[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
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
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,
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
"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."
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