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Board prez: All this closure talk is “premature”

More than 1,000 people are expected to pack tonight’s school board meeting at Oakland Technical High School to speak out against the closure or merger of the district’s (new and old) small schools, according to Oakland Community Organizations organizers.

For all of you who are feverishly preparing your speeches, this bit of information might be helpful: The board appears likely to back off of the “right-sizing” idea entirely, at least for now.

David Kakishiba, the school board president (pictured here), told me today that there is no plan to close schools this year, and that he didn’t know how that notion took hold. He said he will likely make a statement tonight, at the beginning of the meeting, to assure people that OUSD will seek other ways to fix its budget other than shutting down schools.

“It’s absolutely backward,” Kakishiba said. “What we’re doing tonight is re-framing the discussion” around the district’s three-year financial plan, he said. “There’s no plan, there’s no proposal to close schools.”

But wait! What about the presentation in May that recommended the closure of up to 17 schools — some, possibly, at the end of the 2008-09 school year? Or the proposed “right-sizing” timeline? Or the slides shown to hundreds of parents last month, at the six road shows held across the district (led by the interim superintendent who was hired by the board), that estimated the cost savings if five to 15 schools were closed, and that even listed potential closure criteria?

“I don’t know how it happened,” Kakishiba said, when asked about the apparent disconnect between the board’s plans and what the rest of us have been hearing. “All I know is that it’s premature to be talking about closing schools.”

Katy Murphy

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

  • Catherine

    Well David:

    I guess we got the idea when the district forced our school to take 15 additional 3rd graders – so now instead of classes of 20 (remember the reward we were to get in keeping class sizes at 20 for K – 3?). We were forced to increase the number of students over all by 10% and the district is trying for a larger number – close to 20% with the threat of being “on the list.”

    Then there’s the meeting on Christmas – oh, I forgot we wouldn’t hold it on a Christian holiday, only a Jewish one.

    Perhaps it’s because the district sent the notices on the same day as the last meeting so that no one could attend.

    Perhaps it’s because OUSD has never been transparent in its dealings with the people of Oakland which is why 25% or more of the students in Oakland go to private schools, parochial schools or are home schooled.

    Then, again, David, I assume that all of this will change tonight at the meeting. The district will promise to hold no more meetings on religious holidays, schools will not be forced to put in more children than they were designed for, OUSD will become transparent and give 30 day notices for all meetings that will affect our schools or our children and the Board will operate in a timely, open, engaging, cost-efficient, effective and fair manner.

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  • Sue

    But, but, but… Catherine, the only things you left out of that last paragraph were Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I’m sure they’d be feeling slighted if they weren’t as imaginary as everything you did put into that paragraph.

  • Catherine

    Sue:

    Are you saying we would hold a OUSD meeting on Good Friday, Easter or Christmas?

    If that is indeed what you are saying can you give me even one example where OUSD has done so?

  • Sue

    No, Catherine.

    I’m saying meetings have been held on Diwali (Hindu holy day), Ostara (Wiccan), etc. I’ve missed religious celebrations because I *needed* to attend school-related functions for my children. Fortunately, my religious community understands that members’ children must come first, and there were no repercussions for our family’s absences.

    Most of the time, most members of minority religions just “suck it up” when something secular conflicts with a religious event.

    My earlier post was to point out that all it would take to maximize the district’s debt to the state is one minority-religion member suing the district for this, instead of tolerating blatant religious discrimination.

  • Sue

    Er…

    That last paragraph should read:

    My earlier post under “School closure meeting moves to bigger venue”…

    I gotta take a break from this blog, I’m confusing myself.

  • John

    Errr right!