Concerned about the future of their local neighborhood school, parents, teachers, and alumni of McClymonds High School showed up at a community meeting Tuesday night in the school cafeteria, looking for answers from the school district.
This was one of many community meetings planned in coming weeks around the Oakland Unified School District’s plan to redesign five schools that are said to be underperforming, according to the school district.
The transformation of these schools – McClymonds, Castlemont, and Fremont High schools, Frick Middle School and Brookfield Elementary – will be open to charters and other groups to submit proposals in April.
Speaking at the meeting, Chief of Schools Allen Smith – part of Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s new team from Denver – stressed that “McClymonds will not be a charter.” He added that community input from school leadership, staff, parents and students will drive the process.
“You need to tell us what your students need,” Smith said, amid outbursts from community members opposing the school becoming a charter.
“What this process is designed for is this – we want to make sure that anybody who wants to come in and work with any of our students anywhere around the district is actually going to work with our students,” he added.
While the school district enters this process as a strategy to the declining enrollment and performance at these schools however, parents and educators at McClymonds say the school needs more resources to better prepare students for college.
Longtime educator and coach at McClymonds, Ben “Coach” Tapscott has advocated for West Oakland students to gain access to more advanced placement courses and electives.
School enrollment declined from 900 students, 14 advanced placement courses and four honor classes in 2005 – in a small school structure, to 230 students and one advanced placement course in 2011, he said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“This school has been disrupted by the Oakland Unified School District…it was broken up and experimented with in three small schools,” said Tapscott. “For eight years, they did nothing over here for Black students.”
McClymonds is the only high school in the West Oakland community, serving predominantly African American students. Yet, trends show that more students attending schools in the West Oakland area have gone to Oakland Technical High School or Skyline over McClymonds.
“Our kids deserve more,” Tapscott said. “In my opinion, (there was) Tony Smith who did nothing, Gary Yee who did nothing, and now we have a new team, a new sheriff but the same old mess.”
District 3 school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge said to community members, “Share your own story,” encouraging them to take control of their own narrative.
“Look at the optics,” she said holding up a Post newspaper, highlighting the image of Mayor Libby Schaaf “above the fold” and Supt. Wilson and Board President James Harris below the fold, seeming to illustrate that the Post is criticizing Black male school leaders and supporting a white woman mayor.
Post Publisher Paul Cobb, a former member of the Board of Education, is encouraging Hinton Hodge to write an editorial/opinion to share her views on the redesign process. “When she asked for our endorsement we also placed her above the fold. I hope Director Hinton Hodge uses the opportunity to build bridges with our new Mayor so the community can see the optics because the city’s kids need all leaders working together on their behalf. If not, it will just be an ‘optics-illusion’.”