Many long-time educators and Oakland parents are raising serious questions about a new Oakland Unified School District plan to turn over five schools – including three East and West Oakland high schools – to charters and other groups to redesign and restart by the fall of 2016.
Targeted for “transformation” are Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high schools. Frick Middle School and Brookfield Elementary School. All of these schools are located in the flatlands of East Oakland, with the exception of McClymonds, which is in the flatlands of West Oakland.
“These are not necessarily the worst schools, but there’s a combination of long-term academic underperformance and declining enrollment,” schools spokesman Troy Flint told the Oakland Tribune.
The 18-month plan for the five schools involves community engagement this month followed by a Call for Quality Schools in April, when charter organizations or other academic groups can submit proposals to redesign and restart new schools.
Thedistrict will review and approve proposals in May and June. An “incubation period” for the approved schools will start in July, with new schools opening in fall 2016.
Many teachers and parents and are raising concerns about this plan.
Why is there only a one-month “community engagement” for a plan, which has already been decided? Why the rush to do this without full community transparency? People are asking.
In an email to constituents, one school board member wrote: “(This is) essentially a very unfair competition between charter and district school plans for these five schools, with an unrealistic timeline for district plans being due in April (guidelines don’t even go out until February).”
The high schools the district will keep – Skyline, Oakland Technical High and Oakland High – are the ones that most of the district’s Asian and white students attend.
In addition, the teachers’ union and others point out that these targeted high schools have been the subject of many radical reorganizations in the past decade, broken down from large into small schools and then back again in large schools.
The upheavals and school closings have generally impacted schools where students and families are Black and Latino.
Programs that worked were plowed under and abandoned. Why does it seem that the district’s constant churning creates turmoil and chaos for teachers and students, more than any tangible academic progress? Some are asking?
Further, what happened to the newly passed property tax, which the district sought by telling the public that it had the plan to fix the high schools that it knew would work?
The public was told the bond would be used to create enriched school-to-career programs that would help all students graduate and attend post secondary education programs. There was nothing in the bond appeals about turning the schools over to charter companies or other agencies.