Does school relocation = closure?

Staff Photojournalist

Speaker after speaker, parents who came to an Oakland school board committee meeting this evening delivered this message: Kaiser Elementary School is a place where children and families who don’t fit into neat little boxes can be safe and accepted — and thrive, academically. That it’s an option for families across the city (those who manage to get in) who don’t consider their neighborhood school to be a good place for their kids.

The official school closure recommendations don’t come out until Friday, but Kaiser appeared on an early list for possible consideration. And comments made by two school board members on the committee, Jody London and Alice Spearman, seemed to suggest that the school was unlikely to remain open, even though it’s filled to capacity and financially “in the black” — in large part, because it’s not a neighborhood school.

Ninety percent of the kids who go to Kaiser travel from outside the attendance boundaries, and the criteria for school closure places a great emphasis on neighborhood schools and densely populated areas with the most need for a school.

“What I am interested in doing is preserving your program and moving it into another area of town…” board member Jody London told the group. She suggested that they talk to the principal at Emerson Elementary, a school in North Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood that is under enrolled, but she didn’t complete her thought. The parents did not take the idea well.

What do you think about the idea of moving a school from one location to another (where another school already exists)? Where has it happened successfully? What would it take to make it work?

Note: I tried to embed the video of the board members’ comments, but I’m not sure it worked. Let me know!

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Katy Murphy

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

  • Ann Ferrari

    Nextset- please be careful about generalizing. It’s very offensive to read in your commentary that “Jews make more”.

  • livegreen

    The families who are in the same neighborhood as Kaiser would most likely go to another nearby school.

    I share some of the questions about the scoring process in the criteria. For example, if Emerson has a lot of unfilled space, is less fiscally well off, and has less grades, then how come it’s not on the list of schools to be closed? Why not merge them into Kaiser?

    Now on the other hand if Emerson has more room to fit more people, and is close to a lot of people who go to Kaiser anyway, then it does make a lot of sense to move to Emerson. But to relocate a program means relocate the program. Families, principal, teachers, & similar facilities. OUSD has to show they mean it, or all they’re going to do is the school version Netflix.

    PS. I also share the same question about small schools/charters. How many of those are on the list?

  • Kris

    Charters wouldn’t be on the list, I don’t think. The OUSD (or the state) can grant a charter to a private organization which then runs a school. State money gets paid to the charter school based on ADA, but I believe (and I could be wrong) that the OUSD takes a portion of the ADA money for its services. I’m assuming the OUSD would also collect rent for any schools that get converted into charters.

    “Small schools,” on the other hand, are run by the OUSD but are exempt from a lot of the curriculum requirements and other districtwide academic program decisions that are made from the central administration rather than at the school site level, for example the hugely lucrative contract between OUSD and Harcourt (Open Court) and whatever math they’re doing. I’d throw Foss in there as well, but it’s actually pretty good and a lot of the materials get reused, recycled, or passed on to the next group doing the unit.

    Anyway, that’s tangental. Small schools are pet projects for the upper administration. If they succeed, lots of glory for the person in charge. If they fail, it’s just a failed experiment…no biggee. Too bad the guinea pigs are children and their families.

    I could be wrong with some of the above, so Kaiser teachers (or whoever) feel free to correct me. My bigger point is that the real issue here is $$$. There are so many games and schemes being played by folks in the OUSD central admin and on the school board. I don’t trust them a bit. Someone’s getting something out of this, and our kids are paying the price. Sorry to go all conspiracy theory, but this stuff is hitting our family personally now and I’m getting less rational.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    I was at Lakeview today for a meeting between the staff and some people the district sent to answer questions.There was a woman named
    “Meghan” and Denise Saddler present. Questions were asked and “Meghan” did not want to answer because she was not sure of the answer. They wanted to go over the criteria, that was already approved, not really have any discussion or debate. We were also told in 5 days Mr. Smith will be submitting his decision to the board for approval. Some parents are not even aware this is happening.
    The reasoning for pushing this through so fast is because they need to “prepare ” for these changes. I expressed that the inconvieniences to the district’s offices should be given less time than the parent- student side of all this. Parents need time. This is an outrage.

    It is clear to me that what they really want is to give the buildings to charters. Of which our students would “not likely” be able to attend. The students who are out of the area from West Oakland will be sent back to “their neighborhood” schools. In an effort to make the STEM corridor more viable because ” West Oakland has been neglected for a long time”. True! But….what about OPTIONS. Doesn’t this fly in the face of options?
    Won’t this further segregate our community? This sounds crazier by the minute.

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    When you begin to connect the dots, it doesn’t smell very good.

    Our principal of seven years rarely took any of our suggestions into her plans or implementation. The SSC approved our going K-8, but the principal nixed the idea. This would have saved us from the current closure list, as it did Sankofa.

    Interestingly enough, the same well-connected principal landed a position at East Oakland Pride and suddenly left us the second day of this school year.

    We came up short on many supplies and textbooks, and her comment as she waltzed out the door was “They are around here somewhere. Check the boxes in the book room.” There seemed to be little effort to make sure we had what we would need this school year.

    We all seem pleased with our new principal. She was brought in from Philadelphia.

  • http://close.net close schools now

    J.R. wasn’t bashing unions. He was telling the truth. Last In First Out practices hurt kids and schools.

    Union bumping is wrong. When Oakland closes schools because it is paying for too many administrators (and custodians and buildings and SSOs), there will likely be bumping with the most recent hired teachers–many of whom are great–getting laid off. Senior teachers, regardless of performance, keep their jobs.

    Last In First Out hurts kids. It hurts schools. It’s bad policy and it’s shameful that teachers have jobs for life, regardless of performance.

    Solution: change Ed Code, do away with LIFO, pay teachers twice the salaries they earn now and let site administrators actually make hiring / firing decisions.

    J.R. – you’re a voice of reason in here. Don’t stop.

    Dr. Smith, close the schools now. We’ll get past this.

  • Nextset

    Ann Ferrari: Sorry Ann, Jews as a group have a significantly higher income than blacks (they also have higher rate of anxiety disorders it seems). No amount of beating around the bush can change that. So when you count the Jewish Students at Piedmont and compare that number to the Black students at Piedmont you are going to have a huge difference and it’s not because of ‘racism” or discrimination or any nefarious reason. It’s because of demographics (which includes factors in the next paragragh) – and the demographics are affected by generations of welfare policy encouraging reproduction of the dregs of society at the same time as tax policy encouraging smaller families by the brighter members of society (of all races). The different ethnics have the wealth and other such group differences BECAUSE they are different. And that difference is a lot more than “cultural”.

    The different American ethnic groups have completely different averages and norms for family formation (including marriage and divorce), childbirth, occupations, education levels and yes, IQ. At least that is the data that comes from the Census and from the Military Draft datasets that go back a century. I didn’t make this happen – the stats are freely published and they are what they are.

    The California teachers are on the receiving end of these truths as they look over their classrooms and turn in the standardized tests every year. The early puberty and single mother household factors lead directly to problems and the nearly 50% drop rate in the black group that is for the time being Oakland’s biggest student cohort. And yes, some of these differences are rooted in physical differences of the students – early puberty, early childbearing, early mortality, etc.

    So let’s stop blaming or rewarding the teachers every time we have a new annual report of which group is doing whatever on the scores. The Piedmont teachers are not the (main?) reason their kids score where they do, and the Oakland teachers are probably not the reason their kids score where they do. And these annual changes we crow about are interesting but largely demographic driven.

    The movement of students of the different groups into the different towns and different schools have everything to do with government policy especially the changes since the “great society” programs of the 1960s. throw in “divorce on demand” and the birth control advances and you have – Brave New World.

    So our concern in this thread for school closure and relocation is interesting but it doesn’t really change what is happening with the racial stats. They are moving on their own with demographics.

    There is no magic bullet of “new” instruction technique. There is no “closing the gap”. And this good teacher bad teacher thing isn’t the problem either. On individual basis we can push students higher in academics than they’d go on their own. We cannot do that on a large scale in order to favor one ethnic over another. We can waste a fortune trying as well as burn out our teachers.

    The first thing to do in education is not to make things worse for any of the student groups. Schools should not get in the way of education by holding students back from progress they are making or are ready to make, but for chaos in the classrooms.

    Piedmont has normal schools and has Continuation schools for the screw ups. They don’t tolerate disruption or insubordination in their normal schools. If only OUSD followed suit. I might add that their Continuation School appears to score higher than OUSD’s normal schools. That’s not a surprise either. Children already removed from normal schools because of behavioral problems tend to have mental problems – but that doesn’t mean they are particularly dumb. Residence in Piedmont and towns like it self selects for IQ, not always for emotional stability.

    If OUSD is starved for funds they are going to close a lot of smaller schools and just run big education factories. When this happens the boutique schools will all be gone. You will see more automation in education and larger classes. Kind of like freshman year at UC Berkeley. And your racial stats are going to go into a free fall. The closures won’t be intended to screw one group or another, it will just be economics.

    The best way to obtain social mobility – and I assume that is the real holy grail we are all after with our interest in education policy – is to identify the higher performing members of the student body regardless of wealth or parental lineage and bring them forward into a more rigourous academic track. At the same time the schools need to put the non academic students on a firm track to qualifying for military enlistment or vocational placement, neither of which is exactly easy nowadays.

    It’s not enough to provide a happy home for students through age 18 and dump them into the cruel hard world with false notions of their own wonderfulness.

  • Debora


    A couple of studies that demonstrate that home prices within the same city are directly tied to the performance of the neighborhood school.




    Likewise, poor performing schools reduce home values. Both of these studies determine what many of us know – race is not the factor in home prices within a city, but neighborhood public school performance makes 10% to 20% difference in home values.

    For many, many more studies Google “how neighborhood schools affect home values”

  • Fletch

    Everyone should read what nextset wrote there. Particularly the last paragraph.

    I will never understand why journalists and parents — particularly those of color — do not stand up en masse and demand magnet schools.

    Forcing smart kids to attend bad schools destroys mobility and crushes hope. I believe there ARE smart kids in East Oakland.

    Let’s give them a chance to succeed.

  • Ann Ferrari

    Nextset- thank you for your response, and I wholeheartedly agree with you that we, in Oakland, need ” to identify the higher performing members of the student body regardless of wealth or parental lineage and bring them forward into a more rigourous academic track.” One can only hope that they consider doing this with all the changes/relocations/closures.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Debora. I thought Fletch’s comment was more about the kids who attend his neighborhood school (and where they come from) than the school’s performance, which is why I asked about it.

  • J.R.

    I would agree with Nextset on this lone point also, we cannot allow ourselves to be chained and held back by the PC equity crowd. If we concentrate on leveling the playing field the result is we all get left at the level of mediocrity(at best).

  • AC Mom

    I am not going to pretend to know what people’s motivations are for not advocating for more support for GATE programs, or for a truly rigorous 6-12 option for OUSD. All that I know is that it is sorely needed.


    I gave Piedmont as an example due to its proximity to Oakland–census data (and my own two eyeballs)confirm its lack of diversity. I am not as pessimistic as Nextset about the future, but I agree that one needs to be adaptable, so to the more educational, recreational and social opportunities that I can provide the better.

  • Kaiser Parent


    Kaiser was and is NOT an experiment for OUSD (and certainly not Jody London, she seems to have a personal vendetta).

    Kaiser has been there for 40 years and has the highest capacity it ever has.

    And you’re dead wrong about the neighborhood not sending their kids there. Some don’t, a lot do. There are not a lot of school aged children up there RIGHT NOW. There are a lot of people 55+.

    What is wrong with some big schools, some medium and some small? What works best in every realm of society you can think of is a system that is diversified.

  • J.R.

    Kaiser parent,
    You would be absolutely right if we as a district had the money to afford diversified schools, but we don’t. To make things even worse there will be more cuts because tax revenue almost assuredly will not meet projections. Don’t forget what WILL be increasing geometrically is the taxpayers pension burden, and it will eventually cripple the fake budget we have now.


  • Trish Gorham


    There are NO bumping rights for teachers in Oakland. Teachers from closed schools have first choice of open positions. They can not displace a teacher from a position that is filled.

    Can we finally let go of this?

  • Kris

    Hey Kaiser Parent,

    Just to clarify my earlier statement, while Kaiser Elementary is definitely one of the smaller schools in the OUSD, it is definitely NOT a ‘Small School’. That’s a more recent term used by the OUSD for schools that are using an experimental model. Sorry for the confusion. You are absolutely correct that Kaiser is not an experiment, though it might have been in the years following the Oakland hills firestorm in 1991, which is precisely why it became a ‘school of choice’ and less of a neighborhood school. It is absolutely a success, and we need to bring that to the forefront of this discussion.

  • J.R

    Are you trying to say by state law and union contract, that there is no must hire list(seniority preference) in the event of a school closure? I think you need to read the relevant state law and teachers contracts. There isn’t any way(short of a judge’s order like in LAUSD) that a junior teacher will keep their position over a senior teacher(it’s all about date of hire). See section twelve.



    Bumping hasn’t been done because of turnover(that is not the case this time with multiple school closures).

  • Trish Gorham


    Bumping, in union terms, means one who’s position was eliminated, but is still employed, can take any comparable position of a lower seniority employee. Who then can do the same to someone lower than them in seniority. Teachers CANNOT do this in Oakland.

    You are conflating lay off/rehire procedures with bumping.

    ALL teachers of closed schools still have a guaranteed job for the following school year (unless they’ve been pink-slipped in an entirely separate and unrelated procedure). Seniority comes into play in that displaced teachers choose which vacant position they want in order of seniority.

    The link to the OEA/OUSD contract is unnecessary, thanks. I helped write some of it.

    And I will not respond to any post about seniority and lay-offs. That discussion is not relevant to this thread.

  • OUSD mom

    Katy, can you look into the posibility of senior teachers from closed schools “bumping” new teachers who still have jobs. I’m hoping Ms. Gotham is correct in that no bumping could take place, but it certainly goes against the way it was explained to us when we were dealing with the possibility of pink slips last year. Is the difference that a pink slipped teacher has a different status than a teacher from a closed schools? Also, what about principals? I would really appreciate some clarification on this. Thanks.

  • Harold

    #69 just broke down the process. Pink slips (March 15) are not the same thing as a school closing.

  • J.R.

    Once again, all union related issues go by seniority, in many districts there is what’s called a “must place list”. Tacoma teacher’s just went through a strike, and guess what the only unresolved issue is? Teacher placement(read: seniority preference). The direct impact that seniority has on all school communities makes this entirely relevant. All the parents need do is watch and see union policies at work. Everyone watch closely and decide for yourself what is relevant, do not take someone elses word for it.

  • Harold

    @JR – Are you calling us liars?

    There will be no “bumping” of junior Teachers, by senior Teachers, if there are closures. Tacoma is not Oakland. LA is not Oakland.

  • J.R.

    We shall see……..

  • OUSD Mom

    Im very relieved to hear there wont be “bumping.”

    Im stii a little unclear though. What if their aren’t enough open positions to absorb all the teachers from the closed schools? How can they be guaranteed positions?

    What about the principals?

  • Kris

    Personally, I find the repeated insertion of union bashing annoying, hackneyed, and unproductive in this conversation. While the union contract and teacher bumping may be a factor, my concern is that the school board is playing politics with a functional, successful school that is a refuge for many different situations (GLB families, mixed race kids, working parents, families that want diversity AND academic success, etc).

    While I will be very sad for the current Kaiser teachers if they get reassigned next year, I will be distraught that my own child will likely be put in a school where her family is not honored and she may not feel safe to be herself. The needs of the Kaiser kids and community should trump this political nonsense.

  • Trish Gorham

    OUSD Mom@70:

    I am correct. The ONLY way any teacher can move from one position to another is if that position is VACANT.
    in closures
    in lay-offs
    in transfers, voluntary and involuntary

    Not one teacher was bumped in any of the previous school closures. Because it doesn’t exist.

    It is not in the OEA/OUSD contract and OEA has never proposed that it be included. Doubters can try and cite the language that would allow for bumping rights.

    It’s ridiculous on the face of it that teachers would advocate the disruption in our students’ lives caused by the pin ball effect of such a policy.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    This discussion is NOT about teachers. It IS about children and families who have chosen to send their children to these successful schools.

    I am a teacher who was formerly at Burbank when it closed and Trish is exactly right.

    But this is not about us. It is about successful, largely African American schools closing, and sending them to their neighborhood schools that they have “opted” out of.
    So having “Options”, the “Strategic Plan”, the concern over the achievement gap, the African American Male Task Force are all a farce.

  • Fletch

    I personally think the “options” process should be eliminated for elementary school.

  • livegreen

    Katy, Can you establish an Open Thread for subjects not on topic that people still want to talk about?
    Fletch, Options is one way of implementing federally mandated programs of equal access (from the civil rights movement), and is an alternative to busing. Either we have Options or we get the San Francisco system of having no right at all to neighborhood schools. So either you’re at the far left or the far right of the spectrum, and in this respect they start to sound the same.

    Why do you keep throwing off-topic comments, on subjects you know little about, when you don’t even believe anybody should go to OUSD schools? How are these continuous negative, simplistic, and ignorant comments about difficult topics relevant either to the subject at hand or the entire spirit of this blog?

  • Fletch

    Livegreen –

    I’m pretty surprised the federal government would require that even at the elementary level. Also, I think it’s pretty funny that Piedmont is completely exempted from it. Just shows you how arbitrary and wrongheaded such policies really are.

    To your other comments, essentially trying to censor me, all I can do is shrug. I’ve read these forums long enough to know that I’m not as far off topic as you imply. It’s not like I’m on here ranting about Iraq. All my comments are topical to OUSD. And, I think at least one of my suggestions (an honest, serious discussion of magnet schools) is directly on point with the spirit of this blog.

  • Fletch

    Livegreen –

    I did a bunch of searching online to try and find something clearly delineating that something like the “options” process is required by the federal government at the elementary level. I failed.

    Can you please provide a link to substantiate your claim? I’d like to read up on it.

  • Hills Mom

    Fletch – Google “NCLB transfer policy”.

  • Fletch

    Hills –

    I’m familiar with NCLB. I wasn’t aware that NCLB was “from the civil rights movement” (Livegreen’s words, not yours).

    I’m still left wondering why Hillcrest and Piedmont are exempted from this. I understand there are technicalities involved. Just reminds me of most of what I see out of government — arbitrary and stupid policies.

  • Hills Mom

    Hillcrest is not exempt from the the NCLB policy. Yes, there are few students from outside of the Hillcrest neighborhood (less than 10%). The proportion of a school that is from out of the neighborhood is directly related to the neighborhood demand. Hillcrest is a high demand school among neighborhood families; as a result, there are few spaces available for transfer requests.

    The NCLB law applies to districts and mandates they set up systems to handle transfer requests *within* their districts. So if Piedmont had program improvement schools it would be required to set up an options-like program to serve Piedmont students.

  • Fletch

    Hills –

    My recollection is that Thornhill had to turn neighborhood kids away last year and maybe the year before. Yet, the school still seems to have tons from far outside the attendance area. And, I seriously doubt all of those are going to Thornhill because of NCLB.

    Somehow, Hillcrest seems only to have kids from other hills neighborhoods. How come they don’t get kids from East Oakland like Thornhill does?

    I understand the technicalities of the Piedmont situation — they’re a separate district. Makes you wonder whether the Klan types in the south could have kept the black kids out by simply opening new districts.

    Point being, I find it strange and wondrous that people are so willing to be fine with Piedmont just because of some totally arbitrary legal artifice. If Piedmont High has space, why not make them take some transfers from Oakland High?

  • Hills Mom

    Fletch, are you serious? Who do you propose should “make” Piedmont do this? The federal government? The state of California? I’m trying to take you seriously but you are not making it easy. Neither the federal government or the state will force districts to take students from outside their district when they don’t force districts to accommodate families’ transfer requests *within* their districts. Do you know anyone who has been through the OUSD options process? There are SO many people who get their requests denied because demand exceeded supply at the schools they chose and are assigned their neighborhood school.

    If you are so curious about Thornhill then ask the district for data on the # of seats available per grade, # of requests from the neighborhood, # of requests from outside the neighborhood and final enrollment numbers from both inside and outside the neighborhood. Given that neighborhood demand in the hills schools has increased dramatically in the last five years I would predict that the ratio of neighborhood to non-neighborhood kids is changing with each passing kindergarten cohort, with the share of neighborhood kids increasing among kindergartners. As someone mentioned above, OUSD has a sibling priority policy in place so yes, families from out of the Thornhill neighborhood who got in when there was space at Thornhill will have priority over neighborhood kids but I predict that Thornhill’s ratio (as well as other hills schools) will eventually look like Hillcest’s ratio as long as neighborhood demand stays strong.

  • Anonymous

    Actually Hills Mom, Piedmont is getting a lot of pressure from the state to accept out of dstrict transfers of students from under-performing schools. There is a bit of under enrollment there too and they were going to consider taking that have grandparents in Piedmont, but now they have to take kids from neighboring communities.

  • Another Observer

    Fletch – Piedmont is a separate city from Oakland (incorporated in 1907)and has a separate school district. A school district is not required to take inter-district transfers – you might as well as why Orinda/Acalanes HS District (another district that is next to Oakland) are not required to take inter-district transfers.

    About Thornhill – if you look at the LiveGo documents that you referenced earlier, 90% of the students that live in the neighborhood go to the school (this is not broken down by grade level. The two largest groups of outside students come from Montclair and Joaquin Miller. If you read the document that you referenced, very few students from East Oakland go to Thornhill; would you suggest that the document is inaccurate?

    Hillcrest has 89% neighborhood students – outside students mostly come from Chabot and Montera Middle.

    Also, how do you know there are large numbers of students at Thornhill from out of the area?

  • livegreen

    Fletch, Your comments have something to do with OUSD but not the “school relocation” topic at hand. You said earlier “Not to hijack this thread”…and then you did.

    When others are posting both the ins-and-outs (all sides) of hard work going into both their schools & the District you repeatedly post misleading, ignorant and false statements to show how bad they are (including some PROVEN excellent OUSD schools). When you’re taken to task and confronted with the facts you conveniently ignore them and answer glibly that you’re being censored.

    You are, by design or not, an internet Troll.

  • Trish Gorham

    I woud like to thank all who expressed support for Kaiser and Burckhalter. I hope we both are given full support from the district to expand our successful programs to more Oakland students.

  • Fletch

    Livegreen –

    I wish life were simplistic enough for me to say things like “a school was PROVEN excellent.” I just don’t think life works that way.

    Fair point that I hijacked the thread — though, people could just choose not to respond if it’s that irritating.

    Anyway, it sounds like you guys are all earnestly trying to make the best of a bad situation. Good luck with that. As you knew would happen, I’ll be keeping my kids in private school.

  • Livegreen

    Proven excellent is Thornhill has API’s equal to or better than averages in Piedmont or Orinda. Hillcrest and others too…

  • Fletch

    Livegreen –

    As I mentioned, I don’t view API scores as the end-all be-all of education measurement. I’m sure many here agree with that.

    As I also mentioned, I think the issue with Thornhill is not the here-and-now, but the fear that somehow OUSD will act to mess up what’s working well there. I never said I thought Thornhill was a bad school at present.

    The closest I think you can get to a “best” way to evaluate schools is how the kids do later in terms of college admissions. I do not know these numbers for Thornhill vs. Orinda and Piedmont. Do you?

  • Kris

    How do you think the expansion could happen, Trish? Both Kaiser and Burkhalter have fairly large asphalt playgrounds. More portables? I can’t imagine them cramming too many more kids into the classrooms at Kaiser. Burkhalter seems to have a fairly large building, but maybe that’s just an optical illusion.

    At any rate, the announcement is good news…even if it’s only a stay of execution.

  • Sepee

    As far as closing schools, as part of any process, I appreciate the reminder that it is indeed sad and painful. I remember when Peralta was closed after arsonists set it on fire 5 1/2 years ago. We all moved and set up shop at the campus at Webster and 45th in Temescal, which had recently closed its doors as Carter Middle School. Over the course of 3-5 days, the Peralta community transformed that campus from cobwebs and dust into a vibrant, relatively beautiful, functioning school-site.

    I kid you not… it was a matter of days. Sad as the situation was, it illustrated something very important…

    These successful school sites and campuses grow from a community of dedicated, hard-working people, well-directed by passionate, experienced and visionary staff and leadership. We’ve all experienced this in one way or another — the PEOPLE at the school make the school.