Prescott Elementary in West Oakland Says No to Charter School on Campus

Mar 30, 2018

Ben “Coach” Taspscott (top right) speaks at a meeting called by the school district Monday at Prescott Elementary to notify the school community of the possible “co-location” of a charter school on the campus. The meeting attendees voted unanimously to refuse to give space to the charter. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

School district officials held a hastily called meeting this week at PLACE@Prescott Elementary School in West Oakland to give the Prescott community notice that it may have to surrender some of its classrooms next year if a charter school decides to “co-locate” there.

The two-dozen angry parents, teachers and community members at the meeting had a message for the district: it’s not going to happen.

Community members at the meeting voted unanimously to refuse to accept the charter at the school.

“We’re not going for it this year. The community has had it, and we’re going to fight,” said Ben “Coach” Tapscott of the New McClymonds Committee.

“They are taking Black kids’ schools. It’s gentrification, and it’s institutionalized racism. It’s not OK,” said Soraya Sajous-Brooks, a 21-year teacher at Prescott.

“I’m fighting for Black and Brown children right now,” she said.

According to a district list published last Friday, American Indian Public Charter School II is requesting space at Prescott (five rooms), which is located at 920 Campbell St., as well as space at Allendale Elementary, West Oakland Middle, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary and Ralph Bunche High.

The list, which was approved by the school district this week, is a step in the annual lineup of charters requesting to co-locate at Oakland schools. This year, 10 charters are asking for classrooms at 26 schools.

Rather than accept what they see as the step-by-step dismantling of the school, the Prescott community must answer for itself the question: “What is the best thing we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen?” according to transitional kindergarten teacher Lorraine Mann.

“If we give our rooms away, our plans for the school would be blasted to pieces,” said Mann.

“Do you realize how incredibly destabilizing it is to give up classrooms?” asked parent Stephanie Parrott, who pointed out that Prescott is working to expand to become a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, a goal that would be undermined by losing space.

One of the classrooms that would be lost is currently used as the art room.

According to Parrott, Prescott has the highest performance of the five elementary schools currently in West Oakland, while a charter school, Vincent Academy, is the lowest performing.

Community activist Mike Hutchinson said that while the district under state law (Prop. 39) must give “underutilized space” to charters, “We don’t have to displace students to make room for them.”

Sylvester Hodges, former school board member and graduate of Prescott and McClymonds High, said the Prescott community can win if it organizes and unites to stop the encroachment of the charter school.

“Let them know you are not going to allow them on this campus,” he said. “You have to stand fast. Don’t let them scare or frighten you.”

He compared the situation to the falsified history that says Columbus “discovered” America. “Right now, they are discovering Prescott. Let’s send Columbus back across the ocean,” he said.

Hodges said he was active last year when the McClymonds community forced American Indian Charter to withdraw its application for space at the high school.