Oakland school hopes to be renamed “Obama”

photo by LAURA A. ODA/Bay Area News Group

The Alternative Learning Community, a new middle school for at-risk youth that had a shaky start last year, is angling for a change it hopes the Oakland school board can believe in: a new name, after the nation’s 44th president.

It wants to be called Barack Obama Academy.

In its petition to the board, ALC’s new principal, Toni McElroy, says the students, parents and its Toler Heights neighbors are behind the name change:

The election of President Obama represents change, transition, and empowerment. The focus of Barack Obama Academy will be community/social service and leadership development.

Whatever measures that can be used in assisting our young people of our community to view themselves in a positive light, to achieve higher goals and embrace a more positive image of self is supported by our community.

The board hears this request at Wednesday’s meeting (see the full agenda here). The facilities committee already recommended it. What do you think? I wonder if other schools were considering a similar request, but were beat to the punch.

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://friendsofdave.org Dave Johnston

    Personally, I think it is just a gimmick to distract parents from the fact that the school is failing its at-risk students. Only 2% of students at the school tested at grade-level on the California Standards Test last year. Considering that terrifying result, I think that what the school should be named is the least of their worries. I’d like to see Principal McElroy spending less time on renaming the school and more time on improving instruction.

    Perhaps the district should invite Ben Chavis to come over and give them a hand.


  • ProStudent

    That’s hateful Dave. I think it’s a good change. Who wants to attend a school named “alternative learning community”–the name stigmatizes kids.

    How many of the students tested at grade level before they got to the school? The school has 100% new teachers. That’s a problem. Maybe we should change how schools are staffed in OUSD (and raise teacher salary to retain teachers).

  • Random Guy

    I like the idea of changing the school’s name. I think the “Alternative” in the school’s name could be associated with some negative connotations so I agree with the ProStudent’s argument that “the name stigmatizes kids.”

    I’m not surprised that people want to use Barack Obama’s name like this, but I initially anticipated that this would happen AFTER his first term in office.

    I wish him the best, but there is the possibility that he could totally screw up on something while in office. Has it even been 100 days?

  • http://friendsofdave.org Dave Johnston

    ProStudent, call it hateful if you like, but in my mind there’s nothing more “hateful” than throwing a group of at-risk into a school where they think the best way to improve achievement is to change the name of the school. How many percentage points do you see their proficiency rate improving from this name change?

    If there was significant evidence that raising school spending or teacher salaries had a positive impact on achievement, I’d be right there with you. Unfortunately, as examples like Washington DC have shown us, it isn’t about the money. As for new teachers, there is some research to show that young, highly motivated teachers from come into the profession from organizations like TFA or NTP do have a positive impact on achievement.

    This school has bigger problems than a cruddy name. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this name change is just something shiny to wave back and forth in front of the parents to keep them from asking the questions they should be asking… why aren’t you helping our children get caught up to grade-level.

  • Jose

    I totally agree with you Dave. ALC has an api less than 400. They should be embarrassed to even think of changing the name to Obama.

  • Peter

    I think we need to be a little more realistic about this name change… first of all, it is quite an assumption some of us have made to decide that the name change is the idea of the principal. Secondly, this is some of the only news we have about this school, and many of you seem to assume that means the principal has been locked in the office since August preparing for this change. No one who posts on this blog would like anyone to assume that posters are ignoring all the responsibilities they have in order to post, right?
    Dave, you say that “they think the best way to improve achievement is to change the name of the school.” Is that a fact or assumption? Does that mean that you think the best way to do what ever job you have is to post on this blog? Come people, let us use the critical thinking skills we’d like to see instilled in the students of OUSD.

  • Patrick A. Middleton

    I am 53 years old man,and I grew up in Oakland.And was educated by the Oakland school system K-12.Currently I am a full time college student at Feather River College in Quincy,California.And there is no question in my mind at all.About the idea of the honor of naming there school after,President Obama a man, that has proven,the United States of America.Knows we need change,and seem to want to grow up.Oakland has allways shown it’s pride.And too the children of Oakland,let us all,shine and show the world,strength,diversity,love and that education works.And those of us whom,have grown up in poorer neighborhoods.In Oakland we will finish,what we start and make the difference of betterment of the world “Oakland First” show them what WE are made of.
    With ALL my LOVE
    Patrick A. Middleton Oakland High 1973

  • Nextset

    Should we give them all enough rope?