In June and again in July, I asked the Oakland school district for a breakdown of the net savings from the five elementary school closures, taking into account the conversion of one of those schools — Lazear Elementary — into an independently run charter school.
Unlike the other two charter conversions, Lazear became a charter simply so it could remain open, so the fiscal impact of that change — the loss of enrollment and per-student funding — is inextricably tied to the decision to close it in the first place.
I’ve yet to receive a response for my request, specifically, but the district has produced a cost-savings analysis that’s left me scratching my head. Reading the document, which estimates a $2 million annual savings from the five school closures — as advertised last fall — it’s as if the Lazear conversion never happened.
In fact, the analysis lists a $490,000 savings for Lazear — when, just a few months ago, the superintendent and his staff warned that if the school became a charter, the loss of per-student funding to OUSD would cost the district $1.4 million.
I asked Troy Flint, the district spokesman, about the Lazear factor and reminded him about my earlier request. He responded, “No adjustments to budget projections were made relative to to the Lazear conversion.”
How is that possible? The district was able to make budget projections (net losses) as a result of the other two charter conversions, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. Why would Lazear be treated differently?
I’ve asked Flint again for further clarification. As I reported earlier this summer, some news reporters received an email from the communications department in June, saying the closure savings were actually closer to $6 million — not $2 million, as we reported. (An email to our summer intern read: “I noticed in today’s article on the Lakeview sit-in that you attributed a statement estimating $2 million in savings from the school closures to Superintendent Tony Smith. The Superintendent objects to this characterization …”)
As it turns out, $5.8 million was merely the total of those elementary schools’ budgets, not a net savings. The district’s own fiscal analysis puts the savings back at about $2 million. I wonder if it will ever be adjusted to reflect what happened with Lazear. If the school’s conversion was truly a wash, financially, that would be worthy of noting as well.
The district’s analysis also tells us what happened with the employees at the five schools: 44 of the 51 teachers were placed in other positions; three retired, two resigned, one is on leave, and one has applied for a leadership position. Of the 14 non-teaching staff, 12 were reassigned, one retired, and one was laid off because of the closures.
The document also explains which offices will be moved to the Lakeview Elementary School campus; the headquarters on Second Avenue isn’t moving, as I’ve heard some suggest. The departments taking up residence at Lakeview provide family and student support services: after-school programs, student assignment and bilingual testing, translation services, health and wellness, juvenile justice transition center support, etc.
Here are the school-by-school net savings amounts listed in the document:
School Name/Net Savings (unrestricted funds)
Lakeview — $.38 million
Lazear — $.49 million
Marshall — $.34 million
Maxwell Park — $.45 million
Santa Fe — $.37 million
Total — $2.03 million