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Monday, October 10, 2011

Santa Fe School Closure: Public Policy Failure

School Crisis On Emeryville Border
Elementary School Teacher Belies Republican "Greedy Teacher" Narrative

The fallout from the recently announced probable closure of Santa Fe Elementary School on Emeryville's border continues, causing one teacher to succinctly warn of the cascading ill effects from Oakland's short sighted public school policy.  Emeryville will feel the effects of this failure of the Oakland School District and there are valuable lessons to learn from this teacher.   
Reprinted from Oakland North, a project of the University of California School of Journalism: 

You Tell Us: Why Santa Fe Elementary School should not be closed


My name is Peter von Ehrenkrook and I am currently a 5th grade teacher at Santa Fe Elementary.
I have to acknowledge that I am not worried about the Santa Fe teachers or staff. We will all have jobs in the fall, though some of us may be placed at less than desirable sites due to our public dissent.
In addition, I am not worried about our top performing students. They will be quickly assimilated into the local private and charter schools. Even Anna Yates in the Emeryville school district will turn a blind eye to home address issues if the child is a high performer.
My concern is for those children who are rejected by the local charters and private schools. Either their parents don’t have the savvy to get them in, or once they fail there, the charters and private schools send them back to us. This is often due to issues with low academic performance, erratic attendance, or behavioral problems. We always welcome them back and do the best we can to support them academically and emotionally.
We also do our best with children like the 13-year-old who came to me recently from a local private school knowing only 5 letters. They had passed him on year after year with A’s and B’s.  Or the English Language Learner who was dropped into my class last year the day before the CST. His family kept him out of another local school for over a month in protest over his being bullied, and only re-enrolled him when we opened our doors to him. This is what a real Full Service Community School does.
Nothing I have seen or heard from OUSD eases my deep concern about the future safety and welfare of our children in transition – those who are homeless, live with a grandma, or live with a relative who works nights.
These are real children I teach every day. They wander in around 10 a.m., since they have to get themselves up and walk from the areas near the old Longfellow or old Golden Gate sites. If you ask them to travel to Sankofa, or even worse to Piedmont Avenue, they may just decide it’s not worth the effort. They need a local public school they can walk to safely, and from which they can walk home safely at 6 p.m. after taking part in an after school enrichment program.
Until you can assure me our at risk students will be safe and their needs will be met, I will continue to rally public support against this closure.
Peter von Ehrenkrook is a 5th grade teacher at Santa Fe Elementary School in North Oakland. He has been a public school teacher in Oakland for ten years. He read this letter aloud at the School Closure Community Engagement Meeting at Santa Fe on October 6.


  1. This is a great teacher, who is building community student by student, never giving up, never burning out. He is doing much more than teaching classes; he is forging lifelines.

    The school closure is the human cost of poor fiscal policy. The students may/will get educated at another school, but a true "center of community life" in nearby Oakland just got shut down. A place of worship, a school, a home. These are the three pillars of society, and we are losing too many of them these days.

    We have a better revenue and expense structure here in Emeryville, but we need to be careful about how we spend our money now.

  2. When you look at what the district is try to accomplish, you can hardly fault them for the closures:

  3. What a beautiful, in-depth, insightful comment in response to the wreckage about to be wrought by a misguided confused self-centered and self-interested set of individuals who had the good fortune to be elected to a position of trust on the school board. May they read the words of this eloquent 5th grade teacher who does not shy from specific details, and may his images enter their dreams before it is too late and they have caused the pain.