Protest at Oakland School Board meeting over budget cuts and school closures

ByKate Larsen via KGO logo
Thursday, January 24, 2019
EMBED <>More Videos

An Oakland School Board meeting was delayed by a group of protestors who are angry that the school district is discussing school closures.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- An Oakland School Board meeting was delayed Wednesday night by a group of protestors made up of mostly students and teachers who are angry that the school district is discussing school closures.

"We won't take the back of the bus! No closures, no cuts," chanted a group of young Oakland public school students, including Merlei Cherry, a 7th grader at Roots International Academy.

RELATED: Oakland School Board to vote on recommended budget cuts

The Oakland School Board is planning to close the middle school in East Oakland at the end of this school year.

"I am feeling very upset," said Cherry, who added, "it's like sad, disappointing that we actually have to be here and fight to keep our school open."

The school district says closing Roots would affect 150 current 6th and 7th-grade students.

"It's unethical. It's a huge civil rights issue," said Fatimah Salahuddim, an 8th-grade ethnic studies teacher at Roots. "A lot of the schools being targeted are in East Oakland, are in low-income communities."

"I would turn that criticism around and tell you if we've got one school that is lower performing than another school, we want to take the students that are in a lower performing school and put them in a higher performing school," said John Sasaki, the spokesman for OUSD.

Sasaki says 15 or 20 years ago, the district had 51,000 students. Right now there are 37,000 students in the district and a $30 million deficit to close.

"We have too many schools and we don't have enough resources for those schools to operate the way that the students deserve," said Sasaki.

Adding another layer of complication-- last Friday, some Oakland teachers walked out of school because of stalled contract negotiations over better wages and class sizes.

RELATED: Oakland teachers hold 1 day walkout, threaten strike over contract talks

Tannia Kappner is a history teacher at Oakland Tech High School and a part of Equal Opportunities Now/By Any Means Teachers Caucus and said, "We're getting ready to strike, with the students and the community for equal public education for Oakland schools."

On Monday, there is a special Oakland School Board meeting to vote on whether Roots International Academy will close at the end of the school year.

Next Wednesday, there is another special school board meeting about further budget cuts.