Fremont Federation’s Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts will likely have only a few more commencement ceremonies like the one pictured above. On page 33 of tomorrow night’s agenda, you’ll find a staff recommendation to close the East Oakland high school – the very same school that the state administrator already approved for a gradual phase-out, last month.
What happened? A possible Brown Act violation. The district might not have properly publicized Robeson’s phase-out in December, so it’s on the agenda once again. (State Administrator Vince Matthews compared it to Obama’s oath of office re-do, saying it was done “out of an abundance of caution.”)
Robeson supporters, including teacher Craig Gordon, are rallying protesters for tomorrow night’s meeting. In a summary Gordon wrote for a teachers listserv and forwarded to me, he argues that the district undermined the school’s success by diverting students to the other small schools on the Fremont campus. The resulting funding drop, he said, left the performing arts school without funds for a drama teacher.
They plan to close our school this Wednesday night, Jan. 28, without one word of warning to our school community. Not a phone call to our principal, not a meeting with our School Site Council, not anything. Some of you may have heard that the Board already closed Robeson in December, but they did it illegally, so now they’re doing it again, a little more legally but no less immorally.
Gordon also raises an equity question. He notes that the enrollment and boundary policy issues affecting the district’s more affluent hills schools “warranted 39 meetings over 16 months with members of these school communities. For the East Oakland community of Robeson High, not even a phone call.”
I called Noel Gallo, a school board member who represents East Oakland’s Fruitvale area, to get his response. Gallo said he thinks it’s in the students’ best interest to close Robeson since the financially strapped district won’t pony up the resources needed to maintain its performing arts program, let alone shore up the quality of academic offerings at the small school.
Robeson’s estimated four-year dropout rate is 64 percent, one of the highest in the district. The estimated dropout rates of other schools on the Fremont campus range from 21 percent (Mandela High) to 43 percent (Media Academy); OUSD’s average is 36 percent.
Gallo says Robeson hasn’t provided the level of “performance, care, discipline, motivation and growth” that the kids deserve. “We make too many excuses for failure,” he said.
Do you agree? Is OUSD doing the right thing for students by closing a struggling school, or is it failing them by abandoning its investment?