Life Academy will move, after all

I got home after midnight from last night’s school board meeting — and I left early. (Next to me was Moyra Contreras, the principal of Melrose Leadership Academy, who had waited for hours to discuss a future dual language immersion program at her school. By the time she leaves the meeting, she’ll probably have a full 6-7 hours before she needs to be back at work.)

moving2.jpgBefore I call it a night, though, I wanted to report the latest chapter in the Life Academy saga. Or an executive summary:

Life Academy is moving, at least temporarily, because of recently discovered earthquake safety concerns. The 7-year-old, bioscience-focused high school in the San Antonio/Fruitvale area will probably squeeze into the Calvin Simmons middle school campus on 35th Avenue, or in the building where MetWest High School is located, near Laney College.

“It is absolutely painful to uproot a school that is working, that is serving this neighborhood,” said board president David Kakishiba.

There were tears after the decision went down. Students, teachers (and a lawyer for Life Academy, who had to be brought to order after repeatedly shouting, “I understand the concept of the search for truth!” during the board discussion) had urged the board to let the school remain in place until an in-depth evaluation of its structural safety was finished.

But several board members said they’d commit to returning the school to its roots — possibly, in a new building. Principal Erik Rice said his school would try to hold them to that promise. Staff have until the end of October to come up with a solution.

“We’re really trying to protect the long-term needs of our school,” Rice said. “We have to get beyond, `This will be nice.'”

image from brandonrhodes site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • Ron

    It is a shame that this gets uprooted, I am in agreement with that. But has anyone discissed the API rankings of this school? It is an underperforming PI school with an API that hovers around 535.

    I hear on and on that this is a good school, but good in what sense? I think Oakland residents need to get over the small and safe school selling point and begin to demand academics. That is the only way inner city Oakland kids will get a fair shot at society.

    I have heard peopele, including board members talk about this school as a success and example for others yet if it were a charter school, would it be renewed or allowed to stay open?

    I think the school building is a small issue when one truly examines the school’s data and student performaance over the years.

  • Mr. Lee

    It was disappointing to hear that local board members (4 of them) were not willing to allow Life Academy to remain at its current site while they inspect, evaluate and analyze our site for Field Act compliance.

    After extensive research, countless meetings with Division of State Architects, lawyers, board members, city council members, OUSD staff and even the representative to Senator Perata, by Life Academy teachers, students and parents, it looks like all the board cared about was protecting themselves over the the education of the students of Oakland.

    Instead of Expect Success or even Maintain Success, the district chose to ‘Destroy Success’ by displacing our school to a temporary location before all the facts were in. Funny how we teach our students to educate themselves before making a rash decision, when the Board members just demonstrated the haphazard nature in which they came to this decision. Again, this is based on the fact that our school is ‘probably not Field Act compliant’ in the letter they sent home to parents and students.

    Keep in mind that this is a school that has the highest… attendance rate, parent/student/staff satisfaction rates, CAHSEE passage rates by 12th grade, UC eligibility rates in ALL OUSD high schools!

    Not to mention that we have 3 Gate Millenium Scholars (full ride through undergraduate & graduate school), 43% of our 12th grade class were accepted into a UC, and some of the top scores in the CST in the district. Of our 54 seniors, 7 will be attending UCLA in the fall, 3-4 at UC Davis, 2-3 at UC Berkeley, 3-4 at UC Santa Cruz and various others at SFSU, SJSU, Cal State East Bay, Mills, etc.

    Keep in mind that this is a school in the flatlands of Oakland, with 81% of students qualifying for the free/reduced lunch program, over 80% of the students’ first language was NOT English, and the average parent education level is below that of a HS graduate.

    How did we reach such incredible success?
    Through the intellect, passion, commitment, diligence, and resilience of the staff, parents and students, working together toward one simple goal: Expect, Maintain and Build Success, year after year.

    Through the 7 years, we have created more than a school. We have created a family. We have created a community of individuals who truly care about each other and whatever they bring to our family.

    It was evidenced in the numerous meetings we have attended, where nervous teenagers opened their heart to an often unsympathetic public. Parents showed up to 8AM meetings after working the graveyard shift. Teachers presented their research of legal documents after a full day of teaching, grading and planning.

    All this work will NOT be simply brushed aside. We will continue in our struggle for a new school building. We will not rest until we have our state of the art, brand new school building in 3 years.

    Ironically, this all came about as a result of our school’s successful pursuit of a $6 million dollar grant from the state of California to build a the best Science wing we can afford.

    If you are interested in being a part of this dynamic community, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    You can volunteer as a tutor, be an evaluator in one of our numerous student exhibitions or simply attend our one of our Exhibition nights.


    Or contact me at cliffordhlee@gmail.com

  • Lanette

    It seems to me that any time a school in Oakland can prove that certain students can learn and excel, these schools get closed.

    The sad truth is that MOST of Oakland schools have low API scores and many secondary schools are graduating dismal numbers of students. Life Academy is making dents in all these issues. Their staff is composed of teacher leaders who not only help their students, but students in other schools through providing tools and strategies to struggling teachers.

    API is not an accurate indicator of true knowledge. The fact that students are being accepted into prestigous universities is a better indicator, especially since they are not middle class.
    Numbers from test scores don’t equate to actual real lives! When is the last time you visited the school site and engaged in the dialogue that students are having?

  • Ron

    API is not an indicator of true knowldege? Then what is true knowldege? If you think that True KNowledge is not based on test rankings, then just exactly how do you think students get into top coleges? have you ever heard of SAT?

    Thus if API is not an indicator of true knowldege, according to you Lanette, then SAT and subsequently the numbers of those who enter college is not a meaure of true knowldege either.

    Lets face it, The fact is the API at Life is 581, and among the lowest of the regular OUSD schools with only 181 students testing. Could it be that the school has been failing all along? Poor minority students should be expected to perform at higher levels than this. The bar needs to be placed higher, and academics reinforced at all inner city high schools.

    As a product of the Dewwy High of old, I know that mediocrity is the norm as are excuses. My child does not go to Life (Even though we live around the neighborhood) becuase of the rhetoric that is used there which is the same as the one you use. API is the point not a beside the point.

    I visited the teacher of the year at Life 2 years ago, as my son was getting ready to apply and what I saw was a class out of control and a frazzled teacher.

    I feel sorry for the kids, but enough is enough! Expect success – yeah right!

  • Sue

    Ron, you got it. API, SAT, STAR, and all those other tests are mere snapshots, at best, of how things were going on the particular day that the particular test was given to the particular student.

    To illustrate what I mean, I’ll use personal examples that I previously discussed in a debate about the value and validity of testing – maybe a month or two ago when Nextset and I had the same disagreement as you and Lanette. Anyone who’s already seen that discussion can skip what follows.

    First, I’m a testing geek, for lack of a better term. I can take just about any standardized, multiple choice test, and I’ll get a very impressive score. Doesn’t mean I’m a genius, just that I have this weird talent for test taking. In my observation, many more people, just as intelligent as I am (or you, or anyone else we’d like to single out) have a testing weakness, and what they’re capable of in real life isn’t reflected in their scores on tests. Whether it’s fear of testing causing them to panic and freeze up, or because students have figured out that tests don’t really matter and they just mark the answer sheets randomly, the weak-testers bring down the overall test results.

    Another “snapshot” example – my younger son is a GATE student, and he’s so fast and so intelligent that sometimes he even intimidates DH and me a little bit. DH is the most intelligent person I’ve ever met, so seeing our 10-y-o’s brain developing beyond us is mostly very, very cool! (I hope he doesn’t read this for a few years, because he doesn’t need the ego-trip – and we need it even less.) This year, he’s sick and has missed part of the STAR tests. Last year, he got sick during the testing, but the school didn’t call us – presumably they want his high test scores to raise the school’s agregate score – and because he was sick he did very poorly on that section of the test. His math result was “far below basic”, which wasn’t an accurate picture of his knowledge and abilities at all.

    Test results can be an indicator, but they can also be a long way off. If all we are looking at is test results, we aren’t seeing the complete, “true” picture.

  • Cranky researcher

    Ron: Did you read the post above yours? “43% of our 12th grade class were accepted into a UC.” Do you realize how phenomenal that is? The average UC acceptance rate for students of color in CA is like 4%. For all students it’s under 20%. The API/CST is not a real-life measure, it does not determine anything in a student’s career. Research has also shown that the SAT is not a strong predictor of college success! To succeed in college and work, students need to be responsible, good communicators, problem-solvers, creative thinkers, team players, etc. Multiple-choice tests that go very wide and not deep do not measure the most important skills, ones that Life clearly excels at teaching. The UC system strongly approves of the quality of Life’s education, and that system is a much better predictor of life success than a school’s API.

  • cranky teacher

    I sat in on meetings at one respected small school (middle school) on this issue. The principal was very clear: The parents love us, the students love us, but the test scores have not gone up — they MUST go up. In the end, this means teaching to the test, teaching test-taking skills, etc.

    However, you have to understand another anomaly of a lot of these tests: If you are WAY behind grade level, the tests do not accurately measure progress because they are rating “profiency.” A kid can be 5 years behind grade level, improve three years in a single year and still be “below proficient.”

    One of the cries of desperate administrators is “Profiency Now!” We are told to teach the standards for the students’ age rather than their actual readiness. Then the students just fall further behind as they tune out of texts and classes they don’t understand.

    There are no shortcuts. If you are serious about catching kids up, you need MUCH more one-on-one tutoring, kids who are behind have to spend MORE time in school then those who aren’t, etc.

    It is fantasy to think kids can be caught up in the same big classrooms without working more or harder than the kids who never fell behind.

    Profiency now! 😉

  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    It is sad to see that the school at which I spent the past four years will be relocated to share a campus with another school. Well it was a loss for the fact that we are not able to stay at the same building until all of the tests are performed. But Life Academy will still continue to prosper even after the move. I will continue to visit even after I graduate and I will continue to visit years from now when Life Academy gets the building that the students deserve.

    About Ron’s comments, tests indeed do not show how a student is learning. My classmates come from backgrounds in which we are all disadvantaged. Yes our scores may be low to you but we have the best in the district and they consistently rise. I am one of the seven students that will be attending UCLA next fall, and I am a GATES Millennium finalist. In the end I did not meet one of the requirements but out of the five finalists that we had in my class, seven received the award.

    It is sad that people like Ron exist since what our schools need is more support from the community. We need more people to care about our schools and become more involved. Parents from our school showed up to those meetings and still had to go work. I owe all of my knowledge to Life Academy, and I will never forget that small school. I would also like to mention that you bash on our testing scores but at the same time you have several spelling mistakes in your posts. I respect that everyone has the right to an opinion, but you must first research where our students live, and how we deal with living our lives.

    When schools underachieve, the solution is not to close them down and have all the students attend overcrowded schools. The solution is to have more schools, that have ALL the resources that they need. Thats why I believe that No Child Left Behind is rubbish. How can they close down schools that under perform and cut their budget. When the schools that are most sucessful are the schools that have more resources. Yet the teachers at those schools are less dedicated than the staff at Life Academy.

  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    I would also like to share my own story. I live next door to a drug dealer that sells drugs outside my door everyday. My father currently lives away in Santa Ana because he was offered a better paying job. (I refused to leave because of all that I have available at Life Academy). My dad left to work because for the past five years he has not had a stable income. We have been on unemployment benefits, as well as having to live in a rat infested home, and wearing hand me down clothes from my cousin. But yet I managed to keep attending all of my programs. I am a FACES Intern at Children’s Hospital, I am also a CHCD Intern at Highland Hospital. I am part of the Youth Law Academy, as well as Healthy for Life, and Hot Life in the Kitchen. So in the end if I do not have the best test scores it is because after all of my programs, and then my homework I am much too tired to study for a standardized test. The people that I will meet at UCLA will not know what it was for me growing up, and it will not matter. I know what I went through to get there and I know what I will have to do in order to go beyond what I have learned. But I will make it and I can proudly say that it was because of Life Academy.

  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    I made a mistake on my first post and said that seven received the award, I don’t know why I made that mistake but it is three.

  • Rigoberto Mendoza

    Dear Ron,

    This comment is dedicated to you. I read your comments. I understand what you are talking about. Now I want you to understand where I come from and the problems that I have endured and why I didn’t perform as to be “intelligent” in the standardized tests.

    Let me begin with the good news. I am a senior at Life Academy. I am sixteen years old and I will be attending UCLA this upcoming fall. I am a GATES scholar (AKA a full ride scholarship, undergrad and graduate school!) and I must say that I am very happy with what I have accomplished since I am a year younger than everyone else(I skipped a grade) and an underrepresented minority.

    Since I know that you don’t know, on my SAT, I got a score of a 1620 (second highest in the school), and the only reason why I scored so high (according to me) was because I took a SAT prep class with KAPLAN in Berkely. Though I know that that is a really low score, I doubt that you would understand why that is. So I have to explain.

    Because of the fact that both of my parents are immigrants from Mexico, I have the disadvantage of not being able to learn English at home. In fact, I never learned English until I was in the third grade. I have worked really hard to try to improve my English, but it has been hard. I still remember when I was younger I had to read a book with an English/Spanish dictionary next to me since I couldn’t ask for my parents for help.

    It is f-ing hard to try to learn a different language even at a young age! Even until today I don’t fully comprehend everything that I read because of the fact that I don’t understand certain words. It is hard to concentrate in school when you have other things to worry about. Right now my family is in the process of our house going into foreclosure because my parents don’t make enough money to be able to pay the monthly mortgage. We have been struggling for two years to try to pay it off, but my dad and mom don’t earn enough to even pay the mortgage anymore. Do you know how hard it is to concentrate in school seeing your dad not be himself because he is overwhelmed with all of this S***! Not to mention the fact that I commute everyday 45 minutes to school since I live in Martinez. I rarely get any sleep trying to do my work since I get home like at 6:00 p.m. and I have to wait until my little sister finishes her homework on the computer so I can have my turn at it. There are many more problems that distract me from my work, yet I have been able to get a 4.17 since my junior year!

    Now if you think that those stupid test can measure how smart I am, then I tell you that you are wrong. All you really need to do is be able to understand the questions and answer them as quickly as possible. I tell you this because in the courses that I took they showed us how to decipher the questions into ways that I would be able to answer them.

    I don’t mean to anger you in any way, nor misjudge you. All I want is for you not to misjudge us as a school. Do our acceptances to top colleges not prove that the test scores are just a number not a measurement of intellect? If you don’t believe me know it is fine, but I will prove you wrong thirteen years from now when I am an official Cardiologist. Thank you for putting me and my school down for our successes. You really motivated me to thrive in this world.


    Rigoberto Mendoza

  • http://my.highschooljournalism.org/ca/oakland/fhs/ Lisa


    If you moved to China today and took a standardized test in one or two years in Chinese, instead of English, would the results show your true knowledge of, say, history or science? Or do you think the language barriers might mask your true knowledge of those subjects?

    According to http://www.cde.ca.gov, 134 of the 175 students at Life Academy who took the CST last year were English Learners. Might that have some effect on the school’s overall score? Might those kids KNOW a lot more about science, math or social studies than they are able to prove on a standardized test in their second language?

    I used to teach in a suburban school with an API of 8. Now, my school (not Life) has an API of 1. I have not all of a sudden become a “1” teacher. My students are not “1’s.” The standardized tests will probably always show that they are “1’s,” however, since more than 50 percent are taking the test in a language that they haven’t spoken or read for more than five years.

    When I go back to look more closely at that school with a 8, I see that their economically disadvantaged students and English learners fare just about as poorly as my inner-city economically disadvantaged and English learners do on the standardized tests. But that suburban school gets off the hook of critics like you because all they see is the 8, based primarily on middle-class white kids.


  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    After I read Rigo’s comment I would like to add that we have people with even lower scores in the SAT getting into top colleges and Universities. My score was 1650 for the SAT reasoning and 1770 for subject. but I have friends with much lower scores attending UC Berkeley, as well as private schools and other UC’s. I scored way below average in the STAR testing. Like Rigo I scored high on my SAT’s because I took the Kaplan course which was provided for me from FACES for the future. Unlike me, not all of the students are art of FACES and o not have the resources to take a course that can cost about $1,000. That is another factor from suburbian schools, alot of those kids can afford to take kaplan course and will pay it if it means higher scores. Our parents must first worry about paying rent and buying food. That is not to say that our parents do not care about they children’s school, but there are priorities in survival that one must take into account first.

  • Sharon

    To the students: I really appreciate you for revealing your personal experiences. Every human being exists in their own world of assumptions, of how things are and how things should be, so it’s always helpful to hear perspectives from other worlds.

    I wish you all the best when you get to college. It can be a challenging world, even for kids from more advantaged families. Because I’m the mom of a successful college student, I feel compelled to give you advice. My husband and I didn’t have the advantage of getting advice about college life from our parents because they hadn’t ever attended college. We only realized how much we missed out when we became college-kid parents ourselves.

    The most important thing, when you get to college, is to find, and build, your support systems and surround yourself with friends who are serious about school. Have fun, but be careful. There is a tremendous amount of serious alcohol abuse going on with college students these days. Party, but be as conservative as you can be.

    When you feel discouraged (because everyone does at some point) please remind yourself that it is only temporary. Be sure to take advantage of campus career counseling services (not doing this is my big regret). And just keep at it and before long you’ll have your college degree. Congratulations to you!

  • Nextset

    The following quote makes the point of many of the commentators here: “It is sad that people like Ron exist since what our schools need is more support from the community.”

    Well, here’s some news “from the community”. We have no intention of throwing good money after bad.

    Remedial education isn’t known to be cost effective. It’s nice if you have somebody who’s ready, willing and able to remedial teach, but I don’t intend to fund it. English A should not be taught at UC, those who can’t test above English A should be barred from UC until they do. And so on down the education ladder. Money doesn’t grow on trees and there are private schools for the George Bushes of the world to go to. Public Schools owe a duty to the public to use the funding they have to produce the most “product” in terms of scholarship.

    The European and Asian educational systems winnow out the non-performers and spend their limited educational budgets on the brights to take them as high as education can go. It is imprudent to spend the taxpayers $$ on trying to make dull students scholars. That is what has been in fashion but the times and the economy seem to have changed.

    If even the OUSD authorities of the period decide to pull the plug on a school because they aren’t satisfied with the performance – and the scores speak for themselves – that’s what we hire them for, to make those decisions.

    The schools are not in place for charity or to spend unreasonable money trying to fix people. (Just another 100k please and we’ll get little Tyrone’s scores up?? Or Tom, Dick & Harry’s too..)

    I’d love to make people over and sometimes you can. The school board isn’t able to do it. The students have only a few years to develop and show talent and qualify for higher education. After that, it’s over. Same with the experimental schools. These things hurt but the process of creative destruction is what allowed the small experimental schools to be tried. Better luck with the next one.

    Ron is in touch with Industry & the taxpaying public . Ultimately we will set educational policy, not the social workers.

    I certainly wish all the students the best in their academic and vocational careers. There is a good spot for everybody even if they don’t always like it. And I’m not saying anyone should give up if they have a reasonable plan to get what they want.

    But the public doesn’t have to fund everyone’s dream.

  • Cliff

    Nextset: Please do not go into law or any occupation that requires any remote sense of rational or reasoning ability whatsoever because your logic does not make any sense.

    You say that a student that hasn’t passed English A should be ‘barred from a UC’. Well, where do you draw the line? What if a child can’t read by the time they are enrolled in pre-school, should we say that they are barred from ‘public schools’? Why don’t we go back to a simplistic ‘survival of the fittest’ model for society, because I believe that is what you’re suggesting. If you want to follow this line of thinking, then based on your arguments alone, YOU shouldn’t even be allowed to share your thoughts on a blog with your irrational diatribe on the state of education…

    Furthermore, when you speak of taxpayers footing the bill for ‘these’ students, I guess you don’t include the very parents of these students who are also paying their federal, state, and local taxes.

    Perhaps you should expand your myopic existence with a more thorough experience of life with these very students that offer a different experience of society than what you have accumulated in your short, elitist upbringing.

  • Ron’s nemesis

    Dear Ron,

    I remember you clearly from 2 years ago. Ron’s arguments against sending his son to Life Academy has more to do with color than test scores.

    His remarks about the classroom ‘being out of control’ is simply a euphemism for the fact that Life Academy’s student population is 0% White and the majority are from lower-socioeconomic communities. Although Life Academy’s welcoming family atmosphere would’ve accepted Ron & his son, his feelings were clearly not reciprocated based on his comments and his ONE experience with the school community. I think Ron was surprised to find that this school that he had heard so many positive things about was actually full of MINORITIES!!!

  • Nextset

    Cliff: Too bad you are so upset and concerned that your views aren’t my views. If you expect to post on a blog that’s open for public opinion and have everybody agree with you and your values you will be dissapointed in life.

    I have no problem with dissent. You do. My opinion is only one vote. But there are many who share my view that we only have so much money to budget for public education and we are required to spend it prudently and not waste education funds. Money doesn’t grow on trees, OUSD can’t print money. I want the schools to produce students that are first and foremost able to support themselves in the economy. There is no money for designer kids.

    Your view that I have a short elitist upbringing is laughable. It’s the elitists that have produced the mess we are in – largely by ignoring cause and effect and pouring all our budget money into programs that make things worse. I count people with your attitude as one of them.

    The public schools must be reformed to do what they have done in the first half of the 20th Century, provide the USA with a safety net that makes social mobility possible and wards off maintenance of a rigid class structure in this country. That is no longer the way the Urban Schools are being run. They are factories that produce students locked in lower class existance. But the students are kept comfortable.

  • Nextset

    Ron’s Nemesis: Not only do you not send a white child to an urban school that is zero percent white, but you don’t send any child to such schools if you expect them to have a middle-class life. Too Bad, So Sad.

    Professional Black families are at the head of the rush to get their kids out of such an environment. Analyze it any way you want to, that’s the way it is.

    So do you really expect us to take such a tidbit about Ron – if it’s true – as CRITISM?

    Show me where the Jewish families are putting their kids…. Now what are you going to call them?? And it really doesn’t matter what you call people in these situations.

    When it comes to child placement we all know where the white liberals send their kids. The same place everybody else who can does. To the best school with the best students that suit the child. Which is absolutely not the ghetto and it’s schools.

    Ghetto schools are for people who haven’t any other choices or who just don’t care. It’s certainly no reflection on the parents who avoid them like the plague other than they are good parents.

    If all the public schools were run to higher standards this distinction might be weaker, but since 1960 the distinction has become critical. Lives are at stake now. Things weren’t so violent before.

  • cranky teacher

    The reason Nextset so effectively gets under everybody’s skin is that he sometimes says things that are uncomfortably true. In this case, that parents often won’t (and, IMO, shouldn’t) put political correctness over finding the best situation for their child; and that not every kid can or should go to college.

    Then he muddles it by getting all his facts wrong. To wit, his notion that we are spending too much money in this state or district on remedial education is wrong because:

    a. Since Prop. 13, 30+ years ago, we have hovered at the bottom of the nation in per student state spending. Currently we are 46th — and will be dead last if the proposed Schwarzenegger cuts go through. The idea that we are spending too much on any aspect of education seems pretty unlikely in that context.

    b. The surge in [grade-]standards-based education, the repudiation of tracking, NCLB, CST testing, the steady growth in AP class size and variety and more have all meant that remedial education has fallen very low on the priority list. This year, Oakland has launched a few remedial initiatives like Read 180 (reportedly a big success), prompting veteran teachers to crack that they thought “remedial” was a banned word in the district. Remember, programs like Open Court and standards-based textbooks are not remedial, although they may feel that way to middle-class children who get read bedtime stories and then go on to read the newspaper or Harry Potter on their own time.

    c. Saying that money shouldn’t be spent on struggling kids DOES NOT MAKE FINANCIAL SENSE when we look at what it costs to society to imprison people or the costs of property and violent crime committed by high school drop-outs. If we don’t help kids succeed on some level, we will pay later — I don’t think that is in doubt, is it?

  • Nextset

    Cranky: If we as a state are falling near the bottom in school spending (per child), that is something that shouldn’t happen. I’ll give you that, regardless of any concerns about how the public schools are producing returns for the $$.

    My point about not throwing good money after bad, is aimed at attempts to teach “college bound” subject matter to students who neither ask for it nor want it. Then we berate those students for “failing” classes unsuitable for them.

    If one if going to make their living with their hands they had better get to work early, as quickly after puberty as they can be fit into the workforce. Such students don’t need to be in classrooms all day but in job training with classroom work as required by the job program – and there will be classroom requirements. But not in an academic class alongside college bound students. There should be a separation near age 14 as is done in Europe.

    What the US used to do is split the tracks and put the vocational ed students in survey courses on the way to Vocational Education. Such students managed those classes and were not saddled with the failure label we hand out to them in these enlightened times.

    As far as effectively getting under people’s skin… you made my day. There is not so much one can do for people in the criminal courts nowadays. The sentencing in California Criminal Courts now are draconian. The trend is clearly heading for more of the same. We are “graduating” 18 year olds as cannon fodder for the prison guards union – or for the victim industry. Our courts are full of people on both sides that just can’t manage themselves. And I’m seeing unhappy jurors also – you can see the economy at work when you try to pick a jury.

    If the public schools would once more become an engine of social mobility and jobs instead of what the urban schools have become things would be better…

    At least the Jr colleges are busy doing their job. The public high schools should be run as well as I see at the Jr Colleges. Perhaps the overregulation and over-licensing of secondary school teachers is related. There’s a thought.

  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    I have a comment for nextset, you say that you do not want to pay for a school that i under performing for students that do not even qualify for UC’s. The Districts move of Life Academy to Carter or King Estates would have cost the district over $100,000 because of the portable buildings that would have to be placed there. I have not heard the latest estimate for moving to Calvin Simmons or the Harper building but I am sure that the number is not very different. Keeping our school where it is would have cost the district much less money because the community was willing to help fund that. So I’m sorry to tell you, but your money is indeed being spent for something completely unnecessary.

  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    I Hope that you never develop cancer, because its a terrible disease. However, if you do some day I may be your doctor, I would help you with a great smile and no regrets. My career plan= Oncology, and I learned that I wanted this because of the cancer research paper that I wrote in 10th grade. Of course it was because I am and always will be a Life Academy student.

  • Nextset

    Luis: It would not surprise me that OUSD has problems with it’s budget – and is throwing around a lot of money managing portables. So?

    As far as your plans for a career in medicine, good for you. However your odds of getting into Oncology from the perspective of being a 10th grader now, are no sure thing. For one thing, you assume there will be positions in undergrad, grad school, med school, residency (Oncology) available to you. You also assume that you will not go for some other career in medicine or elsewhere that comes open in the future.

    I don’t pick my physicians while they are 10th graders. And neither does Kaiser or any of the medical factories.

    You will not be a physician unless you have a school ready willing and able to take you, and a residency you win a place in, and an employer & hospital willing to accept you. An economic collapse or foreign or domestic competition can destroy your plans, not to mention your own life choices and chances. People say one thing and chose another all the time.

    In other words, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

    While going into a specific career starts with developing the interest – as you have – you are still at such an early point that matters both in and outside of your control remain to unfold. I have relatives and classmates who are physicians – I am familiar with the career path. I know plenty of people who abandoned the field because they decided not to do what was required to finish.

    If the point of your comment above was to tie the Life Academy directly to your becoming an Oncologist, I take the position that you do not realize how life works. Yet. But if you want that career (or any other) do as much research as you can about the career path and pay particular attention to the points at which people are eliminated from the career path. Prepare yourself. You will have constant opportunities to deselect yourself from the target and most people have little insight in many instances when they are stepping off the line (because some of the actions I refer to are subtle).

  • Sue


    Never listen to the nay-sayers! Believe in yourself, and find people who honestly believe in you, and listen to them.

    That’s what my sister did – finally. During and after high school, she listened to our parents, who only told her that she wasn’t smart enough for her dreams of college and a career as an engineer. She was told to use her beauty (she’s the pretty sister) to find a man to support her. That lasted about six years, and when she couldn’t stand it anymore, she left him.

    She enrolled in Community college and got her A.S. in civil engineering. Our parents didn’t even go to her graduation. They were still telling her that she’d made a terrible mistake and should get back together with her ex-husband.

    Instead, she got involved with a guy (who turned out to be a serious meth-head) and got pregnant. But she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from pursuing her goal.

    She had to give up her night job, waitressing, and go on welfare when her pregnancy was affected by long hours on her feet at work, and she was at risk of losing the baby. She was temporarily homeless during that time. About then, I’d finished my Air Force enlistment and had about five years of civilian experience in my career field, and decided to move back home to CA.

    She stopped listening to anyone but me and my husband. We were honest with her – what she was trying to do was going to be really, really hard. She had her bachelor’s degree program, and she was struggling to support herself and her baby, and get through math classes that she didn’t have the high school background for. But we kept saying, if you want it, keep working for it. We believe you can do it if you just keep working. And she did.

    She had setbacks, like when she was riding her bicycle to school with her toddler daughter on the back, and a kid pulling out of a high school parking lot ran them over. She had to drop classes, and retake them, sometimes more than one time.

    She got a job working in the post office for an abusive boss, and got first-hand experience of *why* some people “go postal”. After that, she got mental health treatment through her college, and went back on welfare, so she had enough time to go to her classes and do her homework. But that episode cost her a whole year of schooling.

    It took her ten years to complete her B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering. Today she works for Cal Trans, owns her own home on ten acres of woodland, and owns rental property. Her daughter is in high school now.

    And I forgot to mention – my sister has epilepcy, dyslexia, and was diagnosed with ADD while she was going to college.

    Never listen to anyone who says you can’t do something. Believe. Find support. And if you also work your @ss off, you can do anything if you want it enough.

    (whew! take way my soapbox)

  • David Ruiz AKA DAVE ONER

    thats F****d up really disappointing to know that Life is coming to an end! have they checked the buildings at Fremont high because without even having to go in those buildings they look like they cant even resist a storm.
    for being the badest student in Life Academy’s seven year history i could really say that this school could really make a difference to the youngsters in Oakland. school’s like Life Academy are the ones we need to fight for because those are the ones that really dedicate to giving the students the best education OUSD can offer. it aint over til its completely over, wait until i get out of school i will go speak to to the brilliant person who came up with this smart idea about getting rid of LIFE ACADEMY!

  • Nextset

    I agree with Sue: if you work your behind off, you can do one heck of a lot better than if you didn’t. But hard work alone doesn’t cut it. In High School we had George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” as required reading. The character of the horse who always ran around saying “I will work harder” everytime there was a crisis – getting sold to the glue factory at the end of the book – is an object lesson. There are other similar stories in literature.

    Hard work is important but using good judgment is just as important. That includes not being taken advantage of by others, not carrying parasites, and learning from the research of others as well as your own.

    Sue’s relatives’ story gives an example of poor judgment and messy personal life that ultimately winds up OK (her kids?), is an exception one should try not to emulate. It great to win in the end, but better to stay on track in the first place. People who play against the odds normally lose out.

    Public schools should teach the odds – students shouldn’t reach 18 without a clue as to what separates the winners from the losers in this society. Public schools especially urban ones shouldn’t expect the parents to have covered much of anything. The schools have to teach hygene/medical basics, the criminal, employment and civil law, personal finance, civics, protocol, and the basics of human relations (including abnormal psych, psychometrics, how to recognize psychopaths and stalkers, etc).

    Our public school products might wear better is they were taught at school many of the things that the rich cover at home. The rich will be just fine, it’s everybody else that needs an improved chance of surviving this Brave New World.

    David: Your school may have been very good for you – but the school board or school authority makes the decisions about their programs and that is that. If they can have their minds changed do what you can. If it’s is really over then move on and find the best school you can attend. And when writing in public discourse, using the F word reflects badly on you and your school (regardless of the politics of the message).

  • Nextset

    Cranky: We imprison people to take them out of the gene pool. Not only do we keep them from bothering the public, but we remove all the loser children they might have bred but for the long prison term. It is cost effective, although we are spending far too much per bed/year and should emulate the southern states like GA and LA in running prison plantations and lower costs. And don’t think criminality isn’t congenital – it often is.

    Cranking up the incarceration of the disfunctional underclass during the prime reproductive years is exactly what 3 strikes accomplishes. The most deranged among us typically has the two strikes done by age 18 – in juvenile court where they got minimal punishment. When they thereafter do one more felony regardless of how trivial or inconsequential, viola – no (more) babies for Junior, 25 to life with often 20 minimum before parole board appearance. And the kicker is, have you seen the mortality rates? One study I have heard of claimed that half of CYA inmates die by age 30. It sounds really high to me but now that you mention it there are a lot of things killing them, trauma, disease, homicide and suicide.

    Better education will not save these people because the behavioral problems aren’t there from lack of education, it’s psych disorders that seem to be inheirited (addictions, anti-social, borderline, narcissictic personality disorders, etc). So it’s to institutions they go.

    Teaching the proletariat (the upper class don’t let themselves get imprisoned) life skills will help most stay out of custody or at least reduce the number of stays. It’s up to the public schools, no other school system serves these kids. Life Academy was an experiment whose plug has been pulled. I hope OUSD has something better to replace it.

    I just got a call from a friend’s son who needs a reference to apply to a heavy equipment (crane) operator school (tuition 22k). Starting pay is $60k. He’s 21, from an Alternative High School, with no significant job experience. It was either this or try to be a (50k to 75k)Cop and I doubt he could pass the literacy tests for that. He didn’t want to be a prison guard. I see plenty of young adults going to trade schools for over $18k tuition after a few years out of high school as retail clerks who can’t afford a Hyundai. Amazing. When I went to UC Berkeley it was $600/year.

    All they did in High School was party. And the party is over now. Their parents are paying for their gas and getting tired of it.

    Anybody seen the new stats by race on San Francisco’s jail population?

  • Katy Murphy

    One note of clarification: Unless there’s something I don’t know (and I doubt I wouldn’t have heard about it, if it were true), Life Academy is not actually closing.

  • Jose


    What classes at Life Academy are you taking to prepare you for medical school?

  • Rigoberto Mendoza

    Nextset:Wow. I must say that I am surprised by a lot of the comments that you made.

    I don’t remember in what order I read your arguments, but one thing that you mentioned was that we should make a separation between college bound students and those whom are not at the age of 14. Yes it is true that there are a lot of students that aren’t taking their education seriously and it may seem like a waste of money on these students, but everybody has the right to the same educational opportunities. Also, it doesn’t necessarily go to waste. I’ll give you a perfect example of a student who graduated from my school last year. I won’t mention his name, but for as long as I’ve known him (since my sister was in his class) he never took school seriously. He wasn’t part of, but always took a side for a certain gang. He always got into trouble and had horrible grades. If our society was to be run by your standards, he wouldn’t have been able to go to high school. However, in his junior summer, he became a father. That event was the turnaround of his life. His senior year all he had was 4.0’s. Because of his original bad grades, he didn’t meet the requirements for any college so he attended a community college and plans to earn his degree.

    Also, about people with economical advantages avoiding schools in the ghetto “like a plague” is completely incorrect. This goes to shows how naive you are about our society. In our schools there are plenty of students that have the financial ability to send their students into “better schools,” yet they still prefer schools like Life Academy. I can be another perfect example. Though my family is still from a low-income background, I live in Martinez. We moved here while I was in my sophomore year at Life Academy, yet I still decided to go to Life Academy. People think I’m crazy because Alhambra High is the high school here in Martinez which is much closer and is ranked and considered a way better school thank Life Academy, but I still decided not to go there. I commute for an hour to go to school because the environment and opportunities I get at Life Academy are not what I would receive at Alhambra. So next time you make certain remarks like that, don’t make assumptions. Everything that you believe is not always right. (For this opinion you are obviously wrong)

  • Nextset

    Rigoberto Mendoza: Another student heard from.

    For the umteeth time, When I discuss educational policy I’m talking about groups and large numbers of people, not individuals. There will always be exceptions in human behavior and performance – like on Cancer survival stories.

    But when you are dealing with a fixed school budget you are using your funding to get the best results for the group of students. Spending a disproportionate amount of money on a few people while returning a sup-par result on the large number of students is mismanagement.

    I feel the European and Asian countries use of funds in education makes more sense and individuals who want to do something else still have the option to go to church and other private schools.

    So I’m not “obviously” wrong, I’m just using different priorities than you are. You and I sure don’t have to agree on much anyway, why should we. You are a student.

    Taking this point to medical care, If you are in a nation with socialized medicine don’t think you are going to get every possible thing to save your self when you come down with, say, leukemia. Depending on your odds you may be only offered pallitive care. You’d have to go to the USA or some of ther nation to get a bone marrow transplant if your odds were less than sterling. Is that wrong, no it’s not. They won’t break the bank on a small number of people so there’s no funding left to take care of the people with the best chances of intervention.

    Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you are not the center of the universe.

    The fact that you are “surprised” at these discussions is an example of the poor quality of “education” you have received. I find that your generation is so sheltered they have virtually no experience with economics, historical data, or anything that doesn’t support the socialist fantasy agenda of the education complex. Your cohort has extraordinarily less critical thinking than I remember mine having combined with a sense of entitlement that is going to get you very upset when you go into the Brave New World and don’t receive the veneration you have become used to in school.

    Disagree with my observations, comments, etc – but you should not be surprised. You should have heard this sort of thing before.

  • Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza

    Once again, I’m sorry to tell you this because you may not want me to be doing this, but I am a senior at Life Academy not a sophomore. I am going to attend UCLA next fall, and I am going to become an oncologist even if u do not believe that I can. Or if I do not become an Oncologist I will be a physician even if oncology is not my specialty. I know that Kaiser does not choose it’s doctors when they are in High School. For the past two and a half years I have been a student intern for FACES for the Future, a program at Children’s Hospital Oakland. I was also part of the Center for Health Career Development at Highland Hospital. I have shadowed many professionals in the health care field, and I know what the requirements are for me to become a physician. I also know that it is incredibly difficult, but I am determined. I am not going to let you say that I can not do it like what you imply in your comment toward me. I am going to persevere through the “weeder courses” meant to remove students from becoming doctors, and I am going to move on in life. Life Academy is not directly involved with my choice toward oncology, but I sure did receive the tools that allowed me to decide. I do not need to prove to you that I am headed where I belong, I do not need to prove it to anybody but myself, and I do know that I am where I belong. Tomorrow I will be presenting at Life Academy for my senior presentation. I would like to invite you to come to Life Academy and visit my presentation as well as my classmates’. Maybe once you see what we have all gone through you will see that we all indeed deserve to graduate, and that we are all fully capable of achieving our dreams. My presentation is at 11:20, at the current Life Academy Building located at
    2111 International Blvd. Please drop by and watch my presentation, maybe a couple others as well since the presentations go on all day.

    I would also like to mention that i was accepted to twelve Universities.

    UC: Los Angeles, Davis, Santa Cruz, Riverside
    CSU: Long Beach, San Diego, East Bay
    Privates: Univ. of Redlands, La Verne Univ., Santa Clara Univ, Univ. of Southern California, Tufts Univ.

    Yes I did find a school that is “willing and able” to take me. In fact I found twelve of them. I did my research maybe you should do yours

    Luis Angel Pelayo Espinoza
    Life Academy senior
    Future UCLA Bruin

  • Rigoberto Mendoza


    First of all, I never attempted to make argument that was thought out critically incorporating other factors that exist in our world. All I wanted to do was to show you that you shouldn’t generalize your assumptions to every person. The fact that you talk about the “larger numbers of people” still implies that everybody fits to your supposition.

    Also, this last comment about how the poor quality of education and how my generation “is so sheltered they have virtually no experience with economics, historical data, or anything that doesn’t support the socialist fantasy agenda of the education complex” is incoherently generalized to “my generation.” I don’t know if you make your assumption about me because I come from a public school or something else, but you are obviously so closed minded about how things truly are. You don’t even know me and you already have this notion of who I am. In fact, it was because of my school that I was exposed to a lot of the realities that exist in our society. Whether it is how corporations work or the censorship in the media, I have a much broader understanding of it than you assume I do. Because of my school I was introduced to people like Mumia Abu Jamal or Noam Chomsky (if you even know who they are) who truly shaped the way I see the world now in days.

    There is truly no point in arguing with you. You have this concept and image about the world that I can’t allow you to see differently. All I want to say is that you shouldn’t judge or make assumptions about me or anybody without truly knowing them. Like I said before you will not always be correct, especially if you don’t truly KNOW facts about your arguments.

  • Nextset

    Rigoberto Mendoza: Your reference to the cop killing psychopath Mumia as an object of veneration says volumes about your education. Nothing more is required.

    For what it’s worth technology makes it far easier to identify and profile those such as yourself whose interests and beliefs may be anthetical to our civilization. The usual result is to be shunned. You will have an interesting time passing background with such references and interests.

    You see, I have had my encounters with such people. The East Bay in my time there had such villians as the SLA, The Moonies, Angela Davis, Synnanon, Huey Newton and the Black Panther Gang. The Bakery Gang are just Jonnies come lately. My family met many of these creatures close up and personal. We know exactly how they think. Welcome to their club – there is a warm space for you there.

    Life is about to get more interesting in the USA. See how far you can get in US society with such mores.

    Have a nice life.