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BEST High School to shrink next year

best.jpgCiting enrollment concerns, the latest report of the district’s “Portfolio Management” program announced plans to drop the ninth grade from BEST High School, one of two small schools on the McClymonds high school campus in West Oakland.

“Mack” had 761 students in 2004-05. Two years later, the combined enrollment of BEST and EXCEL high schools was 532. This coming fall, at least for one year, BEST will only include grades 10-12.

image from the BEST High School Web site

Eliminating the ninth grade of a high school certainly sounds like a precursor to a merger. Of course, Peralta Creek, a small middle school on the Calvin Simmons campus, lost a grade this year, but will gain it back in the fall — apparently, after getting its act together.

On a positive note, the district is talking about creating a Trade and Transportation Academy at McClymonds. As I understand it, the academy would allow kids to hold internships at the Port of Oakland and at the Oakland airport.

What do you think McClymonds should look like five, ten years from now? Could a unique program, such as a trade academy, draw students from throughout the city?

Katy Murphy

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

  • elliotness786

    about the Trade & Transportation Academy:

    EXCELLENT idea…Oakland is a port city, yet there seems to be no effort to direct or prepare local folks to step into the great paying jobs available through businesses and companies affiliated with the movement of goods. The Port of Oakland isn’t the only place to look. What about jobs with Union Pacific & BNSF? Or the maritime trades servicing local inland waters? You have two major West Coast railyards in the immediate area and no one seems to notice. They’re actively looking for people.

    Many of these jobs pay much better stable salaries (and offer great benefits) than many “professional” positions that people go to four year schools for – only to end up in crippling debt working jobs paying $10.00 an hour and limited (if any) benefits.

    College is waaaaay overated. Unless there is a clearly stated objective in going to a four year school, it’s likely to become a colossal waste of time and money – nothing more than an expensive sleep away camp.

    I hope someone pushes the idea through.

  • Doowhopper

    I think the internship and Trade Academy idea is an excellent one for McClymonds. This whole madcap rush to get everyone ready for college is absurd. Many students would be much better off in a skilled trade and would make better money on top of it.
    I have subbed a few times at Mack this year and the students have been very welcoming and co-operative. It is hardly the ghetto hellhole some outsiders might want to stereotype it to be. However, many students have severe problems in Math and Reading and are in no way qualified to attend any major university.
    Another problem at Mack and at other Oakland high schools is the laxness of enforcing rules. Why are students allowed to saunter into class ten, fifteen, twenty five minutes late with no consequences? We are supposed to be cultivating positive habits that are applicable in the modern work force. Tardiness, as well as the use of racially demeaning and obscene language, is not a way to get ahead in corporate America today.

  • Nextset

    The Academy Idea is a good one. From what Doowhopper explains of life at the high school it will take a LOT of work to make these kids fit to be allowed on the premises of any business. That in itself would be an education for them.

  • Doowhopper

    Yes, positive habits need to be cultivated early in life for success to take root.
    I blame the adults. Teachers and administrators alike, tolerate way too much negative behavior using the whole excuse of “cultural differences”. I can tell you from personal experience that if I rigidly enforced all the rules that were in existence when I went to school in the Sixties, I would end up with about FIVE students in each class! And I am merely referring to such offenses as cursing, eating in class, listening to electronic devices and coming to class with no school materials.
    Back in 1964, any and all of those offenses would result in an immediate trip to the Vice Principal’s office. Remember, however, I went to an all white school so the system knew we needed to know proper procedure to get somewhere in life. I think the attitude at places like Mack is insidiously racist. As if they are saying, “Well, lets not be too strict. You KNOW how those colored kids are. Wink,wink.”
    Sad. Very very sad.

  • Nextset

    Doowhopper: Is Racist the answer to everything???

    Remember, the ones most involved in eliminating standards are white liberals and their black fellow travelers. They don’t consider themselves “racist”, they just want the black folks to be happy and not complain.

    So they end all discipline.

    Save us from White Liberals.

  • Caroline

    I recommend the book “Code of the Street” by African-American sociologist Elijah Anderson for a deeper understanding of why some African-American boys (those from the high-poverty inner city) are extremely oppositional and disruptive in class. It’s not for its own sake and it’s not just acting out, and it’s not because they’re being provoked by a racist environment. The disruptive behavior itself confers respect from peers — a survival mechanism in those kids’ very dangerous world outside of school. The worse the oppositional “crazy” behavior, the more respect in the violent world outside the school.

    When you look at it that way, it makes total sense from the kid’s point of view, and teachers’ efforts to change the behavior are doomed to fail.

    But it’s not possible to get everyone to read the book! So instead, people just see a lot of “ghetto” kids acting out and disrupting class, and teachers and administrators making ineffectual efforts, then getting bashed for the failure of those efforts.

  • Doowhopper

    To Nextset-Yes, I think racism does explain a lot of the inequities and yes, white liberals can also be racist.
    I am old enough to remember when African American teachers and staff were no nonsense by the book enforcers of the rules. Yet that has changed and in many cases they are becoming as lax as the permissive white folks.
    To Caroline-I know there are “legitimate” social and cultural reasons why these kids act out. Yet obeying the Code of the Streets will keep black youth in the street or the jailhouse forever. I know several of my old students from earlier years who are now in jail for pulling “jack moves” or trying to be “down” with their homies. Guess what? Now that they are locked up their homies are nowhere to be seen. Its a dead end street.

  • cranky teacher

    Thank you Caroline for the insight. Doowhopper, I don’t think she was trying to say that acting out to impress peers is a good long-range success plan — just that it is not entirely illogical and self-destructive from their point of view.

    The fear of being called a punk at lunch in 20 minutes and having to fight is immediate; the fear of being 23 and homeless, or 19 and in jail, less so. A lot of these kids can’t see past next week, or don’t think they’ll be alive that long. If they are doing any planning, it is sometimes planning to become tough enough that they can survive — even thrive — in prison.

    Teenagers in the best situations are not known for their ability to act for long-range goals. And these kids are hardly in the best situation.

    But for all of us, our flaws seem to originate as childhood survival techniques.

  • Nextset

    DooWhopper: In my book “racism” is a cop out used (mainly) by blacks who can’t manage to fit in in civilization. No one owes you love. Other people not your family don’t owe you a crust of bread. They also don’t have to invite you to their birthday parties. They don’t have to do business with you unless it seems like a good idea to them. In short, if you don’t have something other people want, they don’t have to talk to you.

  • Allie

    It should also be noted that the idea of an International Trade and Transportation Academy for McClymonds was proposed over a decade ago as a partnership with the Port of Oakland and other organizations, including institutions of higher education when I was director of Oakland’s School-to-Career Program. The program ended up at Oakland High with little support from the school or district. The program moved to Castlemont High School and received funding from the California Department of Education, but was phased out in 2000 when Castlemont began converting to small schools. I’m willing to discuss the plans for an International Trade and Transportation Academy with persons interested.

  • Doowhopper

    Getting back to the issue of this mass push to prepare everyone for college, I would like you all to ponder something I have noticed in almost every math class I have subbed in.
    The teacher posts student grades on a chart and each class period has their own long term chart with students identified by a private code number only he or she knows. In the vast majority of these classes, 80% of these kids are getting D’s and F’s. What college will accept them with these grades? Why not give the lower level kids classes like Business Math and Consumer Math rather than force them to take abstract classes like Intermediate Algebra and Chemistry which are way over their heads?
    This whole madcap rush to put everyone in college prep classes is a big joke. Everyone in the system knows that but the professional educrats.

  • Anonymous for now

    McClymonds should NEVER have been split into small schools. Its enrollment was down to begin with! The Oakland school district carved up the school in order to get money from Bill Gates, who had visited Los Angeles schools and seen the overcrowding down there. (Does anyone know if BG has ever set foot in Oakland?) Anyway, his gift came with strings — it was contingent on our big high schools drinking the Small School Kool-Aid.

    The overhead costs alone boggle the mind. McClymonds now has two principals and two sets of office staff where it once had one. At Fremont High and Castlemont, which now house three or more small schools, the administrative salaries and other overhead have multiplied even further. That in itself is ridiculous, and the students at the small schools are not learning any more or behaving any better than were their large-school predecessors. Any sense of school community has been sold down the river, and the kids at the small schools can wind up feeling extremely claustrophobic (especially if their school is located in an interior area with no windows, as was the old YES Academy before they moved off the Fremont campus to go terrorize the King’s Estates neighborhood). They’re also stuck in classes with the same students year after year, and if they happen to make Bad Influence friends during freshman year, they don’t have the opportunity to get out among a larger student population and trade up.

    The faculty at Best and Excel do the best they can, but the whole setup stinks. McClymonds now has two separate bell schedules! The teachers upstairs don’t know the students downstairs, and vice versa, so anyone can wander in off the street and say “I go to the other school.” Class cutting is RAMPANT at Mack, because if a kid wants to ditch he can just wander up or downstairs and hide out in the john, or find a class with a substitute teacher who doesn’t know anybody, and those are the kids who bother to stay in the building. On a sunny day there are groups of kids wandering the campus and the surrounding neighborhood, and that beautiful building stands two-thirds empty.

    It’s a damn shame.

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  • Concerned Parent

    Question – who is the Doctor approving all of this surgery on our campus without parental and community consent -

    McClymonds Educational Complex has been give a triple bypass heart surgery, and the arteries are shutting down one by one, we are only operating with one Kidney, one Lung, one Arm, and one Leg. It looks like we are headed to being put on a Life Support System -

    As it stands now, starting in the new year – BEST – will not have any incoming 9th graders, all 9th graders that have been recruited have been assigned to EXCEL. BEST will engage 10th, 11th and 12th grades for the school year 08/09. EXCEL will engaged 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades for the school year 08/09. We did not receive any status on the open position for a principal at BEST, nor did we get a count of how many teachers have or will receive PINK SLIPS due to the budget cuts..all we can confirm is that we will make sure that our children will be educated by any means necessary. What does this mean for our school – McClymonds – is this a way for the district to slowly take over the campus for other purposes, will it be charter schools, trade schools- I don’t know, but we need to get some very clear answers really soon.

    History has been made at McClymonds and we need to make sure it stays that way. It is imperative that all concern parties get involved in this process to make sure we keep McClymonds High School doors open in our community.

  • Parent

    McClymonds enrollment is low and needs to go back to being one school..those funds spent on having two chiefs and not enough indians dont make sense and the school should have never been split..waste of tax payers money and the communication smells like a skunk.

    This is suppose to be a learning institute, remember the educators are suppose to be educating the kids…instead the chiefs are fighting all the darn time, throwing their weight around, and have totally lost sight of what the hell is really suppose to be going on. It is not all bad, but the bad outweight the good.

    It is time for a drastic change and overhaul on that campus starting with the cheifs first and working the way up the ladder..did you hear me..working your way up the ladder…if the top can’t look down to see what is happening underneath them or condole what is going on, then our babies are not going to receive the education they deserve..how many kids passed the CAHSEE, how many kids are going to graduate, what type of intervention was taken early on, and I am not talking about afterschool programs, what has been done to make sure these kids graduate!

    Given all respect to the violence in the community which is not acceptable….if you can respect and rally around the dead, then you better find a way to rally and respect around the living making sure our kids are good citizens..sick and tire of politics and adult issues..

    Community help us save our school..we all know it is prime property..just found out that adult day has space on the campus..hell the kids can’t even use the new swimming pool..my children’s education is important and if it takes working two jobs, then that is what I am going to do…parent running away from Oakland Public School!!!