District staff is recommending that BEST High School close in June — a year earlier than planned, Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam told a crowd gathered at the McClymonds cafeteria tonight.
Stam said it would be unfair to BEST students and too costly for the school district to keep it open next year with just a few dozen students, and that this year’s juniors (the youngest class at BEST) will likely attend EXCEL, the other high school, next fall. This year, the school district is providing a subsidy of about $330,000, Stam said.
EXCEL’s enrollment has dwindled to less than 250, and just 65 juniors and seniors attend BEST, according to a recent districtwide data report. In 2004-05, the year before McClymonds split into two schools as part of the Gates-funded small schools reform, 761 kids went to the West Oakland high school, according to data from the California Department of Education.
“There is no school if there are no students,” said Curtis Mackey, president of the McClymonds High School Alumni Association, noting the staggering slide.
The meeting tonight was well-attended, emotional and at times chaotic, with people applauding each other’s points and talking over Stam and board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge during the Q and A session. The alumni association turned out in force and promised to come to the school board meeting on Wednesday to demand more resources and a solution for the exodus of families from West Oakland’s public schools (apparently caused, in part, by a districtwide enrollment policy that has given families more choice in where to send their kids to school).
If the staff recommendation comes to pass on Dec. 16, Stam said EXCEL, the one remaining school at McClymonds, would probably be renamed EXCEL at McClymonds (hopefully without the popular @ sign …)
Stam said he couldn’t say what would happen to the remaining BEST teachers, some of whom have taught in the area for years and years. One of those teachers, LuPaulette Taylor, spoke passionately about the school’s successes, which she said she felt were ignored by the district. “They marginalized us,” she said. She added, “We’re not going out like this.”