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Community Perception Survey Not Ours, Says AUSD

ausd community perception survey

The Alameda Unified School District says a community perception survey being circulated is not their effort. (Action Alameda News)

The Alameda Unified School District says that a three-page “AUSD Community Perception Survey,” intended to gauge the perception of resource inequality between “east-end” and “west-end” schools in Alameda, is not theirs. However, they do hope to use the results.

The survey is being conducted by Christine Strena of Alameda, as part of her research for her masters degree thesis project. Both Ms. Strena and Alameda Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge told Action Alameda News that the school district is not funding the survey.

Mr. McPhetridge explained, “Ms. Strena has been an active parent and parent volunteer for years in the district, and her research interest is informed by her work as a parent and PTA [Parent Teacher Association] representative; her research may be of use to the district and also to Alameda PTAs.”

East-end Versus West-end Equality

Ms. Strena told Action Alameda News that the purpose of the study is to explore the “East-West divide” in Alameda that commonly comes up at school board meetings and City Council meetings. (This publication has highlighted the issue in the past as well.)

Ms. Strena said, “As the researcher in this study, I am looking at community schools as a way to address equity in terms of resource allocation in Alameda’s schools. For the last year I have been looking at public data to determine trends and am working to highlight where new or stronger community partnerships may be developed to support students, inside and outside of the classroom. In my research, I hope to identify where perceptions of disparity and actual disparities might lie and where best to connect students with services.”

According to Ms. Strena, participation in the survey is voluntary and all results are anonymous.

What Makes a West-end School?

However, the survey’s categorization of schools as “east-end” or “west-end,” seems to run contrary to conventional notions of east versus west neighborhoods in Alameda.

According to the website for local realtor firm Gallagher & Lindsey, the “Alameda West Island” neighborhood would seem to start at or around Webster Street and run toward San Francisco to the tip of the island. Likewise, the West Alameda Business Association is centered on Webster Street.

Separately, the website City Data, operated by Advameg, Inc. of Illinois, indicates that the West-end neighborhood of Alameda extends from Main Street to Sherman Street, but excludes the well-to-do Gold Coast neighborhood. (It also excludes Alameda Point, the former U.S. Navy base.)

Ms. Strena classified Lum and Wood schools, which lie on the east side of Grand Street, as “west-end” schools, as she did Henry Haight school, which is situated three blocks east of Grand Street.

Franklin school, located in the Gold Coast neighborhood, is also classified as a west-end school, although it may have more in common with Frank Otis and Edison schools located in higher-income neighborhoods east of Park Street than with Maya Lin, at the corner of Eighth Street and Taylor Avenue, which, in 2010, as Washington Elementary, was a Title I school that received a charity-funded makeover.

U.S. Census data indicates that median incomes in census tracts west of Webster Street can be half as much as those in tracts east of Park Street or on Bay Farm Island. In recent years, school district parcel taxes have enjoyed strong support from residents in the Gold Coast, on Bay Farm Island, and in the neighborhoods east of Park Street. Pro-parcel tax committee leaders have tended to come from the Edison and Frank Otis school attendance zones. More generally, lower income citizens tend to vote less.

Ms. Strena herself has generally been a supporter of school parcel taxes in recent years.

Demographically, Edison (66%), Frank Otis (45%) and Franklin (52%) schools have the highest percentage of white students among all local elementary schools, while Maya Lin has traditionally served a far more diverse population, and has typically had a low percentage of white students (19%).

Paden, Henry Haight and Ruby Bridges schools all are, like Maya Lin, more diverse than Franklin school; demographic data shows that Ruby Bridges school has more African American students (27%) than any other ethnic group.

Action Alameda News created this Google map plotting the survey’s west-end schools in blue, and east-end schools in yellow.

View AUSD Community Perception Survey in a larger map

According to an attendance zone map for the 2007 to 2008 school year, available on the school District’s website, Lum, Wood and Henry Haight schools lie east of the Grand Street and Union Street high school attendance boundary, indicating students living in those neighborhoods would attend Alameda High School, not Encinal.

AUSD High School Attendance Zones

AUSD 2007-2008 High School Attendance Zones.

Regarding the classifications, Ms. Strena told Action Alameda News, “I have defined schools as being East or West dependent on where the majority of students would feed into one of Alameda’s traditional high schools. There are a few schools that feed into both. I decided to build this research around the school listing as noted in my survey.”

Not Final

Ms. Strena characterized the version of the survey that Action Alameda News received a copy of as a working draft with wording and formatting to be finalized.

She also asked Action Alameda News not to publish the survey, saying, “I am targeting specific groups at each school site as this is a limited study. I do not have the capacity to analyze data outside the initial scope. I hope to distribute the survey to the targeted groups next week.”

1 comment to Community Perception Survey Not Ours, Says AUSD

  • Ms. Strena sets up a false dichotomy. The terms “east” and “west” have always been substitute terms for class and race. Therefore, drawing a single geographical line bisecting our island and analyzing the data based on that is foolish. Hopefully, Ms. Strena’s faculty advisers will tell her to go back to the drawing board for her master’s thesis. Each school must be evaluated with regard to the population that school serves to see if it is doing an appropriate job educating the children who attend that particular school. “East/west” are approximations and such substitute terminology should not be given credence in a serious academic study. Unfortunately, the AUSD does not see, or does not want to see, the poor scholarship which is obvious to the casual observer. Who know how the AUSD will try to use this flawed data, but I suspect Alameda’s children will suffer because of it.

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