Oakland's Lazear Elementary Becomes Charter School to Stay Open
Thanks to overwhelming support by parents, teachers, students and other community members, Lazear Elementary School in Oakland will not only remain open by becoming a charter school, but also plans to add more classes and increase enrollment in the next two years.
Last month, the Alameda County Board of Education voted to approve a charter school petition from Lazear, which is located at 824 29th Ave. in the Fruitvale district. For newly appointed Principal Andy West, the news that the petition passed with a vote of 5 to 1, was truly amazing.
"The school was turned down twice," West said. "We have been supported by Education for Change and this has all been a long emotional and difficult process for parents. This appeal was driven by parents. It is really amazing what can happen when parents come together."
Lazear Charter Academy currently serves 240 kids, but is targeting and looking to extend its kindergarden and sixth grade class. The school plans to have four sixth grade classes with each comprising of a maximum of 26 students.
"Our capacity is 360 students," West said. "We are enrolling K-6 right now and plan to become a K-8 school next year. I feel really fortunate that we are being so supported."
According to the board of education, Lazear Charter Academy petitioners submitted an original proposal to the District Governing Board of the Oakland Unified School District on Jan. 25 and the petition was denied on April 25.
The following day, petitioners appealed the decision and on May 8, the ACBE held a public hearing on the Lazear Charter Academy Charter School Conversion Petition Appeal at their office in Hayward. At the hearing, the public was invited to speak on the issue. One of the many parents in attendance was Rocio Gonzalez.
"Everyone was 100 percent behind this petition," Gonzalez said. "It was a tough long year. We as parents looked at all the options to keep the school from closing. We all supported each other and we got a lot of signatures on our petition."
Gonzalez added that although the appeal process was disconcerting, all of the hard work and effort was worth it.
"We were happy and relieved to hear about the decision," she said. "We were devastated when we saw on TV that our school would be closing. However, we attended many meetings and were backed by so many people."
Board members cited that the support by parents and the need for a community option following the closure of Lazear by the OUSD were determining factors in the final vote.
"The ACBE has heard many difficult charter school appeals," Yvonne Cerrato, a trustee and president of the board of education, said. "We take as much care as possible to listen to the reasoning of the petitioners and the district involved, as well as the recommendations of our staff and opinions of the public."
Cerrato also proclaimed that the board was concerned that students in this tight knit community were being sent to many different schools, spending too much time on buses and had lackluster standardized test scores.
"It was clear to the majority of the board that Lazear had a strong petition, was backed by capable and experienced leaders of another charter school, and had very involved and concerned parents," she said. "These are the best ingredients to improve the quality of education for the children we serve.
"We believe Lazear Charter School will be successful and hope that Oakland Unified will provide a level of support that will contribute towards it," Cerrato said.
For West, the future of Lazear looks bright. One of his goals is for the school to improve and increase its' Academic Performance Index scores.
"Lazear is here to stay," he said. "It will be staying to serve the community and kids in this area. I'm very excited to lead Lazear into the next phase, chapter of education. This just goes to show all of the hard work and fighting that parents did to help keep the school open so that their kids could be educated."
Source: Oakland Local [http://m.oaklandlocal.com/article/oakland-k-5-converts-charter-school-stay-open-looks-expand-future]