Students, Teachers Rally to Save Dewey

Carrington Taylor, recent Dewey Academy graduate, speaks Monday  at a rally and barbecue to support the school.  Next to him at left is Dewey student Kelvyn Wallis. Photo by Ken Epstein

Carrington Taylor, recent Dewey Academy graduate, speaks Monday at a rally and barbecue to support the school. Next to him at left is Dewey student Kelvyn Wallis. Photo by Ken Epstein

Students, teachers and community members held a barbecue Monday to muster their forces to protect Dewey Academy, a longtime continuation high school that is sitting on property at Second Avenue and E. 12th Street that a developer wants to buy.

Between dancing and barbecuing hamburgers and hotdogs on the sidewalk in front of the school, the students held a rally to tell their classmates and supporters what is going on.

“They’re trying to come in and take our home – We’re not going to let them. We’re going to fight back,” said Dewey student Kelvyn Wallis.

“If it weren’t for this school, I probably would not know what I’m doing right now.” said Carrington Taylor, who graduated from Dewey in June.

“People who come here don’t think they have a future, don’t think they are going to go very far in life,” he said, but all that changes when they come to the school. By shutting or moving the school, he said, “you’d be destroying those students’ future. Dewey represents a community and a family, not just a school.”

Dewey is situated in a central location, outside neighborhood gang turf, which makes it a safer for young people, according to the school’s supporters. The present school site is also easily accessible to public transportation.

The City of Oakland has an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Urban Core to build a 24-story apartment or condominium building on a city parcel by Lake Merritt and next door to Dewey.

The developer is seeking to buy the school property to add to its project. The district in May set up a” 7-11” surplus facilities committee, which under the law would have to declare the property surplus before it could be sold.

The district has also issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), seeking proposals for a mixed use development of the site adjacent to Dewey on the Oakland estuary, presently occupied by the OUSD abandoned administration building.

The RFQs are due by Aug. 15, and the final decision on the development is scheduled to be voted on by the school board in mid-September.

According to district officials, Dewey would be temporarily moved to another site until a new Dewey Academy can be build alongside the a new administration building right across the street from Dewey’s present home.

Dewey supporters argue, however, that any move would disrupt the education of vulnerable students whose lives and studies have been disrupted for a variety of reasons all too many times already.

In addition, supporters are concerned that once the school is moved there is no guarantee it would be able to return downtown. Whatever the promises, continuation high students from East and West Oakland ultimately might not be a priority for space on valuable estuary real estate.

According to School Board President David Kakishiba, district property decisions are being driven by an urgent need for funds to build a new administration building,

Ever since the administration building on Second Avenue was wrecked by water damage in January 2013, the district headquarters has been located in rental office space at 1,000 Broadway in downtown Oakland, the monthly payments covered by insurance.

“We are looking for how we can leverage some district property so we can pay for a new central administration facility or pay for the ongoing lease for the facility,” Kakishiba said in an interview with the Post.

“We’re exploring ways to raise enough money to build a new central administration plus build a new Dewey next to the administration building at the site,” he said.

However, Kakishiba said, the district made a mistake when it began to plan to move Dewey without consulting people at the school and listening to their “legitimate concerns.”

“It was an oversight of the board not to engage the school community earlier,” he said. “My sense is that we will not move forward until we first get those school communities ramped up and involved in the process.”

The policy of the board is to keep Dewey downtown, Kakishiba said. “We want Dewey to remain.”

There are several board members who are committed to expanding Dewey’s links to community college courses, and the school is located right next to Laney College, an ideal location for developing those connections, he said.

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