School closures on the horizon in Oakland

Oakland school district officials have said for years that the district runs too many schools — 101 for 38,000 students.

Superintendent Tony Smith has been judicious with his use of the `C’ word, though he’s blamed some of the district’s financial challenges — and its relatively low teacher pay — on the number of schools in the district.

Now, his staff have come up with a complex ranking system (link below) for choosing which schools to close or merge. The school board votes on the criteria tomorrow, during its 5 p.m. meeting. The closure list would be announced at the end of October, according to GO Public schools. It’s unclear from the presentation how many there would be, but I’ll let you know when I find out.

A slide on Page 6 of the presentation compares OUSD’s enrollment and number of schools to other districts. The Oakland school district has 71 percent more schools than Stockton (which has 59) and almost three times as many as Clovis (which has 36); both districts have the same number of students as OUSD, according to that analysis.

The plan calls for an emphasis on neighborhood schools and takes into account population density. Schools that are being reconfigured or merged this year would not be considered for closure under this plan, nor would the schools — such as McClymonds — that are participating in the district’s STEM initiative. I’ve asked for a list of those schools.

For the remaining schools, the district will create three separate rankings: performance (test score growth); school choice (demand for a school in the Options process), and fiscal health, which includes such measures as attendance rates, suspension rates and chronic truancy. It will also consider whether closing any of the schools that rank low on the list would pose a major challenge for special education students.

Our blogs are having technical difficulties, but you can find the link to the presentation here. What do you think of this approach?

Katy Murphy

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

  • J.R.

    There is a distinction between being a parent(parenting),and just reproducing for fun,boredom or out of stupidity(breeding). A true parent accepts responsibility(for themselves and their offspring)financially,physically and emotionally. If you cannot do that then guess what?………. It amounts to child abuse to have a baby. If people refuse to see the immorality and destructive consequences in this behavior, can they at least see the criminality that is inherent in the suffering of children brought into this world by people who couldn’t even take care of themselves?

  • http://www.movingforwardedu.com Lacy Asbill

    A list of schools recommended for closure will be released at the 10/26 board meeting. This list is not an actual closure list, as the board may remove schools from this list at their discretion. My suggestion? If this is important to you, get active by participating in the process–board meetings are posted on the OUSD website, and they accept public comment at every meeting, on every topic.

  • Teacher

    What is STEM?

  • holly smith

    The list they are going to present does not include schools that are going to be restructured. This restructuring will be the end of the small school movement in Oakland. The district will eventually combine all of the small schools that share a campus. It seems like they are very interested in k-8 campuses. This will not only effect the elementary schools, but also existing middle schools. If Manzanita SEED goes k-8 and Think College Now goes k-8, that will greatly impact enrollment at existing middle schools in a negative way. Will they then propose to shut down middle schools?

  • Katy Murphy

    STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. There’s a new initiative to create an emphasis in those areas at West Oakland’s elementary, middle and high schools.

  • JG

    OUSD is already losing many students whose parents do not want them going to our middle schools. At one k-5 school in East Oakland, out of the 4 African American 5th grade male students there, all were proficient in math and reading – 1 left for another district and 2 went to charter schools. This is a brain drain as well as a loss of money to the district. Going to a k-8 school may convince some parents to keep middle grade students in the district. And maybe some will stay long enough to go to Oakland high schools.

  • Nextset

    JG: That’s very unlikely in my experience. The cognitive “difference” becomes acute after puberty. That “difference” expresses itself in behavior from deportment to aggression to sexuality – we are talking about physical differences not just “educational” differences. Staying in urban public schools through middle school does not indicate that the family wants to keep their children through the district high school especially when there are cheap or free alternatives – as well as moving to a better neighborhood.

    In order to keep the higher SES students the districts must offer segregated schools – such as Lowell High at San Francisco Unified. I use that word for a reason. I’m not describing strict segregation by race although there is that feature in some ways. I mean (more or less voluntary) segregation by cognitive skill.

    OUSD and the other such districts have a choice and San Francisco has made theirs. Good luck to all, but there is not a lot of time left. These charters weren’t around 2 generations ago and they are aggressively advertising. If the urban districts let deportment and discipline go they will have NO higher SES students left to speak of at the post pubescent schools.

  • JG

    What does a very bright student do in a public school where so much energy and money goes to basically remedial work? If that were my child, I would have to consider sending him to a school where most of the students are on grade level. If that is not his local public school, I would do my best to find another school as many Oakland families do. Families of high achieving students of all races and incomes choose elsewhere -charters, private school, a different public school, moving outside the district. I know that it seems elitist to try to retain high functioning students when we have so many underachievers but to improve the entire district we need to retain good students any way possible. It wouldn’t cost anymore and it would bring in ADA.

  • Nextset

    JG. Mixing high and low performers also discourages the low performers. Nothing they do will allow them to compete academically. So they become disruptive and dismissive. And they attack anyone they expect loyalty from if they go along with the program. We see that in the “acting white” attacks on the higher functioning black students.

    The students need to be sorted by time of puberty into different programs and different campuses. As is done everywhere else. Nothing wrong with this. The right side of the curve already goes elsewhere. The bright black and brown & white students without funds are stuck in bad schools because the liberals won’t let them test out of ghetto schools. I want public schools to have a test out option into academic schools from ghetto schools. A Lowell High solution.

  • Sue

    You know, Nextset, I’m really looking forward to my Skyline GATE freshman (and his friends who also attended Montera for the last three years), disprove your worn-out theories, again.

    I live in Oakland, both my kids have attended OUSD schools with good teachers and students with a range of academic abilities. The older one will be starting his sophomore year at CSUEB in a couple more weeks, and he was well educated and well prepared by his public schools. 3.88 GPA for his freshman year. I’m confident that OUSD (with our family’s involvement and support) will do as well with my younger one.

    Maybe it’s time to take those sour grapes and go back to Orinda?

  • Lisa Capuano

    Thank-you, Sue.
    Mixed ability grouping is great.There are so many benefits to it, for all. Children who may be struggling academically, often are not disruptive or dismissive, unless there is disrespect or shame poured out upon them by people around them. With support, respect and effort, incredible things happen. A good teacher will assess, and differentiate learning constantly. This allows growth for all. I understand that some may not begin to understand how a teacher can do this, but I have seen it done.