Should McClymonds be McClymonds again?

mcclymonds.jpgI stopped by a West Oakland Education Task Force meeting tonight, and one of the issues discussed was the future of two small high schools — EXCEL and BEST — at McClymonds.

McClymonds High School, like many other middle and high schools in Oakland’s flatlands, was swept up in the small schools movement. The difference between Mack and the other once-comprehensive high schools is that it was pretty small to begin with.

In 2006-07, the combined enrollment of BEST and EXCEL was just 532, and it might be lower now.

This spring, two major developments happened: The school district announced it would eliminate BEST’s ninth-grade this fall, and BEST’s principal, James Gray, was apparently dismissed. A group of teachers wrote this letter protesting those decisions.

Some of the people I listened to and spoke with tonight said they felt the two schools were competing for precious resources. One student said, “It seems sad that we only come together in sports.”

What do you think should happen to the school? Is it naive to think you can break a school apart and just put it back together again, or has it become necessary?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Public school fan

    Seems like there is a lot change blowing in the proverbial OUSD wind. Katy, have you attended any of the 6 city-wide forums/discussion groups put on by OUSD regarding the potential overhaul to the Options Program?

  • Nextset

    What does the readership make of all this? Wasn’t McClymonds a notorious failed ghetto school once? Is the current status quo better than the historical performance of the old McClymonds? What is OUSD up to with thier scheme to redirect the incoming class of the one sub-school to the other?

  • Katy Murphy

    No, I haven’t been able to attend the forums, but I’ll try to go to the one Wednesday night at Havenscourt.

    There is also a discussion from 6-7:30 p.m.on Thursday night at West Oakland Middle School, on the Lowell campus.

    If anyone hears anything interesting, be sure to let me/us know!

  • Public school fan

    It is probably worth your time to attend one of the remaining meetings, Katy. OUSD is seeking community input from across the city regarding the Options Program and the priorities for placement within that program. OUSD seems willing to propose a complete overhaul of the program (which could entail a big change from the “neighborhood” school assumption) and are seeking some kind of referendum on doing so.

    Besides receiving public comment on its proposals, they are also presenting some interesting data on which schools are attended by the most neighborhood kids (only for this year’s K data), which neighborhoods seem to be rejecting their schools (even when the schools are decent), and which neighborhoods get their top choices on the Options plan. It would be interesting to hear your impression, Katy. I also wonder how many people even know that OUSD is contemplating changes to the Options program, so it might make for an interesting in-depth article.

  • Sharon

    Public School Fan: How were these meetings announced to the general public? I am quite tuned in to local issues and can’t remember hearing about them.

  • Katy Murphy

    Sharon: I feel partially responsible, as I had planned to post the dates on the blog. I requested the information from the district, but didn’t follow up in time. The schedule is posted on the OUSD Web site. I guess I should check it more often!

  • Public school fan

    OUSD apparently sent out letters to all families with kids enrolled in OUSD schools. The schools were also to post notices or otherwise disseminate info about them via email or listservs, etc. I imagine that it is hardest for OUSD to give notice to those families who don’t yet have kids in the schools. But at the same time, these potential changes will absolutely affect those families. I assume OUSD also had the info on its website. Not sure how else they tried to give notice.

  • http://www.smallschoolsfoundation.org Holly at Oakland Small Schools Foundation

    I had not heard of these forums either.
    Excel has 90 percent college enrollment and a successful law academy. The small school reform has worked for them: it is not just smallness, but the re-design of the schools and conscious goals for personalization and high expectations that make Excel and other small schools better learning environments.

  • Ehel Darnell

    I’m a proud parent of Excel. Excel is a community and not just a school. In order to understanding the learning and social environment you have to take a visit. Interview the Principle Yetunder Reeves which knows each student by name, GPA, and have parents names on her speed dial. A principle that understanding that working with the parents is vital. Meet the teachers who will email or call you in a blink of an eye if they have any concerns be it good or challenging. Meet the parents that work effortless to work with the staff. Meet the students learning how to be self sufficient in life. Not only does the math teacher know the student but the entire staff have close ties with one anothet. Closing McClymonds should not be up for discussion. The only time we hear from the media is when negative results take place that and a great percentage of the time the issue has nothing to do with the school. Take the Excel HIgh School basketball champions lwts talk about the team working effortless with the McClymonds community to be a great success. It wasnt the skill set it was the love and energy from one another that made the success. But, wheres the Colleges at to offer scholarships. Put that in the media. I can go on and on. McClymonds have a history that run deep in the root of Oakland. We will not allow our school and community become unemployed nor will we be cut from our roots. Be bleessed

  • Parent

    Holly, I have to disagree with you…where are you getting your figures from…90% percent college enrollment or 90% have applied..the re-design has made split the campus and the kids I talked to don’t feel the way you are stating about personalization and high expectations..parents are complaining about being in the loop of kids progress..cant information because teachers have not had the chance to check the work..

  • Nicole

    I graduated from McClymonds in 2002 and I don’t understand why the school was separated into two different schools in the first place. It just doesn’t make sense. In my eyes this is just another way of creating confusion and division. I believe the two schools are competing against one another and should go back to the way it use to be.

  • Parent

    Question – who is the Doctor approving all of this surgery 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.
    It is imperative that all concern parties get involved in this process to make sure we keep McClymonds High School in our community.

  • Sharon

    Katy, Troy and all: OUSD and the Board of Education would do a great service to the community by producing a regularly published education page in the Oakland Tribune. It could include OUSD community announcements for special meetings (like the forums mentioned above) as well as regularly scheduled meetings. Perhaps there could be boxes with information for each of the seven districts, too.

    Even someone who is as involved as I am doesn’t really want to search for meetings on the OUSD website. I just spent time hunting for the announcement about these “forums” but couldn’t find it.

    Like all Title I schools, OUSD is required to spend a portion of their budget on parent involvement. This would be a great way for them to connect with the community on a consistent basis. Whatever they do needs to be really simple and easily sustainable. The district launched a newsletter that is supposed to come out monthly (“Every Student…”) but they aren’t making that goal. Getting a newsletter out regularly takes a lot of work.

    If a Tribune Education Page became dependable over time, parents and community members would start to anticipate seeing it there and having information at our easy access. If some of the mystery was taken out of how to be involved, more parents might become more involved!

  • Katy Murphy

    That’s a great concept, Sharon. While news space in the actual paper is tighter than ever, your suggestion made me think of another way to share information about meeting dates and other education-related events — through an interactive online calendar.

    I’m going to e-mail our new online producer right now to see how we might make it work. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Public school fan

    The OUSD website and the related Board of Education website are ridiculously hard and frustrating to use. Any easier option, such as the interactive online calendar (suggested by you, Katy) devoted to OUSD and education issues would be most welcome. In order to reach the most people possible, however, it would be great if it did not require a subscription fee.

  • Ernest Carroll

    My experience at the West Oakland Senior Center was awesome. So many representives from so many coponents from various community bases and professional organizations. It is extremely difficult to bring that many elements together on such a hotbed issue, so I commend the facilitators for such a great effort in keeping us structured and timely.

    Katy from the Tribune even made it with last hour notice, I thank her for coming out as well.

    Best or Excell is really not the issue, the children are the issue and their future. I am so sick and tired of the in fighting instead of coming together in an effort to educate our future.

    Safety should be formost for these children, and then dedicated educators, my sons Algebra cours had a mid term test and not one instructor stayed he has had over ten subsitutes, the last one the day before the test. How can they succeed.

    My children were in Excel but communication breakdown, now they are in Best but now they are closing his courses. Construction, and Culinary Arts. Music has been taken away already. What are we teaching them if not culture and value of human traditions.

    We have one police officer protecting both schools during gang intiation month. These kids will not respect us nor should they if we do not protect them and if we can not put order back into the schools.

    Who ever is the principal if they do not do a good job we simply get them removed. But there are certain things we can not nor should not remove and that is the legacy of McClymonds not peoples jobs and positions. We preserve this through competency and production.

    500 students never was enough to divide into two schools, but I guess we had to try something, now they want to phase Best out to put Excel in charge, why not the other way around, or just put McClymonds back, and put programs that effective.

    A lot was said last night, I will as a parent make myself available just not for nonsense, when Dr. Taylor enlisted my participation I was honored and happy that I was asked.

    We parents want to engage where we can have an impact, that benefits our collective goals. These childrens success in life.

  • Sharon

    (My apologies for deviating from the posted topic, but this seems to be an opportune moment to possibly improve OUSD-to-community communication)

    And Katy, don’t forget this piece: It is the duty of the HOST of public meetings to play the primary, and initiatory, role of notifying potential attendees and giving them sufficient advance notice. The Tribune can be one of the vehicles for communication, but getting information from OUSD to you needs to be institutionalized from their end.

    As far as limited space in the paper goes, what would be the cost to the district, a non-profit, to have a 1/4 page notice printed every other Wednesday, for instance? I am quite sure they could find the money.

    Websites are great, but quite a few parents don’t have computers, or computer skills, as you might guess.

  • Student

    I think Best and Excel shoudl not join together If they do, environment of each class will be changed. It will be harder for students who got used into a classroom of 15-20 students. If there are more students, it is more difficult to listen to the teacher while others are talking. Conflicts will be increased. It is also harder for teachers to listen to the students in a classroom.

  • EXCEL Student

    When I was in middle school my family was talking about their educational experience at McClymonds High School. High School is suppose to be enjoyable and lots of fun and you should be able to reflect back on the good times. For me and my friends we talk about how stressful it is for students just to focus and we wonder sometime if the doors will be open when we reach school in the morning. We have friends in both schools and we all are tired of the division between the two schools. One schools has money the other school does not have any money, one school is making sure students get scholarships, the other school does not have a solid scholarship base, one counselor has to work with both schools, yes we need to be one school so all opportunities are available for all students. The counselor needs to help! Who is the staff at EXCEL? Whos is the staff at BEST?
    Students are striving to get a high school diploma which is a must have, and not a choice.
    We wish everyone would ask the students what the needs and wants are instead of making decision’s that they think will work for us. McClymonds has always been a small school so it was really no need to separate and everyone got along just find. Yes, we are located in the flatlands and are the MACK FAMILY and still press forward to overcome challenges that we face daily in our community. It is not to say that we are not striving for better opportunities as students, we are doing that. We have heard the budget cuts coming and their is a way for us to survive as two schools..one school will not flood the classrooms, and the sooner we come together as one the stronger we will be. The small school separtion should have been a pilot program for one year and it should not have been permanent on our campus. Funds are very thin and we are getting ready for some serious challenges around the budget cuts..remember funding is based upon enrollment and we are a day late and a dollar short. So yes we need to become one school and I dont think it is a challenge, it is simple, we just need to sit down and be serious about what needs to be done. Me and my friends are striving to seek higher education once we graduate. Our parents are engaged in our education and as far as I can remember it all started with my grandparents and it has not stopped..I am just a student hoping for the best for all of my friends and community. We all just need to come together and be on one accord. Students enjoy receiving an education and we feel we have the best educators in both school, so we know we would be awesome as one school. Somebody needs to check the records on Seniors graduating and going on to college – sports or academic scholarship – the numbers will show that McClymonds is one of the leaders in OUSD –

  • Lucille Ward-Bradley


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  • Ernest Carroll

    The greatest country in the world and we spend over a billion dollars a year on a wrong that is illegal. What could we do with that lost resource all we need is the money. We have lost focus on what matters and that is the kids, we need a total overhall of the leadership of this country becasue we have fallen behind in the world in education, our government policies are wrong, and they have us at each other when we need to focus on the leaders who have us in this problem. Smaller classes not smaller schools. McClymonds forever, this is a landmark name the legacy, this school is historical and for the press to treat it of lite like it really has no meaning is so very wrong. Schools should be safe and fun,we can fix this.we tried and now we need to do something differant, keep the classes just have one shcool. Does anyone realize that we have one building, but two type of emergancy evacuation plans. There was so much confusion during the riot someone could have been killed if it had been more serious. Let us come together and fix these things.

  • Michael Bradley

    I graduated from best in 2007 and got a full ride to uc berkeley. I love best to death but I hate excel with a passion. They try to promote them selves as being better rather that working with best, thus unifying the school. I thing it should go back to be mcclymonds high school and ms. Revees should be exiled from the school point blank.

  • Ishman Anderson

    lmao- michael bradley…..thats the problem, because there are many others frm best that felt the same way u feel, just as many in excel that have negative feelings towards best…It should not be that way(schools competing against eachother)- there were teachers that were open about their negative feelings towards a teacher from a different school(in reference to best and excel)Regardless if excel is doing a good job getting “their” student to college, or best doing the same….one thng is certain, there was much more unity among students and staff when it was just McClymonds….The staff at MCClymonds had the goal of trying to better the students of Mcclymonds-All….as far as the question such as “Wasn’t McClymonds a notorious failed ghetto school once? or Is the current status quo better than the historical performance of the old McClymonds?”… well-who knows?- we would have to get some statistics and other forms of data before claims can be made of that nature….. and in reference to the comment about the new mcclymonds having a 90percent college enrollment rate…im uncertain of that… my frshamn and sophmore year at mack, it was still one school…my junior year was when mack turned into best and excel…. 90percent college enrollment means that the majority of people in each enrolled in college..that was definatley not the casse for the class of 07,a good amount of people did enroll in college, but a descent amount did not enroll as well….there were a number of people who did not even graduate, let alone enroll in college