Thursday, February 12, 2009

Please Save Tilden School

Ben has been incredibly lucky to have spent the past two years in an amazing program at Tilden Elementary School in the Oakland Unified School District.

Unfortunately, Oakland wants to close Tilden next year and distribute the students and teachers to four under-enrolled schools.

Tilden serves children from pre-school to third grade. It's unusual in that 80% of the students have special needs and about 20% of the student body are general education kids from the surrounding neighborhood.

The schools is a model for inclusive education. The special needs students are fully included in the life of the school, and the regular education students learn from a very early age to accept and embrace the differences in their classmates as a fact of life.

Some teachers have a double credential in special education and general education and they teach integrated classes with a mix of special needs and typical students.

There are also special day classes - like the Language-Enriched Pre-K class Ben attends - that focus on specific special needs.

When Ben walks the hallways, every adult knows him and says hello. Teachers who have never had him in their classes stop me on campus and tell me about a funny thing he said. All of his teachers have been extraordinary and feel like members of our extended family.

The general education students do well here too. Probably because the teaching staff is so savvy about what it takes for all children, regardless of their learning style, to succeed. The second graders scored 799 on their API numbers this year. The state considers 800 to be the score of an excellent school.

But its an expensive school to run with such a high population of special needs students. The facilities are run down and in need of repair. The district, like every public institution, is facing difficult trade-offs.

Tilden is a school of underdogs: special needs kids, but also the general education population. They don't come from one of the affluent hills neighborhoods, but rather from more disadvantaged areas where parents are often working more than one job to make ends meet.

With fiscal shortfalls and facility code problems, the district thinks that closing this small school and shuffling students around is the best option.

But it would be such a shame to lose this little diamond in the rough of a school: run down on the outside, but so full of heart and compassion and dedication on the inside.

Our family will be okay. It appears that Ben will be placed in one of the full-inclusion programs in a regular kindergarden next year. But I'm worried about the other families, and the families that come after us that won't have Tilden as an option.

So I'm working with the PTO to fight against the closure of Tilden and I have a request for you, especially those of you in the East Bay.

We're establishing a Friends of Tilden list. Community organizations, educators and families (alumni of Tilden, especially) can sign a letter to say they support the PTO in our opposition of the closure. It's a small thing, but maybe the school board will see that this is not just a small group of difficult moms, but a larger community.

Email me or leave a comment if you or anyone you know might be willing to sign up as a Friend of Tilden. Perhaps there's a small chance we can keep this wonderful school alive.

9 comments:

Leila said...

Hi Christa
I've had two of my children at Tilden, one in special ed (still there in 3d grade and doing very well) and one on the regular ed side (went to Tilden for K & 1, misses the school like crazy even though he's at another terrific OUSD school in the area)

Could you add my email -
leilasab at yahoo
to your TIlden list? I really can't get to PTO meetings but I am concerned and willing to help. I've had emails with board member Gary Yee about this. Would like to be in the loop via internet about all this.
If you email me I will send you my other contact info privately.

Thanks for this great blog entry on Tilden.

eileen said...

tell me what i can do
hopefully grandmother's words can be heard......

Anonymous said...

christa--

I'm a longtime neighbor of Tilden and also want to see it keep its present form, which has been great for both kids and neighbors. Please add me to the list for any meetings or updates.
Email is jodyber@earthlink.net

jaki said...

If my name can help, please use it. Your description of the school is beautiful and it sounds as if it fills a real need in the community.

Maddy said...

Blimey you're not kidding, that is a diamond in the rough. I'm practically local and I've never even heard of such a scheme. How fabulous that the regular ed kids have the benefit of those fabulous spec ed teachers who really get it. More power to you dearie. I know these are tough financial times for all of us, but that would be a crying shame to lose such a gem.
Best wishes

Erika said...

thank you for posting this. my 6 yo son Adrien goes to Tilden and has since he was 4. i can't make many PTO meetings but am willing to help any way i can.

Erika
rhentertainment@gmail.com

Leila Abu-Saba said...

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Macarthur Metro which I cc'd to Gary Yee (School Board member Dist. 4). He forwarded to Roberta Mayor. Jean Quan also saw it and says she's putting the Tilden School in her next newsletter (2/21)

The Metro is going to run the letter as an article because it's so long. (OK I do go on and on - hope they cut it).

I hope to go to the 2/25 board meeting as well. Anybody else going?

my email is leilasab at yahoo dot com. Thanks for your efforts. I can't get to PTO meetings either but I am changing my regular Wed commitment to go to the Board meeting. Would love to be in touch with other Tilden parents. I know Steve A. has bowed out...

Jodi said...

Leila,

Thanks so much for your support! We really appreciate it and need as much media coverage as possible.

The Board Meeting got moved to March 11th. We will also be present at the subcommitte meetings (Teaching and Learning on Monday March 2nd at 6:30 and Facilities on Tuesday March 3rd at 5:00).

On February 25th, we will be having another PTO meeting to discuss plans and next steps.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

My daughter Elsie goes to Tilden. We think it's a shame that OUSD is trying to shut down Tilden. She has shown so much progress since she started going to the school. We have difficulty coming to meetings because I work at night. Please keep up us updated: arthurpines@hotmail.com