Lawsuit to halt closure of Santa Fe

Just before the Oakland school board agreed to lease Santa Fe Elementary School to Emery Unified for $500,000 a year (for three years), the law firm Siegel & Yee filed a lawsuit to keep it open.

The plaintiffs plan to ask the Alameda County Superior Court for an injunction. If it goes through, this will be the second of the five planned closures that have not gone according to plan (See: Lazear Elementary. Its charter conversion hearing is scheduled for April 25).

Here’s the news release from Michael Siegel:


Decision to Close Santa Fe Elementary School is Racially Discriminatory, a Waste a Public Resources, and in Violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, Plaintiffs Say

Oakland, CA. On Wednesday, four parents and six students from Santa Fe Elementary School served the Oakland Unified School District with a lawsuit to prevent the closure of their historic neighborhood school. In a verified complaint filed with the Alameda County Superior Court, the Santa Fe plaintiffs allege that the school closure policy implemented by the Oakland School Board violates the equal protection guarantees of the California Constitution. The plaintiffs also allege that the Santa Fe closure wastes public resources and violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“The School Board’s decision to close Santa Fe violates my rights as a parent, and my kids’ rights as students,” says Thearse Pecot, the lead plaintiff and a guardian of three Santa Fe students. “They are now trying to close the fifth school in my neighborhood – and all five of these schools have served mainly African-American children. This is racial discrimination, plain and simple,” Pecot says.

Plaintiff Ural C. Dixon describes how the school closure policy will impact his son, who receives full-day special education services. “The District is saying they will bus my son from North Oakland to 81st Avenue in East Oakland – a trip, including stops, that will probably take 90 minutes each way. How is a young person supposed to get an education, when he spends three hours each day on a bus?”

In their suit, the plaintiffs make four claims regarding the closure of Santa Fe: (1) the closure violates the rights of North Oakland African-American students to an equitable education; (2) parents’ rights are also violated, because they will not be able to access the newly-assigned schools; (3) the School Board is wasting public funds by closing the school, given hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent investments at the Santa Fe campus; and (4) CEQA has been violated, because the School Board failed to consider the cumulative environmental impact of five North Oakland school closures over the last eight years.

The plaintiffs intend to request an expedited hearing on their claims, and will ask the Superior Court to issue an injunction preventing the closure of Santa Fe.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Mick,

    I agree 100%.

  • Peach

    Like Walmart, which heavily funds charters and ed reform, all of this is about real estate.

    Santa Fe is the latest casualty in the march to eliminate all public schools in West and North Oakland. This will further facilitate the growth of charters. More importantly, it will create empty buildings for the children of the new middle class inhabitants of West and North Oakland and Emeryville.

    The same is the case of schools near the estuary and port. The Chief Illusionist of the American Indian School was helped to create a distraction so that its growth to include elementary grades would pass the Board late in the night. Since the development of housing in the Jack London and estuary area began, there have been plans to build a school in the 9th Avenue or Laney College area. These plans were foiled.

    Now with the American Indian School offering elementary grades, space will be freed up in Lincoln Elementary for a themed magnet or some such for the children from the loft districts. Also there will be the bright new building on 10th Street for La Escuelita. Charter schools are already being established nearby. These developments may allow Lazear to exist for a few more years if it is not needed for others.

    The children of working and low income parents, like those at Santa Fe and Lazear, are so often sacrificed for the convenience of advantaged parents.

    I wish the litigants success.

  • http://PetervonEhrenkrook Peter von Ehrenkrook

    Thank you Mick and Peach. The three day silence till someone finally posted a comment was deafening.

    I am immensely proud of the parents at Santa Fe who sought out legal recourse, and extremely grateful to Michael Siegel for his pro bono work.

    Having visited several schools with an eye toward next year’s placement, I have been flooded with gratitude for the opportunity to teach at Santa Fe. The staff, children, and facilities will be hard to match.

    As has been stated quite well in the litigation papers, there is no justifiable reason for closing Santa Fe.

    Thanks again to Mick and Peach for your encouraging words.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD

    I’m not sure if it pertains or how it would pertain, but its interesting that Emeryville has leased space to the Piedmont school district for the last 2-3 years while Havens and Beach Elementary schools have been renovated. The renovations will be done by Fall. With a housing supply that is mostly small apartment or loft style condos and a dwindling school age population and an empty school site that is “good enough” for Piedmonters to –albeit temporarily—house their kids in, why arethey leasing Sante Fe?

    It does really rankle that there will be no public schools below Telegraph. I fail to see why a school so close to Sante Fe (sharing the same boundries with Peralta) with tiny enrollment, poor test scores that haven’t improved, no neighborhood kids, very close to a middle school that is also under enrolled should receive close to $10 mil in upgrades and be transformed K-8 while Sante Fe is shuttered. What are the ulterior motives here? What is the real plan and where is the transperancy?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Parent Stuck in OUSD: Emeryville is looking to rent Santa Fe only temporarily, while they rebuild the town’s only high school.

    There is an alternative site the Hawley school which Piedmont has been leasing (but is done with this year) but it is smaller, especially for sports.

    Many Emeryville students are from other cities, FYI, such as Oakland, Antioch, Richmond, etc.

    I think most folks would be astonished by the geographical mobility of high school students in the East Bay. Some parents seem to think kids will get in less trouble if they school far from their neighborhood.

  • Peach

    In other words, the Emeryville district that just emerged from state receivership has an extra half million dollars a year to rent a slightly larger building with more sports facilities (just rebuilt by the city of Oakland), rather than use a free unused facility. Emery Secondary, 6-12, has an enrollment of 405 while Havens Elementary from Piedmont used the Emeryville facility with 475 students so it’s really not about space.

    Again, why are they leasing Santa Fe when Emeryville, like all districts, is cutting curriculum offerings, support programs, and staff for their students?

  • ItGetsWorse

    @Peach–it’s even more absurd than what you’ve laid out here. E’ville will only move 8-12 graders to Santa Fe. The remaining elementary school in Emeryville will now be K-8. What’s being built is not a high school, but a giant monolith that will house all our schools, at every level, along with our community activities and a library to be shared between the public and school kids. It’s a giant consolidation of public facilities which will leave other buildings open for “other uses.” Our elementary school had millions of dollars poured into it, only to be slated for abandonment by the Emeryville district. Who was on board in Emeryville for this grand scheme? Look no further than your friendly neighborhood superintendent in Oakland. It is about real estate and the abandonment of public facilities to private interests, contracts for consultants, charter schools, and the eventual flight of families in need from these communities.