OUSD board adjourns meeting after sit-in

sit-in at OUSD board meeting

UPDATE: OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said 10 protesters were arrested, beginning at 12:35 a.m., after refusing to leave the building.

Tonight, a group of about a dozen or more activists from BAMN held a sit-in and protest in the midst of the board meeting, saying they wouldn’t leave until the board took back its October decision to close five elementary schools. (At one point Alice Spearman, who serves up at least two colorful quotes and/or insults per meeting, issued this challenge: “I want to say to these revolutionaries who want to camp out: I hope you’ve got your tent. I hope you do. Walk your talk.”)

After an hour-long recess, when the Oakland school board and the television cameras returned to the board room, activists resumed their chanting about children, gentrification and schools not being for sale. (None are for sale that I know of; some might be leased to charter schools or the Emery school district, which some protesters were describing as majority-white. You can find that district’s actual student demographics here. Oakland has a greater percentage of white students.).

Then, without further ado, the board members and staff grabbed their personal effects and left, adjourning the meeting to tomorrow afternoon.

After the board walked out the first time, a man in a Santa Fe Elementary T-shirt told the activists (which did include a couple of Lakeview grandparents) that he had been waiting for hours to speak on the agenda item to lease Santa Fe to Emery Unified after the school closes in June.

“The point is you deprived the community to make their point to the school board,” he said. “This was disrespectful.”

Earlier in the meeting, a number of teachers union leaders spoke out against Superintendent Tony Smith’s plan to replace the regular teaching positions at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high schools with teachers-on-special-assignment, or TSAs. They held a rally before the meeting on the steps of the district headquarters.

Oakland school board protest

The board also had an interesting (and at times, procedurally perplexing) discussion about the future of Lazear Elementary. The board voted to close the school last fall, and to keep it open, parents have applied for a charter conversion. OUSD staff recommended the board reject the petition, but Noel Gallo made a motion to approve the charter. Alice Spearman also voiced her support, as did Chris Dobbins.

The board ended up tabling the matter, asking staff to work out a similar “partnership charter” arrangement as they did with ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. One of the provisions in that agreement might be for the charter organization to consider returning Lazear to district (non-charter) status in two years.

Anyone get why would that be, when the only reason it’s going charter is to stay open despite the district’s decision to close it?

Katy Murphy

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

  • J.R.

    Director Alice Spearman – 1

    BAMN – 0

    It’s about time someone stood up to these people who live in a fantasy world, way to go director Spearman. Like I said before, any time these utopians would like to voluntarily teach and uplift to alleged under-served masses, they are free to do so. Let’s see less talk and more action. It is one thing to feel the need to insist that public officials hand out other peoples resources(taxpayers), but it is quite another to take your own time and resources and address these problems yourself. If BAMN wants to do something good, they should start a “BAMN counseling, intervention and tutoring service”(free of course), and that would make a difference.

  • Nextset

    Disruptive people at a board meeting should be told to leave then arrested and dragged out – or whatever it takes. Pepper Spray in the face has proved effective on those resisting arrest.

    The Board chose to stop the meeting entirely rather than confront the disruption with force. I respect their decision. Sitting comfortably behind a computer I like the harder line that bullies and those in the wrong need to be struck with force to make it clear that one is not a good victim. I wasn’t there. I assume the Board knows what it’s doing.

    Good Luck to all.

  • OaklandParent

    Like the parent from Santa Fe, I also waited 5 hours in vain to hear the board discuss the fate of my children’s school. I left the building around 10pm when the protesters shut the meeting down.
    This morning I find myself saddend by the state of communication in Oakland between the School District, parents & teachers. Last night was not the first time that I have heard 5 hours of frustrated parents and teachers speaking, yelling and even crying before the board. There has to be a better way.

    Note: Can someone explain why the board did not acknowledge the father who spoke about his son being attacked and hospitalized at Claremont Middle School?

  • J.R.

    Someones child was attacked at Claremont Middle School, and nobody addressed the issue? That is poor leadership, there is no other way to put it.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD

    #4 The father (google Oba Dogon SSS for the his side of the story) stated that the only response he was given from Admin at Claremont was they could not speak to him except through their legal aids. No one in OUSD or Claremont has spoken to him yet and it’s been over a month. The president of the board is a fellow Claremont parent and the director of district 1 in which the school resides. As par to the course, she gave her usual unsympathetic, completely without empathy much less sympathy (because you can bet an adult at Claremont would never have let that happen to HER kid) “You’ll have to move it along, your time is up.” monologue to this parent and every parent and speaker that stepped up to the mike. The board sits through the public comment sections barely tolerating each speaker with ample eye rolling, internet surfing and texting while parent pleas and cries over the fate of their child’s education go on and on with no response or reaction beyond noting resentment that the poor members of the board are subjected to this torment. There is little to no compassion exhibited and only one member, Mr. Gallo, at least has the honor to endure and listen without contempt. The system of “No Response Shall Be Given” other than to demean and belittle speakers with the buzzer and turning off of the microphone makes an extremely tense situation even more contentious. This environment only ensures eruptions and outbursts of anger. It’s as if the board seeks this atmosphere on purpose. The Board could avoid these disasters if it truly would engage the community on every level and at every step. Time consuming? Yes. Aren’t the children wort it?

    The Board and the entire district is under the mistaken impression that they have absolute power, that the schools they administer are their own property to do with what they will. Wrong. These schools belong to, in order, the children, the families, the teachers, the citizens of Oakland. You are administrators, NOT rulers. You may have the power, but that doesn’t give you the right to do with it what you will. You are either hired or elected to SERVE the public, not admonish and ignore it.

  • J.R.

    A large part of the problem our society faces is the “victimhood mentality”, and that attitude is so pervasive even amongst those who are not poor and underprivileged.

    This excerpt from question 14 Ben Visnick is an example of this attitude:

    “The statistics are overwhelming. Our black young men in Oakland are collectively in deep distress. They are both victims of institutional racism and cause much of the discipline issues in our Oakland classrooms as a result of this oppression. To focus on “Restorative Justice” without the necessary intensive counseling and remediation effort is just wishful thinking at best and cynical politics at worst. I believe in small Opportunity Schools that can offer this support for our at risk students until they are ready to return to the regular school environment. Please also see my answer to Question #1″.


    Personal responsibility is an afterthought, and it is supposedly everyone else’s fault for personal failure.

  • Harold

    Can we establish term limits on the school board? In a city of 400,000+, we should have plenty of candidates, to regularly serve.

    I’m very disturbed to read about the young boy who was attacked at Claremont M.S. (post #5). I just finished reading the father’s blog entry and I will be paying very close attention, to how OUSD handles this incident.

  • J.R.

    Parent Stuck,
    Reality is, the board is stuck in “Cover Your A** mode” legally and politically right now. One thing they should be doing irregardless of legal ramifications is making sure that this child is safe number one.