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School closure update

By Katy Murphy
Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 1:20 pm in school closures.

Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith had said he would release the school closure recommendations today, but that deadline has been pushed back. OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said the list won’t be posted until about 5 p.m. Saturday.

“The superintendent is considering the feedback he’s had,” Flint said. “He’s weighing a lot of different possibilities that have been proposed.”

Flint said Tuesday’s meeting — in which the recommendations will be discussed, but not voted on — will be held at 5 p.m. at Oakland High School, which is on the corner of Park and MacArthur.

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  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    If Mr. Smith does recommend Kaiser, Lakeview and Burckhalter for closure several things become clear.
    The “Strategic Plan” is a farce.
    Successful largely African American schools will close and those populations at each site will not be allowed to return if they become charter schools.This was asked of 2 different board members. Both stated the charter schools are “not likely” to absorb the currently enrolled children.
    The mostly African American children will be sent to “their” neighborhood schools. And this will further segregate the population of Oakland.
    In many cases for Burckhalter the “neighborhood kids, will have to walk/travel quite a distance to get to a low performing school they will be directed to.
    It will send a clear and absolute statement to those of us in those communities.

  • Super

    What will happen to students in districts where schools have shut? For example, Lakeview. Will those students be redirected to another school, like Piedmont Avenue or Crocker? Will parents be able to submit applications into the options process with some level of priority? Will children have priority into any charter school that is opened in the area?

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    The Lakeview students, they said would be redirected to either Piedmont Avenue or their neighborhood school. The board member for Lakeview was asked the question could these children stay here if a charter opens and his reply was “probably not”. There is “no room” at Crocker. or Thornhill. or Montclair.or Hillcrest. or Redwood Heights….
    As far as the Options process priority…they could not answer that question at this time.

  • Super

    Thank you for the response Lisa. We’re still a few years off but Piedmont Avenue will not be an option unless something drastic changes there. We will either go through the options process and should that not work, we will go private. Or we will move. Seems unlikely that we will be part of OUSD.

  • livegreen

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand how Charter’s are an option for shut traditional Public Schools. Doesn’t OUSD still have to do partial funding of Charters? If so, why would they want more of them?

  • livegreen

    According to OUSD’s website, Piedmont Ave. Elementary has higher scores than Lakeview. So why’s it worse than Lakeview? Also I understand more neighborhood families are going to Piedmont Ave. Elementary which will help give it more year around support. It might be slow but it’s happening, and that’s how things get started…

  • Kris

    @Livegreen, I’m confused as well, but from what I gather, some people believe that the school sites on the chopping block are attractive to potential charter schools (probably of the Kipp, Aspire model that are run by ‘non-profit’ corporations, but I don’t know that for sure). I am assuming that the OUSD would collect rent on these properties. As I understand, the OUSD gets about $500 more per student from the state than do charter schools. The charters for most of the Oakland charter schools are granted THROUGH the OUSD, though the state also has the power to grant charters. I have heard anecdotally that the OUSD skims off some of the money it pays to charter schools, but I don’t have confirmation about that.

    What worries me is that there seem to be some players in this political game who have their own agenda that does not have to do with children getting an education.

    Alice Spearman is or has been a member of the First African Methodist Church of Oakland, where notorious homophobe Rev. Harold Mayberry is a pastor. Given that, she may have a bias against schools that openly accept GLB families and allow their GLB teachers to be out. I’m just speculating of course.

    David Montes de Oca is the coordinator of the OUSD charter office AND very much involved with the OUSD school restructuring process and the criteria for closure. Conflict of interest? Hard to say for sure.

    Here is a video of both of them talking about this issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SNKmMBMRv0&feature=related

    I hate to be all conspiracy theory, but it just makes no sense that Lakeview, Kaiser, and Burkhalter are threatened when for the most part they are doing a good job. One thing ALL three schools have in common is EXTREMELY easy access to key commuter freeways. It would make sense that charter school companies would be interested in sites that are easy for parents to do drop off/pick up.

    I’m just saying…

  • Anon

    Count us as one Lakeview-zoned family who is thrilled at the prospect of being rezoned to Piedmont Avenue—a school I’ve been watching since buying our home, since it’s actually geographically closer to us and the only OUSD elementary school we could feasibly walk to. I’m glad to see Lakeview on the closure list, because I do not feel my child will be safe there given its location—and I don’t think presenting an unsafe school environment as the alternative to families in areas of the city with failing schools is a just approach to creating a more equitable OUSD. (Notably, though, I also don’t consider Lakeview high-performing—it’s in PI, has relatively stagnant test scores if that’s your thing, and did not meet its growth targets this year.) Piedmont Avenue does not have dramatically higher test scores, but I’ve been on mailing lists for both schools for a number of years, and PAES has much greater parent involvement, a more active PTA, and an increasing interest from neighborhood families—all things we’re looking for. I’ve also been impressed with the current principal, at least thus far. It’s not Chabot, but it’s a school we would be willing to invest in as neighborhood parents. The Piedmont Avenue Library is also relocating to the PAES site next year, which is another plus for our family.

    I’ve also said before, but will say again—the Lakeview site does not meet current state school site standards because it is immediately adjacent to I-580 (the primary reason we will not send a child there). I like to think that a charter school would have an extraordinarily difficult time getting the safety standards waived, since potential charter sites go through this review—and I hope those who are concerned about a hidden agenda there will watch this carefully and speak up if it becomes an issue.

  • SR

    What I would like to know is why are Thornhill and Montclair not on the list? The district says they are considering small schools that share borders with other schools, well…..

  • Katy Murphy

    I don’t think many people would consider Montclair a small school, especially for an elementary. It had 439 students last year. Thornhill is smaller — its 2010-11 enrollment was 375 — but it still had at least 100 more students than four out of the five schools on the closure list, and had 58 more students than Lakeview.

    Enrollment figures from 2010-11:

    Lakeview – 317
    Lazear – 273
    Marshall – 212
    Maxwell Park – 266
    Santa Fe – 245

    You can find the full list on a blog post I wrote a few months ago: http://bit.ly/plCkF2

  • Oakland Teacher

    I peeked back at the listing of school size, and was reminded of how many schools are significantly smaller than those on the closure list. They must have used some type of calculating system that only makes sense to them.

    Why disintegrate Manzanita Community into its neighbor, Seed (two successful schools with very different and non-compatible programs) while leaving other schools that share a single campus alone?

    Why leave incredibly small and non-neighborhood schools open while closing schools with a far higher % of neighborhood children?

    I feel for all the affected families, especially for Lazear, whose families have fought for their school for so many years. I can’t imagine they will give up easily.

  • Anon

    Also, in addition to not being small schools, Montclair and Thornhill don’t share a boundary. They’re near one another, but their zones are separate and stretch north into the hills rather than east/west. So each school has several hundred students in its catchment zone, even though they are geographically nearby. That’s distinct from actually sharing a boundary, which is the case for Sankofa and Peralta.

  • Ana

    Oakland Teacher I agree with you. This doesn’t make sense to people on the outside of the decision making process. Manzanita schools are very different. How do they decide which teachers and which principals to keep?

  • Katy Murphy

    I should note that while Manzanita schools are listed in the summary presentation’s grade configuration slide, the only ones listed in the appendices report are Greenleaf, La Escuelita, Sankofa (prek-8), Life Academy (6-12) and Madison/Sobrante Park (prek-12).

  • Lakeview Advocate

    The criteria used for the first round of school closures (don’t get comfortable people because this is only the first round) doesn’t fall in alignment with OUSD’s strategic plan. This plan preaches equity for all students and emphasizes closing the achievement gap.

    @Anon, I caution you when making broad comparisons between Lakeview and PAES. Yes, Lakeview is a PI school because our subgroups did not meet their AYP and it is also true that our school slid back 12 points last year. Piedmont Ave.’s scores dropped by 15 points. As for stagnant scores at Lakeview…that’s confusing to me since we went from 709 in 2007 to 770 in 2010. I would hardly call a 61 point increase stagnant.

    However, what you’re not pointing out is that there is NO achievement gap at Lakeview. The students represented by the achievement gap, namely our African American students, increased their performance on the CST by 5 points last year while African American students at PAES dropped 8 points. OUSD talks about helping our African American students achieve, but then turns around and wants to close the schools where this is happening. This is not equitable!

    Now, you don’t have to want to send your child to Lakeview, but don’t begrudge the families who do. Over 60 percent of Lakeview’s student population comes from out of the Grand Lake neighborhood. They choose Lakeview because, in many cases, it is a much safer environment than their neighborhood schools. I’m not speaking of air quality, but rather the students’ physical safety. They deserve a good school; a school that they choose. Just like you would choose PAES.

    As for the charter school conspiracy theorists…IF Lakeview closes be on the look out for Urban Montessori opening up in Lakeview’s building.

  • Another Lakeview Advocate.

    There is simply not enough space at PAES to have the Lakeview students attend there. The fact that so many from all over Oakland choose to send their children to Lakeview speaks volumes. They often bypass higher performing schools to go there. Whether or not that is by choice or because there are no spaces available is almost irrelevant. Lakeview fills a huge need. It is more than its test scores. It is the passion of Principal Roberts and much of a great staff that make that school a COMMUNITY. If Lakeview does close then the children that attend now should be PROMISED the OPTION to enroll their students in a school that takes its place. But charters will not do that.
    If Urban Montessori opens there, if charters open at these closed sites, truly the conflict of interest becomes apparent. Those with anything to gain from this need to be intensely scrutinized. We need a filmmaker to do the documentary.

  • Trish Gorham

    Lakeview Advocate-

    Well said; this is a flawed process that belies what OUSD says it believes in.

  • livegreen

    Or do minority families chose Lakeview because of the perception that it’s further towards the hills, and everything in that direction is better?

    Re. “safer” how is Lakeview safer than other schools further away?

    Please inform to help us understand.

  • Lakeview Parent

    I am a Lakeview parent who chose Lakeview because of the caring staff and parental involvement. The teachers go the extra mile here to educate our kids and keep the parents involved. I am appalled to hear that kids’ safety and school location are being blogged about. I have never feared for my child’s safety. Before you form an opinion about the school, you should try visiting the campus. I guarantee that you will be welcomed by smiling children, a helpful staff and friendly parents.

  • Anon

    I didn’t mean to denigrate the hard work going on at Lakeview—that is certainly to be lauded—but I do take huge issue with the notion that parents should be asked to make a choice between their children’s physical safety and health/life expectancy in choosing a school. An effective school system should be able to offer school environments that support students’ health *and* safety—especially in a city where many students may be coming from home environments where their health is already jeopardized (esp. West Oakland, where many Lakeview students come from according to the map, and where the community has been fighting for recognition of the health impact of the port, freeway, and trucks for many years now).

    The appendix Katy links to in the subsequent post includes an analysis of potential future uses for the sites of the closed schools. It notes that Lakeview and Lazear are not viable sites for future use by other schools, OUSD or otherwise. They are proposed for sale/lease for non-school uses, administrative use, or other OUSD program uses. (For the other three sites, use by “non-OUSD schools”—presumably charters?–is listed as an option; for Santa Fe and Maxwell Park, future use for an OUSD school is listed as well.)

    I’m also puzzled by all of the discussion of Urban Montessori, given that its charter hasn’t even been approved (OUSD rejected it and I think they’re now appealing to the County?) Worrying about where they will be located seems a bit premature. Or do people think that’s a done deal? (No clue here as I don’t follow the charters closely—hadn’t even heard of that one!)

    Out of curiosity, for those who don’t agree with the this list of potential closures, which five elementary schools would you choose to close and why? (I have no idea since, as a parent, I’m only familiar with the schools near our home—just wondering, for those who are more familiar with the system overall!)

  • Vivian

    I haven’t seen a study that says the kids/teachers of Lakeview have health problems from attending this school. The teachers at Lakeview CARE for these children, make sure they have the best education, have an after school program, that is very important. The teachers know the majority of the parents BY NAME. The principal has an open door policy to anyone that wants to meet with her. The location is great, it is away from the street on a hill. I come from Hayward to bring my child to Lakeview. I pass at least 10 schools to get there and it is worth it. They are trying to FIX something that’s not BROKEN

  • Anon

    For Vivian, here’s a link to a recent study in Southern California: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.0901232

    If you search online, you can find many more. Largely in response to this research over the last two decades, California and other states have school site standards that require buffer zones between freeways and school sites. The threshold used for the studies is typically 400 or 500 feet from a highway, but both Lazear and Lakeview are much closer than that (within 100 feet or so). I actually would guess that the impact may be worse at Lazear since I-880 carries far more truck traffic than I-580, but I’ve not visited that school so I don’t know how it’s set up. (And yes, I have visited Lakeview.) We also know that asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses are one of the top reasons children miss school, which is an issue for OUSD as well.

    Again, this is not about the job that teachers and administrators are doing or how much they care about students; I don’t question that at Lakeview (or any other OUSD school, for that matter—I know many passionate Oakland teachers and principals who care intensely about the students they work with).

  • livegreen

    Katy, re. Safety in Schools, OUSD working with the City/Community (very important, communication that’s only barely begun):

    New Initiative on Safe Pathways to Schools

    Oakland Schools Superintendent Tony Smith and School BoardDirector Alice Spearman will speak on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the NeighborhoodWatch Steering Committee at 6:30 p.m.

    Neighborhood Watch started in Oakland in 1990. Close to athousand individual blocks have formed a network to exchange information andimprove communication between neighbors. It is facilitated through theNeighborhood Services Division of the City Administrator’s office.
    Smith and Spearman will discuss how groups can cooperate withtheir local school and how to create and foster safe routes to and from schools.

    The meeting will be held in the Sgt. Daniel Sakai Room onCity Hall’s second floor. Free validated parking is provided in the Clay StreetGarage.

    For more information, contact Felicia Verdin at 238-3128 or fverdin@oaklandnet.com.