Aug. 3: Financial savings -- roughly $2 million a year -- were at the heart of the Oakland school district's case for closing five elementary schools. So, in June and again in July, I asked the Oakland school district for a breakdown of the savings they're expecting now, in light of a recent twist: the unexpected conversion of one of those five schools, Lazear Elementary, into an independently run charter school.
Lazear became a charter simply so it could remain open, so the financial impact of that change -- the loss of enrollment and per-student funding -- is inextricably tied to the decision to close it in the first place.
I've yet to receive a response to my requests, but the district has produced a cost-savings analysis that's left me scratching my head. Reading the document, it's as if the Lazear conversion never happened. In fact, the OUSD analysis lists a $490,000 savings for the Fruitvale-area school -- when, just a few months ago, the superintendent and his staff warned that if it stayed open as a charter, the district could take a $1.4 million hit.
This is an important figure to pin down because Lazear's conversion -- rejected by the Oakland school board,
I asked Troy Flint, the district's spokesman, about the Lazear factor. He responded, "No adjustments to budget projections were made relative to the Lazear conversion."
When I followed up, he said the conversion would have a negative impact on the school closure savings -- "The question is, by how much?" he said -- but that he was told there was too much uncertainty to revise the estimate now. The district won't know until the fall exactly how many students will attend the new charter instead of the OUSD school to which they've been assigned, he said.
Still, the district was able to make budget projections as a result of two other charter school conversions. And, of course, OUSD felt it had enough information in April to come out with a fiscal impact statement on Lazear. Why hold back now?
This isn't the first perplexing estimate I've seen lately. Some news reporters received an email from the communications department in June, saying the closure savings actually amounted to nearly $6 million -- not $2 million, as we'd reported. (An email to our summer intern read: "I noticed in today's article on the Lakeview sit-in that you attributed a statement estimating $2 million in savings from the school closures to Superintendent Tony Smith. The Superintendent objects to this characterization ...")
As it turns out, the $5.8 million referenced in that message was merely the total of those schools' budgets, not a net savings; the district's own fiscal analysis puts the ongoing annual savings back at about $2 million.
Here is how much the Oakland school district expects to save every year from the closure of each school, according to the latest analysis:
Total -- $2.03 million
July 30: Here it is, your long-awaited account of which Oakland schools will have new leaders this year. From OUSD's 2012-13 directory, I count 15 new principals.
This means that about 17 percent of Oakland Unified's 86 schools will have new leaders. Last year, there were 20 new principals for 98 schools. You can find a link to the new hires on the blog, but here's a list of schools with new principals:
ELEMENTARY: Brookfield, Burckhalter (which will add a co-principal; Carin Geathers is not leaving), Esperanza, Grass Valley, Lafayette, Sobrante Park (which will share a principal with Madison Middle School, even though the schools aren't supposed to merge until 2013) and International Community School
MIDDLE: Claremont (which will also have co-principals -- twin brothers!), Elmhurst and Montera
HIGH/ALTERNATIVE: Bunche Continuation, Castlemont High, Dewey Academy, Oakland High and Community Day School
How did you find out about the change at your school? Were you involved in the principal selection process?