Is school choice going to be history?

Bright and early this morning, the three-member Special Committee on Admissions, Attendance and Boundaries (Kerry Hamill, Gary Yee and Chris Dobbins) unanimously agreed that the district should give the younger siblings of current students top admissions priority — regardless of where they live — followed by neighborhood children who don’t have a brother or sister enrolled at the school.

The committee agreed that third priority should go to children within a middle school “megaboundary” (See Page 2 of the document; Page 1 is another kind of megaboundary, the one I mentioned earlier) who didn’t get into their neighborhood elementary schools. Kids who were turned away from Hillcrest, a K-8 school whose overcrowding crisis apparently triggered this committee’s work, would fall into the Claremont Middle School/North Oakland “megaboundary” for elementary enrollment purposes as of 2009.

All of this, of course, would make it harder for children in Program Improvement schools, and everyone else, to get into elementary schools outside their megaboundary.

This doesn’t seem to bode well for the school choice, parents-will-vote-with-their-feet philosophy, at least in parts of the city with growing enrollment.

Yee said the new language, if approved by the full board on June 11 June 25, will help to clarify the district’s priorities and set the tone for future boundary changes and fixes for overcrowding. On paper, the current School Options policy embraces two values that are often at odds — school choice and neighborhood schools — but some families have complained that it doesn’t do either.

Here’s what the committee thinks the district should “value” when considering who goes to what schools, in order of importance:

1) keeping families together; 2) creating strong neighborhood schools; 3) preserving diversity

Yee told me after the meeting that the district’s current enrollment policies heavily value “parent choice.” He said he and his colleagues on the committee believe it should instead be about “what’s best for the family, what’s best for the neighborhood, and what’s best for the city.”

Do you agree?

Katy Murphy

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

  • oakie

    Am I getting this straight? Let’s take Hillcrest School, because I am guessing it’s very difficult to get your child into that school. So is it possible a family living nearby would have their child refused admission and forced into Claremont Middle School (if beyond elementary age)? They’d be locked out in favor of anyone who is a sibling to someone already in the school (and not necessarily from the neighborhood)?

    Oh, man, if this is true…..thanks for that final kick in the pants Kerry. I hope you lose the city council spot in spite of all the $$ Perata is providing you.

    Every time people take a hack at hills parents don’t get it that we have choices: we don’t NEED to be a part of your dysfunctional system. The way it is now, to my knowledge most of the hills residents near Hillcrest consider putting their kids in OUSD through 8th grade. Of course an overwhelming majority will leave the system after that, but the rules keep getting jiggled and fewer, not more, will attend even elementary school.

    Of course, my goal gets a boost from this: putting CMS at the top of the Close List due the failure of the district to enforce the California Eduction Code in regard to student behavior between school and home.

    As they say……….another brick in the wall.

  • Hills Neighborhood Parent

    School choice may be history (already it was a farce anyway), but this is the first step in the decline of the hills schools. It also adds a lot of uncertainty for hills families with preschoolers – where will they go to school, if not their neighborhood school? If I had young kids, I’d simply move then put up with OUSD’s new admissions policy and risk a bad outcome.

    I fail to see why it’s okay to punish people who sacrificed to live in a neighborhood with a good school. How can the board think it’s okay to assign at least some neighborhood children in the hills schools (some of whom live walking distance from a school) to a poorer performing school in another section of town? They talk about the inconveniences that it places on families who kids are split between schools (the same families who knew what they were getting into in the first place), but what about the inconveniece and cost of having to drive to a school when you could walk to one? What about the inconvenience and cost about sending your child to private instead of to the good elementary school nearby? What about the inconvience and cost of moving to a better school district, one that isn’t as disfunctional as OUSD?

  • Katy Murphy

    Actually, as confusing as it is, the term “megaboundary” only applies to the elementary feeder schools within a middle school boundary. For example, a prospective kindergartener who doesn’t get into Hillcrest would have third priority to attend Chabot, Emerson, Peralta, Santa Fe, Kaiser or Sankofa, all Claremont Middle School/North Oakland feeder schools.

    It wouldn’t affect where kids in the Hillcrest area — or anywhere else — would go to middle school. It’s a temporary solution for overcrowding at the elementary level.

  • hills parent


    You are correct. As the rules change year after year, parents will become increasingly frustrated and decide to leave the system early on in their child’s years. I truly do not feel that Gary Yee supports his “hills” constituents and I am very disappointed that he is not up for re-election.

    My daughter is a sibling, so she will have first priority in getting into the neighborhood school. However, I feel for my neighbors whose first child may not get into the school due to non-neighborhood siblings getting in.

    Question for Gary Yee: are you, therefore, going to make sure that those families have not lied and are using falsified addresses? Or do you even care?

  • hills parent

    How about using the example of San Ramon Unified (a highly regarded and functional school district), whose policy is that if families chose a specific school, then any siblings are allowed entrance into the school ONLY after neighborhood students enter?

  • Sue

    I’m sorry for the families that weren’t satisfied with the results of school choice. I can’t imagine how they feel, since it worked well for my family.

    So, now it may go away. Well, again I’m sorry, but I don’t expect my family will be affected. Younger son will be starting middle school at our first choice school in the fall. So, he’s set for the next three years.

    After that…

    Well, we live within Skyline’s boundaries, and older son is doing well there. Once he graduates, we’ll have a year without direct contact, and we’ll probably do some long and hard thinking. Maybe younger son will want to attend Skyline, and maybe we’ll want him to. Maybe something else will be a better option by then.

    Wish I could borrow Nextset’s crystal ball, so I could be as sure of the future as he is.

  • Public school fan

    Hills Parent:

    Your example doesn’t work though for overenrolled schools. What could happen is that while your oldest child is in the school because you live in the neighborhood, your next child might not then get in. If there is a lottery for the spots in an overenrolled school’s entering K class, wouldn’t you want to give priority to siblings? Otherwise, you end up with neighborhood families who end up with kids at two different schools — a recipe for disaster. Splitting up a family’s time, energy, and resources into supporting kids at two different elementary schools makes no sense.

    At this point, I really don’t believe that this policy change will displace that many kids. This past year, the policy was already neighborhood siblings first for overenrolled schools for their entering K classes.

    Keeping families together with a sibling priority was clearly the choice of many families across Oakland who expressed their opinions at OUSD forums on this issue a few months ago (you can see summaries of parent comments from those meetings on the OUSD website) and at Special Committee meetings. Some families in the “flats” also favor the sibling priority because they move around a lot and so their neighborhood school might change from year to year. They too want their kids to attend the same school and not be split up. Imagine trying to support several different schools if you regularly use public transportation to get to them and you work several jobs. The transient nature of some families within OUSD is important to take into account.

    Where this policy might run into a problem is if large amounts of people start falsifying their addresses in order to get their first child in the door of a “good” school anywhere within OUSD. So OUSD will really need to do a good job of verifying those kindergarten applications.

  • John

    I’ve repeated it many times. Our first obligation is to the education of our children. The OUSD will continue to erode the educational opportunities of hill parents and students. If you’re living in the hills consider getting out of Oakland sooner than later OR bite the bullet and fork over big bucks to a private school.

    The hill schools academic ‘diversity celebration’ will continue until OUSD becomes a collection of sub mediocre equal (missed) opportunity performance feeder schools for the Peralta Community College system.

  • hills parent

    Public school fan:

    Your last paragraph is my biggest concern. My child attends a school with a large number of falsified addresses. The siblings of these children will get priority to other neighborhood children without siblings. Is this fair?

    My example does work in the over-enrolled schools. The school district cited makes it clear to all non-neighborhood families that neighborhood families get first priority and there are families that are split between two schools. However, families are told by the school district that this would be a possibility.

  • hills parent


    I agree and this is represented by the continuing trend of decreasing enrollment.

    I just want to point out that when I refer to a dysfunctional OUSD, I am speaking of the upper administrative ranks and the school board.

  • Public school fan

    Hills Parent:

    If my children were split between two schools (or more, which is a possibility if you have more than 2 kids) because of such a policy such as the one you cited, then I’d exit the system and move if I could. It makes very little sense to split up families and the resources that each family can bring to a school.
    For some of these same reasons, I’m not sure that it is equitable to displace a neighborhood sibling who has lived in the catchment area for some amount of time and whose family already supports the school in favor of someone who might have just moved into the area with a school-age child.

    These are hard questions and hard priorities to make. And that’s what OUSD was trying to ascertain with the 6 or 7 forums that it held on the topic.

    Certainly it is not right for people to falsify their addresses in order to get access to a school. If your school has a large amount of these families then that is more than unfair, someone in your school office is being complicit in this problem. Each school office (usually the principal) must verify the documents brought to prove the proper address and then the same is supposed to occur somewhere in the admin. of OUSD as well, although I do not know if it does.

  • Katy Murphy

    hills parent: Yes, enrollment in Oakland Unified is down, overall, but isn’t neighborhood enrollment up in the hills schools (and some foothills schools)?

    Are you predicting that district dysfunction will drive hills parents out, making the enrollment crunch moot?

  • hills parent

    Public school fan:

    It is quite easy to falsify an address in Oakland. I only need to go to DMV and get a new driver’s license with any address that I provide. DMV does not require proof of address. I can get any utility bill placed in my name at any address if I have a friend in that school boundary that allows me to use their address. I can go to any office supply store and get a rental agreement form. The list goes on and on. So this is why some school districts require escrow papers, property tax documentation, etc. that cannot be falsified. Why doesn’t Oakland require this in the impacted schools? I have asked this question and have received no reasonable response, other than that it is too difficult. Too difficult for whom?

  • hills parent

    Katy: Hills enrollment is up. At my daughter’s school this is also due in large part to the non-neighborhood children.

    Yes, I am predicting that the district dysfunction will begin to drive families out of the hills, further making some of the hills schools more non-neighborhood. This has caused me to plan to move out of Oakland hopefully by the end of the summer. I am also not alone. I know of several others who hope to do so within the next year or two. Many families must wait for their home values to increase.

  • Public school fan

    If that’s how easy it is to falsify an address, then, yes, absolutely some other method of address proof should be used and that shouldn’t be so hard. But OUSD requires 3 methods of proof now (and driver’s license is not one of them). Yes, utility bills are one, but I had to show insurance statement for my property and property tax documentation (those were my three). There was one more item that you could use, but I can’t remember what it was right now.

  • Public school fan

    District dysfunction is one thing. I have often opined on this blog about how frustrating it is to have the academically advanced kids in elementary school essentially ignored by the schools and the district.

    Will this policy change drive “hills” families away? I don’t think so; at least, not yet. Most “hills” families want their kids to all attend the same school. Especially in an impacted school, they want their kids to attend together. It makes very litle sense even at an impacted school to split up families by lottery. That would serve to further undermine the schools by splitting up parental time and resources. I couldn’t spend the large amount of time that I do at my older child’s school, if I had to deal with an entirely different school for my younger child as well.

    The only way that this policy change chases anyone out of their neighborhood school is if the school is overenrolled to begin with. This year, there were only 3 overenrolled schools — PEralta (solved by finding additional class space), Hillcrest (weren’t enough spaces for all neighborhood kids to begin with; sibling priority was used and some non-sibling families were redirected but put on a wait list), and Montclair (a couple of kids were redirected. Redwood Heights looks like it might have a problem next year. But this is also a school that, according to parent comments, seems to have a big address fraud problem.

    So, that leads back to making sure that such fraud doesn’t happen in the first place, so that people don’t get into the school and then siblings in perpetuity are also allowed in. But this is, apparently, already a problem (again, see Redwood Heights comments). So the policy doesn’t change anything. What it could lead to is people leasing a house for a year to get into a “good” school, then moving to a more affordable area after that; siblings would still be allowed priority at the “good” school. Perhaps OUSD should add some kind of language about “any abuse of the system, as deemed by OUSD or the school in question could lead to denial of entry to that school by siblings.” That would give them some flexibility to deal with such problems if it became necessary.

  • hills parent

    I copied this from the district website:

    What types of documentation do new OUSD students need to supply?

    You will need to bring three pieces of documentation verifying your address and one piece of documentation verifying your child’s age (and grade if necessary) when you submit your form. All documents must be original. No photocopies will be accepted. Required documentation is:

    • Age verification documentation: Families may either provide a Birth Certificate, a passport, an I-94, a transcript or a report card from a California school as verification of their child’s age.

    • Grade level verification: Families need to provide a transcript, promotion certificate, or the child’s most recent report card to verify grade level.

    • Verification of residence: Students must have three of the following documents with their parent’s, guardian’s or caregiver’s name and address .

    ◊ A utility bill dated within 45 days: PG &E, EBMUD

    ◊ In combination only, automobile registration and automobile insurance.

    These documents must be provided together.

    ◊ Homeowner’s/renter’s insurance policy

    ◊ Lease agreement with owner’s documentation

    ◊ Property tax statement. – Current property tax bill from Alameda County Tax Collectors’ Office.

    ◊ Official letter from a social services/government agency within 45 days.

    Utility bills, lease agreements, and address on an insurance statement can produced with no effort. Once these are produced then they can be changed back again with no effort. The school district does not check ever again.

    Public school fan: I agree with your statements. My child does attend Redwood Heights. I do not forsee a problem next year, but most definitely there will be one the following year. The district denies this, but I am confident that the facts will prove otherwise for the 2009-2010 school year and now even more so with this new policy.

    I also agree with you about the academically advanced children being ignored. This is the primary reason that I am seeking another school district. This new policy does not affect my family if we chose to remain in our neighborhood school, but some of my neighbors may be adversely affected.

  • Some Reason

    Isn’t the real issue that there needs to be more high quality schools throughout Oakland so that parents in “non hill” schools have more quality choices in their own neighborhood? I don’t fault parents who want their children in the best schools.

    The District needs to be relentless in its pursuit of improving all schools — no excuses — no waiting. It is ridiculous to have only a few schools that are producing high quality teaching and learning. The entitlement to this belongs to every parent. It seems when parents who do not have good choices in their neighborhood want better, their entitlement is questioned by other entitled parents.

    Also, Oakland has an increasingly segregated, grossly unequal, profoundly inequitable public school system. I do think that it is the job of the elected officials and public servants in the system, to work to change that.

    It is very frightening to me to read (and I’ve heard with my own ears from not so well meaning parents, in the hallways and meetings in many of our high performing schools)some of the comments of parents (mostly affluent and white) about children (and some very little children, and their families – mostly black and brown even if affluent). The comments strip these children and their families of their humanity the same way that slave holders justified enslavement of human beings (make them inhuman, pathological and the problem).

    I would think that we would want a high quality, high performing school system for all children in Oakland, not only those who have families who can afford to live in the “hills” or “slopes” or “affluent” areas of Oakland. Not blaming those parents, but truly, their children are going to be fine.

  • Nextset

    Some Reason: You do know that half the children are below average intellect…

    So it follows that the schools are going to be segregated. Brights have no intention of sitting with dulls and having them retard the progress of the entire class. This some people go to certain schools and some other people go to less academically oriented schools.

    Is that a problem?

    Since bright and dull also tend to be rich and poor it follows that the expected segregation will tend to follow those lines. Do you really believe you can force integration of the two groups? Can you command water to flow uphill?

    The best that OUSD can do is have district-wide schools open by competitive application (certainly by high school). The students will seek their level and everybody can get their work done in harmony.

  • John

    “The District needs to be relentless in its pursuit of improving all schools…Oakland has an increasingly segregated, grossly unequal, profoundly inequitable public school system…it is the job of the elected officials and public servants in the system, to work to change that…I’ve heard with my own ears from not so well meaning parents, in the hallways and meetings in many of our high performing schools…comments of parents (mostly affluent and white) about…and their families – mostly black and brown even if affluent. The comments STRIP THESE CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES OF THEIR HUMANITY THE SAME WAY THAT SLAVE HOLDERS JUSTIFIED ENSLAVEMENT OF HUMAN BEINGS.”

    White families! It’s all your fault! Get out of the Oakland Schools! Let the utopia begin! Pass me twenty gulps of the pink stuff!

  • Realist

    re: “The District needs to be relentless in its pursuit of improving all schools — no excuses — no waiting. It is ridiculous to have only a few schools that are producing high quality teaching and learning.”

    sadly, the district cannot fix families, and as long as there are families who, for whatever reason, don’t make education a priority and provide their kids with proper guidance the schools will never be fixed. we cannont dump this entire responsibility on a school district. responsibility for fixing the system starts with individuals accepting responsibility at home.

    it’s not a surprise that the schools that do well are schools that are filled predominatly with families who are concerned with their childrens’ education. some of these schools have the benefit of having families with money, but not all (Lincoln Elem for one).

    if we want “more high quality schools throughout Oakland so that parents in “non hill” schools have more quality choices in their own neighborhood”, we need to have more high quality families throughout Oakland as well in order to make that happen. and “high quality family” doesn’t correlate to having money or living in the hills.

  • Some Reason

    Realist: “high quality families?” What is a “high quality” family? How do you know that families of children in underperforming schools are not “high quality” families and “don’t make education a priority?” Your use of this terminology proves my point about what I’ve read. Read Nextset’s entry June 1, 8:48 p.m. That’s scary.

    You are correct in that it is not the District’s total responsibility to “fix” everything. However, it is the responsibility of the District (Board and staff) to want and to seek real partnership with other entities in Oakland who can take responsibility for the challenges (non education challenges) that the schools face.

    John: Calm down. I do not at all think that “white” families are “the problem”. I only shared what I’ve heard with my own ears and what I have read. There is no “one problem” just as “black and brown” families and students are not “the problem” for white families.

  • Nextset

    Some Reason: No amount of beating around the bush can change reality. We have (a large number of) loser families in Oakland. There’s nothing subtle about the losers. They take a disproportionate amount of energy from the schools and their staff and they don’t turn out well in an academic sense. The best we can do for them is segregate them from the higher functioning students (different campuses) and try as hard as reasonable to get them into vocations as close to puberty as possible.

    Trying to put guns to their heads and make them take algebra and geometry just frustrates them and makes them act out more. They have no interest in anything abstract or any delayed gratification. They are oriented to the present and can absorb knowledge only for use that day.

    If you can’t see this – you go teach in an alternative schools and figure things out. You do no service to the underclass by not meeting their needs. They need survival skills (life skills) and entry to the labor market ASAP. They do not need academic classes. Later in life there may come a time when they will want more. For now, you serve the proletariat by matching your programs to their immediate needs.

    Those rare members of the underclass who are suitable for advanced schoolwork should be able to test out and transfer to academic campuses. They will need social support because to do this turns their back on their peers (“acting white” for example).

    And if you don’t know what “high quality” families are, I’ll tell you. They are those families with generations of advanced education whose children do not need handholding to manage university prep coursework. They also tend to have superior deportment. These familes tend to avoid OUSD like the plague because OUSD is in no position to serve their needs without establishing a high school such as San Francisco’s Lowell High.

  • Sue

    “High Quality Families”… Interesting definition.

    So, how many generations of advanced education before the family achieves high quality?

    Serious question.

    And I’ll even give you the *point* of that question. None of my grandparents even attended high school. One grandmother got as far as 7th grade, but the other three got only one or two years of school before they were big enough to be able to work on the family farm.

    Both my parents are the first of their families to graduate from college. Mom’s older sister attended college for two years, but quit and got married instead of completing her degree.

    So, the *point* of my question is whether my sons are being raised in a family that meets your definition of high quality.

    Obviously, my childhood family didn’t meet that criteria.

    Equally obviously, I’m not in agreement with your definition, but by understanding your position I think we’ll be able to communicate more clearly.

  • Nextset

    Sue: My father’s family didn’t meet the criteria either (grandparents were janitor and laundress). Good for us.

    And most black families are only a few generations or so College educated because that was, let’s face it, very uncommon in the 19th century.

    The “high quality” indicator may be taken as explaining a family line that doesn’t need outside encouragement in perpetuating advanced education and all it’s benefits. I don’t consider myself any less of a person because I don’t come from a long line of PhD’s – but I have experience with those who have that and there is a difference. The difference has to do with values and choices – which is fine I suppose, but to each their own.

    Some people just don’t want to go to school, as early, as often, as long. Some do.

    People don’t choose the family they are born into.

    If you believe discussion of these terms has anything to do with you and yours, you’re mistaken. The terms are used in policy discussions about what to do with urban education – which is absolutely not about “quality” families. These people take care of themselves anyway. We should accomodate them in public education but in limited smaller schools that feed into universities, not in the large urban high schools. You see, there just aren’t that many of them.

  • Realist

    Sue, of course children of “high quality families” are in underperforming schools! i never said they weren’t. there just aren’t as many of them there as there are in higher performing schools.

    and, my definition of a “high quality family” is a little different than some that have been shared. i believe a “high quality family” is one that supports their child’s education, makes education a priority, a family that is not hostile to the school or its administrators when their child gets in trouble. a child from this kind of family will come to school to learn to the best of their ability. they will not be showing up tardy, chewing gum, skipping class, using profane language, being rude and disrespectful to the teacher, and wasting the time of all the kids who are there to learn but can’t because the majority of the teacher’s time is taken up with classroom management issues. some of these kids can make the entire year endless torture for their teachers, and school staff.

    bottom line, it starts at home. families need to be responsible, they need to show value for education, they need to make it a priority and they need to provide guidance to a child for starters. this is what will give students a real chance and, eventually, this will also pave the way for all schools in Oakland to be “high quality”. i don’t think money or pedigrees are requirements to make this happen.

  • Sue

    Realist, your definition of a High quality family is much closer to mine.

    I considered my parents’ childhood families to be high quality, because my grandparents very much supported their children’s educations. When my mother finished high school and worried about the expense of college – since her older sister was already attending – my grandfather told her, “You go to school and learn as much as you can. Don’t be an old stick in the mud like me.”

    None of Granddaddy’s descendents are “old sticks in the mud”. The attitude of “learn as much as you can” stuck through the generations, and even the great-grandkids are going to college now.

  • John

    Great Cesar’s ghost!

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  • AC Mom

    Other than the requests of parents and the experiences at Hillcrest, what evidence is there that shows a high number of siblings being sent to different schools?

    What plans does OUSD have to ensure that families are not falsifying addresses?

  • Katy Murphy

    AC Mom: Apparently, families throughout the district — especially in high-mobility areas, where a family’s neighborhood school could change from year to year — urged the district to make sure their children could attend the same school. One example given at tonight’s meeting was Think College Now, a high-performing elementary school in Fruitvale.

    Hillcrest’s overcrowding — and the proposed boundary changes that never happened — did trigger this enrollment committee’s work. But it seems to me that Hillcrest would be affected far less by a change in the siblings policy than other schools, since almost all of its students live in the neighborhood to begin with (unless they move after enrolling).

    The “megaboundary” policy, on the other hand, is an attempt to address what happens to neighborhood families who don’t get in to their local school (such as Hillcrest).

    About your other question: Tonight, a mom from the Redwood Heights neighborhood raised the address falsification issue, but the board didn’t discuss it.

    Is this a concern at schools aside from Redwood Heights?

  • rocky

    Ok… I’m not an expert in this and have not spent the time thinking all the ramifications through, because I’m sure I don’t know what they all are…. BUT over time won’t these in-demand schools over time become MORE filled with neighborhood kids?

    Right now there are non-neighborhood kids attending some schools, and they have siblings that are or will attend as well…. but over time, with the new rules, won’t that number of non-neighborhood kids continue to fall? Each year more non-neighborhood kids will graduate out of the schools they are in, and will be replaced with neighborhood kids…. not that many families have more than 2 – 3 kids, so overtime the numbers should fall. And right away (2009 enrollment), the eldest kids in younger families will have a harder time getting into a non-neighborhood school to start with and the numbers will come down.

    This demographic trend will not resolve the problem of more neighborhood kids than seats, or people working the system by leasing houses in desireable school boundary areas for a period of time, but over time I think the non-neighborhood kids and their siblings become a relatively tiny part of the pool of people competing for scarce seats. What the current policy does is grandfather people in the system now…… but the future ability of a non-neighborhood kid to attend an in-demand school drops to about zero without going to the effort of fraudulent addresses, etc.

  • Emily

    Katy- As a family moving from Boston to Oakland this summer we are on pins and needles to know what happened at last week’s school board meeting regarding enrollment, sibs, and megaboundaries. Could you please update the readers on this issue? What was discussed and what was the outcome? What is the next step for OUSD? Thank you!

  • Katy Murphy

    Emily: Good luck with the move, and sorry to keep you on pins and needles! The policy change was introduced at last week’s meeting, but since it wasn’t set for a vote (only for a first reading), I didn’t write about it.

    Noel Gallo, one of the board members, expressed concern about how the siblings-first policy would affect children wishing to attend their local schools. Gary Yee, who serves on the enrollment committee, said the policy was not intended to undermine neighborhood schools.

    Yee said families throughout the city had urged the district to make it easier for their children to go to school together, and that the change would only affect a small number of neighborhood families (since neighborhood siblings already have admissions priority over other neighborhood children).

    Some people in the audience seemed to support the policy change, while others — particularly a neighborhood parents group from Redwood Heights — spoke against it.

    The board decided that no additional changes would be made to the proposal before the vote, likely on June 25. Since three of the seven board members already approved it in committee — after studying the issue for months — I would be surprised if it didn’t pass. But stranger things have happened…

  • Future Chabot Parent


    I am trying to get a sense of how this will impact a neighborhood family in the Chabot elementary district? We have lived in the neighborhood for years and planned to send our oldest to Chabot in fall of 2009.

    We had not anticipated any problems because at least in the past Chabot has not had to re-direct any neighborhood families. With the new sibling preference policy – will we likely be redirected?

  • Katy Murphy

    I’m no demographer, but unless the number of neighborhood families who want to send their children to Chabot rises dramatically in just one year, it doesn’t seem likely the sibling policy would affect your family.

    There may be some sort of ripple effect because of the redirected kindergarteners from Hillcrest this fall (not sure how many will actually attend Chabot), but that’s a different — though obviously related — issue. I can check with the demographer.

    As recently as the 2007-08 school year, there was plenty of room at Chabot for the younger siblings of current students, regardless of where their families lived. There was also room for some students who transferred from other parts of the city.

    It’s those prospective “School Options” transfer students who would be most affected by this policy. The policy would make it hard to get in to popular schools like Chabot and Montclair unless you live in the neighborhood, have an older sibling attending the school, or live within the school’s “megaboundary” and were re-directed from your home school.

    So, as Rocky noted above, it stands to reason that those in-demand schools will gradually become filled with more neighborhood families, and fewer new families from outside the area. If that’s the case, the sibling policy should have a narrower effect as the years go on.

  • Worried

    Katy – have you heard anything about Hillcrest’s middle school? Staff recommended that 6th grade enrollment at Hillcrest be limited to 20 students beginning in 2009. When will the Board take that up?

  • Katy Murphy

    I think it was decided that Hillcrest’s administration would determine how many sixth-graders to enroll, based on the school’s capacity. I checked with the enrollment office at OUSD, and they said the school board wasn’t going to take up that particular issue.

    Members of school board’s special enrollment committee did say, however, that they planned to look at the possibility of expanding capacity at some of the popular schools. Those discussions would take place in August and/or early fall.

  • cjc

    Falsifying addresses is a problem at our hills school. If you look at our school directory there are about 6 kids who are not related who all share an address of a family day care in the neighborhood. If all these kids all have younger siblings whom will all have priority under the new system – is that fair for the incoming families who assume by spending over 800K for their home – that they potentially lose a spot because families have chosen to circumvent the system???

    It is the district’s responsibility to ensure they can enforce the requirements.

  • Katy Murphy

    Cjc: Which school is that?

  • Quinn-Anh

    My mortgage jumped by 60% when I moved into the Oakland hills. I did this specifically to get into one of the hills elementary schools. I think it is outrageous and categorically unfair that my child may not get into school because he/she will be displaced by a sibling who doesn’t even live in the area! This is surely grounds for a class-action law suit. The rule should be simple. People whose kids live in the area get first choice for enrollment.

  • Nextset

    Quinn-Anh: It is a political decision which students are assigned where. Your purchase of a home anywhere in OUSD gives you no purchase of attendance in a local school or the continuation of a local school for that matter. Your position that you can litigate any imagined slight is charming but concerning at the same time.

    It’s (very) dangerous to go through life thinking you can sue your way to happiness. Living your life to avoid litigation and avoiding entanglement in the courts is very important, especially if you run a business. My reason for saying this is that I’m a lawyer and I deal with people constantly who thought they could live life on the margins and take their chances in court – divorce, taxes, criminal law, liability litigation, estate (non) planning, all of it. Trust me, they are everyone of them furious at the way things turn out when the courts finish with them. Even if they “win” it’s expensive and frustrating.

    If education is important to you, what was your analysis of cost/benefit before you purchased a home in OUSD? Did you consider an alternative home in a superior school district, or a budget contingency for private schooling (such as church schools, etc?).

    The odds are the quality of the CA public schools will get worse, not better. A change in policy keeping your child from going to a neighborhood school is just another deterioration in the “quality” of public schooling. Something like this just isn’t unexpected. Hopefully you can manage to get your child in your neighborhood school – but next time it will just be something else that deteriorates. The trends are visible – but you may still be able to navigate your child to an acceptable end in OUSD in spite of any problems. Your exact odds I don’t know.

  • Emily

    Katy- Could you update us on where the school board is right now on policy changes regarding enrollment? I heard that some parents from Redwood Heights sent a letter into the board at the end of June regarding Megaboundary changes. I know the sibling policy has changed, but has there been any more focus on changing boundaries?

    Thank you

  • Katy Murphy

    Hey there, Emily. Have you moved yet? Board business takes a break in July, so nothing, to my knowledge, has happened since then.

    I believe the enrollment committee begins meeting again in August or September. No dates are posted yet, but here’s a link to the board calendar: http://bex.ousd.k12.ca.us/CALENDAR.htm

    In case you didn’t see the explanation I posted last month on the topic of megaboundaries, here it is again:

    “The board also approved middle school-area “megaboundaries” Wednesday night. These boundaries correspond with middle school attendance areas, but they only come into play for elementary school enrollment.

    Nothing has changed at the middle school level, and no elementary school attendance boundaries have been moved — yet.

    Megaboundaries apply to children who don’t get into their neighborhood school because of overcrowding. Before, there was no clear policy on what would happen to kids redirected from their home schools, such as Hillcrest.

    Now, for example, a neighborhood kid who doesn’t get into Hillcrest will have an admissions advantage at any elementary school that feeds into Claremont Middle School (Hillcrest’s megaboundary). That child will have be third in line, so to speak, at Chabot, Peralta, or other elementary schools within that megaboundary, after the siblings and neighborhood kids of those schools are admitted.

    1) siblings of current students
    2) neighborhood kids with no siblings at the school
    3) kids who didn’t get into their neighborhood school, who live within the megaboundary
    4) kids who attend Program Improvement schools
    5) open lottery

    Make sense?”

  • Emily

    Hi, Katy. We are finally in Oakland, trying to buy a home in Redwood Heights. I appreciate the update, and it sounds like the megaboundary issue is not what i feared it was- open dibs for everyone, all at once.

    Thank you!


  • Happy OUSD parent

    Some of these comments are exactly why we decided not to send our children to our neighborhood ‘hills’ school, and instead opted, via the Options program, to send them to a school ‘down the hill’ with ‘lower quality’ kids and families. I did a lot of research and visited many schools. I found the parents at the ‘hills’ schools, including the one we live within the boundaries of, elitist and overly focused on test scores. We were thrilled to be assigned to a richly diverse, vibrantly evolving OUSD elementary school, and I’m equally thrilled with the new admission policy which will assure my younger child a spot at our chosen school even though we live outside it’s boundaries.

    There ARE exclusive schools with competitive admissions policies for parents like Nextset to send their children to. They’re called Private Schools.

  • Do Tell

    Hey Happy OUSD – Would love to hear which school you picked, you sound like the kind of parent whose kids I’d like to be around my kid. I’ve been reading this discussion with interest as we are sending my son to K next Sept. and I hear we’d better get ready now. Please share.
    As for Nextset – the internet is full of kooks – I don’t see him/her mention actually being a parent with a kid in the OUSD. So private school or not, I doubt our kids will be going to school with his/her kid anytime soon.

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  • Aaron Parr

    I am a young parent looking at buying a house this year. Looking at each neighborhood’s school has been a recent obsession – which is why I ended up at this blog. This is all good stuff.

    About, this worry amongst the Hill School parents that their hill schools will erode. I attended Montera and Skyline when I was a kid (80’s), and everyone was up in arms about “bussing” back then and how the quality of education was worse each year. With the perspective of decades watching this school system it is clear that these arguments are nonsense. If the Hill Schools really were under siege all these years, there would be no difference between them and the schools in the flats after all these years. The truth is that folks in the hills feel like they are under siege. Its an us versus them mentality. Trust me. I knew. I grew up here. My parents grew up here, as did their parents and grandparents. Its the same story from each generation. I remember my grandma telling me about how Redwood Heights was not what it used to be. HAH! Its presently one of the top rated schools.