Tag Archives: Struggle

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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Youth Organizing in Seattle

3 Aug

One area we try to take seriously in organizing is working with youth.  So it’s always great to see examples of youth stepping up, like this example from Seattle in protests around the acquittal of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer.   Read the full article here: http://creativitynotcontrol.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/high-school-students-self-organize/.

Some of the organizing we do is reading and studying with youth, helping them write a youth newsletter, and going to actions together and collectively analyzing them and the different participants.  We would love to do more–this is work we’ve started relatively recently–and hope to get involved in more campaign work soon.  In the meantime, though, we’re trying to strategize around how to do sustainable and radical youth organizing.  What ideas do yall have?  The article we link to highlights the potentials of youth self-organizing ending with the question of “Teachers: how can we teach in ways that support this kind of student self-organization, instead of thwarting or coopting it?”  What do yall think is the healthy amount of hands-on and hands-off work in organizing with youth?  And what kind of work does that even look like?

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.

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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LA High School Fights Against LAUSD’s Scorched-Earth Restructuring

5 Dec

A black, brown, and working class school slated for restructuring.  Years of neglect and mismanagement by the central district.  A top-down, careerist superintendent.  Veteran and outspoken teachers at risk for dismissal.  And maybe most importantly, parents, teachers, and students fighting back.

This could be describing Oakland but in this case it’s Los Angeles.  Right now Crenshaw High School is under threat just as Oakland schools have been.  Just as schools in working class, black and brown neighborhoods across the country have been.  But at the same time as the corporate-driven austerity (e.g. budget cuts and taking schools out of democratic control) attacks increase, there are signs of increasing fightbacks, such as in Chicago, anti-school closure struggles across the country, and of course here in Oakland.  While it’s too soon to say if a movement to defend and transform public education is maturing, it’s never too soon to support others in struggle against the austerity program.  So please read this letter from organizers at Crenshaw High, pass it on, and get in touch with the organizers at caputoprl@aol.com if you want to involve yourself deeper.  An injury to one is an injury to all!

The letter follows the introductory paragraphs.

A protest at Crenshaw High, Los Angeles.

A protest at Crenshaw High, Los Angeles.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I hope you’re very well. I’m writing hoping that you can urgently pass this copy-and-pasted article on to your networks. There is a struggle occurring in Los Angeles that will have local and national implications — between Superintendent Deasy and stakeholders at Crenshaw High School. Deasy is one of the most nationally-known superintendents and represents a scorched-earth approach to reform, sometimes referred to as being part of the “Ed Reformers” grouping, along with Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and others. Some say Deasy has national aspirations. Crenshaw High School is nationally-known for its arts and athletics, and has come to be known more recently for a nationally-recognized Extended Learning Cultural model, based on meeting all students’ needs, true administration-union collaboration, cultural relevance, and community investment and connection.

Superintendent Deasy now wants to reconstitute Crenshaw High School. An important struggle is emerging.

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Lessons from the Lakeview Sit-In

4 Dec

Here we are almost 6 months on from the Lakeview Sit-In.  The school has now been turned into offices and at least one-fifth of the former students of the 5 closed elementary schools have left the district.  Many of the ones that have stayed are now being taught in portables.  Clearly we did not achieve our major goals, even though now the Administration will think twice about closing more schools.  This article tries to capture some of the positives and negatives of the school closure struggle in order to glean lessons for us today and going forward.  They are just the reflections of one person.  So please contribute your thoughts too. It is imperative that we all collectively reflect, struggle, and keep our schools open for students.

Lakeview Banner w Kid

Lessons from the Lakeview Sit-In

By N. Finch

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Editor’s Note: This was written by a member of the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland which co-organized the Sit-In with parents and teachers of the 5 schools.

We sat-in at Lakeview Elementary June 15th but the seeds for our People’s School had been planted much earlier. Beginning in September, 2011, parents, teachers, and students from the 5 schools slated for closure fought to keep their schools open. Clearly the main surge of struggle was leading up to the October 26th vote, but beyond then parents and teachers continued organizing—refusing to accept the destruction of neighborhood schools as somehow advancing the vision of “Community Schools, Thriving Students.” They attempted all the official ways of lodging complaints: attending meeting after meeting at the Board, holding press conferences and rallies. As the District continued stonewalling them, they moved steadily more confrontational, refusing to accept the Administration’s flawed logic. They sued OUSD and even tried recalling the Board members who voted to close the schools. All of these outlets are intended to persuade the Administration to change course when their policies are proven wrong (See Reply to OUSD by Jack Gerson, in this newsletter). But in this case, we were faced with an intransigent Administration fully committed to privatizing our public schools and a yes-men Board. It was in this context, with all other avenues exhausted, that we walked into Lakeview June 15th to keep our 5 schools open.

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Lakeview Teaches

4 Dec

Sometimes deep and poignant struggle is hard to capture in words.  But when someone is able to it helps keep the transformative moment alive in our hearts and pushes us on to the next upsurge.  Thankfully this reflection by a key participant of the Lakeview Sit-In truly revives what we felt during the 18 whirlwind days at the People’s School.  We hope it also carries you on to the next Lakeview.

Lakeview March 2Lakeview Class

Lakeview Teaches

By Margarita Monteverde

In the long list of defeats that keep us humble and push us forward

knowing only that growth and knowledge come quickly and are constant

yet we remain endlessly chasing wisdom

Defeat is constantly an option

and all we can do is run the risk

We never know, but we always try

As revolutionaries and as humans-

what drives our disempowered, exhausted selves

-hearing a ten year old say that they no longer want to be a cop

-when a comrade asks me to hold him because he is scared to feel his own power

-when the police scare us with trespassing notices and THEN we open the doors of a school they thought was theirs

-the anger of standing next to a killer who continues to hold more rights to a public educational space than I ever will as an educator

-the intricate maneuver of balancing security with inclusiveness (the shades of gray between being called “fascists” and keeping away “pedophiles”)

-coming “home” to 15 children: hands and faces covered in paint, making signs fighting for schools, education, our future

-that a 3 year old learned who schools really should belong to-looking at police planted where she had slept for 3 weeks stating “Who’s Schools? Our schools”

-words from a parent “Ill do my best to be out there with my son but if not keep in mind that we r there in spirit…we love you”

-A sign held by 3 little boys that says “Tony Smith…let the 99% decide”

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