SCTA, SEIU, and the Sacramento Democratic Party Propose Moving Sac High

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November 4, 2011 During the October 20 Sacramento City Unified School District board meeting, SCTA, SEIU, and the Sacramento County Democratic Party, asked the school board members to "swap" the existing programs at West Campus and Sacramento High School. West Campus is a district college prep magnet school with academic admissions requirements, and Sac High is an open-enrollment, college prep charter school serving a majority of African American and Latino students.

It is not clear what problem this proposal seeks to solve - or why parents, high school teachers, and school administrators from either school were noticeably absent from the presentation. What is clear is the proposed swap creates more problems than it solves, and raises serious concerns about equity and social equality. Is the swap really about the facility? Or is it about a long standing political vendetta political elites have against St. HOPE founder, Mayor Kevin Johnson? I'd like to give these interest groups the benefit of the doubt, but I have to wonder: What is behind the swap?

West Campus has a waiting list, even though on paper it seems like that the facility could accommodate more students. Maybe West Campus is intentionally small - and that's working for kids now. I'm not sure, since no one from West Campus has actually spoken out in support or opposition of the swap. I hope that the SCUSD trustees take the time to understand how their size might be a part of their success. According to the recent report of the SCUSD's 7-11 Committee -- a community advisory group charged with making recommendations for school closure and consolidations -- both Sac High and West Campus are underutilized. However, the same study showed that ALL of the high school facilities in the district are underutilized, not "over crowded" as represented by swap supporters. Why would SCUSD treat Sac High and West Campus differently?

Swap proponents also say that, "Campus assets, such as the swimming pool, the Mel Lawson Theater, along with arts, science, and athletic fields are not being used."(SCTA, 10/10/11) First, that pool has been broken for 8 years, so no one can use it. And fixing the pool is the districts' responsibility. Second, as a comprehensive college prep program, Sac High has a football team, basketball teams, weight lifting, a dance program and more. I can tell you that students spend plenty of time in the science labs, on the athletic fields, and the Mel Lawson Theater. Community groups, like Pop Warner Football, also use the athletic fields.

Perhaps the problem is that the West Campus facility is rundown. SCUSD Student Trustee, Isaac Gordon, who is a student at West Campus, recently stated that the condition of West Campus was appalling and that "no student should have to go there." The solution to that problem is to find funding to renovate and modernize the West Campus facility - like SCUSD is currently doing for The Met - or looking at facilities that might closed, like Kit Carson Middle School.

With so many other options and solutions available, swapping Sac High and West Campus feels like a move to give the best facilities to privileged students and casting off the worst facilities for the socio-economically disadvantaged. It makes me uncomfortable to think that our local school district would move Sac High students to a school facility that "no student" should have to attend. Both schools are serving their respective student populations well. According to the California Department of Education, West Campus has a 903 API and Sac High has a 778 - which is a huge gain since 2001 when it was just 574. Sac High and West Campus should be expanded, but not at the determent of each other.

Both of these programs should be carefully guarded, not swapped.

Laura A. Kerr
Regional Director, Northeastern California