Mayor Jean Quan is not the only politician under heavy fire in Oakland, reports the East Bay Express Online and Oakland Tribune. But her legacy at the city’s school district is at issue. Five of seven Oakland Unified School District board members are now targeted for a parallel recall petition to be circulated in roughly the same period as the Mayor Quan recall petition, on complaints that the board members want to “close schools.” Jody London, David Kakishiba, Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, Gary Yee and Chris Dobbins all received their formal “notices of recall” yesterday at an Oakland Unified School District board meeting. Recall representatives site closure of five elementary schools and plans to close more as the reason for their recall petitions. The Superintendent of Schools has stated that Oakland operates too many schools for its 38,000 students. Recall proponents apparently seek to push back from demographic changes over the years that have affected the ability of Oakland’s school system to deliver satisfactory education at a reasonable cost. However, just a little research shows that Oakland U.S.D. has huge systemic problems well beyond school closures.
Mayor Jean Quan was chairman of the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education until 2002. She was a councilmember before her election as Mayor.
A news media “investigation” by Fox Channel 2 not too long ago found that Oakland schools had among the lowest test scores in the country, suffered from a lack of textbooks and other materials, broken bathrooms and buildings in decrepit conditions, hazardous stairs, and had classrooms infested by rats at the same time the school board was paying $100,000 for a redesign of its official logo, $25,000 for a different logo on cafeteria workers smocks, and $20 million for outside consultants and businesses over a period of two years, including more than $100,000 to a group called “Dance for Power” to build ethnic pride. One consulting company earned $500,000 to teach teachers on new ways to communicate with students. The school district spent $65,000 for private offices for each board member, (a total of over $500,000) on a perk not offered by hardly any other school system in the state.
The annual budget of the school district is over $400 million.
The Oakland school system is apparently in vast disarray. In August, its own police chief, Pete Sarna, while allegedly drunk, used the “N-word” repeatedly in a dress-down of a subordinate officer who is African-American. Just a few years before, Sarna’s predecessor, Art Michael, was forced to early retirement after being caught on tape arresting a young female Oakland Tribune reporter for accidentally (and with minor damage) “hitting his car” in an “F-word” rant laced with other profanities and aggressive behavior.
Oakland Unified School District has been very troubled for a number of years. While he was Mayor, Jerry Brown urged the state to take over management of the school district from an incompetent school board as it sunk into bankruptcy. In 2010, after receiving the largest loan ever made by California to a school district, Oakland Unified emerged from receivership $89 million in debt. History buffs will recall the sad day in 1973 when Oakland U.S.D. Superintendent of Schools Marcus Foster, himself an African-American admired by local leftist activists, was shot with hollow-point bullets packed with cyanide and murdered by Donald DeFreeze (known as “Field Marshall Cinque”, and also an African-American) and the left-wing revolutionary “Symbionese Liberation Army” that kidnapped Patty Hearst, reportedly because Foster had reluctantly agreed with Oakland U.S.D. school officials to issue a type of identification card for each student.
It is hard to believe that just a recall will fix the Oakland schools.