Lazear Elementary, omitted from another Oakland school closure analysis

Staff Photojournalist
Families from Lazear Elementary protest their school’s potential closure in October 2011. Photo by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

For a short moment today, I thought the OUSD administration had given the public a full accounting of where students from recently closed elementary schools ended up this fall — more specifically, how many of the children at Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe remained in the district.

It’s been the subject of speculation for months, as student enrollment is closely tied to the amount of funding a school district receives from the state. If a school district loses too many students after it closes schools, it also stands to lose the savings underlying the whole plan.

The text at the top of Slide #6 on the enrollment presentation suggests that everything went according to plan — that only 19 percent of the affected left the district, about the national average. What’s more, it notes that the steep enrollment drop that crept up on the Oakland school district this fall had little to do with the restructuring plan.

The slide reads: “Percent of student loss from closed elementary schools is slightly lower than national average closure loss (20%). Total student loss represents small portion of total enrollment loss for OUSD in 2012-13.”

Then I saw the four bar graphs, one for each of the elementary schools on the closure list — except for one that’s nowhere to be found: Lazear Elementary.

Once again, in a school closure analysis, it’s almost as if Lazear never existed — when, in fact, its parents turned it into an independently-run charter school (on appeal to the county) after the board voted to close it, merely to keep it open. And they didn’t win their appeal until June 14, just as Lazear children — who had been assigned to other OUSD schools — were scattering for summer vacation. Even then, it was unclear whether Lazear would be able to stay in its location, as a charter school.

Today’s a district holiday, but I’ve asked, again, for information about Lazear. (I’m also trying to understand why the total enrollment figure listed for 2011-12 — 37,742 — is significantly lower than those provided to me last fall by the district — 38,039. Both were based on the 20-day count and included all students.)

The enrollment presentation — along with the district’s budget priorities for 2013-14 — will be discussed at Wednesday night’s regular Oakland school board meeting, which begins at 5 p.m.

Katy Murphy

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

  • ILoveTeachers

    Makes sense to me to omit Lazear as a closed school – it’s not closed.

    Lazear is discussed later in the presentation…

  • makeitgoaway

    “I am shocked , shocked there is gambling going on in this establishment!”

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, Lazear’s conversion is mentioned on the last slide about enrollment projections, along with the expansion of AIPCS II — thanks for pointing that out.

    I don’t see how Lazear can be separated from the school closure discussion, though, for the reasons I outlined in the post. In fact, over the summer, district staff said it was too early to put a number on the cost of Lazear’s conversion, as some of its students — who’d been reassigned to OUSD schools — might go for those options instead of sticking with Lazear.

    I’ve since been informed by Troy Flint that the full closure discussion, including the Lazear factor, will be taken up at a December meeting.

  • EffectsofReform

    So, a loss of 20% of these students is built into the “value” of school closures? Who are these children? Why is this an acceptable (forced) loss? Are these the students that are considered “expensive” to educate? Is that why their loss is “acceptable” and therefore, facilitated by OUSD? Does it winnow down the population to more mobile, better-resourced families that have the ability to chase down an education in a district that plans to more closures? I can’t believe that the ACLU is not looking at this more closely.

  • Observer


    Actually it’s more likely the 20% loss from the closed schools represent families that had the ability to react with their feet. In other words, move to a different district, go to a charter or get into a private school. The less mobile, less resourced families tend to be the ones that stay. And that adds to the more prevalent problem of the majority of families in OUSD are those that have the least and need the most while the families that have the ability to directly subsidize those costs by not just attending a district school but fund-raising, advocating and volunteering leaving in droves.

  • 1day at a time

    Absolutely fascinating.

    Someone wants this school, or at least what happened to this school, to disappear from public memory. Why? What’s the issue?

    After watching that school board video (linked below), I realize the issue IS different. It’s not even about the school. It’s about credibility and reputation.

    Apparently, the board was going to approve Lazear’s charter. But the Superintendent produced a report giving gloomy projections and numbers in a closed-door session; they considered the dismal financial report and changed their minds! Wow…

    When the vote was taken, the petition was rejected. The board took a lot of heat about this change of direction. They relied almost exclusively on Smith’s budget projections. It appeared to be a gut-wrenching decision for board members.

    But what if the numbers were wrong…

    Only a couple board members questioned the numbers. One said she knew the “game being played”.

    Credibility could be undermined, competence would be questioned, and reputations (read: careers) could hang in the balance. And that’s assuming positive intentions.

    So the school disappears….

    Video of related board mtg: http://ousd.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=411

    Watch item 12-1062

    KMurphy and the public need to really decide if they want to pursue this. Consider how lack of stability impacts systems and kids. Anyone in business or management can read these tea leaves.

  • EffectsofReform

    @Observer. I think that both of these scenarios can be true. The result will be the resegregation or amplified segregation of schools. OUSD is offering a cure that looks a lot like the “problem” they are trying to solve. When we are on the other side of this “destroy it to rebuild it” mentality in a few years we will wonder how on earth anyone thought this was a good idea. Or perhaps we will have so shifted the burden of educating and housing URM and low income children and families to the suburbs that no one will remember the barriers and uncertainty that were established through the closure process.

  • A coding error

    @1 day at a time

    Lazear is personal for Smith and friends, hence the fearmongering and the game with numbers. They played with Lazear parents in any way they wanted (all the bs of the transition office) and they wanted them at their feet. My respect for those parents who fight and get what they want in their own right, regardless of the charter vs. public argument or who keeps their jobs.
    Another alternative explanation for the powerpoint glitch is that… they improvised. It happens a lot. Hence the cascade of fiascos.

  • Yazstremski

    @Observer, Well said, I completely agree with you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm

    Makeitgoaway – I love your comment.

    Katy – I don’t know if you read all the comments. I’ve been following the blog for about a year, and I really appreciate your persistence and calm reporting, despite regular stonewalling by the district. Thank you.

    This may be premature, but I have seen the School District’s Standardized Test Results Power Point from last night’s Board meeting. No progress. Those of us who care need to get committed to African-American kindergarten, first and second grades learning the fundamentals in math — defined as being able to add up to 9+9 — and equivalent fundamentals in English.

    Only 36% of African American students in OUSD scored proficiant or advanced in math, as compared to 81% of white students. That 36% is up from 34% in 2009. No effective change.

    Let’s stop expecting anything from the District and just do it ourselves. I believe this lack of basic education is the biggest reason kids drop out of school and end up on the street, which makes it the biggest reason for the murder and crime in Oakland. I don’t know why the District, the City Council, Alameda County, California and the Federal Government don’t admit this or don’t do anything about it. We need to. At the risk of being seen as self promoting, I’d ask you to take a look at our websites and see if we can bring the fundamentals to the schools, for the kids.


  • J.R.

    I like much of the site you linked to here and agree with the teaching methods,and the fact that kids are being shortchanged partly by a corrupt system, but I disagree the the main causes of high dropout rate, poverty and prison are external problems. The largest factor is the family(good role models) or lack of same on a individual basis.

    Poverty is not the cause of problems , nor is it an excuse. Oakland is among the most violent cities, but it is not amongst the highest poverty rates. This is an issue that begins with irresponsible people(for generations now)having children when they cannot function in the real world themselves(that is the root cause, and it will never be dealt with).


  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    I agree, the main cause of high drop-out rate, poverty and prison are external problems. Poverty is neither the cause nor an excuse. And I agree the issue begins with irresponsible people having children when they, themselves, cannot function in the real world.

    So, given all of that is there a solution? I think there is. I do not believe the solution is to work with the adults. I’ve tried it, too much work, too little result, virtually no permanent result. I have worked with High Schoolers, if their attitude is right and their parents are together enough to see the value of it, they can be put on the right track. Middle Schoolers are the same as High Schoolers, but more of them have the right attitude or can be taught to have the right attitude. Still, for those who already have an unchangeable wrong attitude in Middle School, they will drop-out, get involved in crime or irresponsibly have children.

    I believe the solution is at the Kindergarten, first and second grade level. I’ve worked with ‘crack babies’, ‘the learning disabled’, and seven year olds who already cuss like a sailor. I’ve never had one who couldn’t be taught math and develop the right attitude toward learning and life. The great thing about kids that age is they naturally want to learn, be a good person, and do the right thing. So much of the problem at the older grades is they have not learned and realize they are too old and therefore will never be taught the fundamentals. But for the vast majority of the little ones, no matter how irresponsible their parents are, they get sent to school. We can reach them there and they can learn. My experience is, if they learn in school, when they get older their objective will be to get out of their situation and become a functioning adult. This how I believe the problems of high drop-out rate, poverty and prison can be permanently solved in the inner city.

    If this is not the solution, and there is no solution, I don’t know what to do but weep. But I believe it is the solution, so I can work rather than weep.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Charlie! People have complained about my persistence for years (starting with my kindergarten teacher), but I had never thought to describe my reporting as “calm.” I’ll take it!

  • J.R.

    Very common sense approach, and most likely very effective as well. I think focusing our efforts on the young elementary students, coupled with mastery of the basics(along with no more social promotion)would be a leap forward. We could then slowly intensify rigor as they go up in grade. We need to nurture similar ability classrooms, and putting the teachers where their individual talents can do the most good instead of strict seniority choice of placement. Principals should be hired/fired on merit(ability to lead,managerial ability etc)not just time served. This current education system needs a good cleaning(at the very least). We need to clear away administrative redundancy and waste immediately(so as to build a rainy day fund or funds for classroom use).

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    I don’t dsiagre with anything you have written. I think its an approach everone can get behind, even Nontcair. In entry 23 of the comments to the article: “Weinberg: Rules requiring struggling schools to replace half their teachers are misguided” writes-

    “The role of public education is to teach basic skills to bona fide resident poor kids who actually *want* to learn them. Of course that’s a role I still OPPOSE but at least I could get myself to look the other way.”