Saturday, March 03, 2007

School Closings - Please Help

The district is closing four more schools. One of them, Merritt Middle school, is being closed because it is on a college campus which is undergoing construction. The other three - Kizmet Academy, Sherman Elementary, and East Oakland Community (EOC) High School - are being closed primarily for low test scores. Now, I don't know anything about Kizmet or Sherman (although I do think Kizmet has only been around for a few years - maybe 3?), but I know a little about EOC.

EOC is an alternative high school that focuses on teachers caring, art, music, and students having a voice. Education Not Incarceration (ENI) is working with this school to "stop 'pushouts' in real world terms: support of positive behavior, rather than punitive actions such as expulsion and suspension; a strong, culturally aware staff, and curriculum that empowers youth by relating learning to their lives; supporting the growth of the whole child by involving the entire community in the education of each student; and preparing students for higher education or living wage jobs by carefully connecting students to opportunities based on their individual passions."

Sounds great, right? Sounds like just what the youth of East Oakland need. Keep in mind, that a conservative estimate of Oakland's dropout rate is 50%. Many people say only one-third of Oakland's youth graduate, and you'd better believe that most of them are not in East Oakland. I personally know kids who are 12 years old, in 7th grade, and hanging out on the street smoking pot instead of ever going to school.

But no, my district has decided that - after 2 and a half years - the school should be closed because of poor test scores. The school has only been open for two years. They haven't gotten off the ground yet. The test scores are bound to be low right now because they're testing kids who don't normally attend school. Teachers, parents, and community members have worked to get this school started, and kids are now saying that they feel cared about, they like going to school, and that they can express themselves. They have an award-winning podcast, "This East Oakland Life," that has been featured by the BBC. Listen to it. The kids tell the truth - which at times is brutal - about everything from fast food to pre-teen prostitution.

Even No Child Left Behind allows four years before a school undergoes sanctions, much less is closed. I understand that our district is in trouble financially, but to close a school that is helping students who most desperately need the help - and who are FINALLY getting it - is inexcusable. The kids showed up at the school board meeting begging for their school to remain open, saying that for the first time in their lives they like school.

The state-appointed administrator, Dr. Kimberly Statham, is determined to close these schools. The mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums, has weighed in, saying "I believe it is important to give institutions an opportunity to develop." One parent said, "If this school closes, I will lose what little faith I have in the district's alleged commitment to educating children," said one mother, whose son attends the 21/2-year-old East Oakland Community High School.

Me too.

The worst thing about it is that thes
e are not kids who will go to their second choice school. If my school had been closed, I would have gone to another one. These kids will drop out.

If this makes any of you as mad as it does me, PLEASE do something. You can write a letter to the Oakland Tribune, and express your views. You can email the state administrator, Dr. Kimberly Statham, call her office at (510)
879-8200, or write to her at 1025 2nd Ave., Room 301, Oakland, CA 94606.

Please don't use my name, just say "it has come to my attention that..." and express your views. Please. If the district cared about these kids, this wouldn't be happening. Please help them see that SOMEONE cares about them!

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