Education in Oakland

No Shows Tonight?

Posted by novometro on September 6, 2006

Paul Bucha,                                                          Jack O’Connell
President/CEO,                                             State Superintendent of Education

If you are planning on attending Wednesday night’s meeting regarding the sale of school district property to East Coast developers, don’t expect the developers themselves, or their finance team, to answer questions. A spokeswoman from the State Department of Education said that neither Terramark, nor Urban America are slated to take a microphone tonight. Although, one can assume they will be in the audience.

Kathleen Moore, a facilities expert, and Susan Ronnback, who works in state superintendent Jack O’Connell’s office, will attend the meeting. And a demographer employed by Oakland Unified is scheduled to make a presentation. Demography is at the crux of this deal. The schools district’s plummeting enrollment from 54,000 to 37,000 in six years frees up property and contributes to the district’s cash problems. Meantime, the number of students that will live in new developments planned for downtown Oakland remains a mystery. Is OUSD selling land it will need again in 20 years?

While this meeting was originally planned to be the last of three, the state superintendent’s office has said it is likely that the deal will be slowed down to address community concerns. The powerless school board is against the sale, and the City Council appears skeptical. That means more meetings.

This can’t be a surprise to TerraMark or Urban America. No developer with even a passing acquaintance of commercial real estate in California could have expected to buy several acres of school district property and erect some of the largest buildings in Northen California without a tussle. But unlike cash-strapped school districts under state control, developers have all the time in the world.


6 Responses to “No Shows Tonight?”

  1. School Board President Kakishiba seems to think that we have all the time in the world, since “the school district is expected, and is equipped to, fulfill its annual loan service payments,” he writes in his article against the land sale.

    TerraMark doesn’t need to be there. This discssion shouldn’t be about the development or the height of the buildings (as Kakishiba is so quick to bring up, although inaccurately). It is about paying off the state loan and providing a good education to Oakland children. The city council may have jumped on the hysteria bandwagon, but there’s no reason they would force the developer to modify the project (therby reducing the schools’ take). The property is next door to a skyscraping apartment building. There is no reasonable objection to this sale, given that most of the schools will stay on-site and the developer had by far the best offer for the district.

  2. Alex Gronke said

    It’s a matter of public relations. The developer should be present to answer questions from the community, as should the public official charged with obtaining the best price for our land.

    Allowing this deal to muddle along without a firm hand guiding it increases public perception that there is something fishy.

  3. What is this paranoia? The project was put out to bid. There were several bids. One offered by far the most money. After hearing from the community, the developers fixed the only real problem with the deal by retaining the neighborhood-serving schools on-site. This is not a planning commission hearing. We already know that we’re getting the most money possible for the land because of the bid process.

    We lost control of our schools by spending money we didn’t have and over-projecting the number of students that would be enrolled. We have a chance to pay off the loan. But the hysterical, paranoid and fincially unsound responses coming from the school board simply demonstrate that we don’t deserve to have control back.

  4. Alex Gronke said

    It’s not paranoia. I am surprised that anyone would allow the sale of their land through the agency of unelected officials. It is reactionary to assume that because one side is hysterical the other must be purely rational. Once again, taxpayers who want sane development in Oakland find themselves caught between extremes: people who seek to block anything that smacks of profit, and financiers naturally seeking the highest returns. Failing to trust a politician who makes a multi-million dollar decision by himself hardly qualifies as paranoia.

  5. Okay, I see your point. But we lost control of the school district because our elected officials screwed up. Jack O’Connell IS an elected official, and, since we asked him for a bailout, he’s in charge. That’s what we get with state receivership. Remember, it’s punishment. Besides, if the school district were in charge, they’d be doing the exact same thing. This deal is too good.

    Furthermore, the school board members are virtually unelected – the AC Transit Board has more competitive elections.

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