Tired of acronyms, some Oaklanders “want Mack back”

Mack remained the name of the high school sports teams. File photo by Anda ChuOakland saw a flurry of new and redesigned schools in the last decade. Along with the more substantive changes came a slew of inventive names — many with acronyms for aspirational adjectives, nouns, verbs and phrases: BEST, EXCEL, ASCEND, EnCompass, Reach, United for Success, and EXPLORE, to name a few.

McClymonds High School, or Mack as it’s also known, was officially closed in 2005. The names of the two small high schools that opened on its campus were a mouthful: Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology (BEST) and Experience, eXcellence, Community, Empowerment and Leadership (EXCEL).  

BEST closed in June, though, and now that McClymonds will be a one-school campus again, a group of people — possibly, alumni — want to undo the name change. They’ve circulated a petition titled “Change the name back to McClymonds High.”

 This petition was formed so that the voices of West Oakland will collectively heard. WE WANT MACK BACK! Please join the McClymonds Alumni Association in our fight to bring back the name and our claim to fame: School of Champions! A West Oakland monument with a Rich History…. can’t let them erase that.

Do you agree, or do you think the campus has been through enough changes?

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    I say bring Mack Back!

  • http://ideaing.wordpress.com Kari

    I say bring it back; I, and plenty of other young teachers I know, still call it “Mack” anyway. Naming schools a bunch of great adjectives doesn’t guarantee that said schools will love up to them, and it’s entirely possible for Mack to “excel” and be the “best” while having a real, cheer-able name!

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    bringmackback.com is available!! (or .org, .biz, .info)

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon Higgins

    Yes, this is great! Even my 16-year-old daughter has complained about how stupid the names of so many new Oakland schools sound to her. She said those silly names give the impression that only low-achievers are supposed to be attending those schools.

    Tradition, institutional memory, and history all give meaning to communities. Oakland needs its pride. I give my support to the petition.

    Go Mack!

  • CarolineSF

    It’s really hard to look at the name Think College Now without miming a gag/vomit. Nothing against thinking college now, but honestly.

  • Nextset

    Sharon Higgins’ post #4 really hits the mark.

    We are moving into a Caste Society. Caste Schools are a vital park of keeping the children in their Caste. Labeling them with a Caste Name serves to mark the students as coming from one of “those” schools – that really aren’t schools at all – they are Caste academies.

    So I think conventional naming is best for the social and economic mobility of the students which should be a priority. Not that OUSD gives a damn.

    It’s hard to spend a lot of energy worrying about adding social mobility to children named Snahnikanika-naynay.

    But that should be a mission priority.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    I don’t think it’s as simple as just changing the name from “Excel” to “McClymonds.” The underlying assumption seems to be that the school itself would revert back to being a large, comprehensive high school. That kind of change would involve enrollment, staffing, and budgeting issues that might not be so easily resolved. Excel was created as a small school, and the model under which they’ve been operating may or may not translate well to a more traditional, large high school.

    This doesn’t mean that the change won’t happen eventually, and in fact, I wonder if the writing’s on the wall. It doesn’t make much sense, from a utilities or a security standpoint, to have one small school rattling around by itself on such a large campus. It’s likely that McClymonds will eventually be McClymonds again, but the transformation won’t be simple, and it won’t happen overnight.

  • CarolineSF

    I was once at a student weekday SF Symphony concert that was attended by school field trips from all over San Francisco, watching kids get off school and Muni buses and line up. It was immediately evident that the schools with the most black and brown kids were the ones with uniforms — presumably formerly the indicator of snooty privates, uniforms were now a brand signaling a low-income school. Interestingly, that’s now changing because the trend in SF is for middle-class (and up) families to take a new interest (and enroll their kids in!) once-struggling schools. But the idiotic school names — I don’t know; it may be harder for middle-class families to get past that. I wonder how college admissions officials view them.

  • oakey

    Am I the only thinking this is merely rearranging the chairs on the Titanic?

  • Chauncey

    Lets change the state name from California and perhaps all of the current problems will magically dissappear! I hear changeca.net is available!!!


  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon Higgins

    Lower caste-school names which are supposedly inspirational go along with a super-intense fixation on test scores, as if that is the only element of a good education. In these schools, there is money for test materials, but not enough for school counselors. There is enough money to pay teachers to work on testing days, but not enough for school libraries. There is enough money to pay for elaborate data systems, but not enough to give the kids smaller classes.

    My most recent favorite comment was made by Joel Shatzky on the Huffington Post: “The inferior “test-prep” agenda which bases the pedagogically fraudulent ‘data’ [on] standardized test scores serves as a way of diverting the concerns of working parents who hope that better test scores will lead to better job opportunities for their children. If they realized that they were being given a con job, they might consider other, more ‘active forms of political and social protest than simply lobbying for more money for charter and public schools.”

  • Hot R

    “Tradition, institutional memory, and history all give meaning to communities”

    Yes, but ‘Mack” has also represented failure, institutional racism, low achievement, poverty and educational disinterest. When I think of Mack, I think of good high school basketball teams, and a strange “Back to Africa” experiment they tried in the 1980’s where kids were encouraged to wear dashikis to school to recover their heritage.

    I agree that the current names are ALSO bywords for failure showing that changing the name is not the key to school achievement. And don’t the sports teams still wear MACK on their uniforms?

    Now if you told me a wealthy alum was willing to donate a large amount of money to change the name back then I say “Bring Mack Back!”

  • Owen

    Re: post #5 about Think College Now — I’m sorry if the name makes you vomit; when I think about the SCHOOL Think College Now it makes me want to jump up and down for joy knowing that great things are being done with kids who don’t typically do as well in OUSD schools. David Silver and his team may not be marketing geniuses, but they’ve done incredible things for their students.

  • Jean Parker (OUSD Parent)

    Bring Mack Back.

  • Chauncey

    So Sharon- where do the following school names fall under in your Caste system: Urban Pomise Academy,Arise High,Roots, and Greenleaf (Ha HA-green alright!).

    This is a Liberals attempt to mask their low expectationsof students, and their lack of commitment to do whats right-hold kids accountable.

    Yes there is enough money for libraries , but how much do lobbists get paid by district? And, are libraries even neceesary in all campuses anymore? (Think outside the box peopl).

    So if tests dont matter, what do you tell students searching to get into college with a low SAT/ACT score? His life does not matter?


  • Jenna

    I think the question of expectations is a fair question. I often hear the term “rigorous” used in schools. Let’s set aside the testing question for one moment.

    Fourth grade students are to learn fractions and decimals (adding and subtracting), different types of triangles, rounding to thousands, ten-thousands, etc., negative numbers, solving simple problems for x, symmetry, the radius of a circle, the number of faces, edges and vertices of a solid shape. This is the MINIMUM fourth grade standard.

    Fourth grade students should know the rock cycle, the three categories of rocks and how each are formed. Volcanos and tectonic plates are part of the standard of the rock cycle. Once again MINIMUM standard.

    Fourth grade students are required to know how to write a solid paragraph, understand propaganda, and to write a persuasive essay. They must be able to read 128 words per minute with no errors or errors that are self corrected. MINIMUM standard.

    Fourth grade students must know and explain the history of California including the missions from the perspective of the settlers and the Native Americans, the gold rush and the influx of immigrants, and the Native American tribes in various geographical areas of the state as the MINIMUM social studies standards.

    I bring up these standards because these minimums are not rigorous instruction, they are minimum standards. On this blog the responders often pick at the school system, teachers, principals, testing, the names of schools and each other. However, I see the bottom line as this – can the students of Oakland public schools demonstrate their knowledge in one form or another at the MINIMUM standard. Let’s not call it rigor, because the minimum is not rigor, it is the minimum.

    We we create mantras, acronyms for school names, have spirit days, and create all of the “feel good about myself, my community and my school” and we leave out the minimum what we are saying is the “bling” matters – not the standards, but the way something looks, sounds or feels.

    I have been considering lately why many families move from Oakland, lie about their address, spend money they don’t have to send their children to Score, Kumon, Sylvan and tutors, to remove them from public schools and send them to parochial schools, charter schools, private schools and home schools.

    And Sharon, we can remove the aspect of testing from this discussion all together; however, do the fourth grade students of Oakland know and demonstrate the minimum knowledge listed above. In my opinion, with the students I volunteer to tutor and coach, they simply do not come close to meeting these minimum standards.

  • amhale

    It all depends on your perspective. Is good education one that turns out students who know lots of facts, who have memorized information, or students who can think creatively, problem-solve, work in a group, investigate, discover, etc? I think we have to stop thinking in terms of students just “knowing” things. I want them to know how to think and do things. Testing as it is done now tests for facts. We need a system that teaches children skills like critical thinking and problem solving, and then we need to evaluate how well we do that.

  • Jenna

    Knowing the rock cycle is not a bunch of facts – for example, students need to think about and analyze the components that make up sedimentary rocks and analyze whether those same components are in metamorphic rocks. They also need to draw on the second grade knowledge of the life cycles of meal worms and butterflies were a metamorphic process – metamorphosis – as the rock cycle is a metamorphic process. I would hardly call that “knowing things.” This is a true example of critical thinking about the world, connecting information across several fields of study and exactly what I hoped my two sons would come out of fourth grade knowing, understanding and drawing conclusions about. But it didn’t happen. That is why I volunteer.

    For California history – California is doomed to create what Nextset has described if our fourth grade students do not analyze the consequences of how we treated African-American and Chinese railroad workers during the Gold Rush, or how the Japanese internment camps still affect the lives of people in California today. These are also not facts, but critical pieces of knowledge that are used to analyze motive, opportunity, oppression, dominate cultures and how people use power and authority – high order thinking – not just facts. In my sons fourth grade classrooms in the Oakland Hills – they were mostly fact machines – we did the analysis at home.

    This is precisely my point. Oakland students – TAKE OUT THE IDEA OF TESTS – are not being taught how to use information to analyze and understand motive, trends, information across disciplines. However, in many other schools, public schools, and the state standards, these learning and knowledge building characteristics are being taught every day. A second grade student should be able to name the life cycles of meal worms and butterflies, not because they are facts, but because the trend of the life cycle change extends across many of the fields of study on which we all rely.

  • Nextset

    What you tell a low SAT student about going to college is that he doesn’t make the cut. You tell him to make realistic plans, good, better and best – then to see which plan he is willing to do the work to accomplish. At some point there will be a happy medium between desire for a particular field or a particular outcome and doing the work to get it.

    Dull people (generally) do not belong in a four year college. You need to communicate that. You need to tell the students that colleges at this time will let you in, take your money, and flunk you out when you don’t meet the requirements. So it is up to the student and his/her family to avoid accepting an invitation to enroll in a college where they are likely to fail.

    This is a bigger problem for black students than white students. Colleges will happily accept a black student when they know to a statistical certainty they will flunk (there is no disincentive for a college to do so). They do so for their own good reasons and they don’t care about the student at all, they are in this for their own account. This seems to be a particular problem in certain grad programs such as law school.

  • Marilyn

    Yes, we need to bring MACK back. No matter what accomplishments have happen over the years at EXCEL or BEST the media and others still dont recognize those names. They always referr to McClymonds High School, so why not bring the name back. The name changes within OUSD schools continue to be a challnge for communities. It may not happen over night and we will move forward to make it happen, boost enrollment, and engage more community involvement. GO WARRIORS!! McClymonds Alumni

  • Ant

    Yes, bring back Mack. My grandma went to Mack.Class of 1950. All my aunts and uncles went to Mack. My siblings went to Mack. This heritage cannot continue because the school was closed. I love Mack. Mack family! I bleed Orange and Black.

  • Vesha

    Bring McCylmonds high school back?

  • Jackie

    Wow as I sat here reading some of the comments that were made, I figure that those who made the stupid ones could not have went to McCLYMONDS!!!! If you went there you would know how important the name would be to all of us that did. McClymonds not only brought big names from our school but BIG HEARTS. We don’t look at the negativity, from others because you wouldn’t understand. We focus in on the positive. We have RESPECT, PRIDE, DEDICATION, and DIGNITY, for one another. I am a PROUD former student of McCLYMONDS, along with my daughters, son, husband, sisters, brothers, and cousins. WE ARE THE MACK FAMILY!!!!! Yes I’m all for “CHANGE THE NAME BACK TO MACK” Those who don’t like it don’t have to.