Boundary change fallout at Crocker Highlands

The Oakland school district might study its school attendance boundaries again next year, if the school board approves such a proposal next fall — but the new lines wouldn’t be drawn before the 2013-14 school year, David Montes de Oca, director of OUSD’s Quality Community Schools Development, told dozens of concerned parents yesterday evening at Crocker Highlands Elementary.

At issue, at least most urgently, is Crocker Highlands, which expanded to include some of the area that until now has belonged to nearby Lakeview Elementary School. When Lakeview closes this month, four schools will incorporate its attenance zone: Crocker, Lincoln, Cleveland, and Piedmont Avenue.

Crocker is one of the district’s most sought-after schools; its kindergarten was filling up with neighborhood kids even before the school’s boundaries expanded for the upcoming school year. As a result of the changes, parents say, 18 families who live in the neighborhood were initially denied seats; some were later placed, but the school district has yet to provide the numbers. Now, some parents in the original Crocker boundary area have circulated a petition calling on district leaders to reconsider that adjustment.

Crocker is adding a fourth kindergarten class this year, though that’s considered a one-time “bubble” solution. (Note: I’ve requested information from OUSD for months now about the number of neighborhood kids denied seats at Crocker and other schools; my polite pestering has yet to yield the answers. Still, Montes de Oca vowed to parents he would “push out” such data to the public to help inform their decision-making.)

As I sat in the meeting, it reminded me of a similar gathering at Hillcrest Elementary five years ago. It’s been awhile since I’ve written about parent angst, frustration and confusion over OUSD’s School Options program — specifically, schools with a higher demand among neighborhood families than available kindergarten seats.

For those of you who aren’t already all too familiar with the Options process: In Oakland Unified, families fill out their top school choices by mid-January and receive assignments based on a set of priorities that the school board revised in 2008. Basically: 1) kids with older siblings attending the school, regardless of where they live; 2) kids in the neighborhood without an older brother or sister at the school, selected at random; 3) kids who live near low-performing (Program Improvement) schools; 4) general lottery of all others interested in attending the school.

Families can appeal their placement and be put on a waiting list.

Here are some interesting things I learned at the meeting:

  • Half of OUSD children — 51 percent — attend a school that’s not their local, neighborhood school.
  • About 8-12 schools, including Crocker, are “oversubscribed” — they had more applicants than space for all of the incoming neighborhood kindergartners.
  • Each year at Crocker Highlands, 23 to 30 percent of the children who get into the school end up going elsewhere. This happens at other schools as well, so the district often admits more children than it has room for.
  • About one-quarter of OUSD’s elementary schools have new boundary lines to incorporate the residents who live near the five elementary schools slated for closure at the end of the month — Lazear, Lakeview, Santa Fe, Marshall and Maxwell Park.
  • The district will likely add a “pause” in its school assignment process to take stock of all of the neighborhood families denied seats at their local school. Those families — who’d still have the right to appeal and be put on a waiting list — would have the option of choosing another elementary school within their middle school “megaboundary.” (Right now, unless families know to place that megaboundary school #2 on their list, those spots go to other non-neighborhood kids first.)

When someone asked Montes de Oca if district officials knew that this would happen to Crocker, he gave one of those “yes and no” answers: “What we knew is that there was a potential for any school to be affected by those changes.”

Do you think the district should hire a group to study its attendance boundaries?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nontcair

    Though some of you want to attribute my comments to envy or misplaced anger, the fact is that my objection has been quite clearly and justifiably directed at OUSD’s indefensible, offensive, assignment policy.

    There seems to be at least a few Crocker parents who expect preferential treatment from the government. There are a LOT of people like them in this country. *They’re* the ones who have suspicious motives.

    And please don’t tell me that annual lotteries, leveling the playing field, etc have been tried, don’t work, and therefore need to be avoided because then you’re going to have to explain to me why we should continue to adopt *your* solution which doesn’t work, either.

  • J.R.

    Wanting your child to attend their home school(within school boundary area’s) is preferential treatment? That accusation rises to a new level of absurd, leftist progressive entitlement thinking.

  • On the Fence


    You wrote, “So spare me that patronizing, GOP baloney about how all schools are receiving the same amount “per student”

    My understanding from many, many discussions on this blog and elsewhere, is that it is the lower performing schools and those that serve lower income families that receive the largest amount of money per student. I was rather surprised when I saw just how much of a difference some schools recieved when compared to other OUSD schools. I wish I could find the stats that were posted on this blog in the past. I think that this data would suprise you, Nontcair. It is just the opposite of what you may have thought.

    Ok after much searching….I have listed a few schools with the highest and lowest per pupil expenditure. I was able to pilfer this from the Perimeter Primate blog. Unfortunately, it is from 2006-2007 so it’s outdated by a few years and some of the schools may not even exist anymore. Still, you get the gist. I will also add that Crocker received $5624 that year which is pretty close to the bottom. It should also be noted that this does not include fundraising by individual schools.

    These schools had most money per student:




    Acorn Woodland

    Maxwell Park


    International Community

    Think College Now



    These are the schools with the least money per student:


    Skyline HS

    Joaquin Miller

    Chabot Elementary

    Edna Brewer


    Oakland High


    Bret Harte

    Roosevelt Middle

  • livegreen

    Nontcair’s policy proposal can be described as: bus some children from the flats to the hills (or foothills, if he/she has such depth of perception), and ship the others from the hills/foothills to the flats. Come up with the added bus expense to do that, OR let kids take AC Transit unattended and get lost to playing hooky, gang members, child sex pimps and other travails that plague Oakland. (Which, BTW, is already something flatland kids experience going to schools in other neighborhoods).

    If that weren’t bad enough, watch your middle class flee Oakland (even more than it has already) and see how that further weakened tax base then pays for services for ALL of the City of Oakland, rich, poor and middle class alike.

    Since there is no way this is going to happen, Nontcair’s hijacking of the current thread essentially equates to an ultra liberal Quixotic manifesto, that simultaneously disapproves of the importance of neighborhoods in any city (of any stripe, color, diversity or economic background), and pits their existence against diversity.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Especially as OUSD’s current policy allows for a hybrid between neighborhood and the broader interests of the city/equity, therefor balancing the values of neighborhood WITH those of diversity.

  • Ann Ferraari

    OntheFence, thanks for the numbers. It’s interesting that the top performing schools spend the least amount per pupil. I was told by a district employee that the highest performing elementary school, Montclair, got the least amount of money per pupil last year. Food for thought.

  • OUSD Parent

    Off topic and I apologize. But I was alarmed when I saw the $ allocated per pupil for the various schools. Then I came across the article in Oakland Local: State funding for California schools falling dramatically from 12/24/2011. Here’s the link:

    In the article it states that funding has fallen below the 2006-07 level. This is crazy!

    Katy, is there any way to get the currents breakdown of funding per pupil per school? I agree that the schools in the more affluent neighborhoods, including Crocker, have very aggressive fundraising efforts at the elementary level that will make up for some of what is lacking. But what about the middle schools? This is the point at which so many people flee Oakland and now I can see why. Montera and Edna Brewer are both big schools and they receive some of the lowest levels of funding.

    I apologize for veering off topic but I am really shocked at the numbers for OUSD schools.

  • livegreen

    It is indeed crazy, OUSD Parent. For all our children.

    Go to the OUSD website, then click under schools, then under the SARC’s. Or here’s the link: http://publicportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/19941091174536337/site/default.asp

    Click on English or Spanish and scroll down to get a school’s Per Pupil funding (historical data under Hist)…

    BTW, the summary on the SARC’s in easy-to-read format used to be available when clicking on the school name. That is not available any longer. Is that a permanent change, or is OUSD just updating that info now that the State’s final scores have been issued?

  • OUSD Parent

    Thanks, Livegreen. You seem to know a lot about the district and schools. You also seem to really care about the kids. I appreciate your point-of-view and contribution to this blog. It’s easy to get bogged down in the ideology or it all when it’s the kids who suffer the most.

  • Nontcair

    I brought up per-pupil funding not to quibble over statistics (the actual figures are probably 2-3X the published numbers) but rather to point out (too subtly, I’m afraid) that the BILLIONS of dollars appropriated (redistributed) to junky public schools — mainly for the benefit of public unions and contractors — really serves as a justification (pretext) for the tax dollars used to subsidize the relatively few “good” public schools mainly for the benefit of rich folks who could afford to (and should) send their kids to *private* school anyway.

    I had hoped to preempt the per-pupil funding argument. Nonetheless, someone still tried to use it against me.

    Of course I *never* would have anticipated that quoting the *letter* of Prop 209 would make me prone to charges of being a left thinking, ultra liberal who wants to see our girls enter lives of prostitution.

    One can’t hijack a thread going nowhere.

    Spare me that green, legalistic mumbo jumbo about “hybrids”, “broader interests”, “balancing”, and so forth. How and when did public education — teaching poor kids how to read and write — acquire such politically loaded overtones?

  • Nontcair

    some parents in the original Crocker boundary area have circulated a petition calling on district leaders to reconsider that adjustment.

    A consumer expressing his taste (ie his desire to send his kids go to a school within walking distance) is perfectly benign.

    A group which petitions the government to craft and enforce a set of rules which protect their privileges while simultaneously denying them to others is actively seeking preferential treatment.

    OUSD is legally *prohibited* from acceding to them.

  • Wishful Thinking

    @Nontcair, you should change your pseudonym to Nonsense b/c that is all I am reading from you. Others have been polite, but I will call a spade a spade. No one has asked for your sympathy and I will make NO apologies for working hard and wanting to send my child to our neighborhood school. Show me your tax bill and then tell me what’s fair.

    OUSD made a mistake whether they want to admit it or not and the Crocker community is rightfully calling them out on it. @Super, what many were not satisfied with at the meeting was the lack of explanation for why they would change the boundaries knowing that the school would be oversubscribed NOT the fact that the boundaries would not be immediately retracted. When you cannot answer a simple question, that was asked 20 different ways, by clearly stating that the boundary decision was either a miscalculation OR an intentional decision to mix things up, people are going to feel like OUSD has something to hide. Sorry, but most of the educated people in that room knew they were getting the run around. Had this been the private sector, someone’s head would have rolled. As was stated previously, there was obviously space at Cleveland to absorb the children coming from the new catchment area. Since most of those in that community were not sending their kids to Lakeview anyway, this would have been a better option to offer them, without having to unnecessarily and permanently disrupt a well functioning community. The funds needed for the additional classroom/teacher could have been used at Cleveland to make further improvements at the school. (BTW, the only boundary expansion that made sense to me was to add the rest of Trestle Glen which occurred after the fact.)

    In the same way everyone predicted this train wreck in November, I’m going to make another prediction without being privy to OUSD data, which they apparently are not using or making available anyway. (Thank you to the parent who called them out on this at the meeting.) There is a rumor that OUSD wanted to decrease the number of families in the new catchment area from going private by offering them a place at Crocker over families in the original boundaries, in order to make the Lakeview closure “appear” successful. If this is true, what they will effectively do is increase the number of children from the original boundaries going to private school, if they are not given a seat at Crocker. If we had wanted to send our child to Cleveland, we would have moved to that neighborhood and I suspect many feel the same.

    You are also going to see a lot of families looking to take a chance at renting in that highly dense area to try to get into Crocker and move. OUSD rewards these families through our options process which gives priority to non neighborhood siblings over neighborhood children, even when the school is oversubscribed. (http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/schools/oakland/choice.html) This is community building at it’s best.

    What is obvious now is that people will think twice now before buying a home in Crocker and more specifically Oakland. These tax paying families have REAL options. Property values will be impacted. In the end, I hope OUSD feels this headache was worth it.

  • Adams Point Mama

    Since the Crocker families are getting nowhere with the OUSD, is anyone considering going above them and appealing to the City Council and Mayor Quan? I’m not clear on whether the OUSD reports to the mayor but it’s certainly in the city’s interest, as Wishful Thinking points out,to keep families in Oakland and supporting Oakland’s public schools. Not everyone can afford private schools, despite what Nontcair thinks, and may choose to move to Alameda or Berkeley because of the distrust and lack of confidence ub the OUSD that this fiasco has caused.

  • livegreen

    Thanks OUSD Parent. We need to try to find what works for most, or what will hold this city together? Adams Point Mama, the OUSD Board doesn’t report to the Mayor and she has a lot going on now anyway (between being in Brazil collecting a green award, and having her 100 block crime fighting plan being declared officially not accurate and also non existent).

    However it is worth talking to her education adviser + your City Council member. They don’t have official jurisdiction but they do talk especially on matters important to their constituents. I believe Pat Kernighan has been supportive of issues re Crocker, Edna Brewer and her other schools. She can get a direct line to Tony Smith a lot easier than you or I.

    Just as importantly your Board Member needs to hear from you loud & clear.

    The fact is, OUSD messed up royally and it is not easy for them to undo the mess.

    PS. Wonder if OUSD will try to bandaid a solution and reopen Lakeview?

  • Observer


    You don’t actually have a child in school do you? Perhaps you work (or more likely studied) in the social welfare arena? One can spot the differences between a (progressive) poster with real life experiences —Livegreen—and one that is simply applying rhetoric to circumstances they themselves have not experienced.

    No the extra funding to low- performing schools is not 2-3x. It is what is published. Yes, the funding goes to public unions and contractors. Mainly the extra staff who all belong to the OEA and have been operating in below their agreed to, contracted pay for years (OUSD has been in violation). Yes, there are outside contractors. What I have seen is they are specialists who come determined to work and work their asses off (sorry), often well beyond the scope of their contracts to try and raise achievement. In most cases, in most Elementary schools in OUSD they have done this. With very little support or participation from the FAMILIES of the children they work with.

    These schools receive nearly double what the high-achieving MIDDLE class schools receive. And the middle class families in Oakland have no issue with their tax dollars going that way, they really don’t. But they do take issue with the finger pointing at the their high achieving school apparently getting something it doesn’t deserve. Our schools and our children do well because after working at jobs we are fortunate to have, we do homework with our children. We haggle our co-workers, friends and extended family for money to pay for programs at our school privately. We go to weekly meetings in the evenings at our schools often into the wee hours of the morning. This year alone, I volunteered over 100 hours at my child’s school while working full time and raising two smaller children. Yes, I have a spouse. But we planned our life very, very carefully. Is it a kind of privilege? Sure, I recognize it as such. I have been granted the capacity to work extremely hard at all hours of the day to make sure my family is successful and I will not accept anything less nor allow myself or my kids to slack off or make colossal errors in judgment that might thwart our success. That’s what is required in this world.


    A child from a single welfare mom

  • Nontcair

    Boy! The unsolicited rudeness, arrogance and contempt expressed by some of these rich folk. Lots of people work hard (including the poor) and pay high taxes. Like Buffett’s secretary. Fortunately, they don’t all seek preferential treatment.

    One shudders to think what other public education perks the self-entitled Crocker rich expect for themselves. A reserved slot for their kid on Skyline’s varsity tennis team, perhaps?

    The rich pay high vehicle registration fees for their Benz collections. Do they expect an exclusive diamond lane on the new Bay Bridge, or just reserved parking spaces on the streets in front of their estates (complete with round-the-clock OPD presence)?

    If turned-away Crocker parents sue I’m going to contact my Board member to demand that OUSD vigorously defend the lawsuit and scrap the unconstitutional assignment policy.

    Those published “per-pupil” numbers — for rich and poor alike, are lowball figures. They intentionally disregard the very real costs of PERS, debt service, and so forth.

  • Nontcair

    ALL kids who are California legal residents should have an equal shot at attending *any* public school in this State. The same standard as UC.

    As a practical matter, kids who live in West Oakland would be unable to attend a Beverly Hills public school, but *legally*, NOTHING should stand in their way.

    There’s NO good reason why those kids should be barred from attending Crocker Elementary, Piedmont HS, Lowell, and so forth.

    To argue otherwise is to defend “separate but equal”, “preferential treatment” and all the other forms of institutional discrimination.