Oakland schools under “possible closure consideration”

The Oakland school district administration has posted the names of schools that could be considered for closure in 2012 under the criteria the school board approved last month. It will be discussed — but not voted on — at tonight’s 6 p.m. special school board study session.

ELEMENTARY schools “identified for possible closure consideration”: Burckhalter, Kaiser, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park, Santa Fe, Sobrante Park

MIDDLE schools: Claremont, Frick

HIGH schools: the document lists the seven schools that are already being consolidated into two schools on the Fremont and Castlemont campuses.

The document emphasizes that the list is “not a recommendation at this time.” The board is not slated to make a decision on school closures until late October. Also: Although Frick and Claremont are highlighted in yellow on Slide #9, another slide (#12) suggested no middle schools in OUSD would be closed next year. I’m sure the discrepancy will be discussed tonight.

It’s clear from the list (and further study of the criteria) that the dominant factors in this system are enrollment (link to 2010-11 data here), population density and facility capacity. I noticed that the ranking system only calls for a school’s performance to be considered when that school shares a boundary with another school that’s also deemed among the “least needed.”

I asked district spokesman Troy Flint, via email, to verify this assessment. He wrote, “…the method is not an absolute recommendation for how to proceed and there’s latitude to make school specific decisions.” I asked if my interpretation of the criteria was accurate, and he responded, “You’re correct in thinking that geography, `where we need schools’ relative to student density, is the first order consideration generally, but it doesn’t have to be exclusively so.”

We’ll see what the board says tonight. You can find a link to the presentation here.


Restructuring presentation

Katy Murphy

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

  • Katy Murphy

    Want to watch the discussion on school closures? You’ll find a link to the streaming video here: http://ousd.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

  • MikeN

    It is very disheartening to see Claremont Middle School on the list of potential sites for closure. Many parents and community members are working very hard to support the success of our neighborhood school. Following closure of Carter, Claremont is the only middle school in the north Oakland area. How can parents in north Oakland build community and keep kids in the district, if we don’t have a neighborhood middle school as a choice?


    Mike Napolitano

  • Special Education Parent

    So much for the supposed efforts of OUSD to create stability for children with Special Needs. So much for the much touted desire to create k-5 series of Special Day classrooms at schools receptive to children with special needs. As always, children with disabilities don’t figure as priority within school and district re-design. Marshall has been a high-performing and peaceful site that has served as an oasis for children in Special Day for many years. It had successful and program-specific SDC classrooms in all grades. It is a small building that can never achieve “density” with SDC classrooms housing less students by design. I feel nauseated at seeing Marshall on the list though its closure was basically assured the moment that the former Roots principal was assigned to the site. We are all very familiar with the notion of “closer principals.” Where will all those SDC classrooms go? Where is our vision for children with Special Needs amidst the crisis? If there are district champions, this is the time to loudly voice a vision. This Special Ed parent is heartbroken.

  • Katy Murphy

    Superintendent Tony Smith said this just now about the prospect of closing middle schools in OUSD: “It’s unlikely that you’ll see any middle schools on this list.” (If that’s true, I don’t know why they were highlighted. I’ll try to find out.)

    The full set of staff recommendations will be presented at the board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27 — not for a vote, but for a discussion.

  • Katy Murphy

    Special Education Parent: At the meeting tonight, David Montes de Oca explained that staff haven’t yet taken special education programming (or other factors) into consideration, but that they will before the actual recommendations come out. The above list reflects only steps 1-4.

  • Livegreen

    Mike, I sympathize but Ive heard such bad things about Claremont over the years. At first I didn’t want to believe it but the negative posts about the school continue, including in a post on the recent topic of the same page.

    What it will take to turn Claremont around:

    -A concerted effort by many parents from surrounding elementary schools to go there;
    -Focus and support from Jodi London;
    -Focus and support from Councilwoman Brunner to rally the neighborhood and businesses to support the school.

    This would take some coordination but it is doable. What active parents will step up to the plate?

  • Hmakesyouthink

    Well Said Alice!

    For a District that does the talk of equity and African American Achievement, we have schools that are majority African American on the closure possibility list (GO public schools)
    Frick, Marshall and Burkhalter have created positive environments for African American Children, yet they are being closed. What about La Esperanza, Reach, Alliance Academy …?

  • Hmakesyouthink

    Special Education Parent,
    This may be the one factor that saves Marshall and Burkhalter.

  • Mark

    This list seems too short for a district with 100 schools that should have closer to 50. I know no one wants to close their neighborhood school, but if OUSD doesn’t consolidate, they will not be able to provide our children with the education they deserve. They should do his thoughtfully, but act quickly. Three years of incremental closures would be way too disruptive.

  • anon

    As for students with special needs, they close SDC programs at the high school level consistently every year. The students I receive that are forced to transfer don’t get notified as to why they have to switch high schools and this year many showed up at their old high school before coming to register at ours. It is devastating to watch time after time, students with IEPs not being a priority. I strongly feel that this is the most marginalized student population with the greatest need for stability. But, for the last 2 years in East Oakland, 2 SDC classrooms have closed at 2 different high schools forcing students to transfer schools.

  • Jenna

    I have first hand experience with the bullying that has been going on at Claremont Middle School for years. While the principal and staff work hard to get the behavior under control I watch it come back again and again. Even the parents of these students bully students and other parents.

    Maybe it is time to take a look at other options for the students and families who now attend Claremont.

  • Special Education Parent

    Thanks “anonymous” for the following comment: “It is devastating to watch time after time, students with IEPs not being a priority. I strongly feel that this is the most marginalized student population with the greatest need for stability.”

    These programs and their students are rarely defended by the host sites and district administration moves the programs and/or its teachers very frequently. Disability also cuts across race and class, so students are impacted in multiple ways. In the push for density and ADA funds, special education is the easy target to achieve the goals of particular school and district leaders. Burckhalter and Marshall: I support your commitment to Special Ed. The same goes to the few other schools like Sankofa that have placed it at the center of its mission. It’s about time that we celebrate that commitment since it is very rare. Also, I hope that the new Marshall principal is really supportive of Special Education students and committed to creating an inclusive school community.

  • Lisa C

    Hi, I was at the meeting last night as well and am very frustrated. I have a 6th grader at Claremont Middle and a child at Kaiser Elementary. Both schools were on the list. I did get up to speak about the insanity of closing both of these schools.

    Claremont has increased enrollment and the API scores are increasing at a rapid rate. The PTA and the community has been amazing in supporting Claremont. 6 kids from Kaiser Elementary now attend there and I know that there are more neighborhood kids attending as well. I know that it is not perfect, but there is a lot positive going on and I am happy my son and our family is a part of it.

    Tony Smith did indicate that not all the factors involved in determining closure were looked at and he did indicate it was unlikely Claremont would be closed (along with Frick Middle).

    I also have a 1st grader at Kaiser and for some reason Kaiser is always one the school district goes after. It is a commuter school meaning most of the families to not live in the neighborhood. It is an extremely diverse school and does represent very well the population of Oakland. In addition it is a high performing school. Why close a high performing school? Just because the neighborhood does not utilize it? It seems inane.

    I do hope that OUSD does consider the community of parents and kids it serves when making these decisions. There is a reason families choose to leave OUSD if they can. Making decisions that impact families and children without including them in the discussion seems irresponsible and unconscionable

  • Ann Whidden

    I have a couple of concerns about the criteria used for the recommendations that I hope you can follow up on, Katy. A school that might have been on the closure list would be removed if they had a ‘plan for restructuring’. First, high-performing schools are less likely to restructure than low-performing schools, since they are already serving their population well, so this criteria affects high-performing schools (like Kaiser Elementary, the only high-performing school on the list) differently than other schools. Second, I would like some transparency around how data about restructuring at schools was collected, and how concrete/what stage of ‘restructuring’ these plans had to be to bump a school off the list.

  • On the Fence

    I have no doubt that the school closures will be a contentious and emotional issue for all involved. That said, it does make sense. It is too bad that OUSD seemed to think it could solve its endemic problems by breaking up schools and throwing themselves into the ‘small schools’ panacea in the first place.

    I agree with Lisa that it does not make sense to put Claremont or Kaiser on the list. Claremont, while still not a top school, is making very important and visible strides to improve. The school is gaining traction with the parents/families that live in the area, and to my understanding there are now parents from local elementary schools who are investing their time on the PTA prior to their children even reaching middle school. It seems irresponsible to shake that up by placing the school on a closure list, particularly if you don’t anticipate closing any middle schools! With respect to Kaiser, I again agree with Lisa, why would any OUSD official want to close a diverse, high performing elementary?!? Is the enrollment that low?

  • Tanisha

    I do not understand how the schools on this list are not reccomendations because all schools need to be on this list. Seeing that OUSD lets parents choose where their kids go to school I feel causes certain schools to have low enrollment. If OUSD required children to attend their neighborhood schools then enrollment would be high. I know children who live across the street from a school and do not go to that school.

    Yes there are too many schools in Oakland but again that will mean more cuts to the employees and more issues for parents trying to place their kids in schools that are accessible to them. Alot of families in Oakland schools have transportation issues and do not have stable housing.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    Folks from Kaiser…have no fear…they will not close you. They have to put one distractor up there on the chopping block so it doesn’t look like what it is. One school from above 580. But really, it will always be schools in the African-American community targeted. And when they started doing well, they changed the criteria.
    This is about wanting cute little school buildings for their charter schools. They will close a successful school now, to put in a charter. This is when good intentions turns bad.There are too many “politicians” in the district who have a personal financial stake in privatization. They are very well versed at appearing as though they are concerned about social issues. The proof is in the pudding.

  • Anon

    I’ll actually be the outlier here–we are zoned to Lakeview, and I would support closing our neighborhood school. We won’t be sending our child there, and it has little to do with the school’s performance (though that’s not stellar either). It has everything to do with the school’s location immediately adjacent to I-580, with the playground essentially under the on-ramp. This is an inappropriate location for an elementary school, where students are (or should) be outdoors for chunks of the day. The studies on this are unequivocal: children attending schools within 500 feet of a highway are at greater risk of respiratory disease and asthma, and the risk increases the closer you get. This is already a concern for our family, so it’s not a gamble we’re willing to take. Lakeview certainly isn’t the only OUSD school near a freeway, but I believe it is the closest and one of the only elementary schools that is not buffered by buildings or significant vegetation. Granted, this isn’t OUSD’s fault given that the school predates the freeway, but it’s a huge issue nonetheless.

    Lakeview presents an interesting puzzle from the equity perspective, though. It is a predominantly African-American school, but it’s actually in a pretty racially-balanced middle-income neighborhood that drifts to upper income/white as you approach the eastern edge of the school zone. The issue is that very few neighborhood kids attend the school, so it’s not reflective of the neighborhood demographics. Does this equate to closing a school that serves an African-American community? I’m not sure, and would be curious to hear other takes on it. (Impact on receiving schools would likely be an interesting assessment too, given that the candidates run the gamut from Hoover to Piedmont Avenue to Crocker to Cleveland—very different performances and demands, and likely to elicit quite different responses from families being rezoned.)

  • Ray Marinelli

    This breaks my heart as this is my afterschool program that is being affected with the school closures. Our program transformed the neighborhood, support, youth and parents with our state award winning program and sports program! ONLY 1 in Oakland, the demise of Sobrante park will affect the community to being poor to poorer! Support Higher Ground NDC in our work to save Sobrante Park- Coach Ray

  • Ray Marinelli

    Community Meeting discussing Support to Keep Sobrante Park Open
    Location- Sobrante Park Elementary
    470 El Paseo Drive
    September 22nd, 2011
    Time 6pm
    Hosted by the Eagles Soar ASP, Higher Ground NDC
    Parents, Youth and Community Welcome!
    S.O.S- Save our Schoool

  • Alice Spearman

    As a former 4 year PTA President of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, the person who spearheaded the school name change from John Marshall to Thurgood Marshall, as the parent along with many parents who fought to save SDC Classes at Thurgood Marshall, I am asking current parent to be pro-active like the parents of Kaiser and e-mail all the board members along with the Superintendent to let them know your thought about the criteria used to evlauate Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. The school does has special circumstances that need to be taken into account.
    Sobrante Park Elementary Parents, you also should e-mail the Superintendent along with the school board members. How can the district consider closing an elementary school that directly feed into a middle school where they are seriously considering reconfiguring to a grade 6-12 school at Madison Middle School. Sobrante Park Residents has for years lobbies the district to self contain their children, it does not make sense to even consider closing the neighboring elementary school, which by the way is on the same property as the middle school. I will see you at the September 22 meeting.

  • livegreen

    Anon has a good point about Lakeview’s location.

  • ousd funemployed

    Alice, didn’t you vote to approve those criteria? Staff spent God-knows-how-many hours creating a rational and thoughtful way to identify the appropriate schools to consider for closure. Since you were on the PTA of one of those schools they should throw out all this work and start over? I agree with Director Kakashiba: you made your bed, now lie in it.

    And stop crying racism. You sounds like a fool. Especially after you spent the last meeting saying the only reason Latino parents send their kids to charter schools is so they can pretend like they are sending them to private schools when they talk to their families in Mexico…. If you wanted staff to make recommendations based on the race of the students, maybe you should have been brave to offer that as one of the criteria before they ran the data. Or is it just easier to play the race card after you’ve been dealt a hand you don’t like?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Ousd Funemployed:

    Voting for criteria in the abstract is the start of the process but not the end. The point that Board Member Spearman brought up about consolidation of programs was not I believe mentioned as a critera and should be considered. There is nothing preventing the majority of the Board adding criteria based on more information irrespective of Board Member Kakishiba’s comment.

    Another criteria not mentioned was integration by race and class.

    For example, if race is considered and echoing Brown decision Kaiser is off the list with purality of Black enrollment. Kaiser enrollment by race 35.3 Black 29.8 white 14.7 two or more races.

    At the same time of 61 elementaries 16 schools have Black majority 14 Hispanic majority and 3 white majority. But, on the considered for closure list using neighbor as criteria 6 of the 8 targeted schools are all Black majority schools. Perhaps this means Hispanic schools are more segregated that the Black schools. And, it means that White students being a small minority of 7% of Oakland School students enrolled can only mustard majority in three Oakland schools.

    I haven’t analyzed the schools targeted in terms of class/poverty as measured by free and reduced lunch at the comparative schools.

    Finally, there is the issue of how the criteria was applied that was voted on by the Board. If neighborhood is number one it can be assessed within elementary, middle school, and high school. Ranks across these three groups was not discussed or mentioned when the criteria was established. This was a discussion by the administration.

    Finally I just don’t get Oakland Technical High School located in the city receiving a ranking of 11 and Skyline in the Oakland hills (created as part of White flight)receiving the same score.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Hmakesyouthink

    Good idea Alice.
    Will you work with Ms. Stewart to spearhead this campaign ?
    I know the SDC parents and the many non profits that work with the school will be interested in working.

  • OTHS Senior

    Mr. Jim Mordecai,

    I dont quite get your comment that you “just don’t get Oakland Technical High School”. Are you saying that my school is not up to your standards of being one of elite schools? The reason we are ranked so high, is because of our many prestigious programs that allows my school to send its students to well-known colleges all around the world. Ever heard of the Paideia program or Engineering Academy? That is the reason why we why receive multiple visits from college professors like MIT and Stanford. SO before you go on ahead to make assumptions that my school is not up to par with that rank, then you sir are gravely mistaken.

  • Hmakesyouthink

    Well said

  • Jim Mordecai


    Sorry that I didn’t communicate to you that my point was about Skyline and not Oakland Technical. If you are picking as criteria neighborhood density of school children attending neighborhood school then how does a school in the hills and the outer limits of a city end up with the same score as a school in the heart of the city?

    There is numberous criteria that could be used to differentiate one school from another. But, if the criteria is number of children in the neighborhood that attend that school the same score for both high schools doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I am misreading the score or maybe the score doesn’t reflect the criteria that is suppose to be applied.

    Closing schools is a very difficult proposition. It is one of the many reasons that the concept of charter schools doesn’t work because even if they are unsuccessful in doing what they promise, it is very hard to close a charter school because as in the case of any school closure you are impacting the lives of parents and children.

    Jim Mordecai

  • NorthOaklandMom

    “Seeing that OUSD lets parents choose where their kids go to school I feel causes certain schools to have low enrollment.”

    This statement, for me, couldn’t be further from the truth. I went through the so-called “options” process, visiting 12 different elementary schools last year. I then filled out the options form, listing the top 6 that I thought would be a good fit for my son. They assigned him to our local school, which wasn’t on our so-called options list, and then got re-assigned to it again after appealing. There’s a great school in walking distance to our house, actually closer to the failing school he kept getting assigned to that’s on the list above. I have him in a charter school now, but would’ve preferred that he got into any one of those 12 OUSD schools I visited. The no-options process is a joke. The only schools that have low enrollment are the ones that are known to be severely under serving their students, what kind of loving parent is anxious to send their kids to a failing school?

  • http://SantaFeTeacher Peter von Ehrenkrook

    Hey Katy,

    Perhaps your investigative skills could be used to answer some concerns. Our principal left suddenly after 7 years on the second day of school (professional development day), gleefully accepting a position at East Oakland Pride. Our long neglected school yard is in the process of a close to $700,000 renovation (including a new fence), and as you posted we are now on the short list for closure. It this a fait accompli? Is our school finally getting spruced up for resale to a charter?

    Sankofa shares our boundary, and they seem to have got on the exclusionary bandwagon of declaring they will expand to a K-8. Is that really necessary if Claremont Middle School will be staying open (per the vow of our Superintendent)? If Claremont is closing, wouldn’t it make sense to convert another neighborhood school like Santa Fe to a K-8? This was never offered to the staff as an option, though our well connected former principal was obviously aware of the value of doing so.

    Should Claremont stay open, what is the need for a K-8 at Sankofa? If we close, we will undoubtedly provide the balance of students to fill a K-5 Sankofa.

    Sankofa is also within blocks of Peralta, so wouldn’t it make sense to have their kids come on over to our newly refurbished school, allowing some to peel off to Peralta? That would make much better sense geographically, and that seems to be the stated purpose of the restructuring criteria.

    Please do what you do best, and ask the questions we are all asking, which have yet to be answered.

    Thank you in advance for your due diligence.

  • holly smith

    I am wondering the same thing about making MAnzanita SEED k-8 and shutting down Manzanita Community. SEED will only offer a dual language program-should this really be the only choice for parents living in the neighborhhood? If neighborhood parents do not want dual language, they are forced to travel to another school. What will happen to the enrollment of neighboring middle schools?

  • ExSanta Fe Teacher

    Santa Fe was a terrible school. Besides it’s sitting on land that Oakland Unified School District wants to sell. Both Walmart and Target are currently bidding over it if you can believe that. Of course OUSD would never say that out loud, but all of us behind the scenes knows what is going on and isn’t being told to the public.

    I’m glad to see that school close. It was a terrible learning environment. Any good teacher quit and those who stayed well they were the worst. The teaching experience was something akin to what was described in Marty Nemko’s educational blog:


  • Harold

    @#32 – I am so glad that anyone who would provide the link above, is not teaching in Oakland (or any place Black people study).

  • http://none Kristen Dixon

    It has become clear that the OUSD has plans for all the land of the schools they have chosen to close! Retail, charter schools, admin offices and such. This Weds 3-28-12 @5:00 1025 2nd street there is a meeting discussing this very subject. I also hear the school district jumped the gun and will no longer be closing any other schools besides the “chosen 5″ slated for closure this school year 2012. May I also say Grass Valley community is now in an uproar over the Marshall Community coming to their campus. They are uniquely small as well and bring in not 3, not 5, but 7 portables on the play yard to accommodate about 180 more students. I feel welcomed by the school but not welcomed by the community. Because of this merger many concerns and issues have arisen… of course there is not time to figure out anything because it is rush rush rush with OUSD. Our children are the losers in this game the district is playing and they need to be held accountable.

  • http://none Kristen Dixon

    Transportation costs and the costs of consultants are eating up the savings. Marshall has 4 SDC classes that have been promised 4 classrooms inside of the buildings they are being moved as a whole unit that was the greatest concerns so at least that promise was followed through on but it will displace other children who were thriving and learning in the same environment for years previous. 80% of Marshall is coming to Grass Valley… what about the other 20% from what I am hearing the OUSD is doing no type of outreach to transition those students out of Marshall. Some of the parents yanked their students out in Sept 2011 at the beginning of talks of closure because they did not want to have to deal with it. The district is losing ADA and API when parents abandon Oakland schools all together. Community involvement and long term problem solving need to be key when the district is proposing criteria to close, restructure, or reconfigure public schools.