schools to be closed.

Under the plan, half of the schools in East Oakland will be closed while none of the most privileged schools in the hills will be closed.  The school board says OUSD has too many schools and must “right size” the district by closing schools, which will enable them to “expand access to quality.”

In evaluating the exaggerated claims of those who justify closing schools, it is important to take a look back at the 2011-12 school year, the last time Oakland experienced the trauma of mass school closures.

At that time, Lazear, Maxwell Park, Marshall, Lakeview, and Santa Fe elementary schools were closed, displacing over 1,000 students and nearly 200 teachers and support staff.  The schools, which were all 50-100 years old, had been valued anchors of their neighborhoods and were closed despite huge community opposition.

After the school board voted 5-2 to close those five schools, the community continued to fight the decision culminating in a 17-day sit-in/occupation at Lakeview that started on the last day of school.

The school board gave a variety of reasons for why the school closures were needed in 2012.  They said that the district had a structural deficit of $30 million and that they needed to close the schools to balance the budget.

However, other options for changing the budget priorities were never looked at, like limiting the use of consultants or reducing the central administration.  They said the district had too many schools and too many empty classrooms and that they needed to close schools that were under-enrolled. But Oakland is not a shrinking city, and the district controls enrollment through the central office.

OUSD promised that students from closed schools would receive free transportation and have the option to attend a higher performing school, but that never materialized.

Ultimately, the five schools closed in 2012 were in fact never really closed. Rather, neighborhood public schools were replaced by three private charter schools and one K-8 Spanish dual immersion, and one campus is being used to house Glenview Elementary while that school’s facility is being rebuilt.

In fact, all five “closed” schools are still open, only the previous students and families have been displaced.

The reasons given for the closures in 2012, structural deficit and too many schools, are the same reasons now being given to justify the Citywide Plan.

It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  No one – not the school board, the state trustee or the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), has produced any evidence to show that closing those neighborhood schools saved the district any money.

In 2012, the school board made promises to the community that they didn’t honor, so how can we believe them now?

The results are clear: schools were never really closed, but neighborhood schools were displaced, only to be replaced by schools neighborhood families can’t attend.

Since California law will allow most of the closed public schools to be converted into charter schools. the end result of the Citywide Plan may make OUSD a majority charter school district.

Given all of this, why does the school board want to close and merge 24 schools over the next five years?  It’s not too late to stop this latest attempt to close our schools.

Please come to the Jan. 9 school board meeting and join our call for no cuts and no closures.

Mike Hutchinson is a spokesperson of Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN).

Published Dec. 22, 1018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Teachers Share Frustrations Over Charter Schools

Public school advocates say a proposed 625-student charter school in the Fruitvale District would drain students from existing nearby schools, such as those at the César Chávez Education Center, located at 2825 International Blvd.

By Zack Haber

Though Oakland Unified School District superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell and the school board have both recently proposed that the district collaborate more with charter schools, some Oakland teachers decry the regimented curriculum, long work days, and the dumping of struggling students who might lower the schools’ test scores that they’ve experienced working for charter schools.

When Jesse Shapiro left his job at Aspire Lionel Wilson College Preparatory, a charter school, to teach at Oakland High School in 2008, he took a $4,000-a-year pay cut. He doesn’t regret his choice because Oakland High, a public school, allowed him to join a teacher’s union and have freedom to choose what he teaches.

Those opportunities weren’t available at Aspire Lionel Wilson.

Shapiro taught at the charter at the same time as Hillary Clinton was running against Barack Obama in the 2008 California presidential primary. School administrators discouraged him from teaching about the event as it occurred and encouraged him to follow the school’s regimented teaching timeline, which insisted he teach “The Federalist Papers.”

Algebra teacher Angelique Alexander, who recently left her job after one year at KIPP King Collegiate High School, a charter in San Lorenzo, to teach at Dewey Academy, a public school in Oakland, also said she felt frustrated with the school’s regimented teaching expectations. Her lesson plans had to be meticulously scripted, and administrators allowed little flexibility to reteach lessons if students did not understand what was taught the first time.

Alexander also felt her work schedule was excessive and unsustainable. Her on-site work¬day started at 7:30 a.m. and lasted until 5:30 p.m. Those hours did not include time for lesson planning. Her workday at Dewey Academy is shorter, running from 8 a.m. until 2:30 or 3 p.m. Though she took a $10,000-a-year pay cut to work at Dewey, she loves her new school and does not regret leaving KIPP King.

“The extra pay isn’t worth it,” she said.

Both Shapiro and Alexander felt pressured by their charter school’s administration to mark students’ grades higher than they felt many of their students deserved, and they both suspect they were pressured to inflate grades to improve their school’s reputation. They didn’t experience these practices in public schools.

KIPP King allowed many students into advanced math courses before Alexander felt they were ready. She thinks students were placed into advanced courses only to make KIPP King look more successful.

Although Aspire Lionel Wilson boasts higher test scores than most public schools in the district, Shapiro noticed that many of his students who were struggling to perform well academically left for other schools before they had the opportunity to take the standardized tests that schools use to measure their performance.

He thinks the school encouraged these transitions.

“I was teaching a class of about 60 kids at the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year in it was in the low forties,” he said. “So, you’re talking about a third of my students getting shipped away, and it was all the struggling students.”

Since funding for charter and public schools in California is based on total enrollment per student at the beginning of the school year, charter schools do not lose funding when they send students to another school mid-year. But public schools are required by law to accept the transfer and must absorb the cost of educating the student without receiving any of the student’s allocated funding.

Shapiro noted that since public and charter schools draw money from the state that would otherwise go to the public schools, the presence of charter schools harm nearby public schools.

“If anything is going to undo public schools right now, it’s going to be charter schools,” he said

Published December 20, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Defend and Transform Oakland’s Public Schools

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.

 By Post Staff

The Post Salon co-sponsored a community dialogue on schools Sunday, Dec. 9. along with Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), Educators for Democratic Schools, the New McClymonds Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee of Parents and Education.

Speaking at the meeting were Oakland teachers, parents and community leaders concerned about low teacher salaries, upcoming budget cuts and the threat of closing schools and selling or leasing the campuses to charter schools.

Mike Hutchinson from OPEN said, “There’s only one way to stop this. That’s to organize.” And he presented information to indicate that the district is not really in a deficit. Taylor Wallace explained why the state does not have Black and Latino teachers and called for changing this serious situation. Oakland teacher Megan Bumpus represented the Oakland Education Association and explained the teachers’ struggle with the school district.

Among ideas presented at the Salon was a brief draft program that includes demands on the State of California, which bears much of the responsibility for Oakland’s problems.
While the district may be guilty of misspending, it is the State of California that is responsible for funding and is depriving the public schools of the money they need to serve the needs of Oakland children.

And it is the State that decides who is allowed to teach and creates obstacles that keep some of the best young teachers out of the classroom.

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.

At the end of the dialogue, participants adopted a motion to hold a press conference at the State Building in January.

Draft of a People’s Program:

  1. No public school closings. Closing schools does not save money. It hurts kids and neighborhoods.
  2. No sale of public property. A major element of privatization is selling off the legacy of publicly owned property and institutions left to us by earlier generations of Oaklanders.
  3. No budget cuts to the schools. California is one of the richest economies in the world. It has a budget surplus, a Democratic majority in the legislature, and the capacity to fully fund schools.
  4. End the teacher shortage and the lack of Black, Latino, indigenous and Asian teachers by eliminating such barriers as multiple standardized tests and multiple fees and by reforming the non-elected, unrepresentative State Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
  5. Rescind the remainder of the debt imposed on Oakland by the State legislature 15 years ago and spent by state-appointed administrators without input from Oakland residents
  6. A living wage for all school employees. A first-year teacher, a custodian, a school secretary should all be able to live in the city where they work, if they wish to do so. That’s a “community school.”
  7. End the discrimination against schools below the 580 freeway.
  8. FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team) out of Oakland. Democratic control of our school budget and school governance.
  9. Open the books of the Ed Fund, which was created by non-elected State Administrators and does not provide transparency.
  10. Reduce class sizes, standardized testing, test prep, age-inappropriate expectations, unnecessary bureaucracy, and mid-year consolidations. Engage parents and teachers in a collaborative recreation of special education and the education of immigrant and emergent bilingual students.

If you have thoughts or comments on this draft program, send an email to Salonpost02@gmail.com

 

Published December 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post