Tilden update: Can one shuttered school save another from closing?


Tribune file photo by Sean Donnelly

For well over a year, parents from Oakland’s Tilden School have cajoled, grilled and held district administrators to task about the future of the unique program, which serves children — many of them, with special needs — in preschool through third grade.

Tilden will close in June. Still, those behind the dogged effort to keep elements of the program alive have scored a substantial victory: a new preschool and special needs diagnostic center at the nearby Burbank campus. Most of Tilden’s students are in preschool.

“We’re calling it a win,” said Cintya Molina, a former Tilden parent who served on a subcommittee that helped draft the proposal.

Tilden’s remaining programs will be moved to a number of elementary schools, according to the proposal on Wednesday night’s agenda. According to Molina, they are Bella Vista, Burckhalter, Howard, Sankofa, Markham and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Molina said parents walked through each of those schools and catalogued their questions and concerns. Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith, who stepped in and facilitated three meetings between the parents and his special education staff, said he was committed to addressing those concerns by the time the children arrive in the fall.

Molina said parents asked hard questions about Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, a low-performing, underenrolled school in West Oakland that the district considered closing or merging this year. For starters, they wanted to know if it would stay open — and, she said, they were assured of the district’s commitment to the school.

Molina said the Tilden group liked what they heard about the culture of the school’s existing special education program and its parent involvement. She said she hopes the resources and attention that the special education program will bring to MLK — and the district’s decision to place the program there to begin with — will improve the school’s overall condition. 

Or, at least, keep it open.

After all, the same tough-minded, organized parents who rallied for Tilden are forming an advocacy group to keep tabs on what happens next. Does the district administration really want to go head-to-head with them again?

Katy Murphy

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