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School closure pushback

Some photos from tonight’s Oakland school board meeting at Oakland High School, taken by Tribune/Bay Area News Group photographer Jane Tyska.

Families and teachers from all five elementary schools facing closure — Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe — came out to address the board. Story here.

Staff Photojournalist

Staff Photojournalist

Staff Photojournalist

Staff Photojournalist

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    Despite what channel 7 said about my “throwing [Sankofa} under the bus,” I hope you will post my full intended presentation. The 2 minute limitation forced me to drop the pleasantries:

    OUSD Board Meeting Input – September 27, 2001

    My name is Peter von Ehrenkrook and I am currently a 5th grade teacher at Santa Fe Elementary.

    Thank you for this opportunity to address you.

    In reviewing the various presentations by the Restructuring Committee, I agree that there is a need to close down a school in Northwest Oakland.
    That school is Sankofa, not Santa Fe.

    According to Step 1 of the Restructuring Committee’s criteria, Sankofa was rated number 1 for closure among all of the schools in OUSD. This makes perfect sense when you note that Sankofa is just a few blocks from Peralta, in the same school boundary, while Santa Fe lies far to the west in an area with no other public schools anywhere near to it.

    According to documents on the OUSD Restructuring website:

    Santa Fe has consistently rated higher than Sankofa in school choice.

    Santa Fe has a higher percentage of students who live in the surrounding area and go to its school.

    Santa Fe’s students at Proficient/Advanced for ELA increased in 2011 while Sankofa’s students decreased.

    Santa Fe also had a lower suspension rate in 2011 and a greater total enrollment of 245 students to Sankofa’s 153.

    Sankofa became exempt from closure in Step 2 by proposing a restructure to K-8. In some areas of Oakland this exemption makes sense, but Sankofa tried this before in 2007 and the district had to shut them down for multiple reasons.

    In addition, one might question the need for a K-8 in Northwest Oakland if Claremont Middle School is going to stay open. Why should Sankofa pull away any of Claremont’s limited enrollment?

    Should there really be a need for a K-8, Santa Fe’s staff and parents have already approved this restructuring. Our former principal was the only barrier to our applying to become a K-8 school.

    In Appendix IV of their most recent presentation, the Restructuring Committee claims that Sankofa, Piedmont and Peralta represent strong Full Service Community School options in attendance areas in proximity to Santa Fe.

    First of all, Santa Fe is already a Full Service Community School.

    In addition, there are no AC Transit Bus lines that could take Santa Fe students to any of the suggested schools, and Piedmont Avenue is crosstown, over 2 miles away, in a completely different neighborhood.

    Finally, Santa Fe is currently in the process of a $700,000 renovation of its playground and fencing, approved last year by this board, and Santa Fe just received a completely new computer lab. This would make Santa Fe the superior receiving school site for Sankofa’s smaller population.

    Please get out a map and look at what the Restructuring Committee is proposing. It is not in the best interests of the greater amount of students at Santa Fe. However, moving the smaller Sankofa population to Santa Fe would serve the best interests of all concerned.

    Thank you.

  • livegreen

    A well stated case. Could this be political? The Principal of Sankofa is smart and proactive, and has been going to a LOT of meetings. Obviously she has made her case to both the Rexo, the Board, & the Strategic Plan committees. Has Santa Fe?

    It shouldn’t come down to that. But it might.

  • LK

    What I heard about the Washington (Sankofa) school site is that the land was left to the school district in a will with the stipulation that there be a public school there in perpetuity. The land would revert to the Washington heirs (I’m pretty sure the benefactor was descendant of our first president) should Washington/Sankofa close. Maybe that’s the reason Santa Fe is on the list and not Sankofa?

  • Oakland Teacher

    Peter, I also think you have made a very good case. If we are going to start from the position that some schools have to be closed, then it should be a logical process, not based on who made back-room deals with whom.

    IMHO, being willing to switch to a K-8 model should not exempt a school from the closure list. Was everyone given that same opportunity, or only certain schools? What happened to considering the percentage of neighborhood families who attend the school? Why allow a school which already tried a K-8 model and failed another opportunity? Why allow a school that went from highest funded in the school district per pupil (under Gates funding), to the lowest per pupil spending under RBB stay open? That certainly is not a full-service community model. All of those inconsistencies add up to a policy/procedure that is all about politics, wearing fair and democratic process clothing.

    Let the games begin.

  • Trish Gorham

    Bushrod Washington was the nephew of George Washington, his executor, and heir to Mount Vernon where he is buried. He was childless.
    The land grant was bestowed by Dr. Bushrod Washington James, (prior to his death) who must be a relative, but I have not found out the relationship.
    The area was Bushrod Park before a school was built, so I’m guessing there is a requirement that it remain public land.

    I applaud Peter for his presentation. Is politics happening here, livegreen? You bet.

    While I taught at Washington, (which was closed in its centennial year), Claremont always resisted having our kids go there, even though we were in the attendance zone.

    Is Sankofa going K-8 to accommodate those students below Telegraph, leaving Claremont for students in schools above Telegraph? I don’t know, but it seems that would be the result.

    Other Washington tidbits: It was never a program improvement school. It had the first PTA west of the Mississippi, established by Mrs. Knowland, Mrs. Merritt, and other Oakland notables.

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    Thank you Mr. Hasak.

    I firmly believe in dialogue, and welcome a representative of Sankofa stepping into the process in a public manner.

    My characterization of the staff and administration of Sankofa has always been positive, and my understanding is that you are all dedicated and passionate about educating the children you serve.

    I will set aside your characterization of my presentation in the spirit of what I hope will continue to be open discussion of the merits our two schools.

    Regarding population counts this year, it is my understanding that the assignment office is telling incoming parents that Santa Fe is closing next year and redirecting them to Sankofa.

    I look forward to continuing an open and public discussion, free of any name calling or disparaging characterization of our characters.

  • Hmakesyouthink

    I think it is unprofessional for OUSD employees to have a public negative exchange. Furthermore, they could be held liable for defaming the previous Santa Fe principal.

  • Oakland Teacher

    I am willing to bet that the “proud Sankofa teacher” has been in the district 1-2 years, and will stay less than 5 years. That was a pretty offensive posting, full of jeering and sarcasm toward a fellow teacher whose school is being closed. He did not need to hear your platitudes. We need to try to be mindful of the loss that many neighborhood communities are suffering and not gloat about avoiding the chopping block. There are very few schools in OUSD that are 100% immune from closure.

    You avoided being closed this year, but it could just have easily been your school. It could be your school next time, especially if karma prevails. I really hope your approach and attitude are not typical of your entire staff, as it speaks really poorly for your school.

  • http://OaklandTribune Marty Price

    I would think this would go away if these Charters could also go away.Trish Gorham got it right that the site was to be used for a public school, not a charter .The idea that we keep closing public schools is that we keep losing our history, which has happened at Washington. This is not even the first Sankofa, there was one housed at Mosswood i the early part of this decade. AS for our history , look also at Melrose Academy, not even locaed in Melrose, but Maxwell Park. This was formerly named after Elizabeth Sherman, the first black teaher in the district, the auditorium after Akili Denianke, a long time cultural activist and teacher in the district…I could say the same for Durant, which is now foster, but the neighborhood name was traditionally Hoover/ Durant after the two schools that served the area. Santa Fe is the last public school in the area. We have North Oakland Charter, another on te site of Golden Gate, all as a response to Leave Evryone Behind. Santa Fe, Lakeveiw, Frick these are schools that definietely need tostay open

  • Sheri Tiamiyu

    I am a proud Sankofa Teacher. I absolutely agree that there needs to be an open dialogue and that schools should come together to support those that are facing closure. However, this is not what has happened thus far. There is no need to “throw other schools under the bus”. As Mr. Hasak stated, “Sankofa did not write up the closure list”. Why is there this focus on exchanging Sankofa for Santa Fe? We are all here to support families and students. Sankofa is not a charter school, as was implied by another post. Sankofa is doing an incredible job and continues to grow and work towards making partnerships that support our community. I absolutely understand the frustration that is felt when tough decisions have to be made and schools are closed. No one is happy when this happens. The conversations that are happening now are counter productive and unprofessional. Santa Fe, we understand your frustration. This is a time to focus on gathering support, not pointing fingers. At Sankofa we will continue to holistically serve families and children, focus on academic rigor, and on creating a supportive and caring school community. If “Karma prevails”, we will continue to grow, expand and succeed.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Jeering and sarcasm do not equal good karma – period.

  • Sankofa Ally

    In response to Sankofa Academy as an excellent option for a Full-Service Community School, below are some highlights I’d like to share about our learning community:

    Back to School Night: Yesterday Sankofa Academy hosted our back-to-school night and we are proud to report that our students, families, and community filled our auditorium, making the event standing room only. Target, a proud Sankofa community partner, adopted us as their “community school” and announced their generous contribution to our literacy program: With support from Target, Raising a Reader is piloting an early literacy program in kindergarten at our school! Thank you Target and Raising a Reader!

    Notes on Sankofa’s other community partners: Sankofa has successfully secured over 40 community partnerships that support our comprehensive teaching and learning community, and our full-service community school offerings. Partners include Bay Area Community Resources, Oakland Schools Foundation, Oakland Schoolyard Initiative, UC Berkeley, Mills College, Cushman and Wakefield, and Bushrod Rec. New programs at our site include a salad bar, Oakland Fresh, a licensed state-mandated preschool, and Experience Corps, a newly renovated library and program, PreK-5 autistic spectrum classrooms, and an inclusion program. We are grateful to have the UCB Lawrence Hall of Science provided science instruction to our 3rd-5th grade students, and the UC Cooperative Extension provides science programming to our students in K-2nd grade. We also have a licensed family therapist on site, 9-5pm to serve the social-emotional needs of our students and families. Our Extended Day Program serves 120 of our students, and the Bushrod after-school program serves 50 of our students, providing our community with comprehensive programming, 8am-6pm everyday.

    We are also proud to have TFA alum, Teach Tomorrow Oakland alum, and Oakland Teaching Fellows working at the site. Faculty also include a former teachers who have taught in the “slopes” and “hills” of Oakland. And several priority-placement teachers selected to come to Sankofa this year. You’ll also note, as a school that had only 5 teachers 24 months ago, we now have a licensed pre-school with two teachers, and a total of 12 classroom teachers.

    Notes on enrollment: In 2 years the school has grown from 90 students to 245 students, outgrowing Santa Fe’s current enrollment of 144 students. We also have a waiting list for some grades. When schools were losing students, Sankofa was gaining students.

    Notes on modernization: Phase 1 of our Oakland Schoolyard Initiative has been approved, and we are excited to see the schoolyard in progress. The total cost of the schoolyard is over $1 million. Washington / Sankofa was left in disrepair for years. Today, neighbors walk across the street and thank school staff for the improvements.

    Notes on expansion: An overwhelming majority of family members have petitioned to expand Sankofa to a preK-8, and staff has done the same. Anyone who has ever created a K-8 program would never design a K-8 by taking a closed middle school and implanting it in a K-8 model. You grow a K-8 program over time while building the program and its stability. The founding Sankofa staff did not agree with the way in which they were previously forced to grow into a K-8 model – they did not fail.

    Sankofa Academy Data: In 2010-11 the fourth grade scored 94% Proficient and Advanced in Math on the 2011 CST, and 5th grade scored 60% P/A in Math. In ELA, the 4th grade performed 56% P/A, and the 5th grade performed 45% P/A. The 4th grade is in an excellent position to continue those gains in the 6th grade. 61% of all African-American students at Sankofa were P/A in Math on the 2011 CST, and 43% were P/A in ELA. Sankofa’s African-American students outperformed many African-American students across the district, and have continued to outpace District-wide API scores. As a whole, Sankofa scored 59% P/A in Math on the 2011 CST while Santa Fe scored 47%. In ELA, we scored 38% P/A while Santa Fe scored 34%.

    Thanks – I hope this helps provides some clarification.

  • Trish Gorham

    This is what you get from a process which:

    Put some schools in the know as early as last Spring, and some schools informed by the press 2 weeks ago.

    Tried to sell, with dozens of pages, that the process is objective because a WHOLE LOTTA numbers were involved, but then makes numerous exemptions to the data results.

    Made no attempt to have a more community based conversation with all stakeholders, even if the conversation began with, “We have to close this school.”

    What we get as a result of a flawed process are heartsick, outraged, and frantic parents, students, and staff.

    We get schools trying to defend their worth over another’s by single digit differences in test scores and double digit enrollment differences.

    The conversation over school closures should have been a 10 month process, not a 10 week process.

  • Nextset

    Post 13 was really interesting. The major point seems to be “our Negroes are doing better than your Negroes – we are therefore a better schools”.

    Well I wouldn’t be completely sure about that. It’s great if the school is doing well, but exactly what is the cause of scoring differences – value added to absolutely comperable students – or some kind of Cherry Picking going on (or even worse, cheating?). If we are talking about a relatively small number of people who started out absolutely comparable, yes, I think superior and ruthless tactics of teaching might make a difference on the final scoring. Thus maybe just maybe we do have a “better school” here.

    But what are the odds? Is it more reasonably possible the students are not just fungible black students but rather students sorted in some way that the higher scoring school actually has some advantage in the black student selection – like a basketball team having taller players while crowing they practice harder.

    Show me schools with widely different scores on allegedly similar ethnics and I’ll show you discrete cherry picking (like different sub-ethnics (Ethiopians in the Woodpile), like hybrid ethnics (the good old one-drop rule). While it’s possible it was just a matter of superior coaching or whip snapping, maybe it’s not really likely.

    And there are a lot of Ethiopians running around too.

    To do an apples to apples comparison maybe we should not just compare the black stats school-to-school but also note the percentage of single mother children (a good proxy for IQ) or free lunch eligible percentages. If those are similar then proceeding to compare performance and scoring rates would be more reasonable. If they are not, then you’d expect the groups of higher SES children of the same color to score higher in cognitive measures also.

    People like to play games with statistics. that’s ok. We were not born yesterday and we all can ask the obvious questions.

  • OUSD Parent

    As a parent of children at an OUSD school (Peralta), I am deeply disappointed in the post by Mr. Hasak. Teachers are leaders and role models to children, the community, and within their school. I find your post incredibly disrespectful in tone and intention. If you had a powerful point to portray, it was lost in your defensiveness. Please keep in mind that you and staff from Sante Fe may very well teach on the same campus next year and therefore directly modeling adult behavior for our children.

  • livegreen

    I also think Mr. Hasak’s post #6 was extremely disrespectful, to the point he will be remembered for it.

    On the other hand I do think some of the information & data from Sankofa supporters is powerful, and I appreciate the input and progress the school is making. The list of supporters is also powerful, to the point where frankly, I’m jealous. Being in a “slope” school where we have a majority African American students (most but not all from out of boundary) performing higher than Sankofa, where our facilities are mediocre at best, one of the frustrations has been how to support similar students.

    OUSD and many grantors, including BACR, Oakland Schools Foundation & others listed, see that we’re in a middle class neighborhood and, regardless of our needy student population, look only at the middle income neighborhood where’s it’s located and flat-out reject us.

    If a school is middle income, or located in a middle income neighborhood, you are either rejected, allowed to deteriorate to the point that then these donors might become interested, or by that time it will be too late and the school will be shut down.

    I hope our school will continue to improve. If it does, however, it will be by the bootstraps with little help from OUSD, and no help from any of these foundations who don’t give even a smidgen of donation if the dirty words “middle class” are so little as mentioned. Even if many of our students are FRL or needy.

  • livegreen

    BTW, it would be interesting to have the success of Sankofa taught to other schools (at least ones they are not in evolutionary competition with) so their successes might be emulated.

    & where does one get 5.2 million for facilities? All OUSD Bond money, or outside grants too?

    Kudos to Sankofa for it’s successes.

  • shelli greene

    First, I believe that schools should remain open. There are a lot of good things going on in a many of the school in Oakland. Some schools get a bad rap because of the neighborhood the school is located. I would have more faith in the process if all the schools chosen have the faces of our brown and black children.

    Tony Smith is a charter school superintendent. He does not have the district best interest in mind. I am so tired of hearing, “we are not sure where our students are going”. CHARTER SCHOOLS!!!!! Why were charter put on the table when some of them are failing. Failing when they are able to put non performing students out. OUSD get it together!!!

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    I am disappointed to report the Superintendent Smith and Board President London made an appearance at Santa Fe Elementary this evening which felt dismissive and was not very informative.

    Superintendent Smith had no response to the greatest concern voiced about safety in getting our children to the new proposed school sites.

    He also claimed he had not heard “directly” about his own school assignment office telling incoming parents that Santa Fe was closing and that they needed to choose another school.

    While other members of his team said no final decision had been made, Superintendent Smith stated emphatically that his presentation to the Board was final.

    Board President Jody London did not endear herself to the crowd by leaving midway through public commentary. She said she had to attend a mandatory Nutcracker meeting for her daughter.

    She also did not respond to Santa Fe School Site Council members who reminded her that she was present when they approved a K-8 restructuring, and that she had promised her support in the process.

    There were calls for her recall, perhaps due in part to the weary expression she wore throughout the proceedings, as if it was a burden to listen to the people she was elected to serve.

    My 2 minutes of commentary:

    Board President & Superintendent at Santa Fe Input – 10/6/11

    My name is Peter von Ehrenkrook and I am currently a 5th grade teacher at Santa FeElementary.

    I have to acknowledge that I am not worried about the Santa Fe teachers or staff. We will all have jobs in the fall, though some of us may be placed at less than desirable sites due to our public dissent.

    In addition, I am not worried about our top performing students. They will be quickly assimilated into the local private and charter schools. Even Anna Yates in the Emeryville School District will turn a blind eye to home address issues if the child is a high performer.

    My concern is for those children who are rejected by the local charters and private schools. Either their parents don’t have the savvy to get them in, or once they fail there the charters and private schools send them back to us.

    This is often due to issues with low academic performance, erratic attendance, or behavioral problems. We always welcome them back and do the best we can to support them academically and emotionally.

    We also do our best with children like the 13-year-old who came to me recently from a local private school knowing only 5 letters. They had passed him on year after year with As and Bs. Or the English Language Learner who was dropped into my class last year the day before the CST. His family kept him out of another local school for over a month in protest over his being bullied, and only reenrolled him when we opened our doors to him. This is what a real Full Service Community School does.

    Nothing I have seen or heard from OUSD eases my deep concern about the future safety and welfare of our children in transition – those who are homeless, live with a grandma, or live with a relative who works nights.

    These are real children I teach every day. They wander in around 10 AM, since they have to get themselves up and walk from the areas near the old Longfellow or old Golden Gate sites. If you ask them to travel to Sankofa, or even worse to Piedmont Avenue, they may just decide it’s not worth the effort.

    They need a local public school they can walk to safely, and from which they can walk home safely at 6 PM after taking part in an After School Enrichment Program.

    Until you can assure me our At Risk Students will be safe and their needs will be met, I will continue to rally public support against this closure.

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    I sent this message to our OUSD members this evening:

    You have an opportunity to make a bold, positive cause for social justice in sparing one, two, or all of the schools slated for school closure.

    I know you will continue to consider all of the information presented to you between now and October 26th, and I trust you will make the best decision.

    I have copied below an e-mail I sent tonight to the Oakland City Council and OUSD Board:

    Dear Council Members & Staff,

    We currently have 65% of our students who walk to Santa Fe Elementary each morning, and many walk home at 6 PM after attending our After School Enrichment Program.

    A representative from Assemblyman Swanson’s office, who also happens to be a former police captain with OPD, spoke before OUSD Superintendent Smith and OUSD Board President Jody London on October 6, 2011, and testified that asking Santa Fe children to walk to Sankofa Elementary, Peralta Elementary, or Piedmont Avenue would put them at serious risk for abduction or worse.

    As of today, October 8, 2011, we have still received no plan from OUSD for the safe transit of our Santa Fe students to the schools they may attend next year. Before closing down Santa Fe, plans for the safety and welfare of all of our students should be fully considered and explained to the public. That is not the case.

    Please contact Superintendent Smith and our OUSD Board Members, and share your concern over the potential harm to our children.

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    Katy, please remove post #21. This was an error in entry by me and should not be posted publicly. The correct intended entry is #22.

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    Thank you Katy !!! I appreciate your concern for the privacy of those who might have been affected.

  • Special Education Parent

    An important statement made by Peter von Ehrenkrook: “My concern is for those children who are rejected by the local charters and private schools. Either their parents don’t have the savvy to get them in, or once they fail there the charters and private schools send them back to us.”

    Sadly, children with Special Needs very rarely set feet in those schools and even in many traditional public school campuses in our district.

    There are many losers in this closure situation. Yet, let’s not forget that disability cuts across race, class, gender, etc.

    Children with Special Needs are an indicator population. If you serve them well, you are probably serving all children well.

    Sankofa is doing what very few schools in OUSD are doing: placing children with Special Needs at the center of school life and planning. While there are many reasons to support the work of this rare gem of a school, that one alone should cause everyone to pause and consider. The many of us who suffered through the closure of Tilden and the effects our often very vulnerable children, fought to find schools who would welcome all of the children from Tilden. We chose Sankofa as one of those schools because of its strikingly inclusive vision and practice, and Sankofa chose us. I do not have a child at Sankofa but fully support the rare work that the school is doing on behalf of children with Special Needs.

    Few schools expressed their solidarity when Tilden became an easy first target in a wave of closures. We were the canary in the gold mine and the closure happened a year after a long re-incubation process. We are all still healing from those 2 long years of difficult organizing given the daily challenges of supporting our children and the fact that we come from many neighborhoods and experiences by no design of our own. We get placed in “programs” and we work like hell to build a school experience for our children.

    Children with Special Needs do not often figure in all of the comments made by and about schools. Yet, the schools that support our population of children do so at a cost to their site budgets and their population numbers (e.g. Special Day classrooms have less children and impact the total population numbers.)

    I will defend Sankofa because it took risks for our children when they most needed it.

    That vision was not temporary and expedient. They continue in that sacred, joyful, and difficult work.

    Thank you.

  • Special Education Parent

    An important statement made by Peter von Ehrenkrook: “My concern is for those children who are rejected by the local charters and private schools. Either their parents don’t have the savvy to get them in, or once they fail there the charters and private schools send them back to us.”

    Sadly, children with Special Needs very rarely set feet in those schools and even in many traditional public school campuses in our district.

    There are many losers in this closure situation. Yet, let’s not forget that disability cuts across race, class, gender, etc.

    Children with Special Needs are an indicator population. If you serve them well, you are probably serving all children well.

    Sankofa is doing what very few schools in OUSD are doing: placing children with Special Needs at the center of school life and planning. While there are many reasons to support the work of this rare gem of a school, that one alone should cause everyone to pause and consider. The many of us who suffered through the closure of Tilden and the effects on our often very vulnerable children, fought to find schools who would welcome all of the children from Tilden. We chose Sankofa as one of those schools because of its strikingly inclusive vision and practice, and Sankofa chose us. I do not have a child at Sankofa but fully support the rare work that the school is doing on behalf of children with Special Needs.

    Few schools expressed their solidarity when Tilden became an easy first target in a wave of closures. We were the canary in the gold mine and the closure happened a year after a long re-incubation process. We are all still healing from those 2 long years of difficult organizing given the daily challenges of supporting our children and the fact that we come from many neighborhoods and experiences by no design of our own. We get placed in “programs” and we work like hell to build a school experience for our children.

    Children with Special Needs do not often figure in all of the comments made by and about schools. Yet, the schools that support our population of children do so at a cost to their site budgets and their population numbers (e.g. Special Day classrooms have less children and impact the total population numbers.)

    I will defend Sankofa because it took risks for our children when they most needed it.

    That vision was not temporary and expedient. They continue in that sacred, joyful, and difficult work.

    Thank you.

  • Katy Murphy

    I’ve received an email from Jonathan Hasak, saying he’d just discovered this comment attributed to him from September 2011 — and that he was not the author.