The “Secret” School Building Sale that Wasn’t, OUSD’s Scapegoating, and How a System of Schools Could Help

Dust has been kicking up over a “secret” land sale of City property to a charter school.  Funny thing is, the funding for the site was approved by an OUSD board resolution and so was the enrollment growth.  The same folks complaining about a “secret,” voted for it and approved it.  You can’t make this stuff up.  And were the district not a financial and academic failure, with a competent board, it might be funny.

But when we have a district with a school where not a single kid can read on grade level, on the brink of another bankruptcy, and the highest percentage of the very lowest performing schools in the state— it’s not funny.  Or at least the joke is on Flatlands families.

A “secret” to me is something that is withheld from you, not that you approved and voted on and forgot about (the 6/11/14 Certification of Unhoused Pupils-unanimously approved).  And one of the pictures of the site shows a critic with the public notice signs over their shoulder.  Not a big secret.

The East Bay Express described the situation here

Under the proposed terms of the deal, the city will sell a 9,000-square-foot parcel on Derby Avenue between International Boulevard and E. 15th Street for $450,000. The buyer, an Idaho-based company called Pacific West Communities, Inc. plans to construct a new school campus on the site for the Aspire charter organization’s ERES Academy, a K-8th grade school. The campus was approved by the city planning commission last month.

ERES Academy’s staff say the new facility is critical because the building they’re currently in — located one mile away on Courtland Avenue and leased from a church — is too small.

A Public School and a Public Process to Benefit Public Schoolchildren

Everything about the site has been public.   There were multiple meetings with OUSD staff around the specific site, so if the board didn’t micromanage and harass staff to its satisfaction, then that is on them.  And furthermore, if any board member had been so bold as to actually call the school or stop by they could have gotten any answers they wanted.

But when you are in glass house built on a shaky foundation, it’s easier to throw stones than talk.

So yeah let’s play the victim and blame someone else’s for the district’s woes.  And let’s spend a lot of time at City council when we haven’t figured out how to run our own facilities inventory, and tell the City how to run theirs.  By OUSD’s own calculation only 10% of its schools are sustainably sized.  So I don’t think too many folks are going to be hiring the board for facilities consulting work.

What Are they Fighting For?

And ultimately what you are trying to block is a better school site for Oakland’s Flatlands kids.  That is what you are fighting so hard for.  The current Eres site is unsafe and unsuitable.  You have no plan to give these families better options, no plan to help Flatlands schools improve, not even a discussion.  But lots of time for city council visits.

I challenge any trustee arguing against the sale to visit the current horrendous Eres site and tell the parents that they don’t deserve better—Shit… I will buy dinner for everyone.  Serious, cuz that’ll beat anything I can see at the movies right now.

We Should Plan Facilities Together

And yes, the proposed site is close to two OUSD schools, but the District had 9 years to work with Aspire to help them find a site, or provide one, as they are obliged to under proposition 39.  But OUSD would not work with them (lots of background documentation for those interested), and so now in a tight market, the school has to do what it can.

So again, rather than actually working with the school, for a decade, OUSD has spurned them.  Then when the school does what it can for its families—who do deserve a better site—the district is going to spend a lot of energy fighting that, even though they basically approved it previously.

In a sinking ship like OUSD I would think at some time they would try to actually fix their boat rather than just shovel their leaky water into someone else’s vessel.

A System of Schools Addresses this Issue

Ironically, the Board has a potential solution to these problems sitting it’s lap.  One that is strategic and not the customary knee jerk reaction; the so called system of schools.   This policy would put to writing what most rational people would accept—we have two public school sectors in Oakland and neither one is going anywhere.  And it is better for Oakland families if they work together, and coordinate around things like—I don’t know—school placements.

Situations just like this.  I haven’t looked at the recent results from the two district schools that Aspire Eres plans to move next to.  Assuming they are doing well, then there probably are other areas of the city with higher need.  Some of those areas have half full OUSD buildings.

So if the two sectors got together and more rationally planned school growth based on what the community needs, that would be a good thing for families and schools.

The system of schools policy is coming before the board in the next few weeks.  And while I have some issues with particulars and the overall capacity of OUSD to follow through on its word and competently manage such a process—it is the right thing to do.

But for a board that has failed to oversee spending to the point that we are on the verge of another bankruptcy, and is also overseeing an educationally bankrupt system where 1 in 7 Black elementary students can read it is curious to have resolutions and speeches on a City land sale.

Meanwhile, we never hear anything about how our kids are doing and the disparities.  And we should, OUSD has the highest percentage of very low performing schools in the state—and it’s not even close.

And let’s take a look at the Board’s own track record.  It patted itself on the back for thinking it denied one of Oakland’s best public schools to accidentally approving it, and they gave themselves a raise as they cut nurses and now they are going to lecture the City about an issue they themselves already approved. You can’t make this up.

I see a board that is neck deep in shit, who would rather throw it at their neighbor than pick up a shovel.

And our students and families deserve better.

What do you think?

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