All year long, people have been complaining about the Oakland school board’s decision to close five elementary schools — and how they did it.
Almost everyone who goes through a school closure must suffer to some degree, regardless of the process or the timing. But as I reported the story I wrote today about the closure of Civicorps Elementary School, a publicly funded, independently-run charter school in North Oakland, I couldn’t help but think back to OUSD’s much-derided process.
First: There was a process. I’ve lost track of how many meetings I’ve covered in OUSD this year on the subject of school closure and student placement. I would have run through my newsroom’s entire paper stash had I printed every document the district produced to make its case to the public about the need to close schools, and to justify which ones it chose.
I’m not saying OUSD did the right thing or not by closing schools, or that there weren’t major problems along the way (See: Lazear Elementary). But the board made its decision on Oct. 27, about 10 months before the start of the next school year. Displaced families received priority when choosing their Plan B. Because the OUSD school board members are elected, members of the public are free to vote them out of office if they feel misrepresented.
Now, take Civicorps Elementary. The Civicorps governing board (an appointed body which oversees the charter elementary school as well as an academy and job-training program for high school dropouts) held a board-only retreat in February and decided it might be best to disassociate the elementary school from the organization, for financial and strategic-planning reasons.
When it didn’t prove feasible to make such a major transition in a matter of months — turning the school into an independent charter or having another charter management organization absorb it, either of which would require the approval of OUSD — the Civicorps board called a special meeting and voted to close the elementary school. That was May 8.
Until word got out about the special board meeting, a few days beforehand, no one at the school seemed to know that closure was even under consideration.
As for documentation and public notice: As of this afternoon, the agenda and minutes from last week’s closure meeting had not been posted on the board’s web page. No supporting documents, no public hearings, no announcement.
After more than 10 years in operation, the school will be gone in a flash.