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Decision: Five Oakland schools to close

The vote was 5-2, with Alice Spearman and Noel Gallo voting against the resolution. Here is the updated story; I’ll write another one tomorrow. You can read the live blog of the meeting here.

Did the board do the right thing? What will this mean for OUSD?

Staff Photojournalist

Staff Photojournalist

Katy Murphy

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

  • Turanga_teach

    It’s a heartwrenching and difficult decision, and I’m sure everyone looking at it has ideas about how it could be done differently. If a school’s doing things right, children, families, and educators alike feel a very strong bond that is difficult to sever. It’s clear to me, and to most, that those five schools were doing and are doing a lot of things right.

    And yet, the educational reality that we face in this broken economy is that the things we love aren’t always things we keep. I’m not going to get into citing all the number-crunching and district comparison here: it’s been hashed out already, and I don’t question the soundness of the decision to move Oakland closer to a fiscally sound way of providing a quality education for all students.

    Now it’s time for OUSD to do right by those kids and families as they transition to next year: I genuinely hope there is adequate support and information–widely distributed in multiple languages, with guidance made available outside traditional working hours as well as at the enrollment office–to help families identify a good fit for their children within the schools that remain open. In particular, I am concerned about the significant population of students with IEPs who have been served at these school sites because special programs are housed there: it won’t do to just carve up those classrooms and scatter them, one by one, to non-related school sites with available space.

    I’ve personally experienced school closure as an educator: in my current capacity, I spend some time in classrooms on several OUSD campuses, and I often run into students displaced from the school where I previously taught. We share our fond memories, and they tell me what they’re learning now: we agree that the new places aren’t exactly the same, but I look at the kids and I do see them thriving.

    I hope and trust that our district can move forward, taking–with great respect and great caution–the difficult and necessary steps to do so.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    Thank-you Ms. Spearman and Mr. Gallo. We appreciate your efforts to do the right thing.

    I heard from many today ,the board president was so rude. She even interrupted a thirteen year- old child. So pathetic. There need to be some contenders for the school board . Who ran uncontested? Time for some new blood.

    Why would families trust the enrollment office of OUSD to find a good “fit” for their children when schools they chose are being closed and ones that remain open are lower performing? When a school district closes schools to take care of budget issues, before they cut the outside contracts, before they stop hiring more and more people to run task forces that do not effect achievement, then truly all sense has left us and the very people who should serve as the gatekeepers have become wolves in sheeps’ clothing. West Ed received nearly ! million dollars alone…How many others are like that? Where are the figures? How much is OUSD paying the task force people? How much money is being drained out by outside contracts this year? Where is the transparency?
    My heart goes out to the five , the families, and faculties that have built so much together.
    THESE ARE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS.

  • Turanga_teach

    In the case of Spearman, the “right thing” to which you’re referring is looking the Board straight in the eye and saying, “I know some schools need to close, but I just can’t find it in me to vote to close schools.”

    I don’t know if folks reading this ed blog run with the Harry Potter crowd, but I’m irresistibly reminded in this instance of Dumbledore’s comments on the importance of choosing between “what is right” and “what is easy”.

    I’m also honestly not sure that it’s true that the schools around the closing ones are lower performing, as I think that was a specific, foundational part of identifying closure candidates and transition plans–that students impacted by the closures would have access, near the closing campuses, to “higher-performing” schools. And again, NOBODY is getting hired to head these task forces: that’s a straw man.

    No quibble at all, though, with wider point you make above: we do need to look at all the choices we’re making. They won’t all be popular, but they need to be sound.

  • J.R.

    As to the examples of Spearman and Gallo, very often the “easy thing” is the “wrong thing” in so many ways. There is nothing easier than giving away someone else’s(taxpayers) money or resources, especially in times when money is short. The culture of dependence must not be allowed to drag down and pervade the culture of responsibility and hard work. Equity should not be just handed out, it should be actively sought(like education, fulfilling work, honesty, diligence, and respect). Everyone ignores the root problems of a system that encourages irresponsibility and then people scream and shout when the well runs dry. it’s reality!

  • Marie Altman

    To address the statement about whether or not closed schools were higher or lower in performance: there were several factors taken into consideration of possible closure, some being performance, size, and proximity to neighborhoods, among other factors. The points were averaged, then compared to other schools of similar factors. So, in fact, performance could be lower or higher in the chosen schools. I can tell you that my school was recognized last year for having some of the highest gains in the district.

  • Nextset

    I can only imagine the uproar when Smith-Corona spoke of maybe cutting back on their typewriter factories.

    Where would the worker’s go??

    Of note from the conversations above. What happens when you close a low performing school and divert those students to a nearby high performing school?

    Could it be that you are actually “closing” the high performing school? This is all rhetorical of course.

    I just wonder of OUSD has any time left to change it’s ways and remain in the “school” business at all. I now conjecture that the urban schools are intended to be the continuation schools while the Charters are to be the “real” schools. Maybe this was the plan all along with NCLB. – Don’t for a minute believe NCLB was really about what it said it was.

    And we bring you – Caste system America. Where birth determines where you stay in society and social mobility is ended. A Brave New World where Alphas are Alphas and Betas know their place (in this case, public schools).

    We were all better off prior to Brown vs Board of Education and Federal takeover of Education.

  • Turanga_teach

    In the case of Spearman, the “right thing” to which you’re referring is looking the Board straight in the eye and saying, “I know some schools need to close, but I just can’t find it in me to vote to close schools.”

    I don’t know if folks reading this ed blog run with the Harry Potter crowd, but I’m irresistibly reminded in this instance of Dumbledore’s comments on the importance of choosing between “what is right” and “what is easy”.

    I’m also honestly not sure that it’s true that the schools around the closing ones are lower performing, as I think that was a specific, foundational part of identifying closure candidates and transition plans–that students impacted by the closures would have access, near the closing campuses, to “higher-performing” schools. And again, NOBODY is getting hired to head these task forces: that’s a straw man.

    No quibble at all, though, with the wider point you make above: we do need to look at all the choices we’re making. They won’t all be popular, but they need to be sound.

  • Turanga_teach

    Erg, delayed double posting. Please excuse and delete #7.

  • Alice Spearman

    All,
    For clarification of my statement and vote, sometimes you must decide what is morale and what is just by law. Knowing that the district needs to close some schools, I choose to take what I considered the morale road. I was not comfortable with many explanations given by administration on justifying the choosen schools, especially Thurgood Marshall, but by no means did I agree with many of the statements given by Director Gallo nor did I lobby othe collegues to see things my way. I found it very uncomfortable to try to lobby board members who represent schools who agreed with the proposal, they know their individual schools better than I, they and administration knew my position from day 1. I did however along with other board members was able to enter in the resolution a desired outcome for Thurgood Marshall, a merging of the school in total with Grass Valley the next closest school to us, therefore the transition should move smoothly for the community I represent. Thank all of you who came out to represent their neighborhood schools. I do believe in the end it will work out.

  • really?

    moral = morale?

  • OUSD Parent

    Katy, Do you or anyone else have more information on plans to close/merge additional OUSD schools? I received a form letter from the district today and it states several proposed options to streamline the number of schools in OUSD. The two that really caught my attention are:
    1. Transforming seven high schools into two high-quality comprehensive high schools
    2. Expanding the grade configuration of a set of schools to K-8, 6-12, PK-12
    How far along are these discussions? Will the process be transparent? What is the timeline? As a parent I have a lot of questions and I’m not sure where to go to find answers. Any info would help.

  • Katy Murphy

    Hi OUSD parent – I believe that first point refers to the small-school mergers already underway on the Fremont and Castlemont high school campuses. I do plan to follow up on the grade configuration changes, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions on those as well. Email me anytime at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.