Is this what you call community engagement?

Update: I just spoke with Alison McDonald, the district administrator who oversees both schools at McClymonds. She said the Tuesday lunch meeting at BEST wasn’t a formal part of the community engagement process, even though it appeared on the list. She said she wanted to make it, but that there was a meeting at the same time that she needed to attend.


Late this morning, I dropped by BEST, a small high school at West Oakland’s McClymonds campus, in hopes of catching an intensive discussion about school reform.

BEST is one of the five schools which the school district is monitoring because of low enrollment and low test scores. By the end of the calendar year, district staff are expected to announce whether the high school — and other schools — will close, merge, be redesigned, or receive other interventions.

Those decisions are supposed to be heavily influenced by the insights of the parents and staff, a candid exchange that is supposed to take place at a series of “community engagement” sessions — such as the lunch time meeting today (designed for parents who work night shifts).

But I left today’s meeting, nearly an hour after it was scheduled to start, when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. Besides Renato Almanzor, director of the new Family & Community Office, no district administrators attended. Only one or two family members did.

The principal, James Gray, had some charts about program improvement and test scores, which he said he’d present. He also said he’d try to answer questions about the future of the school, but that he didn’t have too many details about why the school was being monitored or what was going to happen.

For the first 45 minutes, as Gray came in and out of the library, a handful of people sat awkwardly around a table, eating a student-catered lunch and waiting for something to happen.

At least the attendees came away well fed — the food looked really good.

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://www.greenstampede.com Chris Dobbins

    As far as community engagement, last night over 50 parents, students, community members and district staff attended the community meeting at Burckhalter Elementary School. There was positive discussion, but there are definitely challenges and few “readily implementable” solutions. On the one hand, it is good to have a strong turnout and good discussion, but I hope it is not just a “set-up” to shut them down next month before the solutions have been implemented. I also hope the district will look at the long term plan of the school and provide support to make necessary changes. It looks like the future of Burckhalter is going to turn on the School Site Council and their meeting on November 13 to see if a plan can be put into place.