NovoMetro

Education in Oakland

Developing Optimism

Posted by novometro on August 11, 2006

Paul Bucha knows he made some missteps last month when he first presented his company’s plans for nearly 10 acres of school district property. The president of TerraMark, the Connecticut company angling to erect residential skyscrapers near Lake Merritt, says if he could redo his July presentation, he’d make his pitch in Spanish.

It’s true. From the standpoint of the developers and the moneymen behind them, the hearing was not a huge public relations success. Parents–many of whom were Spanish-speaking–teachers, and school board members expressed outrage and confusion over the sale of school property without first resolving the fate of schools now sitting on the land. In the following weeks, the Oakland City Council came out nearly unanimously against the deal.

Mr. Bucha says that the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 16, will be smoother if the school district and its master in Sacramento can tell parents what will happen to schools now on the property. That list includes La Escuelita, a successful K-5 neighborhood school. For Mr. Bucha, the equation is simple: “No schools, no transaction. No transaction, no project.”

The developer says he has thrown out a number of ideas that would result in schools staying on the site. Mr. Bucha says he doesn’t know what the state administrator will tell parents at next week’s hearing. Still, whoever is tasked with making the case for the deal next week will need more than fluent Spanish to succeed.

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