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School Advocate Finds Oakland Schools Lost Money by Closing Roots, Kaiser and Other Schools

OUSD claims but shows no proof that closing more schools would save $2 million.

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Students, teachers and parents at Roots Academy protest at School Board meetings in January 2019, opposing district decision to close their school. Photo courtesy of Oakland North.

A community education advocate has written a public letter using district data to show that the Oakland school district did not save money but instead lost over $700,000 when it closed two well-loved elementary schools.

Carol Delton, a community education advocate who has dedicated a lot of her time to keeping track of Oakland school district’s finances, has raised disturbing questions about the lack of transparency, accountability and seemingly inaccurate budget numbers that the district and its hands-on overseers at the Alameda County Office of Education, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) and the State Department of Finance are using to force the district to close schools and gut school site educational programs.

Delton, a retired school-based speech pathologist and Oakland resident, wrote an open letter October 17 to the OUSD school board and superintendent, questioning a proposal to cut $2 million from next year’s school budget to make up for savings that would be supposedly lost if the district does not go ahead with a plan to close more schools in 2022-2023.

Countering that proposal, Delton found that the district’s own documents show that the district has lost money when it closes schools. One document, released last May, showed that changes in facilities when (Cohort 1 and Cohort 2) schools were closed, the net costs to the district, including facilities costs, were $700,896.33.

In addition, the district lost state revenue when students left the school district amid the closures and mergers. According to one report, the closures meant that the district lost 9% or 14 students from Roots Academy, 17% or 37 students from Kaiser Elementary and 15% or 14 students from Oakland SOL.

“Without counting the loss of siblings to OUSD enrollment and without counting other students whose loss from the district may not have been presented, students leaving the district from just those three schools approaches a million-dollar loss … funding that has not been factored in,” wrote Delton in her open letter.

“As a result, it is difficult for me to believe that any plan of closures and mergers could result in a $2 million savings,” Delton wrote.

Looking at the pattern of nearly 20 years of school closings forced on the district by its overseers, Delton wrote, “It was clear that in years when OUSD closed schools, the district lost enrollment and in years when OUSD did not close schools, enrollment was up.”

Further, she said she saw that the district presented rosy projections that were not realized when it decided to close these schools. For example, looking at the projection prior to the Kaiser closure, “you will … see under-projections of enrollment loss.”

“Please consider that the enrollment loss pattern for this year that seems to be emerging would be 400% worse if it followed the percentages of district enrollment loss occasioned by recent closure/mergers.”

Delton also looked at the lack of transparency of these financial decisions, which makes it difficult for her and other members of the public to look at what the district is doing with public money.

“I am deeply concerned about the proposal to cut $2 million from the 2022-23 budget … has had ZERO public exposure and ZERO committee discussion before it comes to the board for a vote,” she wrote.

“While it was announced as Item G-1 of the 10/14/2021 Budget and Finance Committee Meeting, no documents were ever posted and, at the meeting, the Committee Chair announced the discussion would not take place and that she was receiving messages about running over time.” Delton wrote.

The Post requested the district respond to the issues raised by Delton in her letter. Here is the response the Post received on Wednesday, October 20:

“Rather than consolidating schools, the Board of Education has elected to cut $2 million in ongoing expenditures from the 2022-23 budget. On Oct. 27, the Board will decide how to make those reductions,” the district wrote.

“The Board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and her team have been transparent about the financial issues that face the district. We appreciate input from all stakeholders including students, staff, families, and members of the community.”

Community members who would like to follow the OUSD Board discussion can attend the meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in person or on Zoom. Delton’s letter is available online at www.postnewsgroup.com

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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Commentary

Closing the Loss of Learning Reading Gap

The new community-based non-profit, Right Path to Learning, promotes early literacy in these first crucial years while there’s still a chance to make a difference. They set out to prove that children in under-performing and under-resourced schools can thrive with the right resources.

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The EnCompass Summer School Pilot proved to be a successful partnership between Right Path to Learning, Sylvan Learning, and the families and staff of EnCompass Academy.

By Conway Jones

Reading is the foundation of a good education and fundamental to success in life.

Can you imagine your life without reading? What if you couldn’t read well enough to follow directions, conduct your business, or even enjoy a good book?

Success starts early. Until 3rd grade, children are learning to read; after third grade, they’re reading to learn. Students who don’t achieve literacy by third grade fall behind and become bored, frustrated, and unlikely to graduate high school, much less go on to higher education.

The new community-based non-profit, Right Path to Learning, promotes early literacy in these first crucial years while there’s still a chance to make a difference. They set out to prove that children in under-performing and under-resourced schools can thrive with the right resources.

This summer, they did it. RPL hired Sylvan Learning to provide 15 children, 50 hours of support education to help them achieve literacy at EnCompass Academy in East Oakland.

Sylvan Learning tested the children at the beginning of the program: they were one year to over two years behind grade level in literacy. At the end of RPL’s five-week program, 93% of the students enrolled in the RPL pilot program at EnCompass completed it and the attendance rate was 86%, or an average of 43 hours completed in the 50-hour program.

Students advanced by almost 50% of a school year to grade level. Students grew on all three components of the Sylvan Outlook Survey, indicating a 25% increase in their engagement with school, improvement in their academic perseverance, and their confidence in reading.

All of the parents surveyed indicated that the program was beneficial, that it helped their child read better, their child enjoyed the program, and their confidence in reading improved.

As the parent of one of our students put it, “If you believe in it, you can do it!”

The EnCompass Summer School Pilot proved to be a successful partnership between Right Path to Learning, Sylvan Learning, and the families and staff of EnCompass Academy.

The school staff was thrilled with the overall academic improvements and is eager to partner again next spring. Based on the success last summer, Right Path to Learning will provide additional services to the Oakland Unified School District students in the advancement of its goal of ensuring that 2,000 under-resourced students reach literacy by the end of 3rd grade.

“Our children made substantial progress in confidence and in reading growth. Because of that, a student shared that she is now spending two hours at the library because she is able to read better,” said Minh-Tram Nguyen, principal at OUSD’s EnCompass Academy. “That’s a powerful testimony to the program’s success, and we are looking forward to continuing our relationship with Right Path to Learning,” she continued.

Right Path to Learning program will move from a Summer School program to an After School program starting January 2022.

In 10 years, these third graders will be 18-year-old adult members of our community, on their way to productive lives and life-long learning.

For more information, visit www.RightPathtoLearning.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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