School Board Votes to Close Roots, Parents Call for Boycott

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Ady Rios advocates for Roots School at Monday night’s school board meeting, where the board voted to close the school.Photo by Nerali Jani.

The Oakland Board of Education voted this week despite the opposition of hundreds of Roots students and families and their supporters. Parent leaders pledged to continue the fight, saying they would boycott the school on Friday.

The board voted 6-1 on Tuesday in favor of closing the school, ignoring the impassioned pleas of the students. Only District 5 Boardmember Roseann Torres voted against closing the school, along with the student board members (whose votes are symbolic).

Torres said that because  the Black and Latino  unity was so impressive, she was voting no.

Voting in favor of closing the school were James Harris, Shanthi Gonzales, Aimee Eng, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Jody London and Gary Yee.

Education activist Kitty Kelly Epstein, who attended the meeting, said on Facebook:

“By its own projections the Oakland school board will save only $370,000 by closing Roots International Academy. A whole school; several hundred grieving children; the loss of safety, community and family for some of the least enfranchised youngsters in Oakland will save less than the cost of one well-paid administrator including benefits.

“The principal is leaving anyway. Let the staff run the school…with a lead teacher. There’s a lot of talk about ‘innovation.’ From all the evidence at the board meeting, that’s the beautiful innovation that’s already happening with the Roots community.”

Discounting the public, the school board and administration made this unpopular decision under pressure from powerful agencies: the Alameda County Office of Education, the State Department of Education, the state funded Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), Oakland’s state trustee, as well as billionaire-backed pro charter organizations GO Public Schools, Educate78, and the California Charter School Association.

Roots parents published a flyer calling on parents to keep their students home on Friday:

“In response to the OUSD school board voting to close Roots, parents strike back! Our school will still be open next year – they are just moving our children!! We demand a seat for our students at Our School! Keep Roots Students on OUR public school campus!”

“NFL Takes A Knee – Roots Parents Take A Stand.”

Parent leader Adelaida B Rios said the fight did not end with the school board vote.

“The kids are walking in here so sad. But we tell them the fight is not over yet,” she said. “The process was wrong from the beginning. They didn’t give the parents the respect of giving straight answers,” she said.“They still don’t have a plan.  I still don’t know where my son is going to go (next year). They make promises and then abandon us.”

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