Teachers Union Questions Redesign Plan for Five Schools

Jan 23, 2015

Posted in CommunityEducation/Schools/YouthLabor

By Ken Epstein

Parents, students and community members are hoping the Oakland Unified School District will provide specifics about the new “redesign” process that will take place this spring at five flatland schools: Fremont, McClymonds and Castlemont High schools, along with Brookfield Elementary and Frick Middle schools.

The notice was originally sent out to the affected schools on last day of school before the Winter Break in a letter from Superintendent Antwan Wilson announcing a “Call for Quality Schools.

Some school board members are saying they had not heard about the letter until they received calls from the school sites.

The teachers’ union, Oakland Education Association (OEA), has put out a statement saying that while it supports the efforts to provide a “quality neighborhood school for all students,” it opposes opening the process to charter school operators.

“Public schools need to remain under the jurisdiction of publically elected and publically accountable officials—not placed in the hands of self-selected corporate boards,” according to the statement.

What is at stake is not the individual motivations or intent of the leaders of the district, said Trish Gorham, OEA president. “What will be put in place at these schools is “something that is going to last far longer than any superintendent or board members,” she said.

State law provides for a democratic process whereby a school can become a charter with the majority support of its teachers or parents, Gorham said. “We should not create a fast track that (bypasses) the process that exists in state law.

n addition, Fremont, McClymonds and Castlemont have been singled out by the district for disparate treatment she said, The district has just won the Measure N bond, which provides funds to redesign all the high schools.

These three schools should receive the same kind of treatment and process for redesign using the new money as the rest of the high schools in the district, Gorham said. .

The district has provided no reasons for why these particular schools were selected or what criteria were applied to their selection, according to the union’s statement.

In addition, the process bypasses a Board of Education regulation that places significant control “over the school plan in hands of the elected school site council.”

Fremont High School

The union statement also says the process ignores what is presently happening at the five schools.

“There is no recognition that Brookfield has just been through an exhaustive school community based process of re-imagining that is just now being implemented,” the statement said. “There is no recognition that the three high schools selected have just been subject to a three-year, top-down experiment or an evaluation of what has been effective or ineffective in that process.”

Finally the union is concerned that this is a “staff driven initiative.” Although Supt. Wilson is asking the school community to “assume good intentions,” the administration’s behavior has alarmed many people, the statement said.

“It is difficult to trust good intentions when the notice goes out without having the school board discuss it and immediately prior to a two-week holiday break and hard to understand that there can be no school takeovers when the process is explicitly open to charter school operators,” according to the OEA statement.