Archives for category: Oakland

Jeff Bryant writes here about the decision by the Oakland, California, school board to close a number of schools because of a budget shortfall. Some of these schools were popular Community schools, offering services that benefited children, families, and the community. Bryant shows that the closure of these schools would not solve the budget shortfall.

Many readers of this blog used a Zoom link provided by friends in Oakland to listen to the crucial meeting of the school board when the vote was taken. I listened for four hours, as hundreds of students and parents spoke out against the closure of their beloved school. Not a single student or parent during the four hours I listened supported the closings.

The board was unmoved. Two members—Mike Hutchinson and VanCedric Williams— voted against the closings, but the majority voted yea.

One of those who voted for the closings just announced that she was resigning. Shanthi Gonzalez is not waiting for the next election. She claimed that she was interested only in raising academic quality when she supported closing schools.

Shanthi Gonzales, who represents District 6 on the Oakland Unified School District board, announced Monday that she is stepping down from her position immediately, seven months before her term is set to expire.

In a lengthy public statement published on her blog on Monday morning, Gonzales denounced the increasingly hostile discourse surrounding public education in Oakland, which has led to protests, strikes, and personal insults lobbed at school board members. She also called out the lack of progress the district has made in supporting students’ academic needs, and slammed the Oakland Education Association teachers union and its supporters for resisting moves to improve the quality of schools…

Along with board president Gary Yee, Gonzales introduced a resolution in December for the board to consider closing schools because of deep financial troublesbrought on in part by years of declining enrollment. That resolution led to the board’s February decision to close seven schools over the next two years, and merge or downsize several others. Three of the schools slated for closure, Community Day School, Parker K-8, and Carl B. Munck Elementary School, are in Gonzales’ district. null

Opposition to the district’s closure and consolidation plan has been fierce. In recent months, community members have held marches, two educators have staged a hunger strike, and protesters have rallied outside the homes of Gonzales and other school board members. The Oakland Education Association teachers union staged a one-day strike that effectively shut down classes this past Friday. School board meetings have also been contentious, with regular heckling and disruptions at in-person meetings.

All the members who voted for the closings should be voted out of office.

The two members who opposed the schools’ closings are Mike Hutchinson and VanCedric Williams. They are true leaders.

Community members and two members of the Oakland school board asked for a one-year delay in the decision to close schools. The board turned down their request. The two board members who have valiantly opposed the closures are Mike Hutchinson and VanCedric Williams.

Zack Haber wrote at Medium about one school on the closure list that is indispensable. It is Community Day School, which takes in students who have been expelled from other schools and provides the support they need to believe in themselves.

Community Day’s mission statement says they use a “therapeutic approach” by supporting students “academically, socially, and emotionally” both individually and in small groups through “instruction, counseling and career exploration.” Enrollment depends on expulsion rates, and has been low lately. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school had 39 students. But during last school year, when OUSD students were almost entirely in distance learning, the district issued no expulsions, and the school now enrolls around 15 students, which allows for more individualized attention.

“You get more help here compared to a regular school,” said Luis Martinez, a Community Day student. “It’s calmer. You get away from big crowds of people and everyone gets along.”

The name “Luis Martinez” is a pseudonym as this reporter is granting this student anonymity due to his status as a minor navigating a school discipline process.

“Coming to Community Day and experiencing this small class size is sometimes the first step in our students seeing they can be successful in school,” said English Teacher Vernon ‘Trey’ Keeve III. “We’re also a staff that is constantly experimenting with new ways to get our students to express themselves.”

When the school is needed again, it won’t be there. That’s why parents, students, and educators continue to protest the school closures.

I wish I could explain why the board majority is so determined to lose schools in the face of enormous opposition. I don’t understand.

When a bright young man or woman gets an idea to replace experienced educators with inexperienced tyros and is quickly funded by billionaire foundations, you can guess that the ultimate goal is privatization. For one thing, the enterprise rests on a base claim that “our schools are failing,” and that experience is irrelevant and probably harmful.

Tom Ultican recounts the origin story of one such organization: New Leaders for New Schools.

The idea was so spot-on that the organization attracted millions of dollars from the plutocrats of privatization: Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Walton Family Foundation, and many more.

Where are the miracle schools led by New Leaders? That’s a hard question to answer.

What Ultican demonstrates is the continuing relevance of New Leaders for New Schools. One of its illustrious graduates was behind the recent decision by the board of the Oakland Unified School District to resume closing schools, despite overwhelming opposition by students, parents, and educators.

Many of us joined the zoom meeting of the Oakland school board. some stayed to the end, others (such as those of us on the East Coast) left the meeting before it was over. we heard students and parents pleading with the board not to close their schools.

Here is a good summary of the ultimate decision.

Two Oakland Unified schools will close this year and five next year under a modified plan approved by the OUSD board of directors during an emotional eight-hour meeting that began Tuesday night and ran into Wednesday morning. 

The vote, which happened shortly before 1 a.m., followed two weeks of protestsmarches, a hunger strike, and other demonstrations against school closures, which were abruptly announced at the end of January

During four hours of public comment, dozens of community members and students spoke out against closures. Many requested more evidence from the administration that closing schools will save money. Opponents also noted that the closures will disproportionately impact Black and brown students, and they questioned why OUSD did not give the community more time to deliberate. 

Board member Mike Hutchinson and Board member VanCedric Williams were heroes who voted against the closings.

At the very beginning of the board meeting, District 5 Director Hutchinson made a motion to postpone a vote on school closures until January 2023, so that the public would have a chance to vote in the November school board election and reveal whether or not there is support for the directors who are in favor of closures and mergers. At that time, directors Eng, Yee, and Gonzales will be up for re-election. Williams, Pal, and Gallegos supported Hutchinson’s request, but the rest of the board voted it down. Throughout the rest of the meeting, Williams and Hutchinson voted the same way—against any proposal or amendment that would have implemented closures. At times, Pal and Gallegos stayed silent to highlight the fact that their votes—and voices—are essentially meaningless when it comes to board decisions.

“All I can figure is that none of you have ever experienced the trauma of having your site threatened with closure. None of you have had to comfort crying families who are ripped away from their home,” said Hutchinson, who has campaigned against school closures for years. “How are you going to accommodate our families who are living under multiple stresses? When you tell them they have to go to a school a mile and a half away from where their current school is?”

Again, the students, families, and communities lost.

A reader watched the Oakland school board meeting to the bitter end. Despite overwhelming opposition by students, parents, and educators, the board voted to close the schools. Maybe the decision was foreordained.

Reader comment:

The Board voted to close the schools 4-3-2 at 1am with 1000 people still on Zoom, many still wanting to speak.


2 Abstentions.

Oaktown needs another strike.

A revolution.

I spent the past two hours listening to the Oakland, California, school board meeting, where the board is going to decide whether to close a large number of public schools.

The first group of speakers who addressed the board on their Zoom was students. Some were as young as first grade; others were in middle school or high school. Every single one of them pleaded with the board not to close their school. They talked about how much they loved their school and their teachers. They talked about how much they are learning. They talked about their friends and their community. They spoke passionately about their devotion to their school.

It would take a heart of stone not to be moved by the student voices. The board gave them an hour to speak, then extended it by another half hour.

Not a single student said “Please close my school.”

Every student, every single one, pleaded with the board to keep their school open.

Will the board listen?

You can watch here:

Mike Hutchinson is a member of the elected Oakland school board. He shared the following post. Oakland has been a Petri dish for the Broad Foundation and other “reform” billionaires for nearly 20 years. Broadies increased the number of charter schools while closing more and more public schools. When he ran for school board, opposing this trend, Mike was endorsed by the Network for Public Education.

He wrote:

I need your help. All of my friends, supporters and allies in Oakland and across the country, please join us on Zoom on Tuesday at 5pm PST to help us stop school closures in Oakland.



Tuesday February 8th the Oakland School Board is having a special meeting (on Zoom) to have a final vote on closing 10 neighborhood public schools in Oakland at the end of this year.

We need as many people on the zoom call as possible. We need all of OUSD and all of our allies across the state and country on this Zoom.

Oakland needs your support to stand up for quality neighborhood public schools.
Last week we had 2000 people on the zoom, tomorrow we need more. Please share with your networks and ask everyone to join us at 5pm PST on Zoom.

Special school board meeting Tuesday February 8th, 5pm.

Zoom link:

Mike Hutchinson Oakland School Board District 5

Oakland parent Jane Nylund tells the story of creeping privatization in her city. The Oakland School Board will vote tonight on whether to close another 10 schools. To understand the background, read this article.

She writes:

Lest we all forget, from six years ago, here was the plan: 50% of our kids into charter schools. And now, it looks like that plan is coming to fruition. You are following the privatization playbook to the letter.

When the well-paid accountants arrive and show a slide comparing OUSD to other districts of similar enrollments/SES, and make the simplistic assumption that OUSD has too many schools compared to the others and that we have to be just the same, here’s what you are really saying.

Lesson 1) High poverty children don’t deserve smaller schools and class sizes, anywhere in the state of California, unless it’s a charter.

Lesson 2) It isn’t acceptable for a high-needs district to appear to have it “better” than the others with smaller schools. Smaller schools are meant for wealthy people.

Lesson 3) Because we don’t have the political will to invest in the other comparison districts, we need to continue to disinvest in Oakland instead, thus creating “equity” at the bottom. Nothing new, we’ve been doing that for years. See Lesson #1.

Lesson 4) It’s okay to let Bill Gates experiment with small schools for our kids, until he becomes bored and pulls funding.

Here is the equivalent of that purported “savings” that really isn’t:

1) Recent HQ pay for two years. OUSD used to have 14 positions at $200K+; in 2020 they had 47.2) Lease at 1000 Broadway3) Cost of a new school site kitchen

So, by closing all these schools, OUSD can now have the cost equivalent of a kitchen. Maybe.
Turn this entire idea on its head. The continued austerity measures for high-poverty districts like Oakland are a clear message to these families that they don’t deserve a mix of schools, like, say, San Francisco.

Have you ever looked at the school mix in San Francisco, our neighbor across the bay? You should. I recently noted that they have a mix of 122 schools, give or take. They have 14% charter enrollment, and several comprehensive high schools. They also support a mix of much smaller schools from 100-500 kids each, of all types. They don’t use an “ideal” size. That doesn’t exist, and research bears that out, no matter how many presentations and how many consultants you pay to come up with an “ideal” number. So, if you are arguing that Oakland has too many schools, then you need to head over to SF and advise their board to also close schools. Oh, that’s right, they have wealthy families there. Don’t want to rock the boat. See Lesson #2

The accountants never look at San Francisco as a comparison district because of socio-economics, but SF still comes in at 57% FRPL. Clearly, San Francisco does something we don’t, even as elite San Franciscans are trying to shut down their elected school board. The obvious answer is that San Francisco is not a top-heavy, privatized, portfolio district.

No one in OUSD, FCMAT*, or local and state government has ever answered the obvious question: find me a comparison district in California, the same as ours, that has all the community services/pay/benefits/supports/enrichment as a result of having 40-50 schools. This nonsensical premise is what you are trying to sell us. What is a model district that you can reference that has successfully achieved and implemented this accounting miracle? Stockton, Sacramento, Long Beach? Where?

Answer: none of the above. You can’t find any high-needs district that has all of this because it supports a magical number of 40-50 schools. So you are asking us to just go along to get along with Stockton, Sacramento, and Long Beach, and many others. All that “savings” simply evaporates, along with enrollment, and the status quo remains. It is truly mind-blowing that you are promising community schools to magically appear, when there is no other district model in the state that supports this idea that you can close dozens of schools, and expect tax dollars to rain down upon school sites. The consultants will be falling all over themselves to be first in line for the money grab. It would be laughable if it wasn’t such a tragedy.

Go back to my point #1 in case you forgot about the entire argument about why this exercise isn’t about children. It isn’t about savings. It isn’t about more money for school sites. It isn’t about teacher pay. It’s about not having the guts to stand up to bullies like FCMAT and their state overlords.

It’s about taking the easy way out because of a “belief” system. It’s neat and tidy, and pencils out nicely. But once you put down those pencils, the disaster you have created for our communities will be irreparable and will change the fabric of the Oakland community forever. But John Fisher doesn’t care. The chaos will make it that much easier for the luxury A’s stadium to go in. But you already knew that.

*FCMAT=Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and mathematics, has been keeping a close watch on the machinations of the privatization movement. He writes here about Oakland, which has suffered two decades of indignities at the hands of corporate reformers. The district was taken over by the state because it had a deficit in 2003. The state gave Eli Broad a free hand in picking its superintendents, who proceeded to open charter schools, close public schools, and drive the district deeper into debt. In time, the state restored Oakland’s elected school board, but kept it under the control of outside monitors who demanded more school closures.

Tultican supplies the background for the Oakland disaster.

He writes:

The map of charter schools in Oakland and proposed school closings shows that both are all in the minority dominated flats (the low lying area between the bay and the hills). With all of these closings, residents in the flats may no longer have a traditional public school serving their community.

Much of this can be laid at the door step of the six billionaire “education reformers” living across the bay – Reed Hastings (Netflix), Arthur Rock (Intel), Carrie Walton Penner (Walmart), Laurene Powell Jobs (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Doris Fisher (The Gap).

Reed Hastings established America’s first charter management organization (CMO) in Oakland. There are now six Aspire charter schools serving Oakland families.

Arthur Rock, Doris Fisher and Carrie Walton Penner have been investing in Teach For America (TFA) and charter school growth in Oakland. Mark Zuckerberg and Laurene Powell Jobs have been pushing education technology as well as TFA and charter schools.

Along with these billionaires, New Yorker Michael Bloomberg and Tulsa billionaire Stacey Schusterman have joined in the spending to sway Oakland’s school board elections.

Oakland’s own T. Gary Rogers established a foundation before he died that continues to be central to the local school privatization agenda. It significantly supports and directs privatization efforts by GO public education and Education78. The City Fund created by Reed Hastings and John (Enron) Arnold recently gave GO and Education78 a total of $5 million (EIN 82-4938743).

This brief outline of the money being spent to privatize schools in Oakland would be woefully incomplete if Eli Broad was not mentioned. Although his direct spending to advance privatization in Oakland has been relatively modest, the four Superintendents and many administrative staff members that he trained and got placed in Oakland are central to OUSD being the most privatized district in California. A key training manual developed at the Broad Center was the School Closure Guide.”

“Black Hole Mike” Hutchinson observed,

“A lot of these policies were first tried out in Oakland. If you go back and look at the Eli Broad handbook on school closures, a lot of the source information that they used for that report is from Oakland.”

The billionaire spending has resulted in 39 charter schools operating in Oakland today. Nine were authorized by the county, one by the state of California and 29 by OUSD. Using data from the California Department of Education, it can be shown that 31% of the publicly supported k-12 students in Oakland attend privatized charter schools.

It is disturbing that 22 of the 39 schools have a student body made up by more than 90% Hispanic and Black students. Overall 67% of Oakland’s charter school children are Hispanic or Black but only 50% of the residents of Oakland are Hispanic or Black. The privatization agenda has driven school segregation in Oakland to new heights.

The other divisive agenda is gentrification. Ken Epstein is a longtime observer of OUSD and a bay area pundit. He observed,

“Many school advocates view these school closures as a land grab of public property by privatizers. Others see this is a way to force Black and Latino families out of Oakland, making education inaccessible for them by closing the schools in the neighborhoods where they live.”

If a well financed developer could gain control of the flats, the profit possibilities are immense. These concerns are further fed when OUSD board President Gary Yee tells a Skyline High School parent that the school should be closed because the property is too valuable to be used for public education.

The public schools of Oakland, California, are being slowly strangled by the growth of charter schools. The school board is discussing the potential closure of some 20 schools. Parents are outraged. Teachers are outraged; they have threatened a hunger strike.

Tina Andres, a teacher in California and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, wrote the following account of the most recent board meeting, conducted by Zoom.

Mike Hutchinson, Oakland School Board sounded the alarm among the community in regards to a hasty plan to close numerous schools at the end of this school year. The plan was devised in secret and according to Mike, even the board members didn’t know about it until the report was given to them. Mike has been leading the charge to inform and mobilize the community quickly. On Monday night, nearly 2,000 people at one point had joined the Special Session of the Board to discuss these closures.

Recent articles about the school closures:

This comment from Rashida Chase sums up the sentiment I heard as I listened to the meeting for four hours. Community members, teachers and students spoke against these closures for hours and hours. 

“I watched the superintendent gaslight the whole community about the reasoning for this, they brought in some bullshit consulting group from Southern California who gave a HORRIBLE presentation and whose math wasn’t matching, and then…then we realized HELLA (a hell of a lot of) students couldn’t even get on the meeting because the district has not updated zoom on their chrome books.

Y’all!!! These people are really trying to close or merge almost TWENTY schools in the middle of a damn pandemic as if we all haven’t suffered enough trauma!!! One of the school board directors who is behind these closures tried to discourage further commenting by saying she “doesn’t do her best work at night”. Then you’re in the wrong damn job girl! She is a disgrace to this community and so are the other directors who would even think to bring forward such a possibility in this time. I’m still waking up and pissed tf off so I haven’t gathered all my thoughts, but thank God, universe, Spirit, Ancestors, whoever you wanna thank for Mike Hutchinson for being a real one and making sure the community knew about the boards plans that they tried so hard to keep under wraps. We HAVE to support him and candidates like him in the fall to ensure that more of this doesn’t continue. All this on the eve of Black History Month. Aiight, more later but gaaaahhhhh damn Oakland, every day you give me more reason to want to leave.”