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Open Letter to School Board Regarding Maya Lin School

Action Alameda News received a copy of this letter addressed to the Alameda Unified School District Board of Trustees, and the accompanying pictures and captions…Bold and underlining in the original…

Dear AUSD Board Members,

The final draft of the Magnet Proposal for the Maya Lin School, dated December 2011, describes some of the school’s mission and goals (Appendix 6: Technology Requirements (preliminary) page 69): Global Education through the Arts Magnet School is committed to providing the tools we believe are vital to the mission of the school. A 21st century arts-integrated school provides students the tools necessary to research, create, and document their learning. This requires the following: Stable, high-speed wireless Internet access; Investment in new computer hardware and software; Investment in digital media tools. A 21st century classroom requires tools such as: Multiple in-classroom computers; Wireless Laptop cart available; Use of Web 2.0 options like classroom wikis and shared documents to encourage collaboration and technology literacy.

Do these sound like luxuries?

How about these? (From Capacity: Facility – page 21- same report): Infrastructure Requirements: Playground equipment and capacity adequate for a K-8 school growing to 450 students. Painting and repair as needed to the designated site to meet the school environment goals as identified in the proposal – the school environment as a third teacher, which means: Use our physical environment as a teaching tool.

Has any of this work commenced? Has any of it been completed? Is the current physical environment at Maya Lin remotely like a constructive “teaching tool”? From the point of view of a parent who has had children at Edison, Bay Farm and ACLC, “Not Really” and “No” would be my answers.

Here is another point of view:

A June 2012 news article in the Alamedan stated that Washington School needed $5 million in repairs, while the Washington School Facilities report in 2011-2012 rated EVERY aspect of the school in good condition with “no apparent problems.” Washington School site is now the Maya Lin School site.

The first was conducted by Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, who used a team of architects and engineers to investigate each school site, and the second was done by the district’s own maintenance and facilities department. This would be the same department that has historically ignored needed repairs (see attached photos) and updates at the Washington school site and is proving to continue to ignore the needed repairs at Maya Lin school site. This is unacceptable.

While facts can be debated, what can’t be denied are the actual conditions. To illustrate some of these conditions I’ve attached photos. These show just a few of the degraded conditions at this school. I’m not sure what standards each report was based on, but from the perspective of a parent, annual wear and tear in any school should never resemble any of the following pictures, nor should any child be subjected to this type of learning environment.

I am appalled that the Alameda Unified School District has let any of its schools, let alone a Title 1 school, fall into the kind of disrepair that these photographs illustrate. I am equally shocked that a new Arts Magnet School has opened without completion of the needed improvements asked for by the school’s administration, nor has demonstrable progress been made toward any of this new Magnet School’s goals.

So, toward the end of 2012, we have a fledgling Arts Magnet School without a designated room for multimedia or visual art, or a designated music room, we have limited art supplies, no multimedia display cases, no wireless or wireless computers, and a performance stage upon which no one can perform. We have an exterior paint job that is two-thirds done, and interior paint job that is one-quarter done, restrooms, classrooms, multipurpose room and stage all in need of renovations, wall tiles and flooring all in need of replacement, an unregulated heating system that produces exceedingly hot or cold classrooms and a playground that is still not completed. Wow! Who wouldn’t take a chance on sending their child/children to a brand new Arts Magnet Program without the 21st century arts-integrated school being updated? My guess would be not many. Maya Lin School resembles a neglected outdated unsafe school. When I reflect on AUSD District Offices in new facilities knowing full well school facilities are being neglected, I feel it is my obligation to remind you all that YOU WORK FOR CHILDREN.

I have to wonder how the administration, the staff and parents are supposed to put NEW things in place for a new program in a newly established school when the focus continually reverts back to getting basic infrastructure repairs completed, repairs which the district continues to ignore.

To make matters even more distressing, it appears that schools in the more affluent areas (non-Title 1) of the district get priority when it comes to basic repairs and “wish-lists” for new facilities and materials. And past (non-Title 1) magnet programs were more supported by the district. For example, Bay Farm School got everything done during the school year before its new technology program was launched this fall. Bay Farm also has designated rooms for music and science. Edison School received a new play structure and yard update similar to Maya Lin this year, but Edison’s improvements were completed before school opened this fall. The magnet school, Arthur Anderson Community Learning Center, currently ACLC Charter School, facilities had a complete and extensive district renovation prior to its opening in 1992 based on its proposed educational programs model.

Appearance can mean so much and the perception among parents is that Maya Lin may have wonderful goals, the kind of goals that made us excited to enroll our children in the program, but now it seems nauseatingly clear the school district and school board may have no intention to support or acknowledge this new school until some crisis forces a quick, cheap Band-aid. My excitement and enthusiasm has turned to disappointment and a real concern that this new school and program was set up to fail. On December 5, 2012 at the “Kindergarten Information Night” administration and staff will have a near absent Arts Magnet model to present along with an explanation of why the district has not upgraded the facilities to resemble the proposed Arts Magnet School.

I hate to think that school children of Maya Lin/Washington are being, or have ever been, moved to the bottom of the list when it comes to maintenance of facilities and spending on new materials. But the facts (and photos) show that repairs haven’t been made, while conditions at other schools are kept up, and that the flow of new materials to Maya Lin is slow to come, if it comes at all. I do not understand why this Arts Magnet School was not supplied with multiple artistic mediums and materials in quantities to support its magnet program. Monies were spent on a MOCHA program that was to run from June 2012 to June 2013 and include art materials, but the children only started receiving basic art instruction in October 2012 with limited artistic mediums and rationed art material quantities; not to mention that the promised Spanish language program started after MOCHA.

I’m not alone in wanting to know what is going to be done to correct the maintenance and infrastructure neglect that Maya Lin/Washington School has endured for decades.

I would like to see a list of the backlogged repair items from when the school was Washington Elementary, and if there is any proposed work for Maya Lin School regarding the facilities health, safety, security and indoor/outdoor beautification needs. More specifically, the buildings classrooms, restrooms, multipurpose room, library, computer room, kitchen, storage and/or staff rooms, heating, cooling, windows, doors, yard and garden that will promote the required physical environment teaching tool for such a magnet program to become successful.

Perhaps the local newspapers would have the time and resources to unearth this information and research solutions.

In addition, I request reassurance that these things will be done. I would like to see a published timeline for projects. If such information does exist, it needs to be publicly available, as only issues of personnel, property acquisition and litigation can be deemed confidential. All other records are required by law to be made public. If such information does not exist, then I’d like to see an item regarding the deferred maintenance at Maya Lin put on the School Board’s agenda for discussion and implementation immediately.

Please see the following attached photos for reference.

Jeannie D’Amato, Parent

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