Letter to the Community

October 4, 2011

Dear OUSD Community Member,

Over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the more inspiring aspects of the “Community Schools, Thriving Students” strategic plan. We’ve received encouraging feedback on the importance of caring for the whole child and supplementing quality instruction with services that facilitate high levels of learning. We’ve built partnerships and worked to better utilize assets in the service of children.

It’s been exciting to see consensus grow around the need for a new way of educating Oakland students, but as much work as we’ve done to get to this point, the hard part is just beginning. Transforming OUSD into a school district that produces results for all children also requires tough choices and unpopular decisions – none more so than school closure.

On Tuesday, September 27, OUSD staff presented the Board of Education with recommendations on how to restructure the District so we can:

• Provide more children with quality school options
• Encourage more families to choose OUSD Schools
• Create a sustainable school district that produces results for all children
• Deploy staff and money more efficiently and use the savings to invest more resources in Oakland schools

This is necessary because OUSD operates too many schools for the numbers of students currently in the District. We have 101 schools for 38,000 students, about twice as many as the typical school district with our enrollment. As a result, we are spread far too thin and are unable able to serve all our children in the manner they deserve or that is required for success in school, career and life. It’s essential we scale the district back to a manageable size so we can invest more heavily in the remaining sites and provide richer programmatic and service offerings for students and families.

To facilitate this, staff is proposing a variety of options, including:

• Transforming seven high schools into two high-quality comprehensive high schools
• Restructuring adult education
• Expanding the grade configuration of a set of schools to K-8, 6-12, PK-12
• Consolidating a set of schools through the Transformation or Expansion process
• Closing a set of schools

I am recommending that five schools be closed at the end of the current, 2011-12 school year. Those schools are:

Lakeview Elementary
Lazear Elementary
Marshall Elementary
Maxwell Park Elementary
Santa Fe Elementary

The school closure piece is the most painful part of restructuring and the recommendation to close these schools is one of the most difficult I’ve made at Oakland Unified. At the same time, we remain firm in our conviction that this tough road is the best course for the future of Oakland students.

To help explain this position, we want to refer you to some resources that demonstrate our thought process, procedure and timeline. Please visit www.thrivingstudents.org/restructuring for the materials we’ve developed on this topic.

To view staff’s recommendations to the Board, please click here.

Finally, you can watch live video and replays of Tuesday night’s session and other board meetings by clicking “Board of Education Meeting, Agendas, Minutes and Live Meeting Video” on the home page of the OUSD website (direct link: http://tinyurl.com/OUSDBOE).

Even if you disagree with the conclusions, I hope you will find that the recommendations are thoughtful and reflect a deep concern for not just one school, but the District as a whole and all of its students. We want our students to have the best opportunity to learn, which is why in a time of great fiscal distress, we remain committed to 180 days of schooling. Unlike many neighboring school districts, we will not reduce the length of the school year, but instead will use every last day to further the education of Oakland’s children and provide a safe, supportive and successful landing for any family that might have to select a new school due to closures. For those families who are impacted by potential closures, we pledge that your child will begin the 2012-13 year at a site that is at least as high-performing, if not higher, than his or her current

Although discussion of school closures dominates the restructuring discussion, ultimately, this is just part of a larger mission – transforming OUSD into a school district equipped to serve all students. This is incredibly hard work, but it is the most important work there is. I thank you for entrusting your child to OUSD and look forward to working in partnership with you to create better outcomes and brighter prospects for every student in Oakland Unified.


Tony Smith

Please use the links below for a printable and translated versions of this letter.

FINAL - Restructuring Letter to Community 10.04.11.pdf62.69 KB
Letter_to_Community_10.04.11_Spanish.pdf639.11 KB
Restructuring_Letter_to_Community_10.04.11_Chinese.pdf232 KB
Restructuring_Letter_to_Community_10.04.11_Vietnamese.pdf195.17 KB
Restructuring_Letter_to_Community 10.04.11_Cambodian.pdf105.25 KB
Restructuring_Letter_to_Community_10.04.11_Arabic.pdf182.69 KB