Parents, students plea to keep Oakland schools open

December 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
In Oakland, a plea from parents and students came Wednesday night to save their schools. The district is looking to shut down three underperforming campuses in an effort to save more than $1 million.

Students pleaded with the Oakland Unified School Board to save their schools.

The board is considering closing three by the end of the school year: Best High School, Explore Middle School and Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts. All three are said to be underperforming, low enrollment schools.

Sharon Evans' 16-year-old son transferred to Best from Skyline High two years ago and she's said it has made a world of difference.

"He needs to be in this smaller school where the teachers care about him and he's on the dean's list so when I look at Best High School, I look at this was a change for my son and I need this," said Evans.

However, Oakland Unified says it needs to make cuts fast -- $30 million in the next six weeks, $100 million in the next three years. Closing the schools would just be a start, saving the district over $1 million.

"I'm making my best recommendations and what I can guarantee is that I can look anybody in the eye and tell you I'm making these recommendations with integrity," said district superintendent Tony Smith, Ph.D.

Teachers, though, aren't buying it. They showed up in solidarity, upset over how contract negotiations are going. Salary freezes are among the options being considered.

"Zero percent is unacceptable. For three years, you've got to be kidding. We can't keep teachers in Oakland now. The revolving door will get worse," says teacher Ben Visnick.

"I don't think we share a different vision. I don't think you guys don't want the same thing for our kids. I don't think we're enemies, but I think it's a matter of priorities," says teacher Randall Bustamante,.

"It's not like we're hiding pots of gold somewhere. So, we really need to be realistic about the conditions we're experiencing and what we can responsibly do within the current environment," says district spokesperson Troy Flint.

No telling how long it will take for the school board to reach a contract with its teachers, but as school closures, board members are scheduled to vote on that issue next Wednesday.


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