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Manzanita SEED Community Says Teacher Consolidations Harm Students

Sasaki, Davis and Hutchinson all pointed to not having enough teachers as a root cause of the issue causing consolidations. Sasaki and Davis pointed to plans already in place by the district to improve recruitment.

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As Oakland Unified School District’s Manzanita SEED Elementary school lost a teacher on Monday to a consolidation process that placed her at another site, the school’s community is reeling from her absence, and parents and teachers are hoping the process can work differently in the future.

“Kids were crying because their original teacher is leaving,” said Anne Perrone, a third-grade teacher who has worked for OUSD for over 20 years. “They’re nervous because the two months of experience they had with her and the protocols she’d set up are now up in the air.”

OUSD forced a fourth-grade teacher to leave Manzanita SEED as enrollment numbers were far lower than what the district had projected for that site, while other sites, most notably Sojourner Truth Independent Study, had far more students than the district had planned for.

“Given that some of our schools and classes still don’t have permanent teachers, we have to take teachers at the schools with too few students and put them in classes at other schools that don’t have enough teachers,” wrote John Sasaki, OUSD’s director of communications, in an email to The Oakland Post.

The steps in the process of consolidation are guided by the teacher’s contract that OUSD and the teacher’s union, OEA, have agreed to. According to the contract, when a consolidation process requires a teacher to relocate to a different school, the teacher with least seniority at an under-enrolled site is chosen to leave unless another teacher at the site volunteers to leave instead.

In this instance, the process required that a fourth-grade native Spanish speaker leave Manzanita SEED, a school that offers instruction to all students in both English and Spanish. While that fourth-grade teacher asked not to be named in this article, she confirmed she was relocated to Sojourner Truth Independent Study, a OUSD school that is currently offering online learning and does not offer dual language instruction. The site has higher enrollment numbers than anticipated due to COVID.

“The consolidation process that exists didn’t factor in the pandemic, and that our enrollment numbers are going to be impacted by that in ways we have never seen,” said Jill Karjian, a parent to a third-grade student at Manzanita SEED.

The consolidation process is organized around an attendance count taken 20 days into the school year, but Karjian feels the attendance could soon grow at her school if students start opting for in-person learning when vaccines become available for 5- 11-year-olds. The Los Angeles Times reported such vaccines could begin to become available as early as November.

The departure of the fourth-grade teacher also affected the school’s third grade classes. Another Manzanita SEED teacher, who had been teaching third grade, replaced the fourth grade teacher. Three third-grade classes were then merged into two classes, causing class sizes to go from 18 to 27 students. Anne Perrone reports about half her third-grade students have been testing two grades or more behind their grade level for both math and reading due to the pandemic making learning more difficult last year. The lower than usual class sizes had been helpful for getting her students caught up. Now that class sizes have suddenly risen, she’s worried.

“I’m not Wonder Woman,” she said. “I’m not going to be able to reach all the students in the way I want and need to.”

On September 21, four days after the Manzanita SEED community heard official word that their school would be consolidated, Karijian sent out an email, co-signed by 35 other parents, that asked to meet with Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Tramell, Chief Academic Advisor Sondra Aguilera, and Chief Talent Officer Tara Gard, to discuss the situation and propose alternative solutions.

The parents never heard a response. Perrone said teachers and parents had ideas such as bringing in school administrators who have teaching credentials to fill in vacancies, partnering with local teaching programs at universities to offer student teachers the vacancies, and offering increased pay to entice new teachers to fill in vacancies using COVID relief money.

In more than an hour of public comments at a School Board meeting on September 22, teachers, parents and students urged the board to stop the district’s normal practice of consolidations. But there were no resolutions related to the issue proposed and the Board did not take up the issue on their agenda. By October 5, Manzanita SEED had lost their teacher.

“Teacher consolidations can be very painful because they disrupt the relationships that students have made at the beginning of the year, so everyone wants to avoid them as much as possible,” wrote District 1 School Board Director Sam Davis in an e-mail to The Oakland Post.

When asked why the issue was not taken up at a Board meeting, Davis wrote “…for me personally, since no teachers were being laid off, it was not an issue of budgeting but a lack of sufficient staffing for all of our classrooms.” He also pointed out that since “the process of consolidation is part of the contract with OEA,” the board does not have the power to unilaterally change that process. Instead, it needs to be negotiated through OEA.

In an interview with The Oakland Post, District 5 School Board Director Mike Hutchinson said that the issue was brought to his attention at the last minute, when the first schools were being notified of their consolidations, at which point it was too late for him to bring the issue to the Board.

“There literally was nothing I could do substantially besides pressuring behind the scenes at that point,”  Hutchinson said. “This is the first time most people have heard of consolidations. I’m hoping with this awareness, we can improve upon this going forward.”

Hutchinson said, in previous years, consolidations had resulted in 20-30 teachers being affected. Sasaki wrote that in the past, the consolidation process has resulted in some teachers being laid off. This year, eight teachers were moved, and none were laid off. Davis wrote that he posed a lot of questions to Johnson-Tramell and her team about consolidations and that teachers being moved was ultimately limited as much as possible.

Hutchinson called the fact that much fewer consolidations happened this year than other years “a victory behind the scenes” but also acknowledged that some schools still felt a devastating impact through the consolidation process.

“This was something that was frustrating this year,” Hutchinson said, “because we can’t address it while it’s already happening. But we can definitely all address it for next year so we don’t have this happen again.”

According to Hutchinson, through contract negotiations with the district, OEA could have more flexibility with the consolidation process. Consolidations do not have to be attached to 20-day attendance counts, class sizes could be lowered, and OEA could propose different methods in its next contract.

“I would really recommend the union start preparing for next year,” said Hutchinson. “If teachers don’t like the way this consolidation process works, they should work to change the language in their contract.”

Sasaki, Davis and Hutchinson all pointed to not having enough teachers as a root cause of the issue causing consolidations. Sasaki and Davis pointed to plans already in place by the district to improve recruitment.

Hutchinson suggested changing the teacher contract to give new teachers who would otherwise be laid off an extra probationary year where the district could work to help improve their performance, so more teachers could get the aid they need to remain in Oakland public schools.

Perrone is frustrated to be stuck dealing with the instability of losing a teacher through consolidation and hopes OUSD can improve the situation in the near future. She calls consolidations a “Band-Aid approach” that does not work to fix anything.

“I think this is a turning point, we can either fix some of these long-term educational problems or we can create more entrenched inequalities that will go on for generations,” Perrone said.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Bay Area

Report Reveals California Cops Explicit Bias against African Americans

While the data show that most people consent to a search when asked by an officer, research from the report reflects that this “consent” is not necessarily voluntary because of the inherent power inequality between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public. 

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The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices. 
The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices. 

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire

A new report has revealed that California law enforcement officers searched, detained on the curb or in a patrol car, handcuffed, and removed from vehicles more individuals perceived as Black than individuals perceived as white, even though they stopped more than double the number of individuals perceived as white than individuals perceived as Black.

California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board’s report gathered information from 18 law enforcement agencies.

The data revealed that officers stopped 2.9 million individuals in 2020. Most were African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

The agency said that the data included what officers “perceived” to be the race, ethnicity, gender, and disability status of people they stopped, even if the perception was different from how the person identified.

According to the data, authorities search African Americans 2.4 times more than whites and disproportionately more than other racial and ethnic groups.

It also found that individuals officers perceived as transgender women were 2.5 times more likely to be searched than women who appeared cisgender.

Data for the report came from the state’s most important law enforcement agencies, like the California Highway Patrol.

However, the highway patrol didn’t include data analyzing stops based on gender identity.

All agencies must report the data in 2023.

“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” Chief David Swing, co-chair of the Board and past president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said in a statement.

The report further showed that Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to have force used against them compared to white individuals, while Asian and other individuals were less likely.

Specifically, the odds of having force used during a stop were 1.32 times and 1.16 times as high for Black and Hispanic individuals, respectively.

Asian and other individuals whom officers stopped had lower odds of having force used against them (0.80 and 0.82, respectively) relative to the odds for those perceived as white.

Search discovery rate analyses showed that, when officers searched individuals, all races, or ethnic groups of color, except for Asian and Middle Eastern/South Asian individuals, had higher search rates despite having lower rates of discovering contraband than individuals perceived as white.

Furthermore, a search and discovery rate analysis show that officers searched people perceived to have a mental health disability 4.8 times more often and people perceived to have other types of disabilities 2.7 times more often than people perceived to have no disability.

Still, they discovered contraband or evidence at a lower rate during stops and searches of people with disabilities.

Officers used force against individuals perceived to have mental health disabilities at 5.2 times the rate at which they used force against individuals they perceived to have no disabilities.

The data show that Black and Hispanic/Latinx individuals are asked for consent to search at higher rates than white individuals.

Officers searched Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and multiracial individuals at higher rates for consent-only searches than all other racial/ethnic groups.

These consent-only searches resulted in lower rates of discovery of contraband (8.5%, 11.3%, and 13.0%, respectively) than searches of all other racial and ethnic groups.

The reason for the stop was a traffic violation in more than half of the stops where officers conducted a consent-only search (consent being the only reason for the search) of Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Middle Eastern/South Asian individuals.

On the other hand, less than 30% of the consent-only searches of white people happened during traffic stops.

The people who wrote the report said that searches based on consent alone lead to fewer discoveries than searches based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

With consent-only searches, the rate of finding something was 9.2 percentage points lower for Black people than for white people.

“Given the disparities in the data on consent searches, the board questions whether consent searches are truly voluntary,” the authors wrote.

While the data show that most people consent to a search when asked by an officer, research from the report reflects that this “consent” is not necessarily voluntary because of the inherent power inequality between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public.

The research shows that this natural power imbalance is evident in vulnerable groups, such as people with mental health problems or young people, who may be more likely to give in to authority.

“Indeed,” the authors wrote, “RIPA data reflects that for both people with mental health disabilities and youth, a larger proportion of their stops that began as consensual encounters resulted in searches, as compared to people without mental health disabilities or adults.”

Board members said they carefully looked at the data about people who were stopped and searched because of their status as people under supervision.

The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices.

For example, officers performed supervision-only searches – where supervision status is the only basis for the search – of individuals perceived as Black at 2.8 times the rate at which they performed supervision-only searches of individuals they perceived as white.

Similarly, officers also performed supervision plus searches – where the officer had some other basis to search the person – of Black individuals at 3.3 times the rate they performed supervision plus searches of white individuals.

The rates of discovering contraband for supervision-only searches were lower for all racial/ethnic groups than white individuals; Black individuals had the most considerable difference in their discovery rate (-11.4 percentage points) compared to whites.

Officers also reported a higher proportion of supervision-only searches during stops for traffic violations (46.9%) than during reasonable suspicion stops (24.6%).

“These were just a few of the many disparities discussed in the report,” board members noted.

“Given the large disparities observed, the Board reviewed efforts by various law enforcement agencies to limit inquiries into supervision status as well as stops and searches on the basis of supervision status.

“The RIPA data further indicates that the practice of conducting supervision-only searches shows racial disparities that result in low yield rates of contraband or evidence.”

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