Veteran teacher Soraya Sajous-Brooks speaks at meeting at Prescott Elementary School

Apr 27, 2018

Posted in Charter schools and privatizationCommunityEducation/Schools/YouthEqual Rights/EquityGentrification

Veteran teacher Soraya Sajous-Brooks speaks at meeting at Prescott Elementary School. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

At a meeting this week with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, parents and educators at Prescott Elementary School in West Oakland made clear they were determined to block the school district’s offer of three of their classrooms to a charter school.

“The Prescott Community is united in its opposition to the co-location of a charter school – especially the scandal-ridden American Indian Model School (AIMS), on our campus.  Prescott School is for Prescott families, and that includes any AIMS families that want to transfer to our school,” according to a flyer distributed at the school.

The meeting had just started when Toni Cook, a board director at American Indian Model Schools, announced the charter school had not requested space at Prescott and would reject the district’s offer for the classrooms, out of respect for the school and its historic legacy.

“We would not ask for and not accept space at Prescott. This is an institution in the Black community, and we would never take it,” said Cook, who is a former Oakland school board member.

“We would never have asked for Prescott, knowing the history of how much the district has disrupted the school,” she said.

Now an annual cycle, the district offers space to charters to “co-locate” on public school campuses each spring, and the charters must decide by May 1 whether to accept or reject the space.

Besides Prescott, the district has offered space to charters at 25 other Oakland school sites. The district says the offers are required by state law, Prop. 39.

The school community is relieved the issue is resolved this year, but they know charters will be coming back for their school next year, according to Stephanie Parrott, a parent at the school.

“We don’t want the district to hide behind Prop. 39 anymore,” said Parrott. “No other district offers up classrooms the way OUSD does. We beg the district to look at what happens.
“When you put a school on the Prop. 39 list, it is devastating. We’re in a tizzy, and we don’t get anything done. We’re tired,” she said.

Prescott Elementary, located at 920 Campbell St. in West Oakland, has been around for a long time – 149 years at the same site. It is one of the top scoring elementary schools in Oakland and has one of the highest rates of Black student achievement in the city.

Supt. Johnson-Trammell said she would work with the school to increase its enrollment, which is the way not to be on the charter school offer list each year.

However, according to the parents and teachers, the district bureaucracy for years has undermined their efforts to recruit more families to come to the school.

They want the superintendent to do something about that, which she pledged to do.

Speakers give numerous examples of how the district has contributed to the school’s enrollment problems

The school has been renamed PLACE@Prescott Elementary School and is only called PLACE at the district’s enrollment office. Parents wanting to enroll at Prescott cannot find the name on the list.

The district removed the school’s two bilingual teachers, and the school has lost English Learner students.

In addition, staff at the enrollment office reportedly discourage families from attending Prescott. They try to persuade Asian and white parents they should not go to a predominately Black school, said veteran teacher Soraya Sajous-Brooks.

“What they’re doing is illegal. Segregation is illegal,” she said. “White families come to the enrollment office, and the staff says, ooh, that won’t work out for (you).”

Responding, Charles Wilson, executive director of Enrollment and Registration, said, “I take these allegations very seriously,” pledging to look into and resolve the issue.

Speakers asked Supt. Johnson-Trammell to support the school adding a sixth-grade at the K-5 school next year. They have 28 families that want to keep their fifth-graders at the school as part of transition to making Prescott a K-8 school.

The superintendent said it was too late to make the change for next year, but she would explore it for the following year.