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Tilden Elementary School faces closure

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, February 12th, 2009 at 6:38 pm in buildings, elementary schools, enrollment, families, OUSD central office, parents, safety, special education, students, teachers.


photo from Tilden’s Web site

Tilden Elementary School might close in June.

OUSD staff have determined that the district can’t afford to complete the repairs necessary to make the school — which offers 16 special education programs — clean and safe, said district spokesman Troy Flint. Last year, I wrote about the lack of a functioning alarm and intercom system at Tilden. Flint said the school’s uneven terrain also creates access problems.

Tilden’s closure isn’t official, yet. The recommendation goes before the Teaching and Learning Committee on Tuesday night, and the Facilities Committee on Wednesday night – and then before the full board in March. Some parents are fighting to save the school rather than see their children splinter off into four schools: Bella Vista, Burckhalter, Brookfield and Howard.

Christa Dahlstrom, a Tilden parent, wrote about the closure today in her blog, Hyperlexicon:

Tilden is a school of underdogs: special needs kids, but also the general education population. They don’t come from one of the affluent hills neighborhoods, but rather from more disadvantaged areas where parents are often working more than one job to make ends meet.

With fiscal shortfalls and facility code problems, the district thinks that closing this small school and shuffling students around is the best option.

But it would be such a shame to lose this little diamond in the rough of a school: run down on the outside, but so full of heart and compassion and dedication on the inside.

You can find her entire post here.

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  • Sharon

    An insightful item about Tilden, posted by someone on my neighborhood listserve (the neighborhood of Tilden):

    “Rumors are flying, parents are fighting – they don’t want the school to close. I thought it was a done deal, and yes the teachers had heard it would reopen as a charter. The aides were told they could work there, but no benefits and no pension. That’s criminal at the wages they earn.

    Anyway.

    There’s supposed to be yet another meeting about it; seems the parental pressure or something is making the decision get held up.

    The facility needs millions of dollars in upgrades. It’s criminal how OUSD let such a beautiful campus and formerly beautiful main building deteriorate. The trailers are awful and should have been replaced with a real building forty years ago, for crying out loud.

    I’m still mad that we can dump a trillion into the sands of Iraq, bail out a bunch of profligate bankers and insurance agents, but we can’t spend some money on fixing our public schools. If you walk around that campus and look up you will notice how ideal the site is – beautiful views, trees, garden, freeway access but little noise, secluded but convenient.

    The auditorium has expensive Klieg lights on the stage, donated by alumnus Tom Hanks. Yes, he went there as a tyke 45 years ago.

    If I hear anything definite I will let you know. What is going to happen to those Klieg lights? They’re worth a lot of money and should not be left to pillagers and thieves.”

    The OUSD Office of Charter Schools listing for schools that want to open are listed here: http://www.ousdcharters.net/announcements.html

    Maybe the Tilden campus was on one of their wish lists.

    To read more about the history of charter schools in Oakland and their impact, google “The Perimeter Primate” and read the posting for Feb. 11, 2009.

  • http://bedouina.typepad.com Leila Abu-Saba

    I wrote that “insightful item” above. I appreciate Sharon posting it; I’d like to stand by it with my full name. I live on Brown Avenue in Oakland, CA.

  • Katy Murphy

    From OUSD spokesman Troy Flint:

    “I’ve been following the discussion of the proposed Tilden closure and wanted to weigh in with the following comments:

    It’s always heartening to see students and families demonstrate passion and affection for their schools. When this expression occurs in the context of school closures, it is bittersweet and the strong emotions involved can sometimes obscure the details. To some extent, that appears to be the case where response to the proposed closure of Tilden Elementary is concerned.

    The challenges Tilden has endured recently have been well-documented in this space. When the District set out last year to address these issues, we were unaware of how difficult the problems would be to resolve properly, in both logistical and financial terms. Subsequent investigation has made clear that the steps required to bring Tilden to standard are prohibitive because of its wooded surroundings, the uneven terrain, and the condition of the facilities. Specifically, Tilden confronts:

    -Difficult terrain that presents access issues for special needs students
    -A forest location that promotes moisture and creates the potential for mold, aggravated respiratory conditions and more rapid deterioration of buildings
    -The lack of a barrier or fencing to off-site premises, a situation complicated by the undulating terrain
    -Renovation cost in excess of $1 million to bring Upper Tilden to standard

    These and other considerations, such as the desire for a continuum of service for special needs children and a more balanced ratio of General Education and Special Needs students, have influenced staff’s recommendation that Tilden’s population be relocated. This was not an easy decision to make and was only reached after a year of meeting with members of the Tilden community.

    We agree with those who stress that Tilden is an exceptional school in many ways. Yet, as the Board and community consider this issue in the coming weeks, it is important to make sure that an accurate picture of the school is presented. To that end, we would like to offer some clarity on the school’s situation:

    The population at Tilden is comprised of 80 percent SDC students and 20 percent General Education students. While this mix does offer social experiences that not all schools can provide, it is seen as less than ideal and far from the relative balance between Special Needs and General Education students that was envisioned for the campus. The fact that Special Needs students account for 80 percent of the student body prevents the school from being as inclusive as we would like it to be or as inclusive as it has been portrayed to be in some quarters. The small number of general education students means there is less potential for mainstreaming opportunities than is desirable.

    Presently, Tilden has one teacher with dual credentials for Special and General Education and one more expected to receive this certification in the spring. As such, while recognizing that obtaining dual credentials is a very challenging task and many gifted teachers do not have this certification, we cannot agree with the characterization of Tilden as a school with many dual -credentialed instructors.

    Tilden’s 799 API score, while impressive and worthy of praise, is based on the performance of 15 second grade students. To juxtapose CST results from this population to that of an entire school is an apples and oranges comparison.

    Integrated classes are designed so that SDC students comprise at most 25 percent of the population – or five students of a twenty student total – but because of difficulty in attracting general education students at Tilden, the Special Education to General Education ratio is skewed.

    None of this is said to diminish Tilden’s worth as a school, but rather to point out that the alternative placement options, when viewed against the status quo, are not nearly as unattractive as they have been depicted in certain cases. Indeed, the proposed relocation sites offer additional benefits in that they present an opportunity for a continuum of service (Special needs students remaining at a single site throughout their elementary years as opposed to attending multiple schools) and a rebalancing of the SDC and General Education population which would not have been possible at Tilden.

    That said, there is merit on both sides and much for the Board’s Teaching and Learning and Facilities subcommittees to consider when they address the topic this week, as well as when the proposal is voted upon by the full Board of Education. In the meantime, we will continue to work to find a palatable solution to this difficult issue.”

    Sincerely,

    Troy Flint

    Spokesperson

    Oakland Unified School District

  • Tilden Parent Teacher Organization

    The challenges of the Tilden facility are well known, especially to the Tilden Families. Yet, while facilities are crucial, OUSD is missing the mark in the remarks made by Troy Flint for two main reasons: No mention is made of the serious problems at the proposed sites; no mention is made of the fact that the 100 parents who have so far signed the letter opposing the move initially were open to the idea of a relocation. Why did this change? Because the district has not demonstrated that the schools are ready to receive the students. And, for the Tilden parents, readiness includes: overall academic program and performance, collaboration between general education and special education, school culture, quality on-site support services (speech, occupational therapy, etc.), and facilities.

    On December 17, the parents of Tilden posed very specific questions and requested very specific evidence to ensure that what their children would receive at the proposed schools would be equal or better than what they receive at Tilden. We are still waiting for the answers.

    Many parents have visited the proposed sites by themselves or alongside OUSD staff. Their dismay at what they saw translated into a historically large PTO meeting turnout, the largest that the school has seen in many years.
    For one, the facilities at Brookfield Elementary (on 98th and close to the 880 freeway) are in serious disrepair, dirty, in many ways dangerous, and located in what has been identified as one of the most polluted tracts in East Oakland. We commend the efforts of its staff and families and share their hopes and concerns. They also deserve more.

    As for the academic record of Tilden, the Academic Performance Index of the school is but one of the measures of its success. All are welcome to visit the OUSD website to study the school’s scorecard for other measures. Or, you can speak directly to the General Education teachers in one of our meetings. Additionally, the school’s reputation for accelerating the development of Special Needs children is legend. One only need visit sites such as the Berkeley Parents’ Network to see a wealth of comments testifying to it. Finally, until this year Tilden was a k-2 school and it is well-known that K and 1st do not take the CST. This does not negate the commendable performance that the school has had. It argues for expanding it.

    Throughout the years, OUSD had not only neglected the facilities at Tilden, it has also failed to adequately promote its successes and advertise it within the school choice process. Yes, as parents we are committed to continuing those successes. While continuity of program through the grades might seem like a sensible idea, continuity of failure does not. Meaningful and equitable integration demands the utmost caution. If the quality of what we receive cannot be replicated elsewhere, we would rather have a good thing as long as we can. Our children, many of whom already face so many challenges, cannot afford any less.

    In many ways, Tilden had been abandoned throughout the years. The school flourished nonetheless. As it now stands, the proposal is to dismantle it in a feverishly fast process that does not attend to the heart of what makes a school a school. Tilden is a gentle, collaborative, and hopeful place full of committed teachers who are attentive to difference in educating both general education and special needs children. Those are qualities worth fighting for, no matter the name of the facility in which they are nurtured.

  • abby

    I’m confused as to the rumors flying that a new charter school will occupy the premise. If the level of repairs needed is too expensive for Tilden, wouldn’t it be the same for the incoming charter school?

    I would also like to note that a couple of years ago I attempted to contact Tilden to ask to observe a classroom since I live up the street and have a young child who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. I did not got a call back. I have spoken to other parents of potential “general ed” kids who had the same experience. I would not blame OUSD entirely on not promoting the school in the options process. The school has to take some responsibity for that also.

  • John

    Tony Flint observes that Tilden, located in a toenail of the Oakland foothills near Mills College, is “a forest location that promotes moisture and creates the potential for mold, aggravated respiratory conditions and more rapid deterioration of buildings, and is located in difficult terrain that presents access issues for special needs students.”

    I often thought the same thing while a resident of the Oakland hills, but could never find the right place in the superior Brookfield Elementary neighborhood along side the 880 freeway, a proposed alternative site for Tilden students.

    I so desperately wanted to escape my health threatening forested Oakland neighborhood, but never got around to leaving until “we” had a child that I wanted her to receive a decent public school education.

    Procrastination makes perfect!

  • Mary

    I feel that this problem of Tilden being forgotten has been happening since it was John Swett. The condemmed buildings have been on campus for at least 8 years and nothing has ever changed and yet they are still there. Also why all of a sudden is the campus a problem and costly to rennovate, but it was okay for John Swett kids’ to reside there?
    Now because the teachers started to voice their concerns 3 years ago, it now is unsuitable for children. Yet last week they were installing wiring in the main builiding which we asked about 2 years ago to do and the district told our former principal it was too costly. SO I ask of you what is the wiring going in for now, if we are closing?
    Also what ever happened to the facilities master plan that slated about $2 million dollars were supposed to go to Tilden for upgrades, Chabot got their upgrades before us and they were slated after us. Why is that? As far as the wilderness location, are you telling me Thornhill, Montclair, Joaquin and other hill schools don’t have the potential for mold?
    Also the lack of gen ed students, is partly due to the fact that we weren’t listed as a neighborhood school until last year and we had been in existence at that time about 4 years.

    Also if Programs for Special ed (Special Ed program) knew their was too many Special Ed classrooms on campus, why did they keep putting them on? I feel that it is not the fault of the school, but rather the school is paying the price for the bad decisions of the administrators involved on both sides of the coin. Yet somehow the children pay the price.

  • Erika

    closing a school as distinctive as Tilden for any reason is [to me] criminal. i will do whatever i can to help save it from closure.

  • Kristen Dixon

    My son has attended Tilden Elementary School for a number of years, the staff and students are unique at Tilden. I cannot believe all of a sudden this year the school has to close. The Williams Complaint is a matter of public record for tose interested. It in details describes the problems and Tilden with regards to the campus and it also goes on the record for what has been fixed and ways to remedy the problems, some of which the OUSD was working with the school to fix, but all of a sudden Tilden must close and out kids must be relocated without assurity of SPED placement or services. This is not fair of the district and the parents of Tilden will not go quietly without a fight, we believe our children are too important to relocated and seperate the from experienced staff and their classmates on the whim of school administrators.

  • Kristen Dixon

    I also heard that we were passed up in front of Chabot school and maybe one other campus for rennovation and a “face lift” of sorts. The Special Ed children in the portables had to endure cold winters with no heat and scorching summers. The teachers I know for a fact spent their own money on safe space heaters and had to dress like snowmen for the wheather, where was all the concern then??? The teachers are already ridiculously under paid for all they do and the love and attention they provide to each and every student. Mnay children have made many great strides that only Tilden can provide. The teachers are spectacular and very well educated and go above and beyond 100% of the time. They particpate in school activities beyond the classroom and give the gifts of education that keep on giving. The location is woodsey but it has not presented a problem to my son who has asthma and allegies, we live in a similar neighborhood so maybe that is the reason, but none the less the school is great for the kids and it would really be damaging to the kids not to have their teachers and friends around after the summer of 2009 when the school is suppose to close for safety reasons, we were also told earlier in the year and reassured again at the Oakland Tech meeting that no closures would be made and now we are pulling a last ditch effort to save our beloved Tilden.

  • Kristen Dixon

    I feel that we were lied to by the district and the administrators directly and deceived in this matter of once was once referred to as “right sizing”. The parents have little info on the other schools OUSD is proposing and the uncertainty is nerve racking, every year I have to wait for the bus(Durham) and the transportation dept to get things right even though nothing has changed over the past three years all glitches in an imperfect system, but it`s all worth it when my son is learning to speak and is happy to recognize and see his classmates, even in an environment outside of school. It is just breath taking, my son has Autism and has made much progress with the teachers and students at Tilden, we see them as family and will fight for them all as a family.

  • Kristen Dixon

    There is a ramp for handicapp children at Tilden that leads into the yard, and the stairs need light bulbs in the dark and maybe some new rails, but citing this as one of Tildens weaknesses is weak of the district. The same district that mails out letters to inform parents of vital meetings days late leaving short notice if any. The Director of special ed left and went to WA I believe and was replaced without notice to the parents, as was the OUSD specialist in the Marcus Foster office. Placement is done at random and other practices are not rational in the eyes of the parents and yet they persist to waste resource in the upper levels of the district, it is no wonder we were in receivership for almost 5 years. The numbers when it comes to the funds for SSC and Title 1 monies has not added up for the past two years either and it took us almost a month to get a FULL copy of the budget. When our principle retired last year it has been set up ever since, with a priciple who has been working with us recently, but we had hell in the beginning some of the things would just blow your mind. I am not trying to belittle anyone, I just want to stress that closing Tilden is a mistake and the district will truely be sorry if they decide to go ahead with the closure especially in a hasty manner that they have proposed.

  • Sonia

    Tilden is currently unique in the district because it offers integrated programs (where students with mild-to-moderate special needs are educated all day long in single-grade classes with non-disabled peers) for first, second, and third graders in addition to the kindergarten program. It offers a truly Least Restrictive Environment for children who, though their disabilities are not severe enough to qualify them for OUSD’s current full inclusion program, need more intensive services than occasional resource specialist pull-out. This continuum of services is in very real danger of being sacrificed by the current proposal to relocate Tilden into four existing sites and send its current dual-credentialed general educators into the regular OUSD employment pool.

    The loss of these classrooms and teachers would have repercussions well beyond the individual children being served on IEPs. Through the integrated model, we have been able to work with struggling young learners who do not yet have diagnosed special needs, using best practices in Response to Intervention to hopefully ward off academic failure and future referral to special education. The unique design of our team-teaching model has benefited all students through small learning groups and individual intervention and challenge groups. Through collaboration between general and special education teachers, we have created and maintained a school site where differentiated instruction is the norm and all children have access to grade-level academic content.

    I came to Tilden because, after many years teaching in isolated Special Day classes (one where the standard practice when I got there was to have recess and lunch after the general ed kids left the area), I knew there was a better way to do things. Tilden has found that better way, and it’s worth preserving. As difficult decisions are made regarding facilities and programs, I fervently hope that the full continuum of inclusive education which has made Tilden such a special place will be protected.

  • Sam Davis

    Tilden provides wonderful and very necessary services, and it’s always sad to see the district dismantle something that’s working, when there are so many other things that need fixing. Ultimately it will be way more expensive to close Tilden down, than it would be to fix the school up and keep it running.

  • Sped Teacher

    As a special education teacher at Tilden, I recognize the value and quality of education that our students receive on this campus. At this time, Tilden is the only school in OUSD slated to “close” (though the district prefers to say “relocated”) this year. I am concerned about the effect of the move on the quality of education for my students. I am not ready to support the relocation of Tilden until the district can work with us to demonstrate that the new schools will provide the same or better instruction, services, environment, and facility as Tilden.

    My first concern is for the quality of education for the students. Currently, we have access to dance, music, and HERO sports program (in the past, we also had MOCHA art and Stagebridge Storytelling). We also have two play structures, an active garden, one permanent on-site motor room, a separate occupational therapy room, and at least three permanent speech therapy rooms. We have worked hard to create an inclusive environment that values collaboration between staff, and integration and mainstreaming opportunities for all students. The staff is close and works extremely well together. We have dedicated speech therapists, occupational therapists, special ed and general ed psychologists, and a school nurse who collaborate to meet the needs of the students. And finally, we have Carol and Cecilia – two of the most genuine and passionate administrative staff that I have ever met within OUSD. They truly help hold our school together.

    The district is proposing that we move to sites that do not all have extra-curricular activities, and if they do, it is not guaranteed that ALL students (including SDC students) will be included. I am concerned about the lack of space for speech and occupational therapy rooms, which could force therapists to use only the materials they can carry and to do therapy in the classroom, or even worse, in the hallways or cafeteria. This also means that there would not be motor room to meet the sensory needs of students with autism. I have seen first-hand that sensory needs must be met first in order to maximize focus and concentration in the classroom. Furthermore, we are need preschool-friendly play structures, bathrooms in the classroom, and an accepting environment for all students. Although the district says they have looked at these concerns, the answers are not clear on whether or not they will be provided.

    In addition, the relocation would eliminate our integrated Kindergarten – 3rd grade programs. Historically, these programs have provided excellent opportunities to scaffold children’s success as they move from more to less restrictive environments, just as federal law requires. These classrooms provide stepping stones of success for children with special needs. If they do not exist, what will happen to the students with mild-moderate needs who need slightly more support but can be successful in a general education classroom? Ultimately, it seems possible that some students will be stuck in SDC classrooms, eventually costing the district more money, and decreasing opportunities to provide our students with the least restrictive environment.

    My second concern is for the safety of our students. I am the first to agree that Tilden has safety concerns. It took us 5 years to get a functional fire alarm in all of our portables. That is ridiculous. But how did we do it? By using the voice of teachers and parents. The district would not have put in a fire alarm (a basic safety requirement) without a push from us. So, we can make a difference now too. While there are concerns of mold, ADA accessibility, and proximity to the freeway, these concerns exist at other OUSD facilities as well. When asked if mold has been tested at one of the four proposed new sites, one district administrator replied, “It has not come up as a concern.” Shouldn’t we be proactive and test for mold at the proposed new sites so that it does not come up as a concern?

    Now, as for the general education: special education student ratio dilemma, I understand that is a concern. Last year, Tilden was part of the district’s two-year “incubation” plan in which we created a mission statement and plan for how we could attract more general education students. This year, we were supposed to implement the plan, but we were dropped from the incubation process and were never able to complete it as designed. In addition, Tilden did not come up as a neighborhood school on the district website for searching general education parents until less than a year ago. Now, we do not have space for more classrooms. But let’s look at the bigger picture and determine how we can fix this problem without hastily rushing out of our current facility.

    Tilden cannot exist long-term in it’s current facility as it is, but if we do this right, we can ensure that we will maintain the quality of education, the culture of the school, and improve the safety of the facility, whether that is here or at a new site. We know what works for our students. We have it at Tilden. District, please work with us to guarantee that our students will be BETTER off if and when we move to a new site. At this time, that is not at all clear. There are too many unanswered questions and concerns. Let’s fight to stay put until the district can show us that we will be maintaining the good that we have AND improving everything else. Then, we can either put our efforts into improving our current facility, or perhaps next year, one school with the perfect facilities will close, and we will be able to move our entire school to a new campus. That way, I can continue to walk down the hall and say hi to my current and former students and have conversations with parents of students who were never even in my class. And, I can feel confident that I am providing my students with the best possible education and access to resources that they deserve. After all, isn’t that what public education is all about?

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  • Oakland mom3

    In the end, wouldn’t it cost more to close Tilden than to make some of the required fixes? If kids are parceled out to other schools that do not have the same amount of teachers with special training for the range of educational and social issues presented, then aren’t many of these kids going to need one on one aides as part of their IEP’s? Isn’t that going to cost way more in the end? Or is this an issue of the District not wanting to pay upfront a large chunk and hoping that as the years go by there will somehow materialize more money to pay for the individualized teaching that each of these kids is going to need at some other facility? Seems like this might be a situation in which there is a short-term savings but a long-term siphoning away of funds on a much greater scale.

    Also, this just points up the fact that NO ONE in the district does any long term planning. Everything is on a crisis management basis and no one can make good decisions that way. I attended several Board of Ed. meetings last spring in which the sight-impaired program at Montclair Elementary was uprooted and sent to Tilden because that would be better in the long run as the kids could begin preschool there and go all the way through the school — they would become used to it and able to navigate it because they would be there for a long stretch of time. Now look — once again they are to be uprooted and in the span of less than a year. Great planning.

  • Constanza Beltran

    Tilden has impacted my personal and professional life in many ways. Initially while I completed my education I worked in Tilden as a handicap aid in an autism class. This was my first experience of a job in the United States, which expanded my knowledge in working with children with special needs in an educational setting. This made me reflect the importance of an environment that supports the children and families especially if they belonged to a different culture. Later I had the opportunity to work as a disability specialist in the Head Start program. Once again I could be a witness of how families could feel less isolated and understand the importance of having their children in an environment that can help them with their needs. Finally now I work as a Child Development Specialist with my Master’s in Early Childhood Development with emphasis in children with special needs. I feel the same appreciation and acknowledgment on the program that is developing in Tilden. Tilden and its teachers and families have inspired me to continue in working with the families of children with special needs. I wish to NOT support the proposal of closing Tilden

  • Sharon

    Here is some general history about OUSD school openings/closings. I’ve been doing research over the past few weeks, and although my report is not completely finished, I’m confident that these figures are 97% correct.

    The CDE listed 79 schools for OUSD during the 1998-99 school year when its enrollment was 54,256. Several of the elementary schools were enormous and had to operate on year-round schedules. By 2003-04 (the school year immediately before the state takeover) OUSD had 117 schools. At that time, none of the schools which had been listed in 1998-99 had yet been closed.

    The 79 schools for 54,256 students in 1998-99 contrasts with 2007-08 school year, when the CDE lists 145 OUSD schools for 46,431 students. Of those 145 schools, 32 are charter schools which enroll 16% of OUSD’s students (7,845 kids). OUSD’s charter school enrollment percentage is perhaps the highest in the country. I’m still looking into it.

    As a comparison, Chicago is notorious for its large charter school operation. In 2006-07, it had 34 charter schools serving an estimated 19,960 students. This works out to 5.2% (their district enrollment is about 380,787).

    A demographic report by Urban Strategies dated June 2007 states, “…between 2000 and 2004, 37 percent of the District’s enrollment loss was due to the growth of charter enrollments, and between 2004 and 2006, the percentage grew to 58.” Charter schools were the preferred child of the state administration. OUSD parents never really insisted on them.

    Trying to track all these changes is like chasing a squirrel. At this point I’ve determined that, since the state takeover in 2003, approximately forty OUSD schools have been closed. Most have been reopened as new, different schools (Swett to Tilden, for instance). On the campuses of six original comprehensive middle and high schools are now 15 small schools. On the campuses of seventeen [closed] original elementary schools are nearly as many new elementary schools, including charter schools.

    Approximately 12 of the “new” schools (opened after 1999) have now been closed. The district is planning for Tilden to end up in this category.

    Our state superintendent installed a “disruptive force” from the Broad Foundation by the name of Randy Ward and others. A Sept. 2007 report produced by the Center for Education Reform (“National Model or Temporary Opportunity: The Oakland Education Reform Story” states that “A group of Oakland small school creators, activists, technocrats, and philanthropists decided that the conditions were indeed ripe to try something big.” They had been waiting for access to a “politics free zone.” This was created once the state obtained control of the district. Read all about this at
    http://www.edreform.com/_upload/CER_Oakland_Education_Reform_9_07.pdf.

    Think about the meaning of a “politics free zone.” This means that the citizens have no say as others take control. This community is continuing to suffer from the actions of those individuals today.

    We and our school board are stuck, and still dealing with it today. This community should be outraged.

  • sundara

    i worked as an aide at tilden in 05-06. the children were amazing and the staff and teachers were so dedicated. it is a special place that i hope can be saved. i still think fondly of all of the children who so loved their little school.

  • Sharon

    If you are interested in the discussion around Tilden School, that issue is on the agenda for the OUSD School Board’s Facilities Committee. The Committee is meeting February 18 at 5 p.m. in the Board Room at 1025 Second Avenue.

    You can read the staff report at:
    http://ousd. legistar. com/LegislationD etail.aspx? ID=331356& GUID=8D792BE7- B1A6-4B08- 8AAF-2F3B02BE359 4&Search= &Options=

    If this link doesn’t work because it’s too long, go to the main calendar page at
    http://ousd. legistar. com/Calendar. aspx

    Find where the meeting is listed, and follow the agenda links.

    The above information was posted yesterday by Boardmember Jody London on the Oakland Public School Parents Yahoo group.

  • http://foragelaurel.blogspot.com Leila Abu-Saba

    Troy Flint said two things I want to challenge. However, I must first add some more Tilden teacher and student accomplishments to the list:

    My son’s third grade class at Tilden, taught by Mrs. Herrell, brought home FIRST PLACE MEDALS from the Regional semi-finals of the MLKing Oratorical Fest. The children competed against classes from around the city. This was on Feb. 13, 2009.

    The first grade class, taught by Mrs. Okajima, also brought home medals from the Regional semi-finals.

    When you consider that most of these students either have communication or other handicaps, or they are from lower-income, sometimes ESL homes, this is an extraordinary achievement. It says something about the teachers and instruction at the school. My son was diagnosed with a severe communication handicap as a toddler; his speech therapist then gave us little hope that he would ever have much to say. Now he is a chatterbox and bringing home first place medals from regional competitions in oratory???

    Turning to Mr. Flint’s points.

    1) He wrote: “Integrated classes are designed so that SDC students comprise at most 25 percent of the population – or five students of a twenty student total – but because of difficulty in attracting general education students at Tilden, the Special Education to General Education ratio is skewed.”

    As a parent of a special ed student who is now in his fourth year in integrated classes, I am very surprised at this statement. I was told from the beginning that the integrated classes were designed to comprise FIFTY PERCENT – 50% – special ed. Of course the Special Ed to General Ed ratio is skewed, if there are four classes total of integrated students in a school of 300 pupils. Four classes, each one 50% special ed, that leaves forty total general ed students for the whole school.

    From what I understand and was told for the last four years, Tilden was designed this way. Why is this considered a problem now?

    I agree that more needs to be done to attract general ed students. The NY Times wrote an article five years ago about a similar school in New Jersey, where parents of regular ed students are taking numbers in a lottery, hoping to win a seat for their children in the same sort of integrated class we have at Tilden. The word got out in NJ about how well such classes serve regular ed students. I have tried to tell parents about it but very few get it. HOwever one neighborhood family, where the grandmother is a professor of education and the mother is a reading specialist, did “get it” and put their daughter in the kindergarten, until they had to relocate out of the area. People who understand developmental concepts of education immediately see the benefit of Tilden’s model.

    The 799 API scores are not a fluke. They reflect that the educational model at Tilden works for all children. I know many of the children in that very class, and I can tell you that there are some brilliant readers who did not get their educational success at home. That’s all I can say without violating privacy. The teachers can take credit for these successes.

    The second point on which I would like to challenge Mr. Flint is the statement that the “forested lot” causes the mold problems. Excuse me, the mold is in the ancient portable classrooms which were built as temporary structures forty years ago and more. The materials were shoddy, because TEMPORARY. The portables have outlived their usefulness and should have been junked sometime around the end of the Vietnam War.

    Tilden is a successful school. The failure is that of the landlord, OUSD, which has neglected the property and failed to support outreach and marketing for this unique and powerful educational community.

    OUSD, you have a winning program here that is delivering services at a bargain price to your most vulnerable students. They are not voters, and their parents are mostly not powerful, organized or connected people. But these children deserve the great education they are getting, and frankly, Oakland is getting this outcome for cheap. Spend the one million dollars (which other commenters say WAS BUDGETED AND PROMISED IN PREVIOUS YEARS) and keep this cohesive learning experience going.

    My two sons, one regular ed and one special ed, are graduating or moving on from the Tilden School. I have serious health issues and don’t have energy to fight battles like this one. But I want other children to have the same chances my kids did – to learn in a nurturing environment, to be who they are, work on their skills from where they are, and blossom to their fullest potential. I hope I live to see my children grow up. (Yes, that’s how serious it is for me) but whether I do or not, I know that my special ed son is going to contribute to society, and I know that Tilden will have been part of his earliest successes.

  • Steve Asztalos

    Let me put aside any classism, racism or other social construct that may be or may not be underlying the necessity for Tilden’s closure. Let me focus instead on money. In the year and a half that we have been discussing Tilden’s closure I have yet to hear or see any fiscal analysis demonstrating that closing Tilden would actually save the District money. In fact, it’s very hard for me to believe that keeping children at Tilden would not be a huge cost savings for the District, unless the District’s intent was to redistribute the children without any intention of improving the proposed school sites to accommodate the newly arrived students’ special needs. In any event, this line of thinking must remain relegated to sheer speculation until the District can provide any documentation supporting the assertion that keeping Tilden open is somehow more expensive than the alternative.

    Fears of pollen and mold continue to enjoy an almost urban legend type of status. Mold started off as a rumor among some of the previous staff that has never been substantiated in subsequent tests. It’s amazing to me that the District would be willing to uproot and relocate children who do not even occupy the suspected buildings solely on the basis of an old, unsubstantiated rumor. Surely this suggests that something more onerous is behind the move, something akin retaliation against teachers who dared to submit a Williams Act Complaint. I would further venture that parents, teachers and students are more than happy to suffer occasional pollen discomfort than spend the next year or two in unfamiliar surroundings, with unprepared or unwilling staff and in unrehabilitated facilities.

    I challenge the District to offer up any documentation demonstrating that Tilden’s closure is necessary based fiscal or health considerations.

  • A Friend of Tilden

    Oakland needs Tilden School. For decades, it has been a flagship school within Oakland Unified, always leading the way in setting up innovative programs serving students with an incredible array of learning needs. It is a unique and invaluable community resource. Although the programs developed at Tilden can and should be replicated on a smaller scale at sites throughout Oakland Unified, Tilden itself should remain intact.

    Oakland needs a school where the community is willing to explore new ways to effectively educate students with varying learning styles, providing rich and rigorous educational programs tailored to the needs of individual students. Tilden is that school. There is nothing else like it in Oakland and likely nothing else like it anywhere in the country. The Oakland community needs to do all it can to keep Tilden afloat and allow it to navigate the challenging water of finding new and better ways to reach each and every student.

    The stated reasons for closing Tilden (a minimally maintained forested rambling campus, too many special needs preschoolers, too many special education students, and not enough general education students) are problems that can be addressed. It is possible to fix the facility and balance the student population, allowing Tilden to continue its mission, while simultaneously developing programs modeled on Tilden programs at other campuses throughout OUSD. All it requires is a commitment on the part of the community at large to do that.

    For those who never find themselves in a position of needing a unique and specialized program for a child, Tilden is not an important school. For those who have found it necessary to search for a public school that modifies and adapts to the needs of individual students, Tilden is a lifeboat. If Oakland loses Tilden, it loses one of its most valuable assets.

  • Did anyone reply to the parent who tried contacting Tilden???

    I feel for Tilden. My son has special needs, but luckily in a very light form. His school was also considered to be closed, as one of the small Oakland schools. So far, it’s still open. I hope Tilden stays, too.

    I do wonder if a parent who tried contacting Tilden and never received a call back was ever contacted. Did anyone reach out to her??? I don’t see any posts here answering hers. Her post said,

    “I attempted to contact Tilden to ask to observe a classroom since I live up the street and have a young child who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. I did not got a call back. I have spoken to other parents of potential “general ed” kids who had the same experience. I would not blame OUSD entirely on not promoting the school in the options process. The school has to take some responsibity for that also.

  • Tilden teacher

    To the parent who tried to call Tilden to arrange a school visit: I do not know what happened and why you did not receive a call back. I do know one thing though, that Carol is an extremely efficient secretary so it’s highly improbable that she got your message and did not attempt to contact you. I can only assume that perhaps you had the old telephone number or that you were a victim of our mixed up (and messed up) phone lines which we were experiencing up until last school year. When Tilden took over the John Swett campus, we had issues not only with not having a working fire alarm in the old portables, but the phone lines also got mixed up. People trying to call certain offices or classrooms almost invariably ended up reaching the wrong people – or in some cases, never got their calls returned, as might be in your case.

    Anyway, on behalf of our school, I apologize that we were never able to reach you. I am sorry that we never got a chance to include you in our community and that you never got a chance to experience first-hand what being part of Tilden is like.

  • Carol, The Secretary

    To Abby and “Did anyone reply…”: My apologies for not responding until now; I am just catching up with reading the blog. Unfortunately, I can’t answer to what happened a couple of years ago, except to say that I have always tried to return calls to parents. I apologize if anyone felt neglected for that was not my intent.

    Tilden School owns a piece of my heart: the children and their families, the teachers and staff, the community that surrounds the school. I am constantly reminded of the successes that we have had (and continue to have) by students and families who return for visits. Both gen ed and special needs students are the beneficiaries of the efforts of the staff here at Tilden. Sending classes to different schools breaks the continuum of these efforts and I would be remiss if I did not express my objections to the proposed “relocation” of Tilden students and programs.

    Again, to Abby and “Did anyone reply…”, I apologize if I did not respond to your (and others, as you mentioned) phone call. It was certainly not deliberate.

  • Abby

    just to clarify, it was a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember who exactly I did speak with, but I was waiting for a call from the principal (I think her name was Jocelyn something??) for more information and to arrange to observe a classroom. She did not get back to me. I think that was also the case with one family I spoke to. I put the blame on the principal, not the secretary.

  • http://www.reform-america.net A Former Tilden Dad

    My son went to Tilden last year and there are not words for the benefit he saw from being there. He is autistic and had socialization issues that his teacher was able to help him improve greatly. It would be criminal to close this school. As parents of Tilden students we should be camping out on the porches of the School Board members until they find a way to keep Tilden open or at the very least make sure the students from Tilden are transferred to the best possible schools to meet their needs. Sending them to places like Burkhalter with totally inadequate services is completely unacceptable and we should not stand for it. They need to cut the administration to the bone before they send our kids to classrooms that are unfit. We should all be getting mad and screaming at the ops of our lungs that we refuse to be marginalized any longer. We pay the bills with our taxes and they need to listen to what we want.

  • Sped Teacher

    Thank you everyone for your support. Please come to the subcommittee Board meetings this week to show your support and voice your concerns. Board meetings are open to the public and will be held at the OUSD district office at 1025 Second Avenue in the first floor Board Room.

    Monday, March 2 – 6:30 pm – Teaching and Learning Subcommittee

    Tuesday, March 3 – 5:00 pm – Facilities Subcommittee

  • Steve Asztalos

    Just a brief note to let the community in on a bit of good news…Tilden prevailed at last night’s Teaching and Learning Subcommittee. The Board voted unanimously to keep Tilden open an additional year to remedy what was increasingly a one-sided and hurried process. Though this was only an advisory vote, it nonetheless was a huge victory for teachers, parents and staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure a better future for Tilden children.

    Please come out and support us tonite at the Facilities Subcommittee meeting at 5:00 pm at the District’s offices at 10025 2nd Avenue.

  • Tilden teacher

    At the end of the meeting tonight, the result is that the Facilities subcommittee will also be advising that Tilden be kept open another year.

    Another victory for the tireless Tilden family.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Steve and Tilden Teacher, for the updates. In light of this news, I have a follow-up question to all of you Tilden supporters:

    Do you consider this development a victory (if, in fact, you do) because it gives Tilden — and the other schools involved — another year to make the transition? Or do you see it as an opportunity to convince the district to keep the school open, indefinitely?

  • Steve Asztalos

    In response to Katy’s question, I consider it a victory simply because it was an old fashioned example of sound decision making by a body that is charged with just that. Without slipping into hippie-dippy jargon, it was an increasing rare demonstration of the power that well-intentioned people have should they choose to expend it.

    Our most pressing concern was to create the breathing room to allow the process to unfold in a manner that guarantees the best outcome for the kids. Over the course of the next year if we feel that keeping Tilden open is the optimal outcome, then we will fight for that.

  • Sped Teacher

    This is the Big One – the decision on whether to delay the decision to close Tilden will be determined at the OUSD Board Meeting on Wednesday, March 11th at 5:00 pm. Please come and show your support for the students and families at Tilden

    Date: Wednesday, March 11
    Time: 5:00 pm
    Address: 1025 Second Avenue, First floor board meeting room

  • Filly

    Reading all of this saddens me. I am a dually credentialed teacher, learning handicapped, visually impaired and multiple subjects certificates. I left special education in 1998 so that I could welcome special ed kids into my classroom, instead of fighting teachers and administrators to let them in. I taught at 4 schools, and only one, Bret Harte Middle (then, Junior High) School welcomed my students and worked hard to help them achieve. The rest were elementary schools. At one point, high level district leader and the union vice president had to come to my school to tell the teachers and principal that my students had the right to be in general ed classes. The director of special education threatened a discrimination lawsuit. Finally, the teachers allowed the students back into the classroom. How many of these fights are there out there? Mine was never publicized and it drove me out of special education.

    Here is a school that was open and welcoming to ALL children, and it may be closed. It breaks my heart.

    Please parents and community members OUSD only listens to money: lawsuits, complaints and large numbers of parents/family members. There are other schools that could close because of low attendance and low scores. Stand up and threaten. That’s the only way I got heat in my junior high building where we had, among other things, a teacher and a student with brain tumors, deafblind students, visually impaired students trying to learn braille with frozen fingers. OUSD will sit on its hands until it’s threatened with a lawsuit, negative press, etc. The Williams complaint is just one of the tools, and I’m sorry that it seems to have been used against Tilden. Again, this breaks my heart. OUSD has so much potential.

  • http://none Kristen Dixon

    Yes all of our hard work paid off for now, Tilden will be open for an additional year. After that I am not sure what will happen. I am a concerned parent of an almost 7 yr old with Autism and have many reservations about his academic future in OUSD. We have had so many meetings and it is all I can do to just take a break and regroup and live to fight another day and another battle.