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Oakland Unified School District

‘They did what we expected them to do, though it was hurtful’: OUSD board rejects community attempt to save schools

on June 30, 2022

After five months of heated meetings, tensions boiled over Wednesday as the Oakland Unified School board voted decisively against a resolution brought by the community to reverse the scheduled closures of seven schools. 

Board President Gary Yee moved the meeting online after several community members protesting the vote approached the board’s table, a metal chair crashing to the floor as people in the audience moved. Security guards stepped in to maintain order. 

“I think that they knew that the vote would not be in our favor,” said Azlinah Tambu, a parent from Parker K-8, which closed in May, and a leader in the fight to keep the school open. “Even before anybody voted no, the security did go up on the stage and they got into place. It was very obvious that it was a practiced and synchronized type of placement of guards. I guess right when we realized that there was more no votes and that we didn’t pass our resolution, tensions were pretty high.”

The confrontation did not become physical. Once the meeting resumed online, community members expressed disappointment in the board’s response, claiming they had been treated as criminals. 

“As I always say in every meeting, we are not here to try to physically harm you or anything like that,” said Rochelle Jenkins, a Parker parent and another leader in the protests against school closures. “That’s how y’all made me feel tonight, like I was some type of criminal. That’s not the way that you treat the people of the community that keep asking for something.” 

The public’s resolution was put on the agenda after several months of community pleas for the board to rescind its Feb. 8 decision. Tambu said she came to the meeting with hope that their concerns would be heard. 

“When I heard that they agendized our resolution, the one that the parents and community members wrote, I was so happy,” she said. “It did give me a lot of hope. I thought that maybe because they agendized it, they had maybe changed their mind, at least a few of them, and that they would vote in our favor. But I guess I was wrong.”

Community members were not the only ones disappointed in the board’s decision. Directors VanCedric Willams and Mike Hutchinson voted in favor of the resolution, making the vote 4-2. Williams and Hutchinson have consistently voted to keep the schools open.

“I think we have a culture problem in our board as well as in our district,” Williams said. “Our moral core is rotten from the inside. We are only making decisions that are self-serving.”

Board members in favor of the closures defended their choice while also acknowledging that the decision has caused pain in the community. Director Aimee Eng said no one joined the school board with the intention to close schools. 

“Closing schools is not easy, but I believe it is necessary for us as a district to provide the resources for all, to provide the quality of education that our students deserve and they need,” Eng said.  

Parker parents who have been occupying the school in protest since it closed, say they will remain on the school’s campus and continue their fight.

“We have no intention of leaving, no intention of giving the building back,” Tambu said. “Just because they voted no doesn’t mean that our organization and our movement and our effort stops. They did what we expected them to do, though it was hurtful. And we’re going to continue to do what we do, as far as making sure that that building stays open for children of the community to use.”

‘It’s not going to be the same’: For one family, life will get harder when Parker school closes

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