Last Wednesday, after members of the public shut down the public school board meeting with their chanting of “NO SCHOOL CLOSURES,” and the school board moved their meeting upstairs to a room with no members of the public in attendance, the board had a four hour discussion about a proposed $21 million budget reduction that ended with 4 of 7 members of the board expressing an willingness to closing between 10 and 15 OUSD schools at the end of this school year. They may vote on these closures in the next month.
WE WILL REPEAT: without a single member of the public in attendance, the OUSD school board discussed a plan to vote next month to close between 10 and 15 public schools as part of the budget reduction process. The school board is loving these disruptions, as they are now free to move forward with their school closure plans in their “secure location” without interruption and without anyone watching what they are doing.
Here’s what we missed: multiple members of the board are pushing the Superintendent to “rip off the band-aid” and abandon the incremental Blueprint for Quality Schools approach to school closures – allowing schools a planning year to prepare – and instead close 10 to 15 schools effective next year as a cost cutting measure (don’t believe us? watch our grainy video clips here).1 This approach was fully supported by Directors London, Hinton-Hodge and Harris, and Director Yee with the condition that staff could show the board that these closures will have a real impact on OUSD’s finances. This board majority of four members have now instructed the Superintendent to assess the cost savings provided by firing principals and attendance clerks and custodians who become superfluous at the 10 to 15 closed schools, and if it saves enough money, they will vote to tear off that band-aid and just like that, it will be done.
Just a year ago, our teachers were on strike, supported by 95% of OUSD students and their families. The overwhelming success of that strike resulted in the Board adopting Resolution 1819-0718 mandating a full planning year for all school closures and such changes – a promise to fully engage the community prior to any of the massive changes now being contemplated by the Board. Closing 10 to 15 schools effective in August is not just another broken promise to our community, it is a violation of the agreement that they made with our teachers in order to end the strike, and contrary to their own policy.
This idea to close such a large number of schools at once is certainly is no surprise to the staff who have been considering it at least since November, 2019. In a document recently obtained by Parents United through a California Public Records Act request, members of the Senior Leadership Team were considering three possible timelines for school closures, two of which have the board voting on all 5 cohorts of closures by November, 2020:
That November, 2020 date is interesting – a decision to shove through school closures with a compliant board BEFORE 4 OF THE BOARD MEMBERS step down at the end of the year. As the staff document says, “it will perhaps be portrayed as a political move to take a vote right after the election before the old board members are out.”
While this information has not been disclosed to the OUSD public, charter schools apparently are already in on it – at a Facilities Committee meeting of Oakland charter school Francophone the day before the OUSD school board had this discussion, the Francophone Principal told his board that the “blueprint process will be finished before a new school board comes in” after the November, 2020 election..
So OUSD leadership has been secretly planning to accelerate the blueprint process to ensure that Jody London, Jumoke Hinton Hodge and James Harris, who have all said that they are not running again for school board, could vote to close up to 15 additional schools before a new school board — one possibly elected specifically to advocate against racist school closures which disproportionately harm black and brown communities — comes into power. And now the Board is putting that plan in motion, and seeking to accelerate it even further to save some money in next year’s budget.
You might have missed that amid the chants of “no school closures.”
- The grainy video clips are because the full board meeting video was not immediately uploaded to OUSD’s webpage. The full video is available now here, and this discussion begins at about 4:07:20.