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Press Conference Announces Community March to Defend the Lakeview Sit-In, 6/22/12: video & photos
On the eight day of the action at Lakeview Elementary, parents and teachers, surrounded by students, held a press conference inside a classroom to call out for continued public support for the People's School currently being held on the site and for their efforts to prevent the closure of Lakeview and four other Oakland schools. It was reported that support for the sit-in from local labor groups continues to grow. The Oakland community can most immediately show support by marching from Oscar Grant Plaza to Lakeview Elementary at noon on Saturday, June 23rd. (Full press conference video below)
[Pictured above: Writing on overhead projector celebrates the The People's School and looks toward one hundred years at Lakeview Elementary, 1914-2014]
Press conference speakers included Joel Velasquez, the parent who initiated the sit-in and whose children attend Lakeview; Javier, a former Oakland high school teacher; Thearse Becot, an Oakland parent; Ann Berlak, a retired professor and creator of much of the curriculum of the Summer program; Keith Brown, an Oakland teacher; Jack Gearson, a former teacher at Castlemont; and Bob Mandel, a former Adult Education teacher.
Discussing the sit-in with Joel Velasquez after the press conference, he said that not only have Oakland Unified School District police been to the school, including the killer of Raheim Brown, Sgt. Barhib Bhatt, but school administrators have been by during People's School hours as well. That school administrators have visited the Lakeview Sit-In and seen with their own eyes the diligence with which parents, teachers, and students are taking care of the school and its grounds encourages Joel that the OUSD will continue to leave the sit-in be, at least for the time being. Sit-in participants are not even using restrooms in the building but instead are renting a porta-potty at their own expense. Of course, there are no guarantees from the OUSD or their police department that parents, teachers, and students will not be removed by force.
March to Defend the Lakeview Sit-In, from Oscar Grant Plaza, Saturday June 23rd
Below are two press releases that went out today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lakeview Sit-In Holds Press Conference Regarding Saturday March for Public Education
Oakland, CA—On Friday, June 22th, at 9:00 am, parents, teachers, children, and community members with the Lakeview Elementry Sit-In held a Press Conference promoting Saturday's March for Public Education. The march is intended to build community support for the People's School and the Sit-In which is defending it. Organizers of the Saturday March call on all of Oakland to come support the fight for quality public education. The conference focused on the political basis of the on-going Sit In at the elementary school, as well as the broader March on Saturday against attacks on the public education system in the city and nationally.
Javier A., a former Oakland high school teacher, spoke about the importance of the March, “this march represents a critical moment in defense of public education and the Lakeview Sit-in. Schools are being closed and we have to take a stand.” A. added that “everyone has a right to quality public education, the school that was started here proves that its possible.”
Earlier this week, parents, teachers and community members established the pilot summer school program that A. referred to alongside the Sit-In, calling it "The People's School for Public Education." The school's curriculum focuses on social justice, arts, and gardening. Additionally, the school aims to bring further community awareness to the closure of 5 elementary schools, Santa Fe, Lazear, Maxwell Park, Marshall and Lakeview Elementary. The People's School and the Sit-In have gained the support of key labor leaders, including Betty Olson-Jones, president of the OEA.
Ann Berlak, a retired professor, and creator of much of the curriculum of the Summer program, added that the school “shows OUSD that if it is unwilling to provide quality education to the children of Oakland, then the community will step in and do so.”
Keith Brown, a teacher from Oakland, spoke connecting the issue of school closure with attacks on teachers. Brown told the crowd, “working conditions for teachers are the learning conditions for students. Teachers and students do best with fully funded and staffed schools.” This year, Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds High Schools imposed “Acceleration TSAs,” which forces teachers to reapply for their jobs each year and destabilizes the schools, increasing the drop-out rate.
Jack Gearson, a former teacher at Castlemont, connected the issue of teacher support to the issue of privatization of public education. He pointed out that “Across the country, teachers have led efforts speaking out against privatization, they are trying to silence this opposition with Union busting measures like the Acceleration TSAs.” Gearson spoke to a major demand by those sitting-in at Lakeview, the resignation of Tony Smith. “Tony Smith is an ally of the corporate pro-charter agenda, 4 of the 5 closed schools will be replaced with Charter schools next year. This continues the sharp trend toward privatization of the Oakland school district.”
Bob Mandel, a former Adult Ed teacher, pointed out that closing the 25,000 student strong Adult Ed program was the largest salvo among many which have resulted in cutting art and sports programs, closing school libraries, eliminating the counselor at Skyline and laying off support staff. Mandel commented, “the excuse for all of this is the lack of funds. We say: refuse to pay the state debt of over 120 million dollars. The state tripled that debt since it has been in control of the district. That money could be used to restore every single cut program, rehire layed-off teachers and workers, and stabilize the schools for the children. If the banks could get bailed out for 16 trillion, the school board should be insisting that the district be freed of a mere 120 million.”
Joel Velasquez, the parent who initiated the sit-in and whose children attend Lakeview, said: “This fight isn't just to save Lakeview, it's to demand the reopening of all the closed schools in the city. Cuts are being made to public education across the United States, we say to parents, it is time to stand up and its time to stop the closure and defend out kids right to an education.”
Thearse Pecot, grandmother of three Santa Fe students, spoke about the importance of neighborhood schools and community safety. Pecot is part of a Civil Suit against the District of Education for the closure of Santa Fe School. Pecot told the press: “Santa Fe was the only remaining neighborhood school in the overwealmly black and brown neighborhoods west of Shattuck Avenue.” Pecot, enraged at the decision to lease Santa Fe school to the district of Emeryville, told the press that “The school board has so far not provided a comprehensive plan for safe transportation of children from the 5 schools to their new assigned campuses. School closure destabilizes communities!”
The Lakeview Sit-In demands a stop to all school closure, or the resignation of Tony Smith, superintendent of the OUSD. The Sit-In at Lakeview is held in solidarity with all parents and teachers struggling to demand quality public education across the country. The March for public education will begin at 12 pm on Saturday at Frank Ogawa Plaza and arrive at Lakeview around 2 pm, where there will be a Rally in support of the Sit-In.
For more information on the sit-in visit http://saveoaklandschools.org/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oakland, CA—On Saturday, June 23th, at 12:00 pm, participants from the Lakeview Sit-in along with community members from across the city of Oakland will March from Frank Ogawa Plaza to Lakeview Elementary. The March is being held on the 9th day of the Lakeview Sit-In.
The march is intended to build community support for the People's School and the Sit-In which is defending it. Organizers of the Saturday March call on all of Oakland to come support the fight for quality public education. This march represents a critical moment in defense of public education and specifically the Lakeview Sit-In. The march will include speakers such as: the Alan Blueford family (family of Alan Blueford who was gunned down by the Oakland Police), Joel Velasquez (parent at Lakeview), Jack Gerson, Keith Brown, and Bob Mandel (retired and current OEA executive board members), Youth Speaks poets, and Amanda Armstrong and Katy Fox-Hoddess (UC union representatives).
This past week, parents, teachers and community members have set up a week long summer school program called "The People's School for Public Education." During it, students learned about social justice, arts, and gardening. The People's School for Public Education aims to bring further community awareness to closure of 5 elementary schools, including Lakeview Elementary. In addition, the People's Schools shows that when OUSD will not provide students with essential resources, parents, teachers and community members will. The People's School, as well as the Sit-In has gained the support of key labor leaders, including Betty Olson-Jones, president of the OEA.
The Lakeview Sit-In demands a stop to all school closure, or the resignation of Tony Smith, superintendent of the OUSD. The Sit-In at Lakeview is held in solidarity with all parents and teachers struggling to demand quality public education across the country.
Who: Parents, teachers, students and community members
What: March and Rally for Public Education
Where: Frank Ogawa Plaza, 14th and Broadway to Lakeview Elementary School, 748 Grand Ave, Oakland
When: Saturday 12 pm at Frank Ogawa Plaza, 2 pm at Lakeview
For more information please visit saveoaklandschools.org or email saveoaklandschoools [at] gmail.com
For Indybay coverage of the Lakeview Sit-in, see:
Looking out of the classroom window across tents in the school yard to the Grand Lake Theater beyond