Part of the Bay Area News Group

Rockridge neighborhood patrol

By Katy Murphy
Friday, May 9th, 2008 at 5:08 pm in crime, middle schools, safety and discipline.

windshield.jpgFor all of the progress I’ve been hearing about at Claremont Middle School, it sounds like a handful of kids are giving it a bad name in the neighborhood – most recently, by flashing a gun on their way home from school.

Below is an e-mail string between Kate Fitzgerald, a homeowner who apparently spotted a group of kids with a gun last Friday, and David Chambliss, principal of Claremont Middle School.

This isn’t the first I’ve heard of friction between Claremont kids and neighbors. Earlier this year, my editor handed me a copy of a letter that Jan Christensen-Heller, of the Christensen Heller Gallery on College Avenue, wrote to the manager of Trader Joe’s. She had met him at Claremont’s Community Day, and urged him to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy with shoplifting.

“I really love it here,” Christensen-Heller wrote. “However, the aggressive behavior of the middle school children needs to be addressed.” (Last week, the East Bay Express ran a story titled “Middle-School Marauders” about thuggery in Rockridge and other East Bay communities.)

“I think that there is a huge amount of tension between the youth in this city and the public in general,” said Kerry Hamill, the school board member who represents North Oakland and is an at-large candidate for City Council.

Hamill said she is trying to set up a meeting with Oakland police, school district police, Claremont’s principal and local shopowners to figure out how to better supervise the students when school lets out.

Any ideas?

image from the known universe’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

——————————————————————————–
Subject: Guns at Claremont Middle School
Date: Mon, 5 May 2008 11:25:42 -0700

May 5, 2008

David Chambliss – Principal

Claremont Middle School

5750 College Avenue

Oakland CA 94618

Dear Mr. Chambliss:

Per my voicemail this morning, on Friday, May 2 at approximately 3:45 p.m. I witnessed eight school boys brandish, what appeared to be, a silver automatic handgun at the corner of Forest and Ayala streets.   It appeared that another boy held the clip.  Needless to say, I called the Oakland Police, and they sent patrol cars shortly afterward to look for the boys.

The boys are black/African American, between the ages of 13 and 14 years old.  As a group, they walk home via Forest and Ayala streets practically every day.

Two years ago at approximately the same time of day, I witnessed a group of school boys slash the tires of 14 cars and trucks parked on Forest and Ayala streets.  (The slashings reflected the path by which they walked home.)  The police were called on that occasion, too.  You may remember that I also spoke to you the following day – or the current principal at the time – about that incident.   You said that you were aware of the boys’ identities because one of the boys had been boasting about the knife at school.

Something has got to be done!  For the sake of your students and your neighbors, I encourage you to implement a weapons screening program and/or a locker check program at Claremont Middle School.

Forest, Ayala, Colby and McAuley streets are popular routes for Claremont Middle School students.  Unfortunately, many of the houses and cars along these routes are subject to petty juvenile crimes, mostly stones (or other objects) thrown through house windows and broken-in to cars – all between the hours of 3:00 and 4:30.  (On Wednesdays, it starts earlier.)

After school, petty juvenile crime is one thing, and, unfortunately, a costly thing for the property owners on these streets.  Students carrying and brandishing weapons is another matter that needs to be dealt with seriously and swiftly.

Since December, there have been at least three “hold ups,” involving teenage boys brandishing guns on or immediately around Claremont, Colby and Forest streets.  I am not suggesting that these are your students (mentioned above).  But, I am suggesting that there is a correlation – getting away with carrying a weapon to school may embolden a child to commit a crime with it at school or after school.

I know you can help.

Respectfully, Kate Fitzgerald

Homeowner

———————————————————————————–

From: Kate Fitzgerald
Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2008 8:54 AM
To: David Chambliss

Subject: Guns at Claremont Middle School – Follow Up

David – Thanks for your call last evening about the student/gun sighting I reported to the police on Friday, May 2.

I appreciate the delicate approach that you want to take toward identifying and dealing with the actual students involved, and I will be happy to comply by trying to get you pictures of the group of boys involved in the incident.  As I mentioned, I saw the same group of boys yesterday at 1:15 (by my watch) walking down Ayala. I just saw the short boy on the razor going to school this a.m. at 8:20.

I am, however, a little remiss on three points: 1) you want me to be responsible for taking the next step, before you take any action at your school, 2) you are uninterested in conducting locker checks, or 3) you are uninterested in making a statement to your student body -whether over a P.A. or in an auditorium setting, letting them know of the incident, that there are witnesses, that you are conducting an investigation into the identity of the boys and if anyone has information about either the gun or the boys involved that they can tell you in confidence.

I think any of the latter two approaches would show great leadership on your part and, at the very least, strike a little fear into the hearts of the boys that they’ve been found, cause buzz in the school that your staff can overhear, and remind them that need to respect your rules – Claremont Middle School does not stand for guns on or around the grounds or students associating with other kids who have guns.

You also mentioned that in the past five years of your being principal at Claremont, you’ve been aware of only a few other instances when a weapon (a knife) has been brought on to campus. You mentioned that you and your staff have your “ears to the ground” and often hear the buzz of when a knife has been on campus, and yet you did not remember student tire knifing incident two years ago on Forest and Ayala – or that you had called me about it. (Coincidently, your “ears to the ground” statement is the exact same statement you made to me when you returned my call two years ago. On that call, you also mentioned that one of your staff had heard rumors of there being a knife at school that day, you knew who the boy was and the boy would be spoken to.)

Needless to say, I am unconvinced of your having your ears to the ground, let alone having any interest in dealing with these issues.

This is not truancy, not a bottle of alcohol or bag of pot. This is a gun. Call me old fashioned, but I believe such matters need to be dealt with quickly and seriously, not like “untangling a ball of string” as you suggest. You must knit.

In the meantime, I will try to get you pictures of the group of students, provided that I’m at home and not on client calls. I don’t want you to feel like you have no reason for action. Hopefully, the boys wont see me, and I wont get hurt.

Respectfully.

-Kate Fitzgerald

———————————————————————————–

From: David Chambliss
Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2008 6:24 AM
To: ‘Kate Fitzgerald’

Subject: RE: Guns at Claremont Middle School – Follow Up

Ms. Fitzgerald—To follow up on our phone call and your email below, let me clarify a few points:

When you saw the young people in the street with a gun, you did the most important thing.  You called the police and got them working on it.  For any incidents in the neighborhoods, where Claremont students might be involved, that is the most important step.  The police will work with us to hold any Claremont students accountable.
I do need your help identifying the students, either by taking a picture of the boys or coming to the school and looking at our pictures to identify the students.  In your email below you express some fear about being seen.  I’d be happy to bring the pictures to you if this makes you feel more comfortable.  The most important thing we can do right now is to determine which Claremont boys might have been involved, determine if the gun you saw actually came on campus, and then respond accordingly.
In a variety of ways throughout the year (assemblies, classroom non-violence curriculum, disciplining individual students), we have delivered a zero-tolerance message about weapons on campus.  Certainly, in light of what you have reported, we continue to deliver that message.  We have talked with staff and students about the specific event that you brought to our attention, and we are investigating it.

David Chambliss

Claremont MS
——————————————————————————–

Subject: RE: Guns at Claremont Middle School – Follow Up
Date: Fri, 9 May 2008 07:44:12 -0700
From: David.Chambliss@ousd.k12.ca.us
Ms. Fitzgerald—Just to follow up … I would still like to have you look at pictures of our students to see which may be involved.  Please email me or call the school to let me know your availability.  Again, I am willing to come to you with the pictures if this would make you feel more comfortable.  Thank you.

David Chambliss

Claremont MS
——————————————————————————–

Subject: RE: Guns at Claremont Middle School – Follow Up

Date: Fri, 9 May 2008 08:45:17 -0700

David – Yesterday, I got the name of one of the boys: (suspect) – hispanic, probably 13, about 5’4″ and a little chunky. He was walking with the ‘gun group’ today at 1:20, after being released from school.  I was outside at the time the walked by. While I did not see him with this group on May 2, it’s obvious that he wants to be with their group. If you pressure him, he would likely talk about the group and gun.  I can also tell you that the leader – a very short boy, approx. 5’0/5’2, on a scooter/razor – is wearing a white hooded sweatshirt today with gray/blue letter (I could not make out what is says). He just went by my house at 8:00 a.m.

Background on (suspect): The ‘gun group’ came home early yesterday – 1:15 – while I was out in the yard and started hassling me.  I changed the subject and asked them where they went to school. “Claremont Middle School” they all piped up. “Why are you guys out so early,” I asked. “It’s test day,” (the suspect) and couple of others said. The other boys, meanwhile, ran off to Ayala street, because the short boy with the scooter/scooter (who is the one who had the clip on May 2) called them over, where they checked out cars and threw limes at each other and then started walking down Ayala to McAuley.  Shortly after they left, I got in my car to circumnavigate their route and get you photos. Their route ends at the community center at 59th and Shattuck. During their walk home, the group split up. (The suspect) and his foursome took a left at Canning. I took a left at Telegraph, so I could get a photo of them from the front. Only, they were running down 59th, chased on foot by Bernhard VonZastrow (whose house window they had just broken). Ben caught (the suspect), released him after learning his name, called the OPD and filed a report. I spoke to Ben after this happened. I also spoke to the OPD officer at the community center.

Note: I received a series of emails from concerned parents who have children at your school. They are incredulous and outraged by your inaction to enforce your zero-tolerance on guns policy at your school, i.e., that you have not made a blanket statement to the students about this incident, conducted locker checks or said anything to them about the May 2 student sighting.

Jane Brunner’s office also called me. She is contacting the State Administrator of the Oakland Unified School District and will follow up with you shortly.

In the meantime, I will still try to get you ‘good’ photos, i.e., of them from the front without putting myself in harms way, and I will send them to you, your colleagues and the police – by separate email.  I also have my own business to run.

David – On a personal note, I cannot begin to tell you by how disappointed and frustrated I am in you. Be a leader – say something to your student body. Do something that shows them that you’re serious about no weapons. Enforce your no-tolerance policy. Kids don’t remember. And, kids with guns don’t care. Don’t idly wait for me to make things happen for you.

-Kate Fitzgerald

————————————————————————————

From: Kate Fitzgerald

All – This afternoon, David Chambliss and I conducted an afterschool surveillance on Forest, Ayala and McAuley streets to identify the eight boys involved in the May 2 gun sighting.  Using cell phones and our cars, I pointed out two of them, inc. one of the leaders, and David was able to identify them from his school records.

I also pointed out two of the four boys who were involved in a ‘smash and run’, i.e., breaking a house window, yesterday afternoon on Canning Street. (One of the boys was apprehended by the homeowner, Bernhard VonZastrow, who also filed a police report.)

David – Thank you for coming over and doing this with me.  It’s tough tactics like these that get the attention of bad kids. I wish you the best in enforcing your ‘zero-tolerance’ for guns program.

Kate Fitzgerald

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  • Nextset

    Caroline: Any good school expels non-performing students. Do you have a problem with that? If the child can’t hack it in the school’s academic program they shouldn’t be there. They should go elsewhere, such as some lowest common denominator school scho as an alternative school or (gasp) a public school.

    This is one of the ways good schools stay “good”, enforcing standards. Let’s have lots more good schools!

  • Caroline

    Right, but if CMS could dump its most troubled 70% of kids back on KIPP Bridge, CMS would be an “it’s a miracle!” school with soaring achievement and you’d all be dumping on KIPP Bridge.

    In other words, is the key just getting rid of the school’s ****ed-up kids, as opposed to dealing with those kids in a way that improves their behavior, academic achievement etc.?

    So, if the point is that CMS should just dump its problem kids and its problems would be solved, fine — just be clear about that. And let’s not pretend that KIPP is achieving any miracles, when what it’s doing is just getting rid of the kids who don’t cut it.

  • Caroline

    Oh, and re indignation? My indignation comes from the fact that KIPP claims to take the highest-need kids and transform them, when actually it’s just winnowing the problems out and keeping the highest-functioning of those kids. Then it dumps the problem kids back on the traditional public school down the street, proclaims itself superior to the traditional public school down the street, and is worshiped and gushed over for it, plus showered with millions and millions and millions of private bucks.

    SO, is all of your solution that the traditional public school down the street should be like KIPP and dump the majority of its kids when they cause problems? That certainly makes the school better, but where do those kids go, what happens to them, what happens to the community when they’re running loose?

  • oakie

    “In other words, is the key just getting rid of the school’s ****ed-up kids, as opposed to dealing with those kids in a way that improves their behavior, academic achievement etc.?”

    Yes, I would say I am in favor of getting those who are doing outrageous behavior out of CMS. They clearly need a very different setting than Rockridge can offer them: scorn and derision from the residents, and adults in charge of the school unable to live up to their obligations under the Education Code to enforce proper behavior. And the students who are not misbehaving (majority?) deserve to be left alone and allowed to learn. But I am only aware of a handful of these. Maybe 20-40. If it’s more, then so be it. Their parents have no right to put their kids into our neighborhood and smash car windshields, throw bricks through windows, graffitti to their heart’s content. Their presence creates this resentment from residents of the neighborhood with full knowledge that these kids are not our neighbors, plus it’s a violation of the Education Code, which makes the school a Public Nuisance. Is the sole mission to protect the interest of the kids? George Orwell said “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” The reason I am so pessimistic about the OUSD is that the log jam of problems, such as the dysfunction of CMS, will never be solved if the special interests continue to use their power to protect their own turf (including opposition to competing schools)—which is definitely not putting the kids first. And if they do not, then enrollment will continue to decline (I’ve seen it go from over 55,000 in the 1980′s to 39,000 currently), and we in Rockridge are left with the option of pushing to put CMS at the top of the close list. I really doubt I would have a problem collecting signatures from a majority of residents to demand exactly that. And I will have a clear conscience about it, because the power structure in OUSD is unwilling to put the kids first.

  • Caroline

    “I am in favor of getting those who are doing outrageous behavior out of CMS. They clearly need a very different setting than Rockridge can offer them: scorn and derision from the residents, and adults in charge of the school unable to live up to their obligations under the Education Code to enforce proper behavior.”

    I would agree with this. My point is just that in the bigger picture it’s not a solution to hail the schools that get rid of troublesome kids and blame the schools that are the dumping grounds for them.

    Closing a school doesn’t seem to make sense if it would be a different place by getting rid of the troublesome kids, though — then there’d be calls for closing the school where they were dumped.

  • oakie

    “Closing a school doesn’t seem to make sense if it would be a different place by getting rid of the troublesome kids, though — then there’d be calls for closing the school where they were dumped.”

    It makes sense to me. And I suspect that might be the majority view in Rockridge. Apparently there is a well worn path that those particular kids take (because concerned residents have followed them). It ends up on Shattuck Av. around Bushrod Park. Ironically, there is a large school site exactly there that is always under-populated (I think it’s an elementary school).

    Those kids who should be removed need something very different than CMS, plus the rest of the kids ought to be in an environment where their behavior is expected to be at a high standard, plus Rockridge is entitled to the enforcement of the Education Code at the school in it’s neighborhood. Perhaps the test scores could be turned around. I don’t know. But I can say that leaving that school as is will lead to residents calling for it’s closure (assuming the district continue to lose students).

  • Sharon

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. OUSD needs to create MORE middle school age alternative (school) settings for the type of student we are talking about: those with multiple suspensions, multiple referrals (the term for when teachers send them to the principal’s office), and other displays of severe behavior problems.

    Last year only TWENTY middle school students were enrolled in an OUSD alternative school. That’s nuts! We all know there are a lot more totally screwed up kids than that!

    Make them small schools within the bigger schools, or make them small schools that stand alone. Make them schools with small classrooms. Provide them with plenty of teaching assistants, campus security officers, social service providers, school psychologists, and afterschool enrichment opportunities. Try new innovations. Dallas is trying electronic monitoring to curb truancy (New York Times, May 12).

    Use your legal office to help explicitly define and announce the behavior that determines when the kids will get sent to one of these settings. Explicitly define and announce the behavior that will earn kids the right to leave that setting and re-enter the mainstream. Stop bouncing them from one school to the other. For those of you who don’t know, this is the official DHP, Disciplinary Hearing Panel, process that OUSD uses. It is not working for our community!!!

    This type of student is NOT the majority at any school. They are a small, very noxious group that has been driving everyone else to exasperation because they have been permitted to control everything for too long.

    Is anyone at the top of OUSD reading these comments? This is the elephant that the entire community is DESPERATE for you to handle at long last. Do it and more families will return to your schools. Do it and your test scores will also increase because everyone else will be able to function better!!!

    OUSD leadership: Where do you stand with all of this??? Let’s hear from YOU!

  • Caroline

    Another elephant in the room is when there’s a racial disparity in those referrals, though. I’ll resist the urge to be a PC weenie about it and just put it on the table.

    In SFUSD, there are lots of voices complaining that African-American kids are suspended, expelled and identified as special-education in greater numbers than their proportion in the school district.

    Our superintendent in the ’90s, “Wild Bill” Rojas, actually decreed that too many AA kids were being identified as special ed, and that it had to stop — thus obviously leading to denying special-ed services to AA kids who needed them.

    And one of our current school board members, Jane Kim, has raised the complaint about too many AA kids being suspended and otherwise disciplined. You can see where that can go. Educators, already battered and beaten up constantly for social ills far beyond their control, then get battered and beaten up for responding to calls to deal with discipline problems too.

  • jim2812

    Ed Code requires a safety plan from each school K-12 written by the School’s School Site Council or the Council’s designated safety committee. The school safety plan must be reviewed yearly and presented at a public meeting by March 1.

    I believe failure to follow these procedures means that a compliant can be filed for non-compliance with NCLB Title IV using the uniform complaint form available at school sites. There is the possibility of a fine against a school for not complying.

    I am suggesting that community concerns about student misbehavior going to and from school be dealt with in the writing of the safety plan.

    Jim Mordecai

    Ed Code 32281. (a) Each school district and county office of education is responsible for the overall development of all comprehensive school safety plans for its schools operating kindergarten or any of grades
    1 to 12, inclusive.
    (b) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (d) with regard to a small school district, the schoolsite council established pursuant to Section 52012 or 52852 shall write and develop a comprehensive school safety plan relevant to the needs and resources of that
    particular school.
    (2) The schoolsite council may delegate this responsibility to a school safety planning committee made up of the following members:
    (A) The principal or the principal’s designee.
    (B) One teacher who is a representative of the recognized certificated employee organization.
    (C) One parent whose child attends the school.
    (D) One classified employee who is a representative of the recognized classified employee organization.
    (E) Other members, if desired.
    (3) The schoolsite council shall consult with a representative from a law enforcement agency in the writing and development of the comprehensive school safety plan.
    (4) In the absence of a schoolsite council, the members specified in paragraph (2) shall serve as the school safety planning committee.

  • oakie

    Thanks, again, Jim. you are quite a resource But the operative phrase may be “…develop a comprehensive school safety plan relevant to the needs and RESOURCES of that particular school.” (My emphasis)

    It seems this is an escape hatch, ready made for the kind of people in positions of authority at OUSD. Plus, I am sure they will be capable of WRITING a plan. Implementation is always the real problem.

  • jim2812

    Anybody concerned with the issue of student behavior coming and going from CMS can use the writing of the plan as an access point to work to bring about the change they invision.

    The point is that this process is open to the public and not limited to the school. The school can not legally shut out the public. The requirement for a public hearing on the safety plan by March means that implementation is accountable to the public yearly. If separation of the greater community and the school is a problem, here is a way to proceed to address that problem.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Sharon is right.

    And as far as racial disparity in school discipline: So what. On the first day of class I could line all of them up and tell them that before I would allow an out-of-control situation with the students I’d wipe out any group or groups that won’t come to heel. I don’t care about racial disparity, and they can take that to the bank. (Actually I do care a little bit but I wouldn’t tell the students that)

    And I don’t expect racial similarities in discipline any more than bastardy rates. And I think there is a connection. Too bad, So sad. I’d do what I reasonably can to ameliorate the situation but I just don’t expect to have identical suspension/expulsion rates between the races. The groups are different with different interests, agendas, puberty onsets, aggressiveness, etc, etc. You try to communicate expectations in ways that they can’t ignore and do whatever you can think of to communicate. But if you have a behavior problem you deal with it or the principal must be replaced with someone else who can.

  • oakie

    There is interesting information available on Suspension Rates (for violence or drugs) at

    http://www.sfgate.com/webdb/suspensions/?appSession=4037426833213&RecordID=&PageID=2&PrevPageID=1&cpipage=4&CPISortType=&CPIorderBy=

    [Warning: I take this date with a grain of salt. School Principals who are very dedicated to minimize drugs and violence will no doubt use suspension as a tool far more often than a cynical principal with a strong eye toward public opinion without regard to the effect on the student’s well being. Perhaps that’s why Piedmont Elementary has such a high suspension rate, which became very public after that notorious incident where a 5th grader had his skull cracked open by an older student while on school grounds.)

    CMS is at the top (bad) spot on the list: #9 with 144 Suspensions with 428 Students, for a ratio of 34%.

    Another school KIPP Bridge, highly denigrated in the comments above for “actively weeding out” the bad apples to improve student scores for the school, had only 5 Suspensions out of a student population of 248.

    Hm. The smell test wonders: how could they be weeding out the bad apples if they are not using suspension as the initial step of pushing out the bad kids? Hm. Doesn’t seem consistent to me. I know of another example, from 60 Minutes, where a KIPP school was falsely charged with this exact same claim (by the LA teacher’s union). Hm: A pattern? That passes the smell test.

  • oakie

    And searching further down that list, Lincoln Elementary (mentioned earlier, serving one of the most underprivileged economic demographic in the city plus with ESL at near 100% of the student population) had 2 Suspensions out of a population of 609. Lincoln’s academic scores are right up there and sometimes better performance than Hillcrest and Chabot, schools with the absolute highest demographics in the city (in some areas superior household income and academic achievement to Piedmont). So throw out those false assumptions about how economic status causes poor academic achievement, because we have the results in this city to disprove it. And as far as I can tell, Lincoln has absolutely no more money than any of the numerous poor performing/failing schools in OUSD. And the teaches are paid no better. QED

  • Caroline

    Oakie, it’s not a “false” charge about KIPP. I simply researched the publicly available numbers.

    What would your explanation be for their getting rid of nearly 4/5 of their African-American boys between grades 5 and 8 (FALL of 8th grade — as noted, we don’t even know how many of the remaining tiny number made it through 8th-grade graduation)?

  • Caroline

    I’m working on a new project, a “don’t-call-it-a-blog” forum on http://www.examiner.com . They’re doing what they simply call Examiners on different topics, and mine is San Francisco schools. It’s been up and running for about three hours now. One of the posts is about school violence, linking to and quoting Oakland’s Perimeter Primate commentary on the issue:

    http://tinyurl.com/5yb3aa

  • oakie

    Caroline,
    I stated that a KIPP school in LA was falsely accused by a teacher’s union leader that the school was cherry picking students, and this guy claimed that was the reason the school performed so much better than the district run schools. 60 Minutes investigated to show that to be false, in that case.

    With regard to KIPP Bridge, you present data about student demographics. I did not claim the date to be false (although it might be, I don’t know).

    That is not proof that the school “got rid” of certain students. If the data are accurate, that does not prove your accusation. There are many reasons parents pull their kids out of any particular situation, and I won’t speculate as to why these parents did, which is what you are doing. But I will say that all you have done is state an assertion–that the school ‘got rid’ of unwanted students, and that is not proof. And since suspension is one of the logical tools for pushing misbehaving students out of a school, then KIPP Bridge’s low suspension rate, plus evidence of another KIPP school being falsely charged with exactly your assertion, is a smell test of whether your assertion might be credible–and even then, no proof has been offered that I see.

  • Caroline

    I would say the numbers speak for themselves, even if some stubborn defenders refuse to hear them.

  • Parentofclaremont

    As a parent of a high achieving Claremont Student, I just want to say that there are really great kids(including neighborhood kids from involved/concerned parents – whose kids score advanced on the Star tests)mixed in with a large handful of bad students. Claremont’s Principal has a worthless Vice Principal, a horrible counselor, a less than stellar Clerical staff and 1 working security guard (although they have 2 present). The Principal tries hard to meet our (parents/neighbors) expectations but quite frankly something needs to be done to give him the support he needs on campus. I am surprised he isn’t so burnt out and so overwhelmed that he high tails it out of there. Another part of the problem is that for every student that gets DHP’d(expelled) out of Claremont, another student is DHP’d from elsewhere into CMS. The revolving door syndrome. The answer is not to close CMS, the answer is to determine how to improve the administrative support team, change enrollment criteria, and get rid of the riff raff.

    The problem is that when you drive by the school, you get an impression that doesn’t fairly represent everything about the school. There are great teachers, involved parents and a large (and believe it or not growing) number of students who get a great education. Inside the school these children are not affected by the likes of these unruly children (with parents just as unruly). It is true to say that these children act based on how they are treated in their neighborhoods/homes. They have no morals, no respect for authority and not a care for anyone but themselves. Unfortunatley for CMS, these students, give CMS a BAD NAME.

  • oakie

    Parentofclaremont,
    It is painful to read your words. I understand your laments and am in awe of your optimism. I am fully aware that some of the generalities about CMS (including mine) do an injustice to many of the students and faculty/staff who are trying heroically to do what all this money is being spent in OUSD to do: educate kids, and what is actually done in most other school districts statewide.

    Remember: OUSD gets $8,500 per student per year (this will go down to $8,000 with the budget cuts coming next year).

    But think about it: for a class of 30, that’s more than a Quarter Million Bucks. So imagine you were Emperor: you could pick out the faculty and staff you wanted to retain (but NOT the students, except you did have the right of refusal to accept any misbehaving students being dumped on you). And you could summarily let go of the rest.

    Imagine that. Do you think you could have a working,, functional effective school and accomplish educating kids with great results? Well, I say $8,500 is plenty of taxpayers money necessary to do that, so I’d EXPECT you’d be able to do that or I’d fire you as Emperor, and get someone else who could! Because I think it is entirely doable.

    And should be done. It shouldn’t be just a thought experiment. But is a fantasy. Why? Because the power centers that ARE OUSD (school board, so-called administration, teacher’s union, janitor’s union, plumber’s union, etc.) clearly do not have the welfare of the students as their top priority.

    Oh, they wouldn’t MIND if it happens, but empirical evidence demonstrates that is clearly not the most important thing to them.

    As to those misbehaving students that could not find a school willing to take them, they need something very very different, and that should be provided. Separate from schools that function to educate the students who are ready to learn.

    But I would guess that the number of misbehaving students will shrink over time under this regimen when their parents see that the school system DOES work for the students who do behave. THAT is how you establish policies that result in a shrinkage in the number of problem students. I would think that is everyone’s goal.

    I look at this dysfunctional system, where at a school like CMS a handful of misbehaving students and ineffective paid adult staff hold hostage all the students ready to learn, staff capable of being effective at creating a quality education to the students, and a neighborhood that has demonstrated patience and tolerance but are “up to here” with the current situation. If the school does not change, I will work getting a neighborhood petition to put CMS at the top of the inevitable list necessary for a failing district with declining student population and a need to close more schools.

    I am very sympathetic to you, Parentofclaremont, but I am also realistic and see a system that requires radical change and anything less is simply rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. I am sorry. I believe as much as others here in public education, but I am not tolerant of failure funded with our tax money, nor the ongoing waste of human lives because of the dysfunctional educational system we have in Oakland that does nothing for the most needy in our midst…while adults collecting OUSD paychecks continue to play the fiddle.

  • Public school fan

    ParentofClaremont:

    I really feel for you and your child. Although it may sound naive, you and other caring parents at the school need to start inundating both OUSD and your school board representative with phone calls and emails about the situation and what needs to be changed (you might also start doing the same with the candidates for your school board seat). It sounds like in your opinion, some pretty easy fixes would certainly start to help the situation.

    You (and many other parents at the school) need to contact someone every single day so that both OUSD and your school board rep dread seeing your email address and your phone number come up. (I would also imagine that your principal would appreciate the support and effort as well). Otherwise, nothing will ever change. And the way it stands now, CMS is headed for trouble of many different kinds.

    Sadly, in my experience, only the loudest most vociferous squeaky wheels get the oil from OUSD. If you don’t complain loudly and often and with enough other people supporting you, then the status quo remains.