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A sped up phase-out at McClymonds

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 at 11:22 pm in community, enrollment, families, finances, high schools, initiatives, OUSD central office, school reform, small schools.

mcclymondsSoon, the McClymonds high school campus will have just one small high school, instead of two.

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.”

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  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Since it’s the one remaining school at McClymonds, why not acknowledge the elephant in the living room and simply call it “McClymonds High School” (or Mac, for short)?

    Bill Gates’ model was a response to the overcrowding he saw when he visited public schools in Los Angeles. Mac was underenrolled, though, even before the district split it up. There’s no question that everyone involved in this experiment meant well and worked hard to make it succeed. But if BEST has to go, does anyone honestly think that it will be replaced anytime soon with a new, different small school that won’t have the same enrollment and budgetary challenges?

    “EXCEL at McClymonds” will be the only school on that campus, and everybody knows it. So call it EXCEL, or call it McClymonds (my choice, per community tradition). But please don’t saddle the kids with some long, clumsy name for their school. At the very least, someone should consult the cheerleading squad; they’re the ones who’ll have to yell the name at every game. Throw in an ampersand, and someone could break an ankle.

  • harlemmoon

    Are either of these schools accredited?
    Actually, how many of the district’s high schools are accredited?
    Will the average high schooler in OUSD have a fair (or better chance) of entering college after having graduated from a BEST or, say, an EXCEL?
    And, finally, just where do these schools come up with these names/acronyms?

  • del

    All the district’s non-charter high schools are accredited.

    As far as getting INTO college, I am not sure, but when it comes to getting through college, all I hear from students (and experienced myself) is how much easier life is in college than it is in Oakland, and how they float along with real world perspective while their peers become overwhelmed with “stress” and “real life”…

  • http://realschoolreform.net Craig Gordon

    Like BEST, Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts has also been notified of a recommendation to fast-track our closure. At a meeting on November 30, Brad Stam told Robeson staff, students, and parents that the state administration/district had not done a financial analysis of its decision last year to phase out Robeson one grade level at a time through June 2012 (a fairly astonishing statement). He added that staff has now concluded that the cost of “subsidizing” a school (providing a greater amount per student than is allocated to other schools in the district) as it phases out is unsustainable. That much represented a bit of long-overdue candor; gone was the rhetoric we heard throughout the past year labeling the school a “failure.”

    But once again the district has come to these schools in low-income communities of color with announcements of decisions already made. We are expected to be grateful that this time administration told the school community of the recommendation about two weeks in advance of its nearly certain stamp of approval by the Board. This represents an “improvement” over last year’s refusal to even notify our principal of the phase-out decision before the state administrator finalized it. Meanwhile the district held 39 meetings over the course of 16 months with parents and staff at several North Oakland and Hills schools to get input before making a decision about new school boundaries and enrollment policies. Draw your own conclusions.

    For the last two years Robeson fought hard, first to stop deeply damaging staffing and program cuts, and then against the decision to phase the school out. The response to this final nail in the coffin was more muted. Parents, students, and staff pressed for and received assurances that students will be placed at any OUSD high schools—either in or outside of the Fremont Federation—to which they want to transfer next year, and that counseling will be provided to ensure a smooth transition. Administration also promised to respect seniority and other contractual provisions governing transfers of staff next year. Experience tells us that these promises will only be as good as we are vigilant.

    I am glad to hear that the meeting on the closure of BEST was “chaotic,” because it sounds like the school community is finding its voice to make a public fight over this issue. Hopefully other schools slated for closure in the coming year will join together to resist the district’s irresponsible policies continuing to undermine whole neighborhoods and any hope for stability in Oakland’s public schools.