Monday, May 02, 2022

Playing The Numbers

 It's a numbers game. That's how it plays out. The powers that be, in this case a school board that has a great many ties to charter school funding has deemed our school unworthy of the support that other schools, charters, continue to get. The difference between our school and a charter school is that the charter school pays rent. You can make money off a charter school. 

And you don't have to hire teachers who belong to one of those high-falutin unions. If you don't want the kids, you don't have to keep them. Up the street at your average public school, we take them all. If we've got space, they are ours until we get them through the fifth grade. Sometimes it's a pleasure. Sometimes it's a chore. It's a very mixed bag, but that's the nature of public education. It's not supposed to be a profit center. It's supposed to be a part of the safety net that we tend to forget, like Social Security or Medicaid. It's there for those who need it. It's a service offered to the community in hopes of making education available to everyone. Not just the ones who have the awareness, get up and go or wish to try something different. 

These are public schools. They are paid for by tax dollars, and the way we run is that we get a certain number of dollars for every kid we can cram into the building. This is a formula called Average Daily Attendance. My school's attendance was profoundly affected by the eruption of charter schools here in Oakland. This impacted not only the number of kids in seats, but our academic performance as well. Those that had the get up and go to experiment with the newest charter flavor were generally the ones looking to get their children to the highest possible academic achievement got up and went. We have continued to do the best we can with the ones that come in our door. Thanks to a dedicated staff and a creed that says we are all scholars, we have made some magic happen.

Then came the global pandemic. Our neighborhood was hit particularly hard, as we lost many families to the harsh economic realities of trying to live in the Bay Area when one or two incomes are lost. When we came back to in-person instruction, how could it have been a surprise that our enrollment has taken yet another hit? 

Did the school board and the district work with us to try and move those numbers up? Was there a meeting in advance of the closure notices with families and staff to warn us, encourage us, support us? No. There was no such meeting. Just a leaked message that came out a few days before the hammer came down. Has a school board member come by to talk with us since then? Offered up a town hall meeting? One of them, who voted against the closures came to a town hall we organized, where he preached to the proverbial choir. Those who voted to close our school have been noticeably absent from our campus. A tragic reversal of how we began this school year, when the district and the state superintendent descended on us with a horde of media to laud us for surviving and making the most of the year we spent on Zoom. 

Hooray for us. Then, after decades of waiting for a new playground, we were finally given the go ahead for a place for our kids to run and play. It was only a few weeks after that when the news came down that we wouldn't be around to need all that fun. Again, no one from the district came by to give us the news. We found out about it because we were now so immersed in the school board meeting agendas that an observant staff member noticed our school's name on yet another list. This one was the insult list, having already made the one for injury. 

On Friday, for the third time in my tenure, I joined a work action. I walked out. I didn't go to work. Instead I walked around in front of the school, making my displeasure known. The school district's official position was that we were conducting an "illegal strike." They told parents to keep their kids at home. Just a dress rehearsal for a year from now.

Unless it's not a numbers game after all, and maybe the powers that be will recognize the lives of the community they are affecting. Human beings. The public. The ones that go to school. 


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