Now that the The Lakeview School Occupy Oakland Sit-In Issue has subsided a bit, it seems, it’s time for a review. Last week, and earlier this week, a group of concerned parents and Oaklanders, including representatives from Occupy Oakland, took over and staged a sit-in to protest the Oakland closure of Lakeview Elementary School on Grand and LakePark Avenue. Here’s the situation from the view of Vicente Cruz, who’s running for Oakland school board, and Tim Terry, an activist who attended the school as a small boy:
And as I was typing the blog post, this email popped up:
Oakland Unified School District Advisory
For Immediate Release
Lakeview Sit-in Statement
Oakland –– June 22, 2012 –– School closures are generally unpopular and never easy. No one wants to close schools, but OUSD made this difficult decision because it’s in the best long-term interests of students. OUSD’s enrollment has declined by roughly 17,000 students over the past decade and we have twice as many schools as the typical California school district our size. We’re simply spread too thin to lift every school to the point where it provides students the level of support they deserve. By consolidating into fewer schools, we can invest more heavily in each site and develop better, richer programs for children and families.
School closure is a painful step in the process of remaking a school district to serve students more effectively in a time of dramatically declining state funding that has reduced our budget by more than 25 percent over the past four years. The status quo is insufficient and in order to do better, we have to change the way we allocate resources. Our restructuring plan, of which school closures were just a part, allowed OUSD to:
• Increase the amount of money devoted to every Oakland student in the 2012-13 budget by 5 percent at a time when most districts are slashing per-pupil allocations
• Remain committed to 180 days of schooling when many neighboring school districts are shortening the school year
• Eliminate a $40 million structural deficit so that—for the first time in years—ongoing revenue equals or exceeds ongoing expense
The fact that we were able to accomplish these objectives speaks to the impact of our restructuring strategy and how it has better positioned OUSD to serve students and families. We understand that school closures are an emotional and divisive issue and that the public has a right to voice its anger with the decision. At the same time, we ask that people express themselves in a lawful manner that doesn’t interfere with our ability to prepare for the 2012-13 school year and carry out the school closure recommendation which was approved by the democratically-elected Oakland School Board in October 2011.
We retain hope of achieving a resolution to this situation and consider arrests to be a last resort. We recognize the emotional nature of the school closure issue and want to allow protesters to make a public statement and disperse without further escalation.
Although the reasons for school closures have been debated widely during this period, it may be helpful to revisit some of the major issues involved with OUSD’s restructuring plan (www.thrivingstudents.org/restructuring), which includes, but is not limited to school closures, specifically that:
• Enrollment has declined by about 17,000 students over the past decade to fewer than 38,000, and OUSD has too many schools for the number of students enrolled
• OUSD has roughly twice as many as a typical California school district our size – for chart see: www.thrivingstudents.org/43
• OUSD has too many under-enrolled schools or schools with low enrollment relative to capacity
• OUSD has too many schools that are not providing children all the services they need because our resources are spread too broadly. By consolidating to a manageable size, we can invest more heavily in the remaining sites and offer richer programs and services for children
As for Lakeview specifically, the school is being recommended for closure, in part because it:
• Ranked in the bottom quarter of elementary schools in terms of:
o The number of children living within a half-mile of the school or within the attendance area
o The lowest percentage of neihborhood students attending the school (30%)
• Ranked in the bottom third in terms of enrollment size and declining enrollment
• Ranked in the bottom third for facilities utilization
• Ranked in the bottom third of elementary schools for increasing the number of students scoring “proficient” or “advanced” in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math CST
• Ranked in the bottom quarter of elementary schools in attendance
Lakeview has strengths. It has shown improved academic performance in recent years, boasts a strong sense of community and close alignment with its afterschool program. Yet, school closures are larger than any one school or handful of schools. In order to meet the enormous challenges required to ensure that our schools can serve the whole child and prepare all our students for success in school, career and life, we can’t continue as we have. Transforming OUSD into a school district that produces positive results for all children demands that we completely re-envision the way we operate.
Although talk of school closures dominates the restructuring discussion, ultimately, this is part of a larger mission to:
• Provide all children with quality school options
• Encourage more families to choose OUSD Schools
• Create a sustainable school district that produces results for all children
• Deploy staff and money more efficiently and use the savings to invest more resources in Oakland schools
This is incredibly hard work and some of the choices involved are unpopular and necessary in order to create a sustainable system that can provide high-quality education for all Oakland students. For more information on our efforts in this area, please visit: www.thrivingstudents.org.
Director of Public Relations | Communications
Oakland Unified School District
Office Address: Room 319, 1025 Second Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606
Phone: (510) 473-5832
Fax: (510) 465-2865
Community Schools, Thriving Students
Escuelas Comunitarias, Estudiantes Progresando