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Students of Dewey Academy attend the Oakland Unified School District Board Meeting on Wednesday to voice their concerns about Dewey’s potential relocation.

OUSD board members address Dewey’s future, detentions and special education

on October 24, 2014

More than a dozen students, parents and teachers stood before the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Board of Education on Wednesday night at La Escuelita Education Center, holding signs that read “Hands Off Dewey!”

They’d come to voice their concern that Dewey Academy, Oakland’s oldest continuation high school, might be relocated to a new facility in a less desirable (and less safe) neighborhood, as part of an ongoing OUSD plan to construct a new administrative building.

A number of students told personal stories about how Dewey had provided them with their first positive experience in an educational environment, one that included earning a degree, future job opportunities and college educations.

“Before coming to Dewey, I attended two other high schools,” said Jasmine, a Dewey student. “I didn’t receive the support I needed from the previous schools.”

Now, after attending Dewey, Jasmine said she’s discovered a new level of “motivation, positivity and determination to further my success.”

OUSD’s Superintendent, Antwan Wilson, assured the audience that the board intends to “retain and enhance the Dewey Academy high school facility in a manner consistent with the district’s vision of [a successful] high school.”

His words drew applause from the crowd.

As the construction deadline is set for January, 2019, board members pledged to keep the community informed and involved in the decision-making process.

“I think having the time to engage deeply [is important],” Wilson said. “It’s not my desire for some students to have the opportunity to go to college, but it’s my desire that every kid has that opportunity.”

After saying the board would provide more detailed construction plans in April, Wilson also took time to compliment the efforts and energy of the students, observing that they had done “an excellent job of representing Dewey.”

The board also spent time updating the audience about a plan designed (with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights) in 2012 with the intention of addressing a disproportionate suspension rate of African American males in Oakland schools. Although the board agreed there’s much more work to be done on the “Voluntary Resolution Plan,” as it’s called, they celebrated the “good news” that the suspension rate of African American students has decreased by almost 50% over the last three years, according to the report.

One more OUSD Board update examined the “Special Education Strategic Plan Progress Report.” A year ago, the Board launched the plan with the goal of better serving “exceptional students” in Oakland. According to the progress report (as with VRP), while saying there was still more work to be done, the board pointed to signs of progress, including 13 new programs being formed to facilitate learning, improved transportation for students and OUSD departments becoming more closely integrated (in order to improve the recruitment and screening process of hiring staff members).

At one point, Wilson attempted to summarize much of the night’s conversation by reminding the audience that OUSD’s duty, first and foremost, remains focused on embracing “a community attitude that all students are important and deserve the best.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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