Category: Education/Schools/Youth

Flatland Students Could Lose Access If AC Transit Cancels Bus Service to Hill Schools

“Resegregation of our schools is not an option,” says Rev. Hubert Ivery

Community members attended a meeting Monday organized by Genesis to save bus transportation to hill schools. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

Community members are keeping up pressure on the Oakland Unified School District and the AC Transit District to find $2.5 million to maintain dedicated bus lines for over 1,600 mostly flatlands students who depend on daily bus transportation to attend Montera Middle and Skyline High schools in affluent neighborhoods in the Oakland hills.

Board of Education President James Harris and Elsa Ortiz, president of the AC Transit Board of Directors, presented an update on efforts to save bus service to Montera Middle and Skyline High schools. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community meeting with representatives of AC Transit and the school district to report on the progress of locating funds to continue bus service next school year was held Monday night at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Park Boulevard.

The meeting was organized by Genesis, a faith-based social justice organization, composed of member congregations and affiliated with the national Gamaliel Network, which hired and trained President Barack Obama in community organizing in the Southside of Chicago, Illinois.

“The snapback toward segregation is trending in many parts of this county,” said Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery, president of Genesis.

Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery

“This discontinuing of buses to the schools is not option. Resegregation of our schools is not an option. Denying access to students who want access to quality schools is not an option,” he said.

“We need to hold our ground, so we don’t go back!”

Speaking at the meeting, Elsa Ortiz, president of the AC Transit Board of Directors, said the bus agency and school district “are really working together to solve this situation.”

“The problem is that both agencies depend on federal and state funds” which is not enough, she said.

Bus transportation to the Oakland hill schools costs AC Transit $4.5 million a year, said Ortiz. In comparison, the cost of service to 35 other school districts in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties costs the agency $5 million.

Some members of the AC Transit board from other areas have no interest in using agency funds to support Oakland schools, Ortiz said.

In January, the school district informed the bus agency that it would no longer pay the $2.5 million for the bus routes. For the past 20 years, the state had given the district the money, which was earmarked to pay for bus service.

However, changes in state funding regulations have allowed the school district to begin to utilize the funds as it saw fit.

 The current temporary agreement, passed in May by the AC Transit Board, preserved bus lines, 56 buses, which last year served 1,615 student a day, according to Ortiz.

Board of Education President James Harris said that last year, when the bus service was threatened, the two public agencies were able to work out a temporary fix.

“We did save the day last year. We did it for this year. We don’t know for next year. We want to know by April,” he said, adding that the district is talking to the city and other agencies in the hope that they will contribute to saving the bus service.

Harris pointed out that the school district is facing desperate financial conditions and has little wiggle room.

“We are certainly looking at giving more money for the buses,” he said. “But every dollar we direct, that’s somebody’s job (that’s cut),” he said.

Montera Middle School Principal Darren Avent said two-thirds of Montera’s 778 students rely on AC Transit to attend school.

“We have at least one student from every elementary school in Oakland. AC Transit leads to the diversity we are proud of,” he said.

When the news came out last school year about the possible ending of bus transportation, “we lost several families,” Avent said.

According to state statistics, Montera’s student body last school year was 37.9 percent African American, 18.9 percent Latino and 21.9 percent white.

Skyline High School Principal Nancy Blooms said two-thirds of her students come to school by bus. “If that goes away, those kids go away. If it is reduced to a neighborhood school, that would completely segregate it. That’s not OK.”

Skyline last year had 1,843 students, 31.3 percent African American, 40.2 percent Latino and 6.1 percent white.

She continued. “We are under-enrolled by 56 kids (this year) because families could not count on bus service.”

As a result, the school lost 4.6 staff members, $156,000 from the site budget.

“We can’t wait until May to know what is happening,” she said. “Families are already making up their minds for next year. We can’t leave huge numbers of families in the dark.”

Open enrollment for next school year started this week and ends Jan. 26.

If the bus lines are eliminated, the schools could resegregate. In addition, the schools might have trouble surviving with so few students. And OUSD could take a huge financial hit if large numbers of affected families decide not to send their students to other district schools.

Published November 19, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Despite Opposition, Council Members Will Discuss “Cover-Up” of OPD’s Violation of Sanctuary City Status

Did Mayor Schaaf block City Council discussion of ICE raid to shield Police Chief´s false statements?

Full discussion set for Dec. 5 Public Safety Committee meeting

 

Students from Aspire Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy in Oakland spoke at Tuesday evening’s Public Safety Committee, asking the city to uphold its Sanctuary City commitment. “We have a right to demand the truth,” said Jackie Moreno, a student at the school. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Post Staff

Oakland City Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan, seeking information and accountability, last month called for a staff report to be discussed at the Public Safety Committee on the controversial actions of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that took place in West Oakland on Aug. 16

Brooks and Kaplan, as well as many members of the public, had expected the discussion to be held Nov. 14 at Public Safety, but the item was pulled at last week’s Rules and Legislation Committee by Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Abel Guillén.

Some are voicing concerns that the item may have been pulled by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration as an attempt to short circuit the current internal investigation of the Chief of Police.

The Rules Committee, which normally sets the agendas for council committees, had originally scheduled the item for a hearing at Public Safety for Tuesday, Nov. 14.

An independent investigation conducted by the Oakland Privacy Commission had concluded that several false statements were made by Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick about the incident and the OPD’s assistance to HSI/ICE had constituted a violation of sanctuary city policy.

“There has been a significant amount of concern with respect to the raid that took place.  The events surrounding the ICE operation were especially troubling because the City Council has set a sanctuary policy that bars any city employee, including police, from assisting federal immigration agents when they are enforcing civil immigration laws,” said Councilmember Brooks.

Asked by the Post for a comment on the mayor’s possible involvement in pulling the item off the calendar, spokesman for Mayor Schaaf Justin Berton responded.

“It is simply untrue,” he said.

Councilmembers Guillén and Campbell Washington did not respond to the Oakland Post’s request for a comment.

At Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Guillén did not explain his position.

According to reports, officials made public statements incorrectly alleging the undocumented immigrant who was detained by ICE was wanted in connection with a criminal matter and that the issue had to do with human trafficking. These allegations seem not to be based on the facts that are known so far.

Oakland police officers performed traffic control duties during the Aug. 16 raids, according to reports.

Many remain unclear as to why the item was taken off calendar.

However, the actions of the mayor and city administration fit a pattern, according to some. City Hall observers say this current dispute is an egregious example how the mayor and city administration respond to City Council decisions they do not like. They do not say anything, they just do not carry out those resolutions.

Staff had already completed a report for the Public Safety Committee item and published it on Legistar for public noticing and were prepared to report on it. Neither the City Attorney’s office nor Oakland Police Department staff had requested that the item to be pulled.

According to Councilmember Brooks, the rationale for pulling the discussion from the agenda was that the issue had been forwarded to OPD’s Internal Affairs Department.

However, the report’s sponsors say the report does not appear to interfere with the investigation. The report asks for facts and to reaffirm that the City of Oakland is a Sanctuary City that will not use any of its resources to assist with “ICE” or “HSI” requests.

“There is no justifiable reason for pulling the item,” said Brooks, speaking at the Public Safety Committee meeting.

“I think it’s inappropriate to try to hide this report and vital that we clearly protect our community from “ICE,” said Kaplan.

Earlier this year, Councilmember Kaplan authored legislation to cut ties between OPD and ICE, and on July 18, the City Council unanimously passed the resolution.

This directive was not adhered to, she said.

The Brooks and Kaplan request for information included:

A chronological timeline and review of the Aug. 16 HSI/ICE raid;

The date the OPD/ICE Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was officially terminated; and

Any and all Oakland police department involvement in, and tasks, at the HSI/ICE West Oakland raid on Aug. 16.

Despite the cancellation of the agenda item, Kaplan and members of the community went ahead with a discussion of the controversy at this week’s Public Safety meeting.

Councilmember Brooks, who heads the Public Safety Committee, has joined with Councilmembers Kaplan and Gallo to submit a resolution that strongly reaffirms Oakland as a Sanctuary City and prohibits city agencies from working with ICE.

“It is vital that we not allow this incredibly important issue to be swept under the rug. The (issue) was cancelled, no reason was given,” said Kaplan.  “We are a sanctuary city – we do not collude with ICE.”

Councilmembers, including Guillén, voted to hold a full discussion of the issue of at the Dec. 5 Public Safety Committee meeting.

Ken Epstein contributed to this article.

Published November 18, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Richmond and San Pablo Protest Against Charter School Expansion

Richmond City Council  on Tuesday will  consider supporting a moratorium on new charter schools

By Francisco Ortiz

Teachers, students and residents of Richmond and San Pablo rallied this week at the Board of Education meeting of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) to oppose charter school expansion.

Over 500 people packed the auditorium at Lavonya DeJean Middle School as the school board held its first public hearing for the Rocketship San Pablo Elementary Charter petition.

Many of those opposing the charter petition wore yellow and blue shirt, supporting the efforts of United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) to stop the opening of a new Rocketship school.

Vice Mayor of San Pablo, Genoveva Garcia Calloway testified before the board, opposing charter school expansion in her city.

Families and teachers from Bayview and Lake Elementary schools in San Pablo showed up in large numbers because they fear their schools would close if Rocketship opens its doors.

As the discussion ended, the charter opponents left the auditorium chanting, “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Rocketship has got to go!”

Rocketship, founded in 2006, opened its first school in San Jose, California in 2007. The chain expanded to serve other communities in Northern California as well as Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Nashville, Tennessee; and Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, the Richmond City Council will  consider supporting a moratorium on new charter schools.

Opponents of charter expansion and school privatization in West Contra Costa are urging members of the public to attend and speak out.

Before the meeting, supporters of the organization Defend Public Education will gather at 6 p.m. Richmond City Hall, 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/groups/defendpublicednow/

Published November 18, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Consulting Firm Will Make Recommendation to OUSD on School Closings

Lakeview Elementary School, across the street from Grand Lake Theater, was closed by the school district in 2012. The site now houses a charter school and district administrative offices.

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District, near the end of the former Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s administration, paid $2.3 million to a multinational company, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, to develop a new facilities master plan, which would include proposals or “options” for closing or moving schools in different parts of Oakland.

The company, which has an office in Oakland has operations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America, in addition to North America, according to Jacobs’ website.

Under the contract with Jacobs, hired on Jan. 11, the company will issue a final report to the school board next year in January.

Jacobs was originally hired by Supt. Wilson because he wanted updated facilities information and construction costs for a school construction bond measure he hoped to place on the ballot in 2018.

The current process – which has been named Blueprint for Quality Schools – includes the involvement of a 54-member advisory that includes parents, teachers, school administrators and some representatives of charter school organizations based in the city.

It is not clear how much influence the advisory group, which was scheduled to meet five times, will have on Jacobs’ final report to the school board.

A number of the people in the advisory group told they feel the process was flawed from the beginning – the discussion of a “blueprint for quality schools” should be based on the values of the community and the needs of students – not on the work of a group of engineers who study facilities and enrollment trends, regardless of how valuable that information may be.

At this point, the process has produced a series of options, which are available on the website:  

Some of the options related involve “consolidation” or closing schools:

  • “Consolidate (central district) elementary schools from seven down to six campuses.’
  • “Consolidate Castlemont-area elementary schools from 10 down to 7-8 campuses.”
  • “Move Melrose out of an over-crowded facility and into one of the larger area elementary schools.”
  • “Consolidate Northeast (area) elementary schools from seven down to five-six campuses.”

The campuses of the school sites that would be vacated under this plan would be “repurposed” “high school career instruction, a pre-kindergarten (PK) center, teacher housing, administration, or another high-need priority.”

Published November 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

East Oakland Organizations Unveil New Grassroots People’s Agenda

Speakers Tuesday evening at the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods rally at Oakland City Hall were (L to R): Mercedes De La Torre of Communities for a Better Environment, Andre Spearman of Oakland Community Organizations and Vernetta Woods, Oakland Community Organizations Photo by Ken Epstein.

East Oakland residents gathered in front of city hall his week to unveil a community-created East Oakland People’s Agenda.

The agenda, based on community needs, was created Sept. 30 at a Community Assembly of the newly-formed East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, attended by Oakland residents who live in communities between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border

The release of the agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 7 was intentional—one year ahead of the 2018 elections— announcing residents’ determination to vote for candidates and ballot measures that align with their agenda.

“We are inspired by the hundreds of East Oaklanders who made our Community Assembly such a fantastic success,” says Sonya Khvann, an EBAYC leader and resident of District 2. “We are ready to fight for the agenda that we created there.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is an umbrella organization formed by six of East Oakland’s most prominent community organizations, whose members are fed up with a lack of action on extremely pressing problems in East Oakland—including housing and homelessness, fears about immigration raids, illegal dumping, gun violence and the street-level sex trade, air quality and the lack of green space, school quality and safety, and good jobs for the unemployed.

Beginning in January, members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods will start a process of research and trainings to prepare residents to advocate effectively for the People’s Agenda.

“We are in this for the long haul,” says Andre Spearman, a leader with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and District 5 resident. “We are serious about building the power we need to be in charge of our communities.”

Evangelina Lara, an EBAYC organizer and a District 2 resident, says the purpose of the Congress is to provide East Oakland with the same kind of clout that more affluent neighborhoods have. “We represent the East Oakland majority,” said Lara. “Politicians are on notice that they need to respond to OUR agenda.”

“Residents from all four East Oakland City Council Districts came together to create this agenda,” says Alba Hernandez, an OCO organizer and a District 6 resident. “Our members are working together to make it come true.”

Published November 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Former OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson Overspent Budget for Administrators as Much as 100 Percent

By Ken Epstein

As the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) struggles to maintain financial solvency – cutting expenses and realigning spending priorities –  reports are coming to light indicating that expenditures for administrators and consultants grew dramatically during the three years of Supt. Antwan Wilson’s administration and regularly exceeded the adopted budget by as much as 100 percent.

“As leader of OUSD, these are not the kind of numbers I want to see,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

“Our schools need the best leadership we can find, but we must find and keep those leaders while working within our means,” she said. “It is our duty to ensure that we are operating in as efficient and cost-effective way as possible. I am committed to putting us on the right path to fiscal stability.”

According to one of the numerous financial reports presented Monday night to the school board’s Budget and Finance Committee, total spending for classified (non-teaching) supervisors and administrators grew by 69 percent during Supt. Wilson’s administration, July 2014 – January 2017.

Classified spending was at $13.1 million in the final year of previous Supt. Tony Smith’s administration (2013-2014), and rose to $22.3 million in 2016-2017.

At the same time, the district overspent its allocated budget for classified supervisors by over 100 percent in the past two school years.

Spending for administrators and supervisors with teaching certificates grew 44 percent – from $13.9 million in 2013-2014 to $20 million last school year,

Spending in that category exceeded the approved budget by $4 million in 2015-2016 and $1 million last year.

In the category of professional and consulting services, spending grew 25 percent, from $22.7 million in 2013-2014 to $28.3 million in 2016-2017.

Last year, expenditures for consultants exceeded the budget by 32 percent.

Reversing the pattern, expenditures for books and supplies fluctuated but never reached the amounts budgeted during the three years of Wilson’s administration. In 2015-2016, $18.6 million was budgeted and only $12 million was spent.

Last school year, $20 million was budgeted and only $6.8 million was spent.

Former OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson

Wilson, who left Oakland at the end of January to head Washington, D.C. schools, minimized the economic dangers facing OUSD in an interview about the district’s financial condition with the Washington Post (WP)

“He said the projected shortfall is part of the annual budget process; many of the nation’s school systems, in seeking full funding, report projected shortfalls to their local governments,” according to the WP. “He said the shortfall in Oakland will materialize only if the school system keeps all programs fully funded and makes no cuts.

“That’s not what’s going to happen. That’s not what has happened any year I have been here,” Wilson told the WP. “Every year that I have been at Oakland, Oakland has balanced its budget.”

To keep from going into the red this year, the district is cutting $46.7 million from its budget, including $32.5 million last school year and an additional $14.2 million this year.

The district administration has proposed that this year’s cuts will be divided between the schools and the central office, $5.6 million or 2.2 percent of school site expenditures and $8.6 million or 11.6 percent of the central office budget.

The administration is proposing that each school community will decide what to cut.

Published November 2, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Debate Brewing Over Closing Public Schools in Oakland

Among the speakers at the discussion/debate on school closures, held at Holy Names University, were (L to R) Dr. Kimberly Mayfield Lynch (moderator), Celetta Hunter and Monica Thomas. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is once again considering closing schools, which is sometimes described directly as “rightsizing” the district or indirectly as part of reform plans to “reconfigure” or “redesign” the district’s “portfolio” of school sites.

While no schools have been slated so far for closure and no decisions have been made, OUSD has formed a Blueprint for Quality Schools – with a 55-member community advisory group. According to the district website, “The Blueprint for Quality Schools is a plan with long lasting impact to meet the changing facility, program and educational needs of the district.”

The advisory group is supposed to submit a report to the board at the beginning of next year.

OUSD has been under pressure to close schools since 2003 when it went bankrupt and was taken over by the state.  State Trustee Randy Ward closed 14 schools, and five were closed under the administration of former Superintendent Tony Smith.

At the time of the state takeover, the rationale was based on state guidelines for an acceptable ratio of square footage of public school space and numbers of students, according to state-imposed managers of the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT).

At present, Oakland has 86 district schools and 44 charter schools. In addition, a number charter schools are submitting applications to open next year.

During the current budget crisis, the school board invited FCMAT to look at the district’s financial condition and make recommendations for improvement.

Among other suggestions, FCMAT advised closing schools, telling the board it would be “amazed” by how much money the district would save.

Within a context of deep concern for the future of Oakland schools, parents and members of the education community held a debate/discussion about the potential of closing schools, Tuesday evening at Holy Names University, sponsored jointly by the Board of Education Member Shanthi Gonzales and the Education Department at Holy Names.

Questions included whether school closings saved money or were ever academically justifiable, how to reduce the negative impacts of closing schools and whether school closings connected to redesign or reconfiguration of OUSD could lead to higher quality schools.

The five panel speakers included Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein, a professor at Holy Names, also opposed schools.

 “A national study found that there are no benefits to school closure,” she said. “It not only does not benefit students academically, it doesn’t save money.”

 Closure costs more than it save because of the expenses of moving people and equipment to new schools, maintaining closed buildings and remodeling buildings where students are moved, as well as the lost income when students leave the district, she said.

In districts across the country, closure disproportionately impact Black students and teachers, she said.

Monica Thomas, a former OUSD principal and currently a district network superintendent, talked about the redesign of a school that led to higher quality program and was not disruptive to parents and students.

She was involved in 2005 in the redesign of Whittier Elementary School, which became Greeenleaf.

The reconfiguration was “totally community led …  steeped in what the parents, teachers and students wanted. It took an entire year,” said Thomas.

Kristin Zimmerman, a parent and member of the Blueprint for Change Advisory group, said that school redesign must make spaces for all of our children. “It is not just facilities, it’s about what’s best for our students.”

“We have ae to push vision and values to the center. If we don’t do it that way, we’re using a wrecking ball.

She said she was a parent at Tilden School, “which was great and then it closed” in 2010.

“Tilden was actually a model for other schools,” she said. “We erased what we had with the expediency of trying to save money.”

Cintya Molina, a parent who works in the OUSD community engagement department, says any changes in the district should not be rushed.

“There needs to be time for the process to unfold,” she said.

She was also concerned about the impact of lack of stability on “children who get moved a lot.”

“People do not know what it’s like not to have friends, not be rooted. They don’t know what it feels like,” she said.

Panelist Celetta Hunter, a teacher and alum of Castlemont High School, opposed closing schools.

“We get reconfigured and reconfigured. What we have are the same things over and over again” she said.

Those are things we need to look at when you talk about reconfiguration and closure: what is it going to do to that community?”

 “This may be beneficial for a small percentage of African American families, but there is a large percentage that will not benefit.  And they get lost,” said Hunter.

Published October 29, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

School District Will Cut Additional $14.2 Million – A Total of $46.7 Million Since January

Courtesy of CBS.

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) released a report this week announcing plans to cut an additional $14.2 million in spending to guarantee the district remains solvent in the current school year. With this new round of cuts – on top of the $32.5 million already cut since former Supt. Antwan Wilson left at the end of January – the district will be trimming a total $46.7 million from its budget.

In comparison, OUSD faced a deficit of $37 million in 2003 when the state forced the district into receivership, requiring it to accept a $100 million loan and appointing a trustee with the powers of both the school board and superintendent.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell says she will propose a plan for implementing the cuts at the Oct. 25 school board meeting.

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

“Our goal is to stay as far away from the classroom as possible,” she said. “But we cannot guarantee that there will not be an impact.”

Johnson-Trammell responded to rumors about budget freezes at school sites.

“Food, out of state travel and conferences are the only freezes at this time,” she said, adding that there is already a hiring freeze on new central office staff.  The plan is to always have communication,” she said.

Additional cuts were necessary because the district discovered $6.2 in unaccounted expenses since the 2017-2018 budget was adopted in June, eroding the financial cushion necessary to ensure solvency, according to the report.

The unaccounted expenses included $1 million for unanticipated special education transportation costs, $700,000 for Beginning Teacher Support, $1.1 million in Human Resources contracts and school staffing errors and $420,000 for a teachers’ union arbitration decision.

The district also decided it needed additional funds for budget projections that were too low for teacher long-term substitutes ($339,474), temporary staffing ($300,000) and non-teacher long-term substitutes ($220,000).
On the positive side, OUSD enrollment increased 549 students above what was projected in the adopted budget, meaning an additional income of $3.1 million from the state.

Of the $14.2 million in cuts, the district will use $1.2 to restore the 2 percent minimum state-required financial reserve and $13 million as a cushion to absorb unforeseen expenditures “or adjustments to existing projections,” the report said.

In a video report to the community posted this week on the school district’s website (www.ousd.org), Supt. Johnson-Trammell discussed the district’s financial condition.

Emphasizing transparency, she said, “I am committed to being clear about where we stand with our finances,” she said.

“OUSD continues to face a challenging budget situation,” she said. “Last year we made difficult budget decisions to ensure we avoided staff receivership. However, more work remains to ensure we regain our financial health. “

Published October 14, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Fans, Neighbors Differ Over Proposed A’s Stadium

A packed Peralta board meeting opened discussion Tuesday evening on proposed A’s ballpark project next to Lake Merritt. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Meetings of Peralta Community College District’s Board of Trustees are generally sparsely attended, but this week an overflow crowd filled seats and folding chairs and stood along the walls at the district headquarters near Laney College to speak out for and against the 35,000-seat stadium that the Oakland A’s want to build on the site.

At one point during the meeting on Tuesday evening, opponents of the stadium began chanting, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don’t stop!” A’s supporters tried to drown them out with “Let’s go, Oakland!” – a chant that is popular at A’s games.

Supporters of building the A’s stadium in downtown Oakland on 8th Street and 5th Avenue next to Laney College and Chinatown included A’s fans from Oakland and around the Bay Area, business owners who argued that the increased foot traffic and development would be a shot in the arm for the downtown economy, building trades unions, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents included senior citizens, high school students, organized by groups in the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, students and instructors in the Save Laney Land for Students Coalition, members of Eastlake United for Justice, 5th Avenue Waterfront Community Alliance, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt and Causa Justa; Just Cause.

They say they want the team to stay in Oakland but not at Lake Merritt, where the stadium and associated development projects would swamp low-income neighborhoods, jeopardize the future of Laney College and destroy natural habitats.

The administration and board of Peralta are planning for an inclusive process to discuss the proposal, which the A’s organization initially sent to Peralta on Sept. 12.

“The board has not had any time (so far) to consider this issue,” said Peralta Chancellor Dr. Jowel Laguerre.

Sharon Cornu, a consultant who is working with Peralta to lead the community discussion, emphasized that the process is just beginning. “Let’s begin with where we are today,” she said. “There is no commitment, there is no decision, and there is no deal. “

“We’re here to start the process of community benefits and engagement so the trustees can make a decision in the best interests of the Peralta Colleges’ community,” she said.

Speakers in favor of the proposal included Carl Chan of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said, arguing that the stadium would be good for public safety, jobs, business opportunities and workforce housing.

Alice Lai-Bitker, business owner and former county supervisor, said, “I’m really optimistic about the A’s proposal. I am hoping it will benefit Laney students and businesses and residents nearby in Chinatown and Eastlake. ”

Among the speakers opposed to the stadium was Jing Jing He, who said Chinatown residents, including senior citizens, came to Tuesday’s meeting to “fight for the life of their community.”

“The A’s team has tried to leave Oakland in the past few years,” she said. “They only stayed because San Jose denied their move, and now they say they’re all for Oakland.”

Focusing on environmental impacts, Cindy Margulis, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, said, “We understand the A’s want to be downtown, but this particular site is a catastrophe for the (wildlife) refuge at Lake Merritt.”

James Vann, a member of the Stay the Right Way Coalition, said the project would not be good for Oakland.  “The impacts are monumental. There will never be a way to mitigate the impacts on the channel, on traffic, on the neighborhoods, on freeways, on the college.”

Alvina Wong of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) handed the board a petition opposing the project signed by 1,700 Chinatown residents.

“We’re here, and we’re living here every single day. We don’t get a choice to go somewhere else,” she said. Local residents would be crowded by tens of thousands of A’s fans “who are coming here for one single purpose,”

While her organization has brought people to the meeting and hired translators, the A’s corporation has not done anything yet to reach out to the community.

“I don’t know how we can keep trusting this process,” said Wong.

Published October 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

Forum at Holy Names Will Discuss Impact of Possible School Closings

Protest in 2012 against closing Lakeview Elementary School across the street from Lake Merritt. Site is now used for district offices and a charter school. Photo courtesy of indybay.org

By Post Staff

School Board Director Shanthi Gonzales and members of the Holy Names University Education Department are co-hosting a forum on school closings Tuesday, Oct. 24, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  in the Bay Vista Room at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd. in Oakland.

The event is free and open to the public.

Panelists will share research on the impact of school closures, including research on whether or not school closures actually save money.

Protest against closing Lakeview School in Oakland 2012. Photo courtesy of Oakland North.

Panelists will also share experiences about previous closures in Oakland and discuss whether or not closures and reconfiguration can improve access to quality education.

The panel will be moderated by Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, chair of the Education Department at Holy Names.

Panelists will include parent Cintya Molina, a former principal and current OUSD network officer and professor Kitty Kelly Epstein.

The event will be organized to allow for the audience to ask questions and engage in discussion

Boardmember Gonzales said she hopes to learn a lot from the forum and discussion. Some of her questions are:

“If the board decides to close schools again, are there mistakes can we avoid repeating? And was there anything that worked, and OUSD was able to mitigate the impact on students?”

She continued:

“Closing a school is a traumatic experience for students and staff, and not a step that can be taken lightly.

“I am specifically interested in learning what the research says about whether school closures can be used to improve student achievement by moving students to other schools.”.

To RSVP for the event, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/dialogue-on-school-closings-tickets-38801909556