San Leandro’s ‘Junior High Flight’ from Public Schools

By FRANK LYNN

As Rank Choice Voting and the city’s budget debacle have become the two big election issues; the most important one has been absent: the state of San Lenadro’s public schools.

San Leandro’s public schools are among the worst performing in the East Bay. While this fact has been swept under the rug by local Realtors and city officials who don’t want to admit it; school achievement scores are readily available on the Internet, as well as school rankings and comments on web sites such as Greatschools.org. Even when adjusted for demographics (e.g., race and poverty level); San Leandro’s schools are among the worst performing in California.

San Leandro’s poor performing schools have contributed to a phenomenon in the neighborhoods surrounding Roosevelt elementary that I dub “junior high flight.” Many San Leandreans leave town when it’s time for their children to attend junior high or high school – which translates into the exodus of affluent college educated folks in their 40s and 50s – people in their prime income earning years who would most likely have the resources and education to make a positive impact on San Leandro schools.

The San Leandro school board hasn’t helped things by limiting transparency on former school superintendent Christine Lim’s firing and its budget woes. While I applaud folks like Stephen Cassidy for fighting against egregious waste like the unnecessary $900,000 paid on legal fees; many school board members have worked as teachers in other districts, or don’t have children in the San Leandro school system – they’re using the school board as a political stepping stone for future political aspirations.

But while the school board is accountable for the success of public schools, the city council is responsible for fostering an environment where they are able to succeed. Since Mayor Santos’ was elected, that’s never happened – the city moved forward with San Leandro Crossings despite the fact it would impact San Leandro’s already overcrowded schools, even after school board members spoke out against it. The Estudillo Estates Homeowner Association invited council members and school board members together to discuss – school board members accepted, city council members did not. Additionally, while the city gave $500,000 to the Davis Street Resource Center; it decided to stop funding crossing guards for $100,000 – when most elementary schools in town require young children to cross dangerous arterial streets.

The worst thing is that council members children don’t attend public schools. Councilman Michael Gregory ran for council based on his “accomplishment” of implementing the mixed-use field at his daughter’s school, Bancroft; yet he doesn’t like to broadcast that he sent his older son to private school because San Leandro High is too ghetto. Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak touts her experience on the school board in her run for mayor, yet she has chosen to put her daughter in private school. Adding to the hypocrisy is Councilwoman Ursula Reed, an executive administrator working in public schools, who has also chosen to put her child in private school. Tony Santos does get a pass on this; although his grown son admitted in a comment in The Citizen that he moved to Alameda because he didn’t want his children going to San Leandro public schools.

The success of a town’s public schools impact its property values, health of its business community, crime rate and overall quality of life. This election, I hope San Leandrans only support candidates who support their public schools.

Frank Lynn, MA, is a former president of Pacific Plaza Homeowner Association, former Board Member of Estudillo Estates Homeowner Association and founder of Save San Leandro–an organization that fought against the San Leandro Crossings project. While he currently resides in Pleasanton, he is a property owner in San Leandro.

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