Looking for stories, experiences and — yes — opinions about small schools

I keep promising educators, my editors and myself that I will buckle down and write a piece or ongoing series examining Oakland’s small schools movement — its grass-roots beginnings and its later funding sources, its promise of educational and social justice, and how that vision has played out in various schools throughout the city.

I’ve spoken briefly with folks from the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, which has played a major role in the movement, and I’m sure that more in-depth discussions will follow.

What I also need are stories from teachers, parents, students and principals. People who have seen lives changed for the better because of the reforms it has brought to particular schools — and, maybe, those who have been disappointed by a concept of education that never really took root. 

The school  district will certainly be looking at this issue, especially as the student population drops precipitously, as there is an impression (though debated) that small schools are more expensive to run. A report analyzing the success of small schools will be presented soon — possibly, at an August school board meeting.

Please e-mail me or post your views and anecdotes, if you’re so inclined. If you could include contact information for follow-up interviews, that would be quite helpful. Know any Oaklanders who traveled to New York City in the late 1990s to visit small schools there? I’d love to hear what they think.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Charlene J.

    I work at Coliseum College Prep Academy (a new small school on the Havenscourt campus).
    These are some of the results from the “Use Your Voice Survey”. In our first year, there was a 43% improvement in the number of students feeling safe at school and 94% of our families were satisfied with CCPA (34% improvement from 2005-2006). We are on the right track.

  • David Kakishiba

    so much of what’s written about the small schools movement in Oakland rarely mentions the powerful and indispensable role of parents and community organizations in making small schools a reality . . . i encourage you to meet these rank & file neighborhood residents, not just the paid professionals, and hear and write their

  • Charlene J.

    I am also a parent of a 7th grader at CCPA. My son was also on the design team with
    me. There were other parents involved in the process, two of them are our schools parent
    coordinator’s. I encourage you to visit our school and talk to our parents. Our school does have parent involvement. My son was not going to Havenscourt for the sixth grade because of safety and academic reasons, until I heard that Havenscourt was going to be two small
    schools. I am glad that I was a part of the design process for our school.

  • Michael Siegel

    The small schools movement is a play in several acts. There is the work of Oakland Community Organizations and BayCES in the early days, traveling to Chicago and New York to observe schools (Lilian Lopez, Steve Jubb, Emma Paulino and Dan Siegel were some of the participants). There is the first round of schools that opened, including ASCEND, Urban Promise Academy, Life Academy and others. There is the shift from “small autonomous schools” to “small schools” under the state takeover, and the shift from more pure site-based decision-making to a compromised approach under the state takeover. There are the small schools that were founded in response to community demand, and there are the small schools that were imposed as a sanction for failure to keep up with No Child Left Behind or the whims of the state administrator. Hopefully you can do this story justice.

  • Huber Trenado

    My name is Huber Trenado and I’m a product of the small school movement. Small schools is Oakland are part of a revolutionary social movement that is great. I’ve expereinced small schools in Oakland at first hand. A student that comes from a hell of violence cannot succeed without hope for social change. Hope is waht small schools have brought into my community in Oakland. I am a native of East Oakland and atteneded ASCEND School. I was in the first graduating class, then I continued the small school path and went on to MetWest High School where again I thrived and got involved with my community. Now, well, really, today was my first day at UC Berkeley. The small school movement demostrates how education is prioritized even in communities that are devastated by violence and even poverty. My personal expereince has been very inspirational even as I reflect, honestly, the education I receved at these two small schools gave me the hope for change that I needed to convince myself that I can succeed and change this world.

  • Katherine Carter

    I became involved in the small schools movement as a teacher at Manzanita Elementary. I am now the principal of Manzanita SEED, the first of two small schools opened on the Manzanita Campus. I spent a year working with a design team of parents, teachers, and community members to create the vision and plan for the new school.

    I have seen incredible changes in the culture of the Manzanita Campus since we began this reform. We are in our third year now. We have also had an increase in academic achievement, parent participation and student engagement.

    I invite you to come and visit our school! Ihave been on this campus for 13 years, and seen an incredible transformation in our community as a result of this reform.

  • Anthony Esoldo

    I am a teacher at EXCEL High School at the McClymonds Educational Complex in West Oakland. I have been teaching at EXCEL since we opened two years ago. I would first like to state that I do believe that our small school is working. We have just begun our third year and the change from two years ago is nothing short of remarkable. We must remember that we are transforming underserved , underperfoming schools. This revolutionary change takes time. Oakland schools have been underserved and underfunded for decades. So would we really expect miracles in just two short years. However, if you come to EXCEL you will see that what we have accomplished so far is nothing short of miraculous. At EXCEL, teachers are teaching, students are engaged in learning and we are making progress by ALL measurements. Just because we haven’t met the No Child Left Behind criteria doesn’t mean that we aren’t doing incredibly well. We in fact have made great strides in test scores, attendance and parent involvement. The fact is that No Child Left Behind is controversial and in our case, unreasonable. Our job to improve McClymonds was daunting to say the least. However, what is happening at EXCEL is a vast improvement from the old McClymonds High School. We are making progress every day, week, month and year. Please come to EXCEL and see our amazing young people and staff hard at work.

    Anthony C. Esoldo
    History Teacher, EXCEL HS