[News] School of Social Justice and Community Development

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 30 11:59:12 EDT 2004

School's future is Certain.

There is nothing up in the air about the future of the
School of Social Justice and Community Development.
The fact is that the school, as a new small autonomous
school's project, is over. What Alex Katz glaringly
omitted in his conservative track against the school (see Oakland Tribune 
article below)
is that Dr. Ward and his administrative staff forced
the staff, students, and parents out. He forced us out
by blatantly denying us our autonomy. He forced us out
by continually blocking the completion of what was
supposed to be the schools permanent site. He forced
us out by not providing security for the school after
it was robbed over twelve times (the district has
since installed a gate lock and secret camera's to
control and monitor the staff's behavior as they attempt
to close down the school. This after it repeatedly
denied doing so upon our request to stop the
robberies). He forced us out by not providing us with
the infrastructure and services to actually operate as
a real school within OUSD; these being simple things
like connection to the districts internet services and
lunch. He forced us out by making us wade through
human excrement and clean our own campus for a year.
And rather than resolving to improve the situation
next year, he and his staff were intent on making this
deplorable situation worse by denying us a freshman
class and attempting to turn us into a Continuation
School. This is beyond what anyone should have had to
endure, particularly our students. We tried to be
patient, we work with Dr. Ward and his staff, and we
tried to stay his wrath. But, to no avail. So, rather
than allow ourselves to continue  being so blatantly
disrespected, we, the founders of the School of Social
Justice and Community Development, decided to leave
OUSD and the dictatorship of Dr. Ward with dignity. We
did not abandon ship as Katz implies. Some of us are
presently attempting to reorganize the school as a
Charter school so that we can exercise the autonomy
Ward stripped from us and continue providing a
relevant education for our students (legal counsel is
presently being attained to ensure that Dr. Ward and
OUSD can't continue using the School of Social Justice
and Community Development name for any of its projects
and activities).  Most importantly, some of us are
determined to fight Dr. Ward, fight the state
occupation of OUSD, and restore local democratic
control over our children's education. Alex Katz would
do well to get the story straight, report the facts,
and not impart his own biased slant over these
critical issues.

Kali Akuno
Director, School of Social Justice and Community
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

School's future up in the air
Founding teachers at the experimental social justice institute
are leaving after two difficult years

By Alex Katz

Monday, June 28, 2004 - OAKLAND -- After two turbulent years, founding 
teachers at Oakland's School of Social Justice are jumping ship, leaving 
the future of the small, politically minded high school uncertain.

The school's first commencement this month -- featuring Aztec dancers and a 
taped address by convicted murderer and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal -- was 
more of a celebration than a regular graduation ceremony.

But most of the school's founders also were lamenting the end of their 
involvement with the ambitious project they started two years ago.

After a difficult academic year and more than a few conflicts with the 
Oakland school district, "I think each person made his own decision (to 
leave) for very different reasons," former principal and founder Linda 
Halpern said. "I think there is a sense of just being overwhelmed by the 

District officials say the School of Social Justice will open in the fall 
with new teachers and fewer students, and there is some talk of turning the 
program into a continuation school.

But whether the school keeps its commitment to radical politics -- or stays 
open after the upcoming school year -- remains to be seen.

A group of teachers and activists started the school to serve students who 
had dropped out,

were on probation or just wanted a more political curriculum.

Halpern said the school managed to attract a lot of students who would have 
dropped out of other schools. But even a small, more personal program 
couldn't stop some students from dropping out or ending up in the criminal 
justice system, said Halpern, a veteran Oakland teacher who plans to return 
to the classroom in the fall.

The school of about 130 students has regular mathematics and humanities 
courses, as well as an alternative curriculum including urban planning, 
anti-war rallies, hip hop poetry and a class called "Pa'lante," which 
covers police brutality, Palestinian issues and "the injustices of our 
condition," one student said.

Student Jessica Haynes said she was attracted to the school's focus on 
oppression and the African-American community.

"We get to learn our real history, not history out of American history 
textbooks," Haynes said.

For a while, the school rented space from the Allen Temple Baptist Church 
in East Oakland. But the school was evicted after clashes with the church 
over rules and student behavior.

The district has been building a campus for the school in back of 
Castlemont High in East Oakland. But construction is behind schedule, and 
the campus suffered from spotty electricity, sewage leaks and other 
problems this year, teachers said.

Halpern said the campus was not hooked up to the Internet or the district's 
attendance system. There were even problems with the delivery of lunches, 
she said.

Also, the school was burglarized on a regular basis last semester, and 
thieves made off with everything from computers to cleaning supplies.

The district "just ignored us the whole time," school founder Kali Akuno said.

Akuno said his run with the school ended after the district decided to 
appoint a new principal and open the school in the fall without any new 
ninth graders.

"I know our students are fleeing and trying to find other places to go," 
Halpern said. "If the staff as they know it no longer exists, it's no 
longer (their) school."

Although oppression was a big subject in the curriculum, the school "was 
not creating a sense of being victims or being victimized," Halpern said.

Instead, students learned about the sometimes ugly reality of American 
history, and about empowering themselves to change it, she said.

"I think we are what the country needs," Halpern said. "But I also think 
the country is not ready for us yet."

The Freedom Archives
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