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Two Oakland schools to split from OUSD

ASCEND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

On Wednesday night at Oakland Technical High School, the Oakland school board votes on a staff resolution to close five elementary schools, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. But the board is expected to be presented with another downsizing proposal, too: The faculties at two other schools, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, have voted to secede from OUSD and operate those schools as independently run charters.

You can read more about it here. That story will be in Tuesday’s Tribune. (And here is a link to a Sunday story about school closures.)

District staff estimate the budget shrinks by roughly $5,500 for each student who leaves OUSD (additional funds, such as the parcel tax, go to the district regardless of its enrollment/attendance). The enrollment of the two elementary schools adds up to about 800 — which means the district’s budget could take a hit of more than $4 million at the same time the administration is trying to save $2 million by closing schools.

It’s also noteworthy that ASCEND and Learning Without Limits are located in the same part of the city as Lazear Elementary, which is on the closure list. So if Lazear closes and the charter conversions are finalized, that would limit the options of Lazear families.

Other charter conversion details:

  • ASCEND and Learning Without Limits would be managed by the Oakland-based Education for Change charter management organization, which now manages three schools — Cox, Achieve and World academies. Hae-Sin Thomas, a former ASCEND principal, was hired in July as the organization’s new CEO.
  • A number of teachers do want to unionize after their schools “go charter” in 2012, but it’s evident that the majority differs from previous OEA and CTA positions on such issues as seniority-based layoff rules.
  • The schools are filing petitions to remain in their buildings after their conversion. ASCEND is in a recently upgraded building near the Fruitvale BART station, and Learning Without Limits is on the old Jefferson campus, which it shares with Global Family.
What do you think this development means for OUSD and its attempts to downsize the district? Do you think other schools will try go the same route?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Teacher Man

    Katy, Great article but I’m a little confused on a few points.

    To clarify – when you say that “losing students from LWL and Ascend will cost the District money,” doesn’t this mean that the district will no longer have to pay for the resources (teachers, materials, etc) needed to educate those children? The educational funding from each child’s ADA (Average Daily Attendance) follows them to whichever public system, either district or charter, to which the family decides to send their child.

    I’m confused as to why the Lazear families won’t have a neighborhood school, couldn’t they apply to LWL and Ascend?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Katy:

    It is not clear to me by reading Wednesday’s agenda where the Board will discuss the Ascend and Learning Without Limits faculty vote to convert to charter schools. Do you have that information?

    And, Teacher Man the charter school law was, I believe, written in such a way that becoming a charter is limited to only granting charters when there is a public school option. The reason for West Oakland Middle in the Middle of KIPP Campus is charter school law. Maybe, Learning Without Limits will be testing whether limits will be imposed on it in court?

    Oh what a tangled web we (public)weave when in the name of choice we charter?

    Jim Mordecai

  • Katy Murphy

    Hi Teacher Man -

    The $4 million-plus figure is the amount of money that would come out of OUSD’s budget — but you’re right, the district would no longer have to pay for those staff members or other expenses. It’s much more painful for school districts to downsize than to grow; as we’ve seen, sharp enrollment declines tend to lead to teacher layoffs and school closures. But I suppose it might be minimized in this case, as most of the teachers would follow the students (meaning they would leave the district through attrition).

    ASCEND is at capacity (and so is LWL, at some grade levels), so unless students leave ASCEND or the school increases its class sizes, there would be limited space for Lazear children who are in kindergarten through fourth grade this year. That was one of the reasons for ASCEND’s charter petition, actually — concern about overcrowding and a district-mandated increase in class size.

  • Katy Murphy

    Hi Jim – The schools are just submitting their charter conversion petitions tomorrow. The charter hearings and discussions will happen later.

  • Katy Murphy

    P.S. I didn’t mean that Lazear families wouldn’t have any traditional public school options if their school closes — just that those options might be more limited than once thought. Other Fruitvale-area OUSD schools include International Community School, Think College Now and Global Family.

  • Eldon

    Where will all displaced teachers be dumped? Im sure not thie hills- inner city schools are the wastelands the OEA agreements made!

    There will be more to come…………….get smart Oaklaners, OEA has you hostage!!!!

  • Jim Mordecai

    Hawthorne and Cox started to be a conversion charter but one of them I believe switched to a start up.
    KIP also started as a charter but with the ole slide of hand switched to a start up. Church schools and existing public schools are not suppose to be granted start up status the difference being $250,000 loan to start up granted by the State when start up is approved by local board, county board or the State Board of Education.

    I wonder where the money will be borrowed for these two elementary schools to start up as ADA doesn’t begin the year.

    Will the teachers that signed the petition go without pay until ADA kicks in? Will all the teachers even follow up and actually teach at the new converted school?

    To whom will these teachers sell their sole to get a start up loan? Education for Change maybe and have their children attend EFC Urban Montessori.

    If California charter school law allowing conversion stays for the future, I want to see better fair play. By that I mean passing conflict of interest laws preventing principals and school administrators from being legally allowed to advocate for conversion at their own school/district.

    How do you not sign a petition circulated by your principal? That is an unfair situation legal under current charter school law.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Alice Spearman

    FYI, C]To be eligable for a conversion charter, the school must be an underperforming school, so these schools do not qualify. They can submit for a charter.

  • Katy Murphy

    Alice: Are you referring to the parent trigger?

    I thought any school could try for a conversion (not the parent trigger kind) if at least half of its teachers voted for it. The California Charter Schools Association has a web page on the subject: http://www.calcharters.org/starting/conversion/

  • Hmakesyouthink

    Katy you are right.
    Also the board has to vote to approve the charter, if it is not approved they may go to the county for approval. This seems to have been in the works since last school year. Hae-Sin sat on the board for EFC and is now CEO, Adams and Fuchs have been verbal about their discontent.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Board Member Spearman:

    Any school that can get 50% of its faculty to sign off to convert to a charter school may submit its petition to its School Board. The law says the District can give preference to academically low performing schools. However, preference no longer has any legal meaning since the cap on charter schools have been lifted. But, it is interesting that Ascend is in PI status with a score of 781 but Learning Without Limits trails with a score of 728 but isn’t in PI status. Federal law encourages PI schools to become charter schools as redressing their low achievement.

    The district under law does not have grounds to deny if the charter petition jumps through all the hoops mentioned in the law and it is easy enough for all petitioners to follow the model language provided by charter school association that leaves the District with no chance to turn down the petition. The California School Boards Association even states in its pamphlet that under law School Boards have had taken from them their discretion to turn down charter school applications with all the right stuff. But, why would the petitioner bother with a court win when it can take its petition to the County?

    Look for yourself at the Ed Code:

    b) No later than 30 days after receiving a petition, in
    accordance with subdivision (a), the governing board of the school district shall hold a public hearing on the provisions of the charter, at which time the governing board of the school district shall consider the level of support for the petition by teachers
    employed by the district, other employees of the district, and parents. Following review of the petition and the public hearing, the governing board of the school district shall either grant or deny
    the charter within 60 days of receipt of the petition, provided, however, that the date may be extended by an additional 30 days if both parties agree to the extension. In reviewing petitions for the
    establishment of charter schools pursuant to this section, the chartering authority shall be guided by the intent of the Legislature that charter schools are and should become an integral part of the California educational system and that establishment of charter
    schools should be encouraged. The governing board of the school district shall grant a charter for the operation of a school under this part if it is satisfied that granting the charter is consistent
    with sound educational practice. The governing board of the school district shall not deny a petition for the establishment of a charter school unless it makes written factual findings, specific to the particular petition, setting forth specific facts to support one or more of the following findings [listing of elements of the petition missing and defined by State Department of Education].

    Ed Code 47605
    (2) A petition that proposes to convert an existing public school to a charter school that would not be eligible for a loan pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 41365 may be circulated by one or more
    persons seeking to establish the charter school. The petition may be submitted to the governing board of the school district for review after the petition has been signed by not less than 50 percent of the permanent status teachers currently employed at the public school to be converted.

    h) In reviewing petitions for the establishment of charter schools within the school district, the governing board of the school district shall give preference to petitions that demonstrate the
    capability to provide comprehensive learning experiences to pupils identified by the petitioner or petitioners as academically low achieving pursuant to the standards established by the department under Section 54032 as it read prior to July 19, 2006.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Mr. Velasquez

    I know that we are talking about charters but we need STOP and think before we make decisions that effect the entire school district. The board has already stated that they can’t prevent charters from opening AND also stated that they can’t close them down. The county and state are overturning their decisions. We need to attack that issue on a state level and change the rules and laws around charters. There are some great charters and there some that need to close. Let’s keep all of the best educational options open for our children.

    This plan will create a MUCH larger deficit.Here are the numbers. OUSD expects to loose up to 20% of students in OUSD if they implement this plan. Superintendent T. Smith said that himself. Even if we cut that percentage in half. We will still loose 24.7 million a year from state funding. If we take the 2 mil out from the money we saved from closing the 5 schools, we are still left with a 22.7 million deficit that wasn’t there before the school closures. I had the numbers directly from OUSD sent to me. Let’s educate ourselves before we pick sides on this issue. THIS PLAN WILL NOT SAVE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT A PENNY!.

  • Factchecker

    Mr. Velasquez, I think Mr. Smith must have misspoken. I think he meant to say that the district might lose as much as 20% of the ~1,000 students displaced by the school closings — not 20% of the district population as a whole. A 200 student loss in students would equal about $1.1M in revenue lost, but that does not include the savings from the expenses associated with those students.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, that’s what OUSD staff have been saying: the district might lose up to 20 percent of the students displaced by school closings.

  • LK

    Will this change the distrtict’s calculus re closing Lazear? If Ascend goes charter and Lazear closes down, where are those children supposed to go? Surely, OUSD won’t assume that Ascend will still be a neighborhood school? Seems logical for Lazear to stay open (maybe move to the Ascend campus?) at this juncture.

  • Katy Murphy

    People from ASCEND were planning to file a petition to remain in their building; I believe they did so at tonight’s meeting, where I am now.

    Also tonight: Someone from Lazear Elementary School said the community (not sure if it’s parents, or parents and teachers) have filed a charter petition. She said they want to remain in the district but will try to go charter if the board votes to close the school.

    The board members haven’t started the closure discussion yet, but I imagine your question about Lazear will come up.

  • ousd teacher

    What happened with the charter proposal last night? Did the board approve ASCEND and LWL or do they have time to review before voting?

  • Katy Murphy

    ASCEND and Learning Without Limits submitted their charter conversion petitions last night, but the public hearings have yet to happen.

  • Kathleen Evans

    I am wondering what the financial arrangements are when a school “splits” from the district. It seems to me that taxpayers on all levels (city, state and federal) have invested funds in these public schools. How is OUSD compensated for facility, furnishings, materials, and costs related to closings? With so many school in the district being under-provisioned and no money in the budget for replacement, equipments, furnishing, and materials should go to OUSD schools. Sites (if rented) to charters should certainly be at market value.

  • Kaiser parent

    #19
    My understanding is that Charters, also funded with tax payer dollars at least in part, have first right to use any vacant school site under state law. I’ve heard the term “lease” tossed around in reference to Charters, but that would only be for a private building, not a public school site. Charters may also use public funds (from the same state education funds budgeted for public schools) to pay mortgages on private property, but those properties remain privately held. A Charter can also open in a single, unused classroom in any public school if it gets approval.