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Oakland City Dist. 2 Council member Pat Kernighan speaking to the school board on Wednesday evening. (Photo by Nausheen Husain)

Complaints from Crocker parents heard at school board meeting

on October 25, 2012

Parents from Crocker Highlands Elementary School shared their concerns about the state of their children’s school Wednesday night at the Oakland Unified School District’s fifth board meeting of the year.

Nearly two dozen Crocker parents arrived at the OUSD headquarters before the meeting, hoping that by the end of the night the school board could come to a resolution about overcrowding problems at the high-performing K-5 school.

The situation at Crocker, located in the upscale Highlands neighborhood, has not only upset Crocker families, but also parents from other schools– including the nearby Kaiser Elementary and Cleveland Elementary schools, both of which are under threat of consolidation due to low enrollment numbers.
Kaiser, Cleveland and a dozen other schools in the district could possibly be consolidated, meaning they would have to merge classes and share teachers, according to earlier reports from OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint.

“I went to Crocker. We need these schools across the city,” said Mike Hutchinson, a school board candidate in District 5, which stretches from East Oakland’s middle class Glenview Neighborhood to the working class San Antonio District. “We were here last year telling the board that if you close schools in certain neighborhoods, it’s going to affect other neighborhoods. If this is affecting Crocker, think about all the other schools.”

Crocker Highlands annually ranks among the highest performing public school in Oakland; the school’s latest Average Performance Index (API), was 953 for 2011, making it the second highest performing elementary school in the city.

Some parents from the surrounding schools said Crocker’s over-enrollment may explain why there are fewer students and resources at nearby elementary schools. Other parents believe there are resources within the school board that could possibly help these schools in their fight against becoming consolidated.

“We have an emergency reserve of $33 million,” said Steve Neat, 5th grade teacher at Kaiser Elementary, as he faced the board members. “Why can’t we afford $2 or 3 million to avoid consolidation?”

On October 25, the Kaiser PTA is expected to vote on whether or not the school is going to pay a projected $26,000 to retain teachers and avoid consolidation next year, Neat said.

The consolidation conversation comes after OUSD closed five schools last year, in an effort to save $2 million, said Hutchinson, who then asked board members what they are doing to address this issue.
“Kaiser’s upset, Cleveland’s upset, there are rumblings at Crocker,” said Hutchinson. “We’ve been asking for the same thing over and over and we still don’t have a plan. On top of that, every meeting, there’s more and more charters being requested.”

Oakland City Council member Pat Kernighan, whose District 2 area includes Crocker Highlands, warned of consequences that might come “because of the uncertainty that is being created,” as she put it.  “The net result is very likely to be fewer total families choosing OUSD,” Kernighan said. “Families will choose to go to private schools.”

Parents from Crocker and residents from the Highlands neighborhood asked the board to move Crocker’s western enrollment boundary from Grand Avenue to Lakeshore Avenue, compressing the Crocker admission coverage area, as one potential way to remedy the oversubscription.

“My living room window looks over the Crocker playground,” said one mother of a Crocker Highlands student and member of the Crocker Long-Range Planning Committee. “That’s how close I live to it, and I see the magic that happens there. I’m safe, my kids are already there, but I feel very sorry for the parents here tonight.”

After listening to the parents’ suggestions and complaints, board members voted unanimously to have Oakland School Superintendant Tony Smith present on December 12 his recommendations for dealing with the oversubscription of Crocker Highlands Elementary.

In other matters, October 24 was National Food Day, and in Oakland, Jennifer Le Barre, Director of Nutritional Services reported that chicken and tofu/black bean enchiladas, local strawberries were served at East Oakland’s Castlemont High School, along with cooking demonstrations and information about recipes for healthy dishes.

This coming Saturday, Oct. 27, there will be a parent and community council, family empowerment event at Cesar Chavez Educational Center from 9am to 2pm at 2825 International Blvd.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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