Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 17, 2014

Settle down, it’ll all be clear

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

I just want to appreciate the work on whoever was filming the School Board meeting on Tuesday night.   After each public speaker that earned loud applause from the audience the videographer dialed down the microphone volume each time which was so helpful so that I didn’t have to do it myself.   There’s nothing more jarring than straining to hear someone’s comments on video and then being deafened by the applause.

So I have to say, I was actually a little shocked and surprised at the amount of push back on Tuesday night to the option that had been floated that ACLC and Nea both be moved to the Woodstock site.   Given that Nea had previously complained about their two “villages” being split over two sites and ACLC not being happy with being moved to Wood in the first place, I thought this was a clear case of a winning scenario.   The only real losers would have been the Home Sweet Home preschool if they would be forced to move, which uses only two classrooms at Woodstock and a small play yard so would probably still fit on the site even with ACLC and Nea and of course Island High School which would have been moved three times in the last few years.  I’ll point out that no one from Island High came up to complain about the move probably because they’re used to be shuffled around by now.

ACLC parents, students, and facilitators seemed outraged by the idea that they had no permanency in a space like traditional schools in Alameda.  Constant moving by charter schools is nothing new, that’s why charter schools that do not want to be subject to the ever changing ADA and needs of their chartering district find their own space.   I know that Yu Ming — a new Mandarin immersion school — which has been around for three or four years max has moved almost every single year its been in existence.

Anyway, ACLC community = very unhappy with the idea of moving even though they claim to not have been welcomed very warmly at Wood Middle School either, but yet they don’t want to move.   There was one quote that stuck out to me as one of the reasons why perhaps Wood and ACLC didn’t bond immediately.  Someone actually used this quote by saying that the School Board shouldn’t “punish an overachieving school because of an underachieving one.”  I hope that is not the overarching attitude at ACLC, but given how many times ACLC’s API score came up during public comment, I’m guessing that it is an attitude held by some.

What was lost in accounts about the meeting were a few key things mentioned by the Board Members at the end of the public comment during the actual agenda item and not during the open comment period.   First Board Member Mike McMahon pointed out that some of the onus of the facilities difficulties of ACLC should be laid at the feet of its own governing board.   ACLC, as a charter school, has a separate governing board than the AUSD School Board.   According to Mike McMahon ACLC’s governing board knew about the facilities crunch more than three years ago and in reviewing their meeting minutes they did not address it with any urgency.

I do recall that that during the last round of discussions about this move ACLC said they were hoping to secure the Miller School site (near Coast Guard housing) but negotiations with government were not going well.

Mike McMahon also gave direction that the School District should be looking at all options, including purchasing portables for ACLC at Wood to house the program.

Also, Board Member Barbara Kahn was pretty open with her support of moving ACLC and Nea to the Woodstock site, saying that commenters had talked about the inadequacy of the space at Wood and this would be a perfect opportunity to put four walls and a roof over the program as opposed to interim solutions like portables.  She also pushed back when Board Member Trish Spencer attempted to strong arm the Board into agreeing to pay for the moving expenses for ACLC if the decision was to move the school to the Woodstock campus, by suggesting that it was a negotiable item and should be left to the negotiations.

Board Member Niel Tam was also supportive of the move and along with Board Member Margie Sherratt suggested that if there was to be a move that it accompany a long term lease that would allow ACLC to make physical improvements with certainty that they would get to enjoy it.  A common refrain from the speakers made mention of the $120K that they put into improvements or was a cost of their move to Wood Middle School.  It’s really not clear.

At the end this is how everything shook down so that people aren’t surprised.  Right now the school district has already started the Prop 39 facilities request process.  By law for a program that includes high schools students (which ACLC does) AUSD has to legally include certain classrooms in its offer to ACLC which includes a science lab, etc.   That’s why one of the “options” was to split ACLC throughout three sites.   However ACLC can agree to enter into negotiations with AUSD for alternate sites but I guess they would have to provide some kind of waiver to the school district to suspend the Prop 39 request.   If ACLC elects to not do the waiver-y type thing then AUSD must offer them the option with the science lab (three site option) to be legally compliant.   Just wanted to put that out there in case it comes to that because I’m not sure a lot of people stuck around for that part of the meeting.

But it appears that the Board will wait and see what the new Science & Technology interpreted through Engineering & the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements (STEAM program) at Wood is going to look like and see if they really do require as many additional classrooms as they are requesting.

I have to end this by saying, I guess I’m still unclear why the pushback.  If the District can resolve the issue of permanence by offering a lease that would run concurrently with the charter approval and maybe work out some sort of monetary assistance for moving (probably still cheaper than dropping portables at Wood) the only negative about Woodstock is the location, but it would be no different than when ACLC was located at Encinal.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Lauren. I’m a Nea parent, and while I cannot speak for the school as a whole, many, many of us are thilled at the idea of reunifying at Woodstock. Coming back together is what we have desperately wanted for years: we are ONE K-12 school, after all. But now, this desire depends on apparently disappointing (to put it mildly) our sister school. Which puts us in a tough position, and is probably why you didn’t really hear from Nea parents on Tuesday: it is hard to celebrate something that makes your sibling unhappy. I hope we can all focus on the big picture, and be confident that with the plethora of options for dividing up Woodstock to serve the needs of many, we will all ultimately be better served by the new space that we currently are in our present spaces. The journey could be bumpy, but I think the final destination could be great.

    Comment by MostlyLurks — January 17, 2014 @ 10:57 am

  2. MostlyLurks: I know that one public speaker mentioned that they were against the Nea and ACLC consolidation because both schools rely on the “big room” concept and Woodstock only has one “big room” (multipurpose room?) So, I guess I’m unclear about how big the “big room” must be and whether the multipurpose room at Woodstock is too small to subdivide into two “big rooms.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 17, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

    • Both school programs rely on a large community space which is used for collaboration, study hall, school meetings, dances, performances, etc. It has tables, chairs, couches, technology, computers, books, games, etc. in it. It is basically just a big, multipurpose room, like most schools have, though not also used as a cafeteria. And bigger is usually better for that sort of thing. (The BOE meeting kind of made it sound like some unusual special Big Room that is unique to the CLCS schools. ) Nea uses the former Longfellow cafeteria as its multipurpose room. As it stands, Woodstock has only one multipurpose room/cafeteria. But apparently it also has adjoining rooms that can be opened up to create a dedicated large space. Perhaps it also has enough land area to add a large portable? Again, I cannot speak for everyone at my school, but the general buzz at Nea seems to be, whatever is there, we will make it work!

      Comment by MostlyLurks — January 17, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

  3. Isn’t this more about pushback from Wood who originally claimed they were beng disenfranchised by putting ACLC on their campus? They must not like what they see from ACLC and had expressed fears that ACLC wants to really relocate to their campus. The big room concept is bunk- ACLC is successful because it has the highest rate of college educated parents. Years ago ACLC voted to separate from Encinal and take the charter money. This is the price. There’s no crying in education.

    Comment by commonsense — January 18, 2014 @ 7:48 am

  4. It does seem strange that ACLC is so vehement about staying on the Wood site; a site they’ve complained about all year as too small and lacking the “center” they require. When I see comments like ‘BOE shouldn’t “punish an overachieving school because of an underachieving one” ‘ or as one ACLC parent notably blogged on The Alamedan: (in reaction to a writer who said,”I don’t think we should assign facilities based on family income.”) the person commented “Well, why not? Those families probably pay the most in Property Taxes, the major way to pay for AUSD. Why shouldn’t those who pay the most, get the most benefit?” Martin Luther King Jr. must be rolling in his grave on this birthday weekend at the idea that public school facilities would be divided up by family income! I’m reading between lines and connecting comments and coming up with the message that ACLC only wants to stay at Wood because they feel they deserve the facility more and thus should just, ultimately, get it. Wow. Wood was never big enough for both programs, and we all heard the Board say for the last year that the site was temporary for ACLC; Prop 39 offers are by their very nature only year to year offers. Now, a terrific and appropriate site is available. Why isn’t ACLC jumping on this opportunity?

    Comment by Kids at Wood — January 18, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

  5. I’ll wade in as an ACLC parent… From the outside, I understand how the Woodstock plan makes sense if the number of available classrooms is the only factor considered. But, it is not the only factor.

    The short video series, “ACLC School of the Future”, available on Youtube, demonstrates how important the right physical space is to our entire program. At ACLC’s inception, outside resources were brought in to make the Encinal location into the right space for the program so it was a big blow to lose that.

    When we were evicted last year from our Center of 18 years, we came together as a community to make the new site work. Learners, parents, and facilitators volunteered thousands of hours to make the previously rundown cluster of portables at Wood into a habitable space. We would have liked to invest the time, money and energy into programs. These portables were in serious disrepair until we fixed them.

    Now, the district has just invested in a master planning process that we are to be a part of.

    Once Wood has a program that is up and running the clearly needs to expand, then this should be considered. Wood is not at that point. They have not even presented their plan. It is my understanding that even with their project enrollment numbers, they would have a much higher classroom to student ration than we do even before their extra work rooms on each floor are considered.

    ACLC is open to all. ‘Kids at Wood’, I agree with you about the distasteful nature of the comments you heard about assigning facilities based on incomes. They do not reflect the views of the community I am familiar with.

    However, I do not agree with your attempt to, “read between the lines”. Our family is not wealthy. Our son chose ACLC because of their interesting approach to education (and his wanting to play on their Ultimate team). I am a strong believer in the big room concept, and hope, ‘Commonsense’, that your comments will lead more people to look into it and judge for themselves. I am assuming that the master planning process will consider allowing kids to attend schools near where they live, and additionally to give all kids equal access to the programs they are interested in attending. I do strongly feel that ACLC deserves to stay in the space for now because we are in it now after having just gone through so much to make it into a workable solution.

    One school wanting more space for an uncertain experiment, when they already have a generous share – at the expense of having another school that has just settled in after a harrowing move, again move their entire program, all just as the district starts a process to consider the best spaces for their various schools, strikes me as unwise and unfair.

    Thank you Lorendo for hosting this discussion.

    Comment by Z Turner — January 19, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

  6. 6. “One school wanting more space for an uncertain experiment,…” etc. I think those criticisms were leveled at ACLC once, as well as Junior Jets program when ACLC was originally in threat of being relocated. I propose avoiding comparisons between charters and the mainstream as dubious apples and oranges. I don’t think it is correct or helpful to demonize ACLC parents with a broad brush as elitist upwardly mobile people, but statistically, aren’t the majority of you better educated (like college) compared to the general public school population? Even if that is correct, it doesn’t invalidate the good at ACLC, but it’s the kind of thing which should not be dismissed either. Anecdotally, most if not all the kids we’ve known at ACLC were pretty exceptional kids with college educated parents who were really proactive about their kids education. I applaud their successes and cheer on the children in higher education pursuits, but I still have misgivings about how charters in general are detrimental to the larger public system, and ACLC would be no exception no matter how exemplary the quality of education.

    Weighing ACLC’s predicament against the looming issue of the bond measure, I’m almost indifferent.

    I feel for these young people who have stepped forward to advocate for their school who may be hearing their comments criticized, but if the process is about leadership and learning then it may be for the best. It was a student who said it was unfair to “punish an overachieving school because of an underachieving one.” Aside from what he has been learning in the classroom at ACLC, he now gets a real world education to go with it, as his remark is held up repeatedly for a perception of insensitivity. I think many of us feel he is only saying what a lot of adults probably think but are wise enough not so say so plainly, yet there are adults who have made even more questionable comments about taxation and representation (anonymously in blog comments). The other young woman who has been quoted widely on her comments from the podium (in the Alamedan and the Journal) is somebody with whom my household is very well acquainted who I would be loath to describe as either elitist or insensitive. I’m bummed that her remarks (in the Journal) appear to indicate she feels an exemplary experience which she has been able to take for granted is now being compromised by serial relocation of the program. It’s hard to know what to tell these kids other an to try to explain that there are many, many considerations to be had about the whole of quality education for ALL students at AUSD. It’s an ongoing education for children and adults alike.

    Comment by MI — January 20, 2014 @ 10:13 am

  7. Actually, Wood has already created their restructuring plan and had turned it in to the District before any Prop 39 scenarios were created. That is why, after reviewing the restructuring plan, the District has determined that there won’t be available space at Wood.
    Remember, there wasn’t really enough room for two programs on the site at the beginning of this whole mess. In order to squeeze ACLC in, students were diverted from Wood, some prospective students were turned away, and programs and services have been doubled up (or even tripled up) with classrooms full to the limit with student/teacher ratios. Judging from the standing-room-only turn out at the 5th grade information night, Wood’s enrollment is definitely going up next year. Before ACLC was artificially fit in, Wood students and programs filled the whole campus, and they will again.
    And so, now, ACLC is also compressed in such a crunch that there is no “center”, the great room mentioned above as being core to the program. Let’s allow both programs to decompress and regain what they both lost in this co-location.

    Comment by Kids at Wood — January 21, 2014 @ 9:43 am


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