OUSD Board Watch

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September 30, 2011 The OUSD board meeting on last Tuesday was a sight to be seen. Over 400 onlookers were present as the Board began reviewing the formal recommendations for restructuring the District. Emotions ran high as the board discussed the recommendation, which includes the potential closure of five schools spaced throughout Oakland (Santa Fe, Marshall, Lazear, Lakeview, Maxwell Park), as well as the consolidation of 7 others, moves that would bring the total number of OUSD schools down from 101 to 89.

It should come as no surprise that charter schools are negatively referenced in the restructuring debate. The underlying message that is reprised time and again is that charter schools are bear responsibility for the decline in OUSD enrollment, and are therefore to blame for this current debacle of right-sizing the district.

Henry Hitz of Oakland Parents Together went on record to say "...In most cases, the closed schools will fall into the hands of charter schools, which will siphon off more students from OUSD and more money."

Steve Neat, an OEA Executive Officer recently wrote to the OUSD school board to express his dismay, e-mailing, "Charter schools are indeed a problem in Oakland. How can we address this issue? I appreciate the OUSD Board's recent denial of charter petitions of questionable value for Oakland's students. What can we do when these charter schools just go to the county board of education and get approved? How can we help?"

How can we help? Who is the 'we' in that sentence and what exactly is the 'help' being offered? What both of the above statements lack is an acknowledgement of the continuing school performance issue that has plagued Oakland for years and has effectively opened the door to charter schools.

I think the question for the charter community is, "How can we help ourselves get out in front of these insidious messages and hold our publicly elected officials accountable for engendering an honest debate within the court of public opinion?" By remaining silent or fragmented in our communications, charter schools in Oakland run the risk of seeming to tacitly agree with the analysis.

CCSA has a wealth of materials to help you tell your school's story and to counter the idea that charters are anything other than a valuable educational option for Oakland students and families.

The Board is slated to vote on the recommendation by the end of October. In the meantime, expect the temperature to rise and get prepared to deliver a powerful counter-message.

As a reminder, OCSC is meeting next week, Tuesday October 4 from 9-10 a.m., followed by the CCSA Regional meeting from 10 a.m. - noon. Both meetings will be held at ARC Associates, 428 13th Street, Suite 200, Oakland CA, 94612.

Kate Nicol
Director, Oakland Charter Schools Collaborative