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The Oakland school district might be finished downsizing

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

I meant to post this story sooner: OUSD’s school closure process — which was supposed to last for two to three years and shrink the district by 20-30 schools — will likely stop after the first round, when the district is a dozen schools smaller than it was last fall.

District officials say the target changed because they are projecting a balanced budget for 2012-13, one without a structural deficit for the first time in more than a decade. You can find the story through the above link and read up on the district’s latest budget report here. The financial report will be presented at tomorrow night’s 5 p.m. board meeting.

P.S. Some have asked whether, in light of this development, OUSD will once again use adult education funding for adult education. California school districts are now — at least, for the time being — allowed to use the once-protected funding stream for any purpose, and many have spent it on k-12 programs. OUSD eliminated its large high school diploma program and its adult ESL classes, with the exception of Family Literacy, among others. I’ve submitted your queries; so far, however, I’ve heard no talk about rebuilding adult ed.

Two related school closure issues:

- On March 28, the school board discusses what to do with the closed school buildings. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district is considering moving the offices (including the Family and Community Office) now located on 2111 International to Lakeview Elementary, one of the five elementary schools slated to close in June.

UPDATE: Flint initially thought the future use of Lakeview and other closed school buildings was on the March 28 agenda, but it’s not. I’ll let you know when I find out more.

- Flint also confirmed what some have posted here on this blog: oversubscription of the high-performing Crocker Highlands Elementary School. Because of the boundary expansion made after the closure of nearby Lakeview, some children in the Crocker neighborhood were not admitted to their home school. Flint wouldn’t provide numbers today, but said district staff are meeting on Friday to discuss the problem. (Sue Woerhle, an OUSD veteran who retired from the district almost five years ago, is once again in charge of the student assignment process.) In light of Crocker’s oversubscription, I’m puzzled by a statement in a proposed board resolution, which would amend a zoning oversight by adding one side of a street to the Crocker attendance area. I’m not saying the change itself doesn’t make sense — just noting that the resolution ignores the problem at hand.

I’ve bolded it below:

On January 11, 2012, the Board of Education approved school attendance boundary changes as a
result of the school restructuring decision made by the Board of Education on October 26, 2011.
Included in those approved changes was the Crocker Highlands Elementary attendance area.
Subsequent analysis by staff following the January 11, 2012 has determined that Trestle Glen
Road, which traverses the interior of the Crocker Highlands Elementary attendance area,
currently hosts one block where only those addresses on one side (even numbers) is included in
the Crocker Highlands Elementary attendance area. The remaining section of the block (odd
numbers) of Trestle Glen Road resides in the Glen View attendance area.
The staff recommendation addresses this anomaly by adjusting the Crocker Highlands
Elementary attendance area to include the odd-numbered addresses on Trestle Glen Road as
reflected in the attached map and list of affected addresses. Staff has determined that the
inclusion of the affected addresses is not likely to cause an undue burden on the enrollment
demands of Crocker Highlands Elementary attendance area. Signatures have been received by
the district from a majority of the residence affected agreeing with the proposed change.

Are other schools facing similar over-enrollment issues? What should the district do about it?

 

Katy Murphy

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

  • J.R.

    OUSD,
    One more question, there are certain progressives(Ben Visnick for one) out there that would love to confiscate all the PTA money, and spread it around the district, is this what you want?

  • David Laub

    A concern that I have about this blog, is the tendency for some bloggers to breach defamation of character, libel and slander. You might want to caution your bloggers, Katy. I don’t know if you can be held responsible.

    #51, and to whomever it may relate to-
    You tread on questionable water when you attack individuals by name with fantastic statements like that. If you cannot PROVE what you say, take heed. We are all subject to the law.

  • Yet another Oakland teacher

    @David – We have certainly heard that the district thinks it should raid the PTA funds and spread the money around (Don’t know what Ben or the union think).
    That conversation has been going on for a year and a half. They can’t give hills schools title 1 money and other earmarked money, so our parents fund raise their little hearts and check books out to help our schools offer libraries and computers and other “extras”. I am not sure whose good idea it is to raid PTA money, but I am hoping it is not allowed to happen (and it may be illegal).

  • J.R.

    David,
    The statement was at the board meeting, and I don’t know if there is a clip of that. I’ll try and find it.

  • J.R.

    David,
    Here is a excerpt of quote along the same lines, the full version can be found here:

    “I believe in economic justice and a level playing field. As a parent who has donated hundreds of dollars to Redwood Heights and will do so at Montera Middle, I want some of my dollars to go down the hill for the disadvantaged students who I teach at Oakland High”.

    http://www.gopublicschools.org/questionnaires/schoolboard/

    You can call it economic justice, but it is what it is.

  • OUSD Parent

    I think it’s very honorable of this guy who has the means to contribute to Redwood Heights and Montera to want some of his funds to go to Oakland High. Where I’m confused is why doesn’t he write a check to OH as well? I have contributed cold hard cash to several OUSD schools where my kids are not students. But it’s my call. I choose to do it and if someone told me that I had to, or that they were going to allocate some of my funds to another school, frankly, I’d be peeved and would probably shut my checkbook for good.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it shouldn’t be up to him.

  • Livegreen

    OUSD, I don’t disagree with the unfairness you mention. But this is a national and statewide problem. Practically and locally speaking, if OUSD does this it’s going to do is create middle class flight, set back the district and further erode the tax base.

    Now who is that going to help? Just when OUSD is making progress bringing families and students back in…

    Instead cooperative voluntary efforts need to encourage this, combined with school diversity. Combined with family retention that builds active school populations (no matter the socio-economic background).

    Building neighborhoods and community schools is key. If the hills can voluntarily act to support the flatlands that is better. The slope schools in between already are.

    If we had a safe city attracting business and employment that would be even better…

  • Nextset

    David Laub: Are you an attorney?

    You might want to read this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_public_participation

    It is hardly defamation to make public policy argument about educational policy and political intentions of political adversaries.

    It is predicitable liberal nonsense to try to silence opponents. Conservatives don’t seem to do this.

    So much for your “defamation” issue. It’s not as if anyone on this board ever accuses someone of having a dread disease. We are a policy blog. Get used to the discourse.

  • OUSD Parent

    Thank you, Livegreen! I like what you have to say in your post #57.

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    As long as I stick with the facts(and links thereto), silence is not an option. We are in desperate times, and as a matter of course, progressives want more of the productive peoples money(by any means necessary)? The only answer they have ever had for anything:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXZmb4J3e34

    Just a reminder to progressives, you are not entitled to all of my money(although you already help yourself to a portion of it). I will give money, but I will give it to whom I choose(If I choose, when I choose. It’s called freedom of choice. Some people hate freedom, but I love freedom!

    Governments don’t create many necessary jobs, people do. The majority of productive jobs in this country are provided by small businesses followed by corporations. Some corporations are horrid(while some are good), but so are people who feel entitled to take more and more of the money that we earn to subsidize those that do not.

  • J.R.

    Since progressives love talking about the 99%, would you be surprised who is in or near the 1%?

    http://www.calwatchdog.com/2011/10/25/govt-union-boss-in-top-1/

  • Nextset

    Just watch all the tax increases get voted down in November – and watch the “education” establishment in CA squirm.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Netset:

    Your are only half right. Liberals try to silence opponents but conservatives do too. I suggest that you are being self-selective if you think there is a difference in a liberal vs. a conservative seeking an advantage over an opponent.

    Both sides are human although they might be fearful to concede that in front of their reference group and have their loyalty questioned.

    Self-righteousness is also working to justify limiting an opponent’s speech. This is where the “by any means necessary” thinking comes into play and the end justifying the means.

    I have liberal utopian goals but I don’t believe in the by any means necessary in trying to achieve those goals.

    American ideal of letting both sides be heard is played out in this forum. Some liberals and some conservatives subscribe to that ideal. Of course both sides think they have the better argument that is a winner in a free market of ideas.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    I actually think the blended proposal has a good chance to pass, after all even people who do not pay taxes can vote. The real problem is that the debt burden keeps growing day by day, with more public sector people retiring(and many making more than they did while working. All this while there are less productive people working and paying taxes(of course you can’t count subsidized taxpayers, they’re a wash). This is unsustainable, and we all see the folly of highly paid yet ineffective redundant bureaucracy in our public & charter approval/disapproval/re-instatement mess. Our school board denies a charter, who then appeal to the county, and are then approved, so much for local control(but hey, who cares, as long as the taxpayers are footing the bill).

  • Nextset

    I do believe that the Liberals we are experiencing in the USA are actually looking for a totalitarian state – they badly want to silence all dissent. As far as the Conservatives – I see them as weak sisters, losers actually. They are more inclined to accept dissent.

    I give you John McCain who ran for president while refusing to go negative on Obama. Weak. Weak. Weak.

    Although there are plenty of people who have reason to believe and do believe that McCain and Rhinos like him are really not conservatives.

    And then we have Santorum. Another big government so called Conservative who wants to legislate morality.

    Oh well.

    Brave New World!

  • Nextset

    Not that I have a problem with legislating morality. I don’t. But only at the state level.

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    They want, and(more than that)need cradle to grave support and sustenance. They don’t see the ensnaring ropes of that safety net as a hindrance and a barrier to freedom, they see it as a hammock. It is not the perfect way to sleep, but it’ll do just fine(beats workin’).

  • Adams Point Mama

    Katy, Did you get an update after Friday’s meeting about the Crocker situation? Thanks.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been wrapped up in other things, but will try to call tomorrow.

  • del

    Gracious me, I certainly didn’t mean to insinuate that anyone above is a racist. Let me explain my situation:
    I live with my grandkids & their dad in North Oakland, less than a block from Santa Fe (where I sent my kids as well). Their mom lives in an apartment near Lakeview. My kids are of mixed race but wouldn’t pass a paper bag test. Myself, my grandchildren, and their parents have obviously been going through the difficult process of picking a new school. I am well aware of the physical space limitations of Crocker (and many schools), but honestly that is not the main feeling I get when visiting these schools and their PTAs. I get the feeling that we are not wanted, and when a large group of white people come up with various vague reasons as to why a child cannot/should not come to their school, it does feel a bit racist. Again, I’m not saying any one on this blog is, and I know most of us are doing our best for the students of Oakland. This entire process is traumatic for us all and I know it is not convenient for current families at the not closed schools. At the same time, put yourselves in my place. How does this conversation sound to you?
    In terms of a “better public education” we all obviously want what’s best for our families. But if anyone expects me to take my children out of a school because another family came a long with a higher home value, there is something seriously wrong with that reasoning, and yes it is disgusting.

  • del

    To address some confusion as to school funding:
    PTAs at many schools provide quite a bit of funding for student opportunities. There is noting wrong with that. It does not make up for a “short changing” from the district—it is supplemental. Some schools get more money than others because federal law requires that students “at risk” get more funding. This money comes with tons of restrictions and caveats—for example Santa Fe is REQUIRED to provide every child with their school supplies, and school supply money cannot be spent on an art teacher. Meanwhile, a school with a moneyed PTA can spend that money where ever it is necessary (and many DO support students who come from families struggling financially). However, it is not as if PTAs are making up for money that is being funneled away from their schools by a capricious district.

    On a semi-related note, those who think more money is not at least a partial situation are simply not looking at the facts. At an Oakland middle school of roughly 600, they have had to cut eleven positions over the past 6 years despite rising test scores and enrollment. That includes a counselor, security officer, two office staffers, an assistant principal, a literacy coach, a math coach, and other adults that worked with the kids on a daily basis. Does anyone think that school didn’t need those people?
    Per pupil funding for students in California has dropped precipitously over the past years—it’s not because everyone is satisfied with the schools. It’s not because the schools are no longer needed.
    In my budget, I prioritized my spending and realized that I didn’t have enough to live as I wanted off of retirement alone. So I found a way to get more income. In California we do not have enough to cover our bare minimum of costs, so we need to look for more income.

  • Livegreen

    Del, All good points, and thank you for the clarification. I think students coming from closing schools have already gone through the Options process and been accepted to schools, correct? If so I’m curious about where they decided to go…

    If that’s not yet final, my suggestion is to check out the most diverse schools in Oakland that tend to “score” as well as the hills schools or almost. And because they are diverse you won’t get the feeling that you are not wanted…

  • AH

    That’s a good idea, Livegreen. Some excellent schools actually SEEK out diversity, both ethnic and socioeconomic.

  • dm

    I am in the process of appealing OUSD to get into my local public school for 1st grade. My local school is fairly good, but it didn’t have room for my child, thus my child got assigned to a low-performing public school in the lottery (bad luck for us I guess). Does anyone know if it is OK to hold a spot at a charter school while you wait out the appeal-process for the public school? We don’t want to go the charter school route, but would choose it above the low-performing public school (in the event that we don’t succeed with the appeal). I just want to make sure I don’t get dis-qualified during the public school appeal process by holding a spot at a charter school. Has anyone else had this experience? Thanks for any clarification on the subject!

  • On the Fence

    Unfortunately, I don’t have answers for you, but I do have questions. I’m wondering what you did for K, did you move from other district, or did your child skip K? What school did not have room, and where were you assigned instead?

    I’m not sure if you feel comfortable sharing any of that info, but it can be helpful to you and enlightening to others. There are a lot of parents on this blog who have good anecdotal info about how things shake out at particular schools.

    In any case, I hope that you find a spot.

  • livegreen

    Dm’s question makes me wonder: how many schools don’t have room for students in their neighborhoods?

    Dm might or might not have an unusual case but it would be interesting to know…So far everyone knows about Hillcrest and we’ve been discussing Crocker. Who else is on the list?

    Dm, Do whatever you have to do for your child. & I 2nd the Fence’s Q. I’m curious about the schools you were and weren’t accepted to…

  • Jane Foster

    Over enrollment will be an issue this coming year for all highly sought after schools. All the hill schools will be affected. Student Assignment has sent more students than spaces at most schools. This has left us out of a spot at our neighborhood school. (We moved in after the options process and assignment letters) Our son is a 3rd grader and it is not easy to find a spot at that level. What is up with over enrolling? We will be homeschooling and not dealing with OUSD anymore. Our hope had been to become a part of the community but OUSD is pushing people apart not only in the schools but within their own neighborhood. We can not share the same things with our neighbors. We are very hurt and disappointed with this whole process. Needless to say, our son is too as he will not be able to go to school with neighbors that he has befriended.

  • livegreen

    Don’t be afraid of the appeals process.

    The questions remains: why is OUSD botching enrollment projections so badly? Year after year after year.

    To some degree I understand that in the past 3rd grade and then 5th grade were “jumping off” points when OUSD lost students. The problem is that is changing, more families are willing to stay longer, and OUSD is not.

    OUSD is still using their old historical models. Their projections are NOT based on facts on. the. ground.

  • Parent in OUSD

    I wouldn’t be overly concerned about your son not being in the same school as the neighbors. Likely, even if he was in the neighborhood school, a lot of neighbor kids are not. My daughter is not in ours and neither are many other kids. But she has friends in the neighborhood and they all play together. And because she goes to school in a different part of Oakland, she has friends in many different areas and walks of life. That’s kind of the way it is in Oakland and maybe as it should be? Why should children be relagated to their neighborhood? I travel all around Oakland from Fruitvale to Rockridge, Maxwell Park to West Oakland. Its a fascinating city because of the people who live here and I think its great that our school has given our family connections to many different parts of town.

  • Wishful Thinking

    Beth Rhine, the principal at Crocker, posted this bulletin which was also sent to all Crocker families.

    http://principal.crockerschool.org/2012/03/26/school-boundaries-and-enrollment-update/

    What she wrote was not entirely correct as we were aware of isolated incidents of families last year who lived in the neighborhood and were not assigned to Crocker but eventually got in during the appeals process, so this was not the first year. When specifically asked about this during the school tour, Beth Rhine was very careful to say that all neighborhood children were “eventually” accepted. I wonder if this was written to also back up the statement, “I’m not sure anyone knew just how much it (the boundary expansion) would affect our school.” Really???

    If they don’t have a big picture solution for this, they better be prepared to add a kindergarten every year or deal with another set of angry parents (who already have their radar up after this self-generated fiasco) wondering why the boundaries were expanded to begin with.

  • On the Fence

    Thanks for posting, Wishful. Were the reassigned neighborhood children from last year only kindergarteners? Were they kids who moved in after the options process or who failed to submit their options paperwork on time? I am trying to understand what information that OUSD actually had about enrollment projections when they created this mess. It was obvious to so many that the school could not support such a large new boundary, but if OUSD already had good evidence that the school was over subscribed from the year before, then Tony Smith really must not have much regard for the families affected.

    Katy, have you heard any formal statement from OUSD, and specifically from Tony Smith on how they plan to address this issue?

    Am I being wishful to think that Beth Rhine’s statement, “there is some conversation regarding readjusting the boundaries, but nothing is yet confirmed” signifies that the right people are discussing this fiasco? Can anyone comment on this?

    Also, what types of calls have people made to our school board representative and to Tony Smith about this? Have you gotten any response?

  • Crocker Mom

    It sure seems like adding a 4th kindergarten school would ensure split or very large classes for the years going forward as those four kindergarten classes would have to then go to 3 1st grade classes next year and 2nd grade the year after. Also, currently there are 3 classes of 24 – 25 2nd graders heading into 2 3rd grade classes. I’m all for fitting these families in this year, and understand that address is no guarantee of placement, but the district really messed this one up. There is no logical reason to have created this problem knowing that there were going to be more kids than spaces. When they changed the boundaries they could have chopped off existing Crocker families and pushed out to include more across Lakeshore if they wanted to be more equitable, but keeping the enrollment numbers sustainable. Expanding them out all around so that it creates over crowding doesn’t make sense, especially since there are other schools that seem to have space and need kids (Good schools like Cleveland). I wonder if we are looking at 1/2 day kindergartens now, or hiring another kindergarten teacher. Of course if we hire a new kindergarten teacher this year and then end up not needing her/him next year if the boundaries are readjusted, that person would potentially bump out one of our newer teachers (which Crocker has a lot of). I’m sure the principal is muling al of this over. I certainly don’t envy her.

  • Harold

    “The Emperor has no clothes”

    $275,000 a year!

  • http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-the-crocker-neighborhood/ Tara Montanez

    My name is Tara Montanez and I’m a mother of 2 who will be Kindergarteners in 2014 and 2016. We live in the Crocker Highlands neighborhood and are concerned about the recent redistricting of Crocker. I, together with a number of our neighbors, have created a petition for a change to the current districting for the school. The OUSD seems open to having change happen but has expressed a need to hear from the community to prioritize this as an issue. I hope many of you will sign and pass along.

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-the-crocker-neighborhood/

  • http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-the-crocker-neighborhood/ Tara Montanez

    In addition – there is a meeting to discuss this at Crocker on June 6 at 6:30PM – here is the invitation from Beth Rhine:

    Dear Crocker Community,
    As many of you know, recently there were many discussions regarding the expanded boundaries and the impact on enrollment at Crocker Highlands. We were able to add an additional kindergarten class this year to accomodate all our neighborhood families but that is a short-term solution.

    We are having a meeting with David Montes de Oca, Executive Director, Quality Community Schools Development of the Oakland Unified School District, to address the long-term enrollment capacity of the school on Wednesday, June 6, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Crocker Highlands in the Library . Everyone is invited.

    Please spread the word about this meeting to anyone interested !

    Beth Rhine

  • J.R.

    The Oakland unified suits are about to learn the lesson “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, and these parents are rightfully angry about the boundary changes and disruption. Signed and sealed, and now it’s time to deliver the message.

  • Adams Point Mama

    Tara, Katy,

    Is there any reason why the OUSD can’t mine the data from the 2010 Census to get a rough idea of how many children are in each cachement area? Granted it wouldn’t be entirely accurate — people have moved in and out since, and some families might be planning on private school — but it would give them some concrete measure to use while drawing boundaries.

  • On The Fence

    Tara,

    Can you post a link to your petition to redraw the boundaries for Crocker Elementary? Also, is the meeting with the district still scheduled for this Wednesday? I’m interested if you have any information about whether Tony Smith will attend? Thanks!