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Dewey Academy in Danger of Displacement: Gentrification and the Oakland Unified School District

21 Jun

Dewey Academy in Danger of Displacement:

Gentrification and the Oakland Unified School District

By Aram Mendoza and N. Finch in collaboration with Dewey teachers

 

Displacement of long-time, low-income residents due to gentrification has been an all too common story in the Bay Area recently.  Now the same insidious process is targeting some of the most “at-risk” students in Oakland.  Over the past two weeks, in the end of school rush, the Oakland Unified School District’s administration revealed they have been in close discussions with gentrifying developers that puts Dewey Academy, one of the public continuation high schools in the OUSD, in the cross-hairs of real estate agents and developers.  The developers are already planning a 24 story luxury condo building overshadowing Dewey and now want to add Dewey and the old OUSD headquarters to the project.  What follows is an overview of the situation, why it’s problematic, how it’s situated in the context of gentrification in the Bay Area, and what those of us opposed to the displacement of Dewey and the gentrification of Oakland can do about it.

 

Dewey gone.  In it's place condos.

Dewey gone. In it’s place condos.

 

“Surplus Property” and “Surplus Populations”

 

On Monday, June 10th, an OUSD-initiated group named the “7-11 Committee” (the name stems from the requirement that the committee have at least 7, and not more than 11, people on it) met for the second time.  The Committee was composed of various real estate attorneys, members of charter school boards of directors, and a couple community members.  Not a single active OUSD teacher or student was on the committee – the only current educator on the committee was the current principal of Dewey Academy.  They were charged with “advising” the school board as to the status of the OUSD property located on 2nd Avenue, east of the lake between E. 10th and E. 12th streets.  This property currently houses the former OUSD administration building, which was mysteriously flooded last year, as well as Dewey Academy.  The question set before the Committee was to determine whether or not the parcel of land housing both the former OUSD admin building and Dewey Academy was “surplus property.”

Surplus property is defined as property that is retained by the school district but is not currently being used.  How can anyone imagine that an actual school – Dewey Academy – that has just graduated about 130 students in the past weeks, and that houses a GED program for community members could ever be considered “surplus”?  During the first 7-11 committee, one of the OUSD’s attorneys referred to the “surplussing” of Dewey – that is, using the word “surplus” as a verb – and described the way that the OUSD and developers could actively convert Dewey into “surplus property” in order to make it open for development. (1)

The surplus property category is being used as a means to displace Dewey students and treat them as a surplus population.  It has nothing to do with Dewey actually being property that’s considered “surplus.”  This mirrors the treatment of Oakland’s youth in the broader society.  Seen as an expendable, incarcerable, and unemployable “surplus population,” Oakland’s youth are those who should be pushed to the margins in order to make way for more desirable occupants of land – those that can afford the lakeside view from the window of their 10th floor condominium.  This is the opposite of how they are treated at Dewey Academy where educators and community members work hard to support students who are missing credits needed to graduate, impacted by gangs and who might otherwise slip through the cracks of other OUSD schools.

 

Dewey Academy students and staff. Surplus property?

 

Against the Displacement of Dewey Academy

 

“The safest place for Dewey to be [for the students] is right where it is . . . “ - Dewey High School alum

 

There are at least three central reasons that highlight how problematic and oppressive the move to displace Dewey and the OUSD Administration building are.

First of all, Dewey’s current location is next to the Youth Heart Health Center, a student centered free health clinic that Dewey students helped design, in collaboration with OUSD employees and MetWest High School students.  What sense does it make to take our highest risk, highest need students away from a health center that they helped design?  While the OUSD has committed in rhetoric to prioritizing the social/emotional needs of Oakland youth, this move by the administration directly goes against the social/emotional needs of Dewey students and, by extension, all youth who access the health center. These students helped shape the YHHC with the understanding that they would be able to access the medical services there.  Since its opening, Dewey students have made up the highest percentage of youth who have accessed the clinic.  Without these young people being in close proximity to the YHHC, the center’s numbers may decline and put them at risk of budget cuts and layoffs, causing further harm to all students who access the center – including those from MetWest and La Escuelita.

Additionally, many students at Dewey are gang-impacted, and the location of Dewey in an accessible and relatively neutral territory by the lake means that students can come to school and be in a safer space than they would be if they had to attend another school in another neighborhood. The informally discussed alternative locations of Fremont High School in East Oakland, Santa Fe elementary in North Oakland and Lakeview campus north of the lake are all either unsafe for gang impacted students or inappropriately far, especially for youth who are already struggling with truancy.  This proposed displacement will only further the alienation and marginalization that these young people face by destabilizing what is perhaps one of the most stable institutions in their lives.  If Dewey did not exist and function as it is, and where it is, many of these students would not have the opportunity to recover credits in a safer space and eventually graduate with a high school diploma.

Lastly, the decision making process behind Dewey’s forced displacement has been incredibly undemocratic and marginalizing of youth, educator and community voices.  The committee that is advising the school board on whether or not Dewey is “surplus property” includes real estate lawyers that represent condominium developers and charter school board members.  This is unacceptable and disrespectful – nobody should decide the fate of a school but the students, educators and staff who make the school run on a daily basis.  The fact that this committee was appointed by the superintendent without any meaningful engagement with the school community is a slap in the face to a community of students and educators who have worked hard to make Dewey one of the safest campuses for struggling students in Oakland.

All of these problematics surrounding the seemingly forced displacement of Dewey lead us to the question: why is this displacement being pushed forward in such a rushed way?

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All Out for Trayvon–Monday 6P @ 14th/Broadway

14 Jul

We all have already heard the verdict. Now is the time to respond. We must respond in at least 2 ways. First, it is crucial that we come out now, immediately after the verdict, to show and build our power in the streets. Teachers, parents, and students should all show up at the rally Monday and show solidarity. It is being endorsed by many organizations of the left and groups struggling against racism.  If you are part of an organization, you too should move to endorse it.

Second, we must build further and deeper. We should look to school walkouts of students and work actions by teachers.  Both have precedents in Oakland. Soon after Trayvon was murdered, a few 100 Fremont High students walked. We should follow that example. In terms of work actions, during the Oscar Grant struggles, ILWU Local 10 shutdown the port on Oct. 23, 2010, which many Oakland teachers supported. Teachers should amplify these steps.

For now, since we’re on vacations, we should show our solidarity and march in the streets bringing friends. But whenever we have the opportunity to show our power where we are most powerful–in the schools that we operate and use–we must be ready to act.

No to racist violence of the state and system!
Yes to teacher, student, and parent power to shutdown this system and shutdown the racism!

Show our power at this rally on Monday, 7/15, 6P at Oscar Grant Plaza (14th/Broadway)!

trayvoncolor3

 

Click the image above to download it as a flyer.

RALLY THURS 3:30PM – Castlemont High Staff, Teachers, Students Outraged by Neglect and Threats of Closure

6 Jun

This press release was sent to us by staff at Castlemont who are organizing a rally with students to demand the district provide them with equitable resources and a guarantee their school wil not be closed. They are asking for supporters to join them for their rally at 3:30pm tomorrow. More information follows…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—June 5th, 2013

 

Castlemont High Staff, Teachers, Students Outraged by Neglect and Threats of Closure

School Community Rallies, Demands OUSD Address Inequalities

 

Press Contact:

Sagnicthe Salazar 510-812-1426ssagnicthe@gmail.com

 

WHAT: Rally and Press Conference

WHEN: Thursday June 6th, 3:30-4:30pm

WHERE: Castlemont High School 8601 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, Ca. 94605

On June 6th, Castlemont Students, teachers, Alumni, parents and community partners will hold a rally and press conference in front of Castlemont High School to bring attention to rampant neglect, dwindling resources, and lack of basic safety.  Castlemont High School community members are demanding immediate action from the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as well as guarantees that long-unaddressed neglect faced by the school does not lead to its closure.

 

“Our school is tired of the dismal support on behalf of the District and we join together to demand accountability from the District to fully serve the needs of our students and school community,” says Candice Valenzuela,  a teacher and one of the organizers of Thursday’s rally.  “Every child has a right to a quality education and the District cannot continue making Castlemont High School the exemption.”

 

Throughout the past 3 years, Castlemont has faced the destabilizing effects of the OUSD ‘reassignment’ of three principals, and the consolidation of smaller schools into one large school.  The school district recently decided to remove Castlemont’s current principal just one year after he was voted into the position. The decision was made behind closed doors. Community members have been outraged that the principal’s removal was revealed after it was too late for school stakeholders toexercise their district mandated right to weigh in on principal selections.

 

“Castlemont High School has been set up for failure,” says Marguerite Sheffer, a 4th year Castlemont Teacher.  “The issue of inequality is at the forefront of these decisions—whether that be around having to compete with charter schools for funding, basic lack of safety, lack of on-site case managers, or under-resourced programs for special-needs students. These issues disproportionately affect students of color and Castlemont is severely impacted by the racial disparities that exist within OUSD.”

 

The coalition of teachers, students, parents, staff, community partners, and administrators who are speaking out against conditions at Castlemont liken their fight to the protracted struggles for public education in Chicago in 2012.  “We intend to be relentless in our agitation against OUSD policies and mandates that continuously undermine our integrity as an educational institution; dehumanize our students, families, and staff; and violate the rights of our youth to equitable access to fully resourced, effective public schools,” says Michelle Espino, a tenured Castlemont Teacher.

Thursday’s rally will open with a press conference and will feature lively speakers and colorful artwork.  Spokespeople will be available for interviews throughout the day.

 

####

for more information check out our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/castlemont.high

PROTECT OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION : PROTECT CASTLEMONT
DEMANDS

 

1. We Demand Castlemont facilities be fully functioning, equipped to support a safe campus, and technologically up to date.

2. We demand that the district provide adequate training and support for teachers and administrators.  

 

3. We demand that Castlemont’s Special Education Program be fully staffed and supported by PEC.

 

4. We demand that our Security Officers are adequately trained, and that resources are amassed to provide a safe passage for students coming to and leaving school.

5. We demand that the OUSD make a commitment to keep Castlemont open for at least 5years.

Please call the following people to make our Demands be heard

 

·       Gary Yee (OUSD Superintendent) : gary.yee@ousd.k12.ca.us

·       Maria Santos (Assistant Superintendent) : maria.santos1@ousd.k12.ca.us

·       Allison MacDonald (NEXO) : alison.mcdonald@ousd.k12.ca.us

·       James Harris (School Board Member representing Castlemont) : james.harris@ousd.k12.ca.us

·       Barb MacClung  (Over Security, Health and Wellness for OUSD) :barbara.mcclung@ousd.k12.ca.us

 

Update and Next Steps to Rebuild Adult Ed

6 Jun

Dear supporters of Classroom Struggle and Public Education in Oakland,

We won $1 million dollars for Adult Ed! This is definitely a partial victory, and we should celebrate this, since it was direct action and leadership on the part of parents and teachers which won it. But we also need to be clear about the limitations of every victory.

Thank you all for coming out on Wednesday, 5/22. We have included a detailed overview of what happened on at the school board meeting, what our victories have been, the limitations of the vote taken on Wednesday, as well as some directions for next steps.

Adult Ed

A few key points:

  • At the May 22nd board meeting parents, teachers and students were united in fighting for a fair contract and against cuts (mainly to adult ed).
  • The board voted to maintain current funding for adult ed (due in large part to mobilizations by adult ed students and teachers as well as the outcome of the May Revise).
  • The vote guarantees 1 million in funding of adult education but does not guarantee how that funding will be spent.
  • It is still possible that cuts may happen because of “restructuring” by administrators or because school site budgets may not be able to pay the contribution that is currently required of them.
  • Going forward, adult ed students and teachers are continuing to fight to make sure the program continues as it is and expands to restore the 90% of this program that was cut 3 years ago. There is still work to be done THIS SCHOOL YEAR.

We want to learn from and build out of the May 22nd board meeting so please take the time to read the rest of this email to understand the details of this struggle and contact us with any thoughts/suggestions/questions.

What Happened?

The meeting started with a picket line and rally of hundreds of parents, teachers and students chanting “Save Adult Ed,” “Fair Contract Now” and “Not One Cut!” After 15 minutes of picketing outside, the contingent marched inside and held a spirited general assembly with speeches from parents, Adult Ed students, and teachers. Oakland’s educational community was out in strong force and electrifying what is otherwise an incredibly dull “business meeting” (to use School Board Member Jumoke Hodge’s own words.)

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All Out for Oakland Schools! Tomorrow, Wedn., 5:30 @ Board Meeting!

21 May

Join Oakland parents, teachers, and students in Adult Ed and K-12 tomorrow to demand:

Save and rebuild adult education!

Grant teachers a fair contract!

Reduce Special Ed Case Loads!

Rally at 5:30 at the School Board (La Escuelita Elementary: 1050 2nd Avenue, btwn 10th & 12th St).

Click the flyer below to download.

Save and rebuild adult educationSave and rebuild adult education2

Stop the $7.6 Million in Cuts to Oakland Schools! Here are 2 ways to act now!

13 Feb

We are currently distributing this email blast and flyer around Oakland schools.  You can help stop these cuts too!  There are 2 ways to tap in:

  1. Please fill in the cuts your school is facing at the bottom in the comments section.  The more we are sharing this info, the more we can organize across different schools.  Unity is power.

  2. Copy a version of this flyer.  Fill in your school’s specific cuts where we left space.  Then pass it around to teachers, staff, parents, and students at your schools.  When people see the concrete effects of the cuts, they’re more likely to act.  Click here to download an editable English version of the flyerClick here for a Spanish version.

Stop the $7.6 Million in Cuts!

OUSD’s Priorities Are Upside-Down!


The numbers don’t add up!

We know that the district has gotten infusions of money, some of which we’ve fought for like Prop 30 and Measure J. We know there is money in the reserve budget. We know consultants get paid out millions every year. But yet, the district is still claiming empty pockets. They’re trying to hide political moves – to close schools, eliminate adult education, shift funding to charters and private contractors, de-prioritize Special Ed students – through moving numbers around.


In just two years, the administration has mismanaged millions of our dollars. First, they lost $7 million of QEIA grants because they failed to keep class sizes low enough. Then, they said an accounting error in Special Ed forced them to make cuts of $8 million. Now, they have a new accounting error of $7.6 million. This is unacceptable! Whatever their excuse, the effects are the same: cuts to our kids.

For years they have continued to cut from classrooms, students, parents and community but at no point have cut their own salaries. We say enough is enough. Our kids deserve better. We demand better!

Chop From the Top!

More Money for Classrooms!

Maintain and Rebuild Adult Ed!

Refuse to Pay the State Debt!

Not One Cut!

 

What can you do?

1) Educate your school. We made a template of a flyer you can pass out. We even left a part for you to fill in with your school’s specific cuts to make it concrete for people.  Find the template on classroomstruggle.org.

2) Share awareness. List all cuts on classroomstruggle.org.

3) Demand: Not One Cut!

Solidarity with Seattle Teachers and Students Refusing Pointless Standardized Tests!

8 Feb

 

Students have refused to take the MAP test in solidarity with the teachers.

Many students have refused to take the MAP test in solidarity with the teachers.

Solidarity with Seattle Teachers and Students Refusing Pointless Standardized Tests!

 

As Classroom Struggle, we would like to send our deep respect and solidarity to the teachers, parents and students resisting standardized testing in Seattle. Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, WA have courageously boycotted the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test, teachers at three other Seattle schools (The Center School, Chief Sealth International High School, and Orca K-8 School) have joined this boycott, and eight other area schools and organizations have signed solidarity statements.

The purpose of this solidarity statement is to: 1) provide ways to gain pertinent information and updates in order for education organizations, teachers, parents and students to be informed and show their support, 2) inspire the spread of these kinds of direct actions to send a strong warning to school district administrations that useless testing consuming valuable instruction/learning time will not be tolerated, 3) to show our support for the teachers, students and parents engaged in this struggle in Seattle.

“Our teachers have come together and agree that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,”  Kris McBride – Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield High School.

The MAP test is administered two to three times a year to 9th graders. The test has no impact on student grades or class standing, and isn’t aligned with students’ learning expectations (state and district standards).  However, the results of the test will be used by the district to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,”  Obadiah Stevens-Terry – student body president.

This struggle is also being waged by some students who are mobilizing to join the boycott by answering ‘C’ for Creativity not control on all questions of the MAP test. For more information on the boycott please visit creativitynotcontrol.wordpress.com. Creativity Not Control is a group of educators organizing to spread this boycott to schools in working class neighborhoods. They intend to pass out flyers on the boycott at two South End schools over the next two weeks.

We fully support the testing boycott at Garfield High and other Seattle schools.

In OUSD we also are forced to spend unnecessary time on standardized testing, often do not see our student’s learning accurately represented by these tests, see the funding of our schools connected to these tests and see curriculum shaped by these tests as opposed to the needs of our students.

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Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract: Aram Mendoza

1 Feb

This is a recent article from our newest newsletter analyzing the OEA contract struggle.  We post it here so you can access the citations and hyperlinks.  Here, Aram Mendoza analyzes the current contract negotiations of OEA and its importance for Oakland teachers and, more widely, the needs of Oakland students.  Aram also raises some very concrete tactics and next steps for individual teachers and teachers as a whole.

CTU FairContractNow

A Chicago teacher on strike last fall.

Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract

By Aram Mendoza

Oakland teachers, do we care about having a union?
Do we care about having a good contract?
What is an imposition and what should teachers do about it?

These are not rhetorical questions.

The reality is that we have been under an imposed “contract” since 2010.  What does this mean?  Simply put: Tony Smith and the OUSD school board have unilaterally, dictatorially, and undemocratically imposed terms of work upon education workers.  It means that the “last, best, and final” offer was put on the table by the OUSD district bargaining team and was NOT agreed to by the OEA bargaining team. Though this imposition was carried out in April of 2010 (which was why OEA’s last strike was in that same month), it was not the last time that Smith and the Board have imposed on education workers: last year’s “Accelerated TSA” campaign was imposed on Fremont, McClymonds, and Castlemont teachers without any public, democratic process.  More on this later.

Back to our current contract situation – we must ask: does our contract really matter?  As I’ve talked to co-workers and friends who are teachers in Oakland’s public schools I’ve come to see the total lack of information that we have in relation to our own contractual agreement with the district.

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Seattle teachers resist standardized testing

17 Jan

As some of you might have heard, Seattle teachers at 2 high schools have refused to administer a junk science standardized test mandated by the district.  This is a brave action and a powerful action.  From all appearances this seems like a rank and file organized protest with deep roots at the school site level and strong student support.  These are the types of organization and action we should strive for here in Oakland as well.

Here we repost a great article analyzing this struggle from a teacher comrade in Seattle.  The original can be found at the blog of the Black Orchid Collective, a revolutionary organization based in Seattle: http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/seattle-teachers-resist-standardized-testing.

We hope this article sparks ideas for organizing we can do here as well.  As always if you have ideas please share.

Seattle teachers hold press conference declaring their refusal to implement a standardized test.

Seattle teachers hold press conference declaring their refusal to implement a standardized test.

Seattle teachers resist standardized testing

By Mamos206

 

Teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School have recently chosen to resist administering a standardized test used for student and teacher evaluation.  Ballard High School teachers followed soon after, declaring that they also would resist the test.

This is making big waves locally and nationally. I hope that teachers, students, and parents at other schools in Seattle and across the country extend solidarity to the Garfield and Ballard teachers; you can sign a petition here to suport them.  I also hope this kind of action is replicated at other schools.  The Garfield and Ballard teachers have shown that when we are unified we don’t need to be passive and cynical; we can resist.

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The Phoenix: A new newsletter from San Jose youth organizing group, 50/50 Crew

6 Jan

We recently received this newsletter, named The Phoenix, from a San Jose group called 50/50 Crew.  They formed out of frustration with non-profit and college campus organizing.  Focusing on political work with youth, they place a strong emphasis on anti-police/prison industrial complex work.  We found it pretty interesting and hope you do to… so let us know what you think!

 

Click the image above to access the pdf of The Phoenix.

Click the image above to access the pdf of The Phoenix.

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