OUSD adds insult to injury after school shooting

Harry-Williams-and-advocates-at-Oakland-City-Hall-by-Karl-Mondon-Bay-Area-News-Group-083022, OUSD adds insult to injury after school shooting, Local News & Views News & Views
The “OG Rev.” Harry Williams came together with Oakland families and gun violence activists at Oakland City Hall, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, following the shooting at Madison Park Academy in East Oakland. – Photo: Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

by Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu

On Monday, Aug. 29, a shooting took place at Madison Park Academy. This marked a traumatic turning point for MPA students, staff and families, leaving many feeling afraid, vulnerable and unsafe. It’s a situation that every student, parent and school employee dreads. 

I am deeply invested in the Madison Park Academy 6-12 community. I teach performing arts at MPA. My oldest daughter graduated from MPA high school last year. My niece graduated the previous year. My nephew and youngest daughter are currently 6th grade students at MPA.

From the vantage point of a teacher, parent and former OEA union representative, it’s disappointing to see complete apathy from the Oakland Unified School District regarding MPA’s safety and educational continuity.

I learned, about a week ago, that MPA made several requests of OUSD this past summer, many of which directly impacted school safety. Requested items / supports from OUSD over the summer included:

  • Installation of new, upgraded security camera system 
  • Installation of an air phone 
  • Hiring an additional culture keeper (security guard)

Since the incident occurred on Aug. 29, we have additionally requested: 

  • Hiring two additional culture keepers
  • Upgraded two-way radios and providing enough for all support staff
  • Installation of a motorized gate 
  • Water fountain installation
  • Gym intercom system repair 
  • Retention of case managers and TSAs (teachers on special assignment) funded through COVID funds
  • Hiring two additional case managers – dedicated personnel to ensure academic success for struggling students

None of the requests were granted over the summer, and still have not been granted since the shooting. Though many of these requests are preventative safety measures, OUSD did not make them a priority this summer, and still has not. 

None of the requests were granted over the summer, and still have not been granted since the shooting.

Instead, OUSD has prioritized its decision to consolidate a 1.4 Teacher FTE, which means MPA has to consolidate one teaching position – due to under enrollment – and pay OUSD back from our school budget more than $30,000. In order to pay OUSD back more than $30,000, MPA would have to cut both our high school internship and Measure G1 budgets, severely limiting paid internship opportunities for our high school students and eliminating performing arts field trip opportunities for middle school students. 

Even worse, the elimination of this single teaching position will negatively impact MPA in multiple ways. We will be unable to offer academic intervention classes, which help increase reading and math scores for students working below grade level. 

Elective class sizes, most of which are already at capacity, will increase. Finally, struggling new teachers, historically unsupported by OUSD, will have to teach an additional grade level along with their current students.

To be transparent: OUSD’s practice of eliminating teaching positions at under enrolled schools is not a new one. Positions are being eliminated at under enrolled schools across the district. What is new is penalizing a school that is under enrolled, due in part to a preventable tragedy; a school that requested support from OUSD months ago. 

Many families understandably transferred their students to other schools after the shooting. Consequently, our enrollment numbers are trending down. Although OUSD’s decision to consolidate a teaching position is strictly financial, the havoc it will wreak in the lives of MPA students and staff is immeasurable. As a staff, we want to maintain the continuity of the learning process of our students, not disrupt it further.

Though working through collective trauma, we are resilient. We are healing and we are asking OUSD not to pile on additional offenses to heal from. We need to keep all of our teaching positions. We need to keep our funds in our school budget to continue supporting students. 

We need OUSD to provide the support we requested this summer. We need more resources, not less. We need OUSD to stand with us in supporting students. A house divided cannot stand. We are asking OUSD to work with us, not against us.

If you stand with Madison Park Academy, please show your support by calling and emailing our acting superintendent, Sondra Aguilera, at 510-879-2866 and sondra.aguilera@ousd.org

Mrs. Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu, MBA, is a performing arts educator at Madison Park Academy in Oakland. She is the CEO of Lyric Performing Arts Academy as well as Female Co-Chair of the N’COBRA Education Commission. Reach Mrs. Taiwo by email at taiwoseitu@gmail.com.