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School closures on the horizon in Oakland

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 at 1:55 pm in budget, families, school closures, students.

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?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • J.R.

    Katy,
    This approach is necessary and long overdue(by many years), there is one factor that is going to play a major role in school quality and it’s not even acknowledged(seniority and bumping). Everyone will now bear witness to what unions are truly about, and the brotherhood talk will go right out the window along with any hopes for policy enforced quality requirements(translation: status quo rules above all).

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/teacher-quality/

  • Anon

    I’m actually really glad to see an objective, somewhat scientific approach to the issue of school closure—hopefully this will make it more transparent and easier to see the reasoning behind. Two things I’d love to see added to the criteria somewhere along that process are equity (may get picked up under the analysis of how many neighborhood families choose the school, but historically the underperforming schools have tracked pretty closely to socioeconomics, and I’d hate to see the pattern of simply closing these schools and shuffling the kids continue, since that’s not really addressing the problem—better to work meaningfully towards tackling some of the root issues in these neighborhoods using the neighborhood schools to do so) and health (are schools impacted by freeways, industrial sites, or other health concerns? Our neighborhood school is—it could not legally be built where it is today, but is grandfathered in because it was there before the freeways—and it’s one of the biggest reasons neighborhood families cite for opting out of it, and also unfortunately means no one has much interest in investing in it, in contrast with schools in adjacent neighborhoods (all in the flatlands) where there are community-led efforts to improve the school). Still, this looks like a step in the right direction, so hoping it pans out that way!

  • Jenna

    This idea should work well – or be a disaster. By that I mean that poor students will be combined with middle class students. This will be the best way for students who do not know middle class behavior in classes to see it demonstrated. For example: many of the poor performing students are often late to class and have attendance rates in the 80%s according to a previous report. However, the school serving traditionally middle class students often have attendance rates in the mid-90%s. Students in middle class neighborhoods are not allowed to have their underpants showing for either having baggy, low-slung pants or tight hip-hugger type pants with thongs. In schools serving the middle class third, fourth and fifth graders do not routinely have cell phones dancing on the desk or in backpacks due to vibrations and students do not text during the school day – for the most part.

    Homework is done in these schools or students have consequences such as staying after school or losing “choice” time.

    One thing I worry about is in the two or three year transition period middle class families will pull students or put them in charters because of the lost class time to deal with student misbehavior.

    Blessing and curse. That’s what I see.

  • http://www.i-newswire.com/who-is-fighting-for-our-struggling/125551 Chris

    Why is there so much violence in predominately Black communities?

    Why are most Black and Latino students failing in urban schools?

    Why are school districts dictating what will happen to children in Black communities without the community holding them accountable for their actions?

    Where is the community’s response to a school district’s disregard for recently released evidenced-based improvement in academic outcomes for Barack Obama Academy?

    Where are the people concerned about our children?

    Who has the courage to fight for our young people?

    If you care about the next generation, read the attached press release and pass it on! Please, don’t be a spectator.

    Access the recent press release now (http://www.i-newswire.com/who-is-fighting-for-our-struggling/125551)

  • Nextset

    Jenna: I don’t think mixing the classes will work in the absense of the authority at the school making it clear that middle class behavior is right and lower class behavior is wrong. By history I understand that OUSD and districts like it take the position that there is no right and wrong, just lifestyle choices. Like English diction – a “lifestyle choice” that left uncorrected effectively traps children into their caste.

    So I’d expect the conflicting classes to circle the wagons and detest each other – and the low class to contaminate weaker members of the middle class and produce downward mobility. This is why the better parents will remove their children – especially those children who are (believed) vulnerable to lower class contamination.

    The notion that lower class kids can be “uplifted” or some such nonsense by mere exposure to socially superior children was one of the foundations of “Brown vs Board of Education”. That was a particularly tragic court decision on education that resulted in the destruction of functioning black schools and the related destruction of the major US Cities. Sociology just doesn’t work this way.

    Combining the social classes without unpleasant discipline to force the lower class to conform to upper class mores gets you contimination of your upper class mores. The unpleasant discipline if attempted would make the lower class extremely unhappy (they’d have to change or “die”) and our bad schools above all want the chillun to not protest and not be unhappy.

    Compare this to military life during the mass drafting of males in the first half of the 20th Century. Although upper class males had exemptions written just for them outside of WWII itself (college deferrments, dental braces, etc) there were huge masses of boys of all classes in the enlisted ranks. Behavior standards were taught in classrooms and even small transgressions of deportment were punished swiftly and publicly. Talk to people who have lived on military bases about what happens if you didn’t mow your lawn every weekend or if your children were surly or obnoxious. The discipline and swift punishments extended to (deportment of) the wives and kids.

    So I believe the combining of the higher functioning and lower functioning students will result in chaos and class division that will quickly result in the better students walking out to better schools. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. We combined social classes effectively in the early 1960s (say, El Cerrito High and Oakland Tech, etc). But the administrative moxie to pull this off isn’t here in the age of permissiveness.

  • Jenna

    Nextset: My sons went to local “slope” schools. In elementary school classrooms there was a “tipping point” of 75% / 25%. If 75% or 21 of the 28 students was middle class only about 20% of class time was spent on discipline and the strong principal helped the behavior in the class and at the school become “middle class” that is accepting responsibility for your own actions, putting trash in the trash can, showing up to school on time with your homework done and ready to learn, making sure parents had a bedtime for their children and having forms completed without multiple reminders. However, if the ratio changed even a little – lets say 18 of the 28 students demonstrated middle class behavior as described above, there was a noticeable decrease in what was taught as a result of the behavior in class.

    In the upper elementary grades this was most noticeable in math (strict you pick up the pencil and work the problems when I tell you and lots of multiplication drills) and in science (out of a text book or a teacher demonstration rather than student investigations). Impulse-control and self-discipline of the students made the difference in the learning environment.

    My sons went to Edna Brewer for middle school. When the first went, loads of neighborhood families were sending their kids. There was a principal who kept order at the school and assistant principals who helped students manage their behavior. Investigative teaching was the norm and students demonstrated “middle class” behavior.

    By the time my second son went to Edna Brewer things had dramatically changed. Students stood in the crosswalk to demonstrate their “control” over adults, fights broke out in the classroom, on the campus and on the sidewalks on the same block as the school. Little was taught. Parents had to fight to get their students in the few classes that were “middle class normed.” The test scores have decreased from “the best middle school in Oakland” to something substantially lower. And the behavior has sent many middle class parents to parochial and charter schools or inter-district transfers to schools outside Oakland.

    I don’t know if we have enough middle class parents willing to send their children to OUSD middle schools to control the tipping point.

    In would be interesting to survey veteran teachers to find their own personal tipping point and to try to stay very near those numbers. It would be valuable for all concerned. As a society we need to move students from poverty and unacceptable behavior to the middle class. Oakland, as a city and community cannot have any decent standard of living in the future if we do not train young people impulse control, self-respect (the real self respect, not the kind of “self-respect” you get from a gang or a gun) and responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

  • Nextset

    The Mexican occupation of CA is the elephant in the room. Although OUSD is black-centered at the moment (LA Unified once was I suppose) demographic trends argue that CA urban areas will become Mexican dominated in the foreseeable future. That creates terminal problems for some people – as in they will not attend such schools.

    Language is a critical problem. Mexicans disposing of black rivals is another. Mexican gangs are another. The various warring factions will (on proper occasion) kill each other on sight and more interesting, the membership feel they are compelled by severe gang discipline to attack (even complete stranger) “enemies” on sight should they bump into each other at some “game”. Try running a school district with this going on.

    The Mexicans I’m thinking of have no allegiance to the USA even if born here, no interest in it’s history or laws and refer to Mexico as “home”. Try running a school with this going on. Are you going to correct their bad English? Are you going to tell them to stop speaking Spanish in class? Are you prepared to physically control them when they are annoyed or “dissed”?

    Then we have the fascinating aspects of ethnic sexuality. The earlier puberty, the mating rituals, the underage sex as a norm. Twelve year old “students” with 25 year old tattooed gang-member “boyfriends”.

    Try running a school with this going on. Even the blacks will be looking at Charter Schools – segregated Charter Schools.

    These are the benefits of diversity – California Style. Brought to us by One-Worlders in Congress.

    OUSD and it’s counterparts in CA have little future ahead – without change to get back to the school policies we had prior to the “great society”. Merging the schools into larger and larger schools will probably accelerate the flight of the right half of the bell curve (this is all about intelligence of the constituent families involved in the school population) away from the madness.

    Brave New World!

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    Just a few facts to put your hysteria in perspective. the overwhelming majority of hispanics in this state and country are legal citizens, a sizeable number of whom are descendents of people who were here since recorded history. Immigration is a big problem financially because of the costs involved, there is no denying that, but lets get realistic about the numbers, shall we? For the record I am a supporter of deportation of illegals to their country of origin.

    http://www.infoplease.com/spot/hhmcensus1.html

    http://www.uncoverage.net/2011/07/2008-study-563000-illegal-immigrants-live-in-san-francisco-area-2-6-m-statewide/

  • J.R.
  • Livegreen

    Jenna, Is your experience with Edna Brewer dated or recent? Because we have friends who go there and are having good experiences. Their kids are middle class and like the school, as do the parents.

  • Nextset

    J.R. I”m not saying that the problems occur with even a majority of the Mexican public school students. They sure don’t have to, to create disruptions for the public schools that wish to integrate the schools.

    And it’s not relevant that the Mexican Indian students were born in the USA. As with the black underclass students, the point here is that they are distinct from middle class white students to the extent that teaching them side by side often doesn’t work. Although you read my thread here as speaking of only the border crossers I’m actually referring to the border jumpers and their descendants. And from what I’ve read the 0 generation is not nearly as problematic as the 1st or 2nd generation born here who do not/will not assimilate. Same with the Southeast Asians.

    The problem is that unassimilated 3rd worlders (or PWT is you have any in Oakland) don’t mix well with middle class students and if you consolidate the schools into larger schools, mixing the student populations, you are going to have a Los Angeles (6% white students and maybe falling?) class case of white flight – which is actually class flight.

    The schools need to face this issue honestly and decide what’s going to be. I’d prefer the public schools have a set of schools that are effectively segregated so that the different groups don’t have to attend with each other if they wish to pursue their different culture and interests. That way the schools keep the ADA and everybody is happy, including staff. The alternative appears to be to run a jungle with all your middle class students walking out to the charters & parochial schools.

    SF chose the segregated route with Lowell High – protected one school as an academic program while allowing the others to experience diversity. Segregation doesn’t refer to strictly racial, although that’s a strong factor, but rather class distinction. If the lower class students get into Lowell they have to toe the line or they get flunked out or transferred out. So they keep the place ordered.

    You also have to understand the “differences” are greater with puberty – so educrats will claim everything is beautiful citing successes in the mixed primary schools in order to fool gullible people (they do this with the achievement gap stats a lot also).

    So what do the schools do with these larger consolidated campuses? Try to run each school as one-size-fits-all or try to have completely different programs at the campuses to suit the different groups of students within the district?

    Check out the languages spoken by the LA Unified students in the stats of that district. Another benefit of diversity. Behavior can be a language also.

    While I’d love to see the district able to socialize all the students to a standard language and set of deportment norms, I think the district is headed for greater diversity in that area, not less. How does staff manage this diversity in large urban schools today(and hope to keep middle class students)? Is the answer less diverse campuses? Or something else?

    I think OUSD needs to openly emulate SFUSD and Lowell High. As far as the middle schools – ditto.

  • Jenna

    We left two years ago. Jaime Marantz was the principal. I think that if students are picked up immediately after school or your kids are on the larger side, it is different. While I love my sons, they have the “nerd” look and are on the small side.

    My guess is also that your friends kids are on the upper track (meaning they are clearly college bound). I, too, found that the students who were grouped together as college bound faired much better. Parents at Edna Brewer must be actively involved and help work within the system to have their schedule changed to get appropriate classes that keep the level of learning high.

    And that defeats the purpose of the middle class tipping point. If you have a two tiered school, that is the middle class students are together in one class while the poor students with different work, attendance, personal responsibility and homework habits are in other classrooms there is not the critical balance and the tipping point is not achieved.

    The other thing that really bothered me is that the “N” word is allowed to be said by African American students in the halls. Many teachers stop it in class but the language of the halls is “N—-” “B–ch” “Ho” “F–k” “M—–F—er” “Faggot” can be heard in the hallways, the cafeteria, and in front of the school before, after and during the school day. This to me is not middle class values. It is demoralizing.

    I live a few blocks away. Perhaps on my next day off I will spend some time near the campus to see if it still holds true. 58% – 64% of students are proficient in English Language Arts – different percentages by grade; With the exception of 7th grade math poor students (free and reduced price lunch) students overall were doing better in 2009. Particularly in Algebra: 2011 34% of poor students were proficient or advanced (134 – 8th graders), vs. 52% in 2009 of poor students (122 – 8th graders). The English Language Arts has held roughly steady 2011 52% – 59% proficient or advanced vs. 2009 50% – 61% – once again poor students. But to be fair the scores for history and science overall have risen since 2009.

    I would love the higher test scores, regardless of foul language to result in more students moving toward the middle class. It would be a very good outcome for Oakland.

  • Jenna

    I should have said that Jaime Marantz was the principal for the vast majority of time.

  • Teacher

    Today in our school professional development sessions, we talked about “monitoring our airtime.” It would be nice to see the same thing on this blog. It would be nice if some people who comment multiple times on almost every single blog posting here would realize that they are drowning out readers and commenters with their diatribes. Please pick and choose your battles on the issues — people will tend to read your comments more. I for one just gloss over anything certain people say here.

  • Turanga_teach

    Amen. At my professional development today, we covered the same thing as “Step up, step back.”

  • Nextset

    Jeanna: What you describe with the black students is “multiculturalism” in operation. OUSD has decided to operate different realities side by side. If the white students freely used the N word (and the rest), they would be quickly sanctioned. Yet the black students are expected – by the authorities – to use the same words freely.

    Their use of the variety of words you mention, openly and freely, is a window to their souls. Smart people (or merely experienced people) do not associate with such people or allow them near. That’s because of the “madness” if you want to call it that, which accompanies such people and their society. It’s not just a ghetto black thing but for purposes of our discussion this is what we are working with currently in Oakland.

    So no, I don’t think it’s just a child thing they will grow out of. The dialog is a consitutional part of how they view people and themselves interacting with others. They are not being corrected. They are not being taken down a peg.

    A good school would more or less beat this out of them or expell them. Not going to happen at OUSD because that would result in demonstrations or protests as the underclass was forced to change or be segregated into jail-like facilities onto themselves.

    Change is what a good school would produce in lower class students. At least it would make changing them their mission.

    I have no doubt that most people at an early age can be forced to change. With the proper application of force. We used to do so in our public schools, taking the dregs of society and making them employable and fit for military service. Not so here. I believe it’s more important to clean this up than to offer college prep.

    But in the meantime no decent family will permit their child to remain in a school with such conditions. Consolidating OUSD schools into larger schools while permitting these conditions to remain common should speed up the transfer of the white and middle class students out of the district into other schools and other neighborhoods.

    As far as the comments from the two teachers above – it’s about what you’d expect them to think and say. Every horror story of OUSD failure is going to be met with a similar response from me that the schools can either change or see their demographic and total enrollment wither. Only incessant reminders of the failing of this kind of “education” can possibly break through the “everything is beautiful” mindset of the educrats as they work in failure factories.

    The OUSD teachers are no different than the Soviet factory workers making shoddy cars and appliances that nobody wanted which then piled up in warehouses. Those factory workers actually thought they were being productive too.

    And now I see constant internet ads for online secondary schools. They even offer free laptops. The ads pop up regularly on news websites. Decent families all have choices now, they do not need to send their kids to the schools described in post #12 even if they are black or just because they live in the district.

    So things are going to change, for the OUSD teachers and their schools. And change is coming on quickly.

    Brave New World.

  • Lisa Capuano

    The racist and ignorant comments written here are so disturbing. Nextset and Jenna shame on you. The two of you should go take Sarna out for a drink and don’t forget your white sheets.

  • Nextset

    Another weak mind heard from. Always whining “racist” when they cannot discuss what is happening to us. poor thing. Are you a teacher?

  • Nextset

    Actually Lisa, what I should ask is are you a white liberal. Because I’m black, and more conservative than liberal.

  • Jenna

    Lisa: I did not discuss race at all. Closing schools and adding to the middle class is not racist. There are poor people of every race, ethnicity and creed. There are more white folks in America on public assistance than any other group.

    I am talking about a set of values and behaviors. It is not racist to want people in public places to behave in a way that is respectful and cooperative.

    Please look at my posts again as I have. The only time I discuss race is with African Americans calling each other the “N” word. And if it is racist to say that anyone calling anyone the “N’ word then I am guilty as you have charged me. But if you think that the “N” word is offensive then I challenge you to find the racism in my words. You may call me classist, that would be fair as charged. I believe that we need to help people in this city achieve middle class values of responsibility, self-mangagement and impulse control. If you look at the students who have achieved their educational and socio-economic goals you will find the research supports the need for these values.

    I will quietly await your response.

  • On the Fence

    Livegreen and Jenna:

    My experience is that Edna Brewer has absolutely retained its middle class families and in pretty substantial numbers. People did worry about a relatively new, young principal initially. However, I think that concern has largely waned. Edna Brewer is not perfect, but remains IMO, a very solid school. And I agree with Livegreen that people I have spoken with feel that it has worked for their students.

    I am not sure about the reference to “upper track” classes that Jenna wrote about. “Families” (representing 1/2 of each grade) at Edna Brewer are designed to be split evenly to represent roughly equal splits of race, ethnicities, gender, elementary schools, family income, scholastic achievement, and students are randomly assigned to the vast majority of core classes. There is student choice regarding electives and there is an advanced math placement, but otherwise my understanding is that students are not segregated into “upper track” classes that parents have to fight to get in to. Jenna or anyone else, can you clarify?

  • Jenna

    On the Fence: By upper track I am referring to those students who are prepared for Algebra in 7th grade and who take Geometry in 8th grade. At the end of 6th grade all students (not on IEP or other accommodations) are given a test to see if they are academically ready for Algebra in 7th grade or will wait until 8th grade. The students who take Algebra in 7th grade have almost a 100% proficiency / advanced rate compared to about half of the students not identified as qualifying for free or reduced price lunch and 34% of those students who do qualify.

    The students who are “tracked” with Algebra tend to then be scheduled for classes that “track” them with this particular group of students. The essays / writing that is done in ELA was quite different from other classes – based on my sons’ friends – five paragraph essays in which there was a strong theme, proper grammar and multiple peer revisions and peer editing vs a three paragraph essay that captured the essence of the topic and had been peer edited once or twice but contained spelling, grammatical and structural mistakes (opening paragraph, supporting evidence, etc.) History/Social Studies was based on similar groupings.

    These classes did not seem to be flexible groupings – you were with top performers academically some of the time, middle at others and lower with others – the groups and classes tended to be somewhat “fixed” by seventh grade.

    Does that answer the question?

  • On the Fence

    Jenna:

    Actually, I do not think that what you describe is currently the practice. I could be wrong, but this is not what was just explained to me over the phone by Brewer staff today. A small percentage of students take Algebra in 7th grade, true. The majority of students take Algebra in the 8th grade, and run the gamut from top students scholastically to average or poor. It is not my understanding that placement in the advance math class leads to any difference in their English language arts or history/social science. Therefore, there is student choice in electives and an ability to take an alternative math class. Otherwise, there is no “upper track” to my knowledge.

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

    I attended the board meeting last night, and left feeling actually pretty optimistic about the role of school closures in OUSD’s school reform efforts.

    The fact of the matter is, this district can not afford to operate 101 schools for 38k students. Districts with similar numbers of students operate about 40 schools–a comparison that really shows how far off the mark Oakland has veered. With so many administrators to pay, facilities to maintain, office staff to support, etc, the very limited financial resources we have as a district are just simply spread way too thin. There is no way forward as a district with 101 schools. If education funding continues to diminish (likely), each school site will need to cut and cut incrementally until there’s nothing left. If we want to build a full service community district, each school community is going to need more resources to offer more programming.

    I really hope the district and its partners are able to sell the message that, whether your child’s school is closed or remains open, this restructuring will benefit all kids. Honestly, if I were a parent, I’d rather undergo a school transition that resulted in my student attending a school with rich offerings (even if the transition was difficult), than to find that each year, my school has to cut a counselor, or an after-school program, or a field trip to keep its doors open.

    I am very worried that talk of school closures will polarize the community of adults who care about kids. I’m concerned that folks will stake out claim to “their” school, rather than think about our city as a whole, and what is best for all kids. But how do you build trust with a parent community that hasn’t always received the support or partnership they deserve?

    Having heard the presentation about the process that will be used to rank and consider school sites, I truly believe that the district will place social justice at the center of their decision-making. The time of closing schools frequented by only low-income or only west Oakland students is NOT upon us. This seems like a thoughtful, considerate, and socially-just framework for bringing the district into the 21st century.

    This is going to hurt, but it is the way forward. We must be brave and work together through change.

  • Jenna

    On the Fence: Thank you for the clarification of current practice. My experience is two years old and both my sons were one of about 32 – 35 seventh grade students who took algebra. It seemed as though their schedules worked with the other students who also took algebra in seventh grade, coincidence, quite possibly. Boys both took different elective choices.

    I am rather glad to hear that it is different. I think my sons could have learned from students who did not grasp the material as easily as they did. When teachers are good at classroom management all students thrive.

  • Nextset

    What Jenna describes in #22 sounds like profiling/tracking by IQ. Algebra would be a proxy for an IQ test. When you link class assignments to a students Algebra prowess, you are profiling for IQ.

    Similar linking, profiling and tracking is done in education and commerce all the time. We call it “prerequisites”. Like tying med school admission to organic chemistry class, or law school admission to LSAT scores. And then we have credit scoring.

    And god forbid – background clearances for both law enforcement jobs and for security clearances in the huge industry for people with clearances (I’ve been told there are 20,000 people in the greater DC area working in government and private jobs requiring clearances – of the 2 year back-grounding type). I know some. They make double the market price for their job description because of the clearances.

    I have no problem articulating that the type of things that cause people to fail (or be screened out) are closely tied to ability to foresee discrete problems. A good school can develop that talent somewhat.

    This thread is school closures and the related fall out. I have to mention this tangent because I just this week sat with someone who is in trouble at work for something the employee believes just wasn’t a big deal. We went round and round. I’m worried the employee might get fired from a good job if the issue continues. They can (eventually) fire the employee for this. The employee just doesn’t feel it. The employee believes it’s just racism and has said so all over to everybody they know, including co-workers.

    I have been in this situation talking to certain people about getting jobs, holding jobs, applying for jobs. Some minorities, some white, many young people. Nobody can afford to jeopardize employment nowadays. But when you tell people they need to do and not do (what I know to be) qualifying things and behaviors, they look right at you and say they don’t feel like it. Even when there is something really good (a good paying job) just within reach for them.

    Can you imagine trying to explain to a 7th grader who believes they have veto power over their class enrollment why they really should take algebra? because it might affect the high school career??

    And this is on students where you believe they can handle the subject. The issue is them “wanting” to.

    So I think of the education blog and the issue of schools training students to stay in their comfort zone. Mine didn’t and I wouldn’t be doing the work I do if I’d been kept comfortable in secondary school. ALL of the people I see with these problems are products of the public schools who see life as a Burger King. There are dull people in non-public schools. I had some as classmates. By graduation they knew how to work the system, stay out of trouble, and get what they wanted. Our school taught them to stay alert and avoid the strong discipline.

    So I wonder what consolidated OUSD schools would be like compared to more numerous smaller schools. Is discipline more lax in a larger OUSD school than a smaller one?

  • livegreen

    I don’t think Jenna’s example is tracking, I think it’s a school working to accommodate an academically diverse student body. And their parents. Otherwise the school & district loses students and families.

    When? Mostly in Middle School, as is well known. It sounds pretty smart to me. (This subject has been brought up repeatedly in this blog esp., if my recollection is correct, under the “Consider Oakland High” thread by some parents who already abandoned or were considering abandoning OUSD).

    However I do agree with Nextet this is a departure from this thread’s topic. So back to school closures: While I agree OUSD needs to consider “equity”, if they don’t close under-enrolled schools in poor areas, where are the closures going to come from? Fully enrolled schools in middle class areas?

    I know where they’re not going to come from: the Hills.

    So is the Middle Class going to be the fall guys to keep the Hills & the Flats happy? (both vocal in polar opposite ways);

    OR is it going to be based on schools with low neighborhood turnout and whose students migrate uphill each and every day. eg. Kaiser and Carle Munck. Frankly, this makes more sense, though parents from those schools won’t like to hear it.

    Sorry I haven’t had a chance to look at the presentation, I will when I have a chance. Unless things have changed, it will probably be based on broad statements that make good sense ideally, and the real meat/controversy/devil will be in the details to follow…

  • holly smith

    Manzanita Community School will no longer exist next year. The district is not calling this a closure. They are hiding the truth by calling it a merger. By doing this, the school board and community have no say and cannot fight it.
    Manzanita Seed (whom shares the site) will take over and expand to a k-8. The problem is that SEED is a dual emersion school that serves kids from all over the city and beyond. This dual emersion program is attracting middle income families. This is not a reflection of the neighborhood and the school does not serve the community around the school. This can be seen in their demographics.
    The surrounding schools of Fruitvale and Garfield are filled to capacity. Where are parents who do not want their child in dual emersion supposed to go?

  • Livegreen

    Sounds to me like Manzanita and surrounding neighborhood families have a good question, IF what you’re saying is correct. Musn’t there b some neighborhood school?

    Even if the School Board has no say, your school board member can still fight for you. But you might have to show some political/electoral muscle.

    The other alternative is to get some Non-Profit (or the OEA) with Gang support and connections to have a demonstration at OUSD HQ or City Hall.

  • Jenna

    Holly: I am not sure that both Fruitvale and Garfield are at capacity judging by the number of teachers that were there last year and are not there this year and the declining enrollment at both schools. Check the web site.

    If I remember correctly Manzanita used to be one school. Then under NCLB or some other reason (Broad, Gates) it was divided. Seed looks better based on numbers including the GAP – but numbers (test scores) are deceiving.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Given the current economic reality, school closures certainly seems the efficient solution to a situation where we have too many schools for too few children.

    But there’s a bigger underlying issue here. What do we do, what MUST we do, to ensure that parents who live in Oakland are comfortable and confident sending their children to the public schools where they live? Seems to me that should be a fundamental priority, not just in Oakland, but in any community.

  • livegreen

    Of course it is. The School District needs the money to do that, so actually school closures are fundamental. They also must balance retention of wealthy & middle class families with equity for poorer areas. That is NOT easy…

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    You’ll get no argument from me about the current need to close and consolidate schools. Quite frankly, I saw this coming back when some of our larger schools were carved up several years ago, necessitating increased administrative and overhead costs.

    But I’m not seeing such a solid dichotomy between the retention of wealthy/middle-class students and equity for poorer areas.

    The reasons parents tend to pull their kids out of our schools, in middle school or at whatever point, have largely to do with the perception that the schools are unsafe. Every school can and should be holding our students not only to appropriate academic standards, but also to reasonable, grade-appropriate standards of basic civility. No, it’s not always easy, but neither is it impossible. (It’s also a requirement of federal law.)

    The majority of children from ANY background are quite capable of learning to behave with basic dignity and respect for others. Maybe some of them aren’t getting as much of that kind of training at home as one would wish, and maybe there are neighborhood influences working against those goals. But those challenges make it all the more crucial that they’re learning appropriate behaviors, and basic self-reflection, at school.

    That doesn’t have to mean, nor should it ever mean, kicking out all the “bad apples” to make school comfortable for the wealthier, more focused kids. It does mean establishing basic rules of behavior, and consistently holding the children to those rules, to ensure that our more challenging students do NOT continue sabotaging themselves year after year, and to ensure that every school in every neighborhood is a safe, comfortable place in which ALL children can learn without a lot of stress, noise, and preventable mayhem.

    As trite as it sounds, they’re only going to rise as high as we set the bar.

  • Lisa Capuano

    When “the bar” is set to close small schools, when small schools and small class sizes have quite obviously helped many children to achieve ,it is counterproductive. Those small schools that are performing well and are continuing to show growth should not be closed down. That growth was the original criteria for not closing schools. But because they would like to close more schools they are changing the game plan. Tony Smith and his “team” have created a “complex” formula for closing schools. This translates to cryptic .
    What I do not understand is how can hiring all these people for “FOURTEEN TASK FORCES”? Many of these people are getting huge salaries. Have you read what the “leadership” of these Task Forces has written to describe what they are doing? It is under the “For Our Community” tab on the District’s website. Go to “Strategic Vision and Task Forces”. Then read what each task force has to offer.
    I, for one ,think it is absurd that the words “equity”, “full service schools” and “consult with key stakeholders” are used to describe these attempts. There is no equity in a system that closes schools making children have to take a bus to another school, farther away, no longer providing them with a bus pass and then penalizing them for attendance issues.
    There is no full service schools, when some elementary schools no longer have a full time secretary. They have one for 3 hours a day. Who will take care of any issues that come up when the Principal is called away to a meeting every Thursday? Do we close the office down during the school day? Is that full service?
    “Consult key stakeholders”? The key stake holders are our children. They are not consulted. These people on the task force too often have no experience with children and have not even been to many of the school sites, if any at all.
    School will begin on Monday. I challenge you to go to a “flat land” school site on Monday morning and see how the District has provided enough staff and teachers to begin the year, then visit Thornhill, Hillcrest, Montclair,….
    but some will continue to blame those who are ill- treated by this system, and then punish them for not respecting others.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Just to clarify, I was on one of those task forces, and we didn’t get paid for participating; it was strictly voluntary.

  • anon

    I work at a flat lands school (high school, small school) and we have class sizes right now that are + 40 students, no secretary to answer the phones, office will be closed during the day because our principal just cannot do it all especially when there are off site meetings.

    Hard to believe it has come to this but I will keep the faith. I have no other choice

  • Turanga_teach

    Re the task forces: I’m on one, as are many colleagues. Nobody’s getting paid to do this, and it’s after the school day. The folks coordinating could, I guess, be considered paid, but it’s typically only one of MANY duties.

    I for one welcome the chance to be a part of this process–OUSD has set up an opportunity for the people directly impacted by district decisions to sit in the room with the people recommending and making such decisions, and that’s priceless. Beyond making key (small) steps towards restoring trust in our district’s leadership, it will ultimately hopefully lead to better (read, in part, more fiscally sound) decisions.

  • Lisa Capuano

    I am not talking about the teachers or the people who attend these meeting from the community. I am speaking about the “leadership”. Tell me what Chris Chatmon, Timothy White, Jane Nicholson’s ..etc..other duties are.
    These people are paid quite well.
    I was in one of those meetings for 3 days . Resoundingly there was a concern about outside contracts. Less then 2 months later Mr. Smith and the board pushed through a contract for WEST ED to the tune of $742,000.
    So all the talking, and listening and recommendations are just that…hot air. Money talks. Where he puts the money are where his priorities lie. No pun intended.

  • Lisa Capuano

    Anon…I would venture to guess you are not teaching at Crocker.

  • Yazstremski

    @ Lisa…..whoa, what do you know about Crocker this year? They lost 2 teachers and were only able to replace one, so instead of three 3rd grade classes, like there have been every year, there are now only 2, due to budget cuts.

    If you’re going to throw something like that out there, because Tony Smith and Chris Chatmon send their children there…be able to back it up. Crocker is a great school, because it was great BEFORE both of those families enrolled their children there…and it will continue to thrive after they leave.

    I’d venture to guess you would not do well there!

  • Lisa Capuano

    All schools lost teachers.
    But…are they beginning the year less two teachers because of enrollment, which is understandable, or did the district not assign enough teachers so their kindergarten is now over enrolled to the tune of 36? and every grade level has combination grades with 10 children at the upper grade level assigned no teacher so they will have to sit in a class of 41?
    BTW…I didn’t even know that Mr. Smith AND Mr. Chatmon’s kids go there….wow…they even Live in the smae neighborhood…do I smell nepotism?

  • Yazstremski

    Oh please Lisa….save your BS for someone else…you know very well where they sent their kids, it has been on this blog before.

    I said in my post that it was BUDGET CUTS, that has Crocker down a teacher.

    And EVERY school did not lose a teacher. Really, so dramatic…you can make a point without all of these scare tactics.

    Nepotism….prove it!

  • Katy Murphy

    Let’s keep the tone of the discussion civil. As controversial and emotional as these issues might be, please debate them, not each other.

  • anon

    I would still venture to guess that Crocker has smaller class sizes and more resources than schools in East Oakland. Would love to see comparison stats on class sizes.

    I just know that some of our classes are over 50 students right now-not sure how it will work out because you can’t even fit that many desks in the classroom (we tried).

    On to tomorrow and figuring it out…

  • Nextset

    The urban public schools are going to see their budgets cut and cut more as their customers increasingly reject them as not being “schools”.

    That’s the process behind these school closures and consolidations. There is a lot more coming.

    The speed of the collapse is such that there may not be time to turn it around by making the schools more desirable for white and middle class families. You might just be out of time.

    I’m afraid the urban public schools have made themselves merely black and brown holding centers that pretend to teach. And by that, I mean lower class black and brown. Those with a brain are voting with their feet. The remainders will tend to be single parent minorities of younger mothers.

    There are too many choices in Charter Schools including the fast growing online schools for bad public schools to continue as before. But that’s why Charter Schools were created.

    What’s the answer? Maybe we should look at what urban public schools are thriving – if there are any. But again, is there time to change the downward spiral?

    It’s still a Brave New World. People are being sorted in childhood to completely different schools that teach different deportment and ways of being, which in turn lead to different occupational paths and different societies. You end up with the balkanization of the state and the nation. Complete with different languages to help keep everybody in their place.

    We were better off in the early ’60s when public schools were allowed (by the courts & legislature) to run schools in a way that facilitated assimilation, social mobility and good citizenship – oh yes, and they taught academics also.

  • livegreen

    Lisa, You say: “There is no equity in a system that closes schools making children have to take a bus to another school, farther away, no longer providing them with a bus pass and then penalizing them for attendance issues.”

    What do you mean by this? Is this something they’ve done or are you criticizing them in anticipation of what they’re going to do? Also, are you talking about Elementary, Middle or High School?

  • J.R.

    Lisa,
    In this world, in this reality there is no true equity. True equity would be everyone contributing, and sharing responsibilities in a mutually beneficial manner. When some people are taxed more than others(with the money subsidizing questionable programs) that is not equity. When some are paid, and or housed with tax money and are doing no work and yet breeding without restraint that is not equity. we have producers, we have consumers, and we have gotten to the point where there are too many consumers for the producers to support(no equity here either). There are many ways of looking at equity.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Equity and equality are not the same thing.

  • J.R.

    Oakland Teacher,
    Equity is being fair or impartial, and that is exactly the point I made, none of these situations is fair. Life is not fair or impartial, and so forth.

  • Lisa Capuano

    Livegreen: I am speaking of elementary students.
    J.R. : When you use terms like ” breeding” when referring to Human Beings, it sounds as though you are equating people with livestock.

    The “proof will be in the pudding”.
    We will all wait and see which schools , in which areas of Oakland will be closed. We will see which communities will be most inconvenienced and/or harmed by these closures.
    @ Lacy
    Was there any mention of the list of “Focus Schools”? They are not transparent about what schools they are thinking about closing, as far as I can ascertain.