Burckhalter and Sankofa likely to remain open — for now

Late-night update: Burckhalter and Sankofa will stay open, at least through the 2008-09 school year. There will be a story in the paper tomorrow.

I came to the board meeting tonight, expecting a large rally outside, and learned that district staff are no longer asking the state administrator to shut down Sankofa Academy and Burckhalter Elementary School.

State Administrator Vince Matthews hasn’t officially decided not to close the schools yet, but he is expected to go with the new recommendation.

Read the new recommendation here. We’ll learn in the next few hours what postponing the decision will really mean.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Sue

    I hope both schools can keep making progress, and stay open permanently.

    I remember the meetings and the upset when then-adminstrator Dr. Ward first decided to close some schools. And I just read a comment recently (was it on this blog?) from a parent whose child was at Burckhalter since their former neighborhood school had closed, and now the family feared it would be disrupted and moved yet again to another school.

    It can’t be good for students to keep getting uprooted because their schools are closed. It’s great to see the board getting local input and finally being able to do something – not just listen powerlessly when families have issues and concerns.

  • Deckin

    I think the educational racism arguments need more of an airing. The quote at the end of the article implies that aren’t other, non-racist, reasons for closing these schools while not doing the same to schools where the students ‘look like her’. For one, these schools are losing enrollment! What should be done? Keep them open until they have absolutely no students left? Is it part of some racist conspiracy that there are fewer students (of any color) in the neighborhoods served by these schools? The reasons that there are no lack of students for those schools where the students look like her is because there’s a line of kids and parents waiting to get in? Why is that? Because of the same conspiracy? How about because of the very kids that go there? Kids make the school and not vice-versa. Why do I think this? Because I teach. Ask any teacher who’s honest and you’ll get the same answer. Take those kids at the schools where they look like her and put them in Burckhalter and then parents will start forming lines to get in there. That’s the truth and pretending it’s not is what’s keeping our schools from really moving forwarded.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Katy, What else happened at the meeting? Hillcrest? Middle school boundaries? Thank you!

  • Shila Gracia

    With a perspective

    There has been a number of very interesting entries discussing the ethics involved around the issue of placing children in public or public schools in Oakland. I have not entered a response because I felt I lacked the perspective from a parent’s point of view. That being said, I can offer a perspective of a first generation college educated woman of color (a mouth full to be sure) that attended Oakland public schools exclusively years ago. It is difficult to put into words what I feel when reading these entries, but I will try. On the one hand, I can empathize with parents simply wanting the best education, whether it is public or private, that they can provide. The issue I have is that not everyone in Oakland has that choice. Due to segregated residential patterns, schools often mirror their neighborhood. White neighborhoods = white schools. Black neighborhoods = black schools. What year is it 1964? Wasn’t this issue dealt with already?

    Parents writing these entries are contemplating the ethics involved with private versus public. The choice itself reflects the privilege from which these families come from, which is not inherently bad, but certainly it is not a level paying field either. I attended the school board meeting yesterday because I wanted to hear a group of suits explain how one school in an affluent part of this city could extend such power as to change enrollment patterns in a number of other schools. Instead, I listened to a small but very passionate group of parents who have children enrolled in Howard Elementary School, which is in East Oakland. They were there to express the fact that two classes of 4th graders had not had a permanent teacher since the first two weeks of school. As of this date, there is no permanent teacher to speak of. These students have essentially fallen behind academically, at least, but probably more than one grade level. So as we contemplate the politics of private versus public, understand that you are exercising a privilege that not many people have. At the core of this ethical debate lies FEAR. The fear that students will be “ghettoized.” Whoever wrote that should have just written, I am afraid of my children being exposed to the negative influences of blacks because ghetto is a euphemism for “black.” And if the suits want to run OUSD as a business, then they should be evaluated as such, and looking at the numbers, that business is nearly bankrupt. Yet I suppose that because the majority of “clients” being served are largely black and brown, then there is no immediate threat to our society. After all, I can sit safely in my home, or walk around my neighborhood, and discuss at leisure where I should put my child in school….choice for many people is too expensive and will take generations to get to…by then all those “ghetto” students will be infringing upon your privilege because they have no other choice…we have given them no other choice…

  • Deckin


    You raise some interesting points, and everybody believes that all should have access to the best education possible, but from a parent’s perspective, think about this. To those parents who don’t have the options of good performing schools, my heart goes out to them, but they should also know that they are the single biggest educational influence their child will ever have. If they themselves value education (in their own lives), if they read voraciously (and not just to their children), if they demonstrate that learning is the single most important thing in life, trust me, their kids will probably do all right no matter what school they’ll go to. As will, honestly, those kids of the privileged who are bullied by ‘less bright’ fellow students. The ultimate power to make an educated child is in the hands of the parents; the local school district can only make it easier or harder for their influence to come through. Too many parents (personal experience) in these poor performing schools simply drop the kids off and expect the school to educate them. That’s not what parents in the privileged areas do: they constantly stimulate their children, etc. The home life is the biggest determiner of academic success. All schools do is moderate that effect (very) slightly.

  • John

    I’m nominating OUSD teacher veteran Deckin to become the Principal of the School of Hard Knocks. I would nominate her/him to become an OUSD school board “suit” or superintendent, but the OUSD ‘pie in the sky’ crowd would run this ‘Teacher of Truth’ out of town on a political third rail.

    Deckin’s remarks contain the retardant needed to quell the flames of OUSD ignorance.

    Katy, I beseech thee! The inspiration for the source of thy next feature epistle has come forth. The star shines brightly in the land of flat. Seek it out and give it a forum to preach unto those who seek wisdom. Amen.