“We Put Our Minds Together”: How Castlemont and LPS partner to better serve students
Dr. Louise Bay Waters, the Superintendent of Leadership Public Schools (LPS), recently shared some of the challenges that the co-located school communities of LPS Oakland R&D and Castlemont face: Student trauma. 16-year-old Newcomer students with large gaps in schooling. The difficulty of convincing families to send their children to a school in East Oakland when they are convinced there are better options outside the neighborhood.
LPS Oakland R&D, a locally grown Oakland charter public school, and Castlemont High School, an OUSD district school with a deep history in the neighborhood, are co-located on a shared campus. So when Dr. Waters spoke about these incredible challenges, she did so in the context of finding solutions together. Sharing resources and working together to make the campus a community hub. Putting the needs of students above anything else. Not “spending time as adults fighting with each other” because one school is a district school and the other a charter school. Not just making the shared campus work, but making it thrive. And above all, partnering to prepare students to succeed after they graduate, in college and career. “We put our minds together,” Waters said.
Sitting next to Waters was OUSD Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell. On Tuesday, October 9, students and leaders from both schools and the district gathered at the East Bay Community Foundation in Frank Ogawa Plaza, a few steps from city hall, to share about the impact of Linked Learning on Oakland high school success and how collaboration between a district and a charter high school can prepare students for post-graduate success. The talk was entitled “Pathways to Opportunity: Creating College and Career Success for All Students.” Joining Waters and Johnson-Trammell was Castlemont principal William Chavarin, LPS Oakland R&D principal Laura Hayes, as well as a current LPS student, and an LPS graduate and a Castlemont graduate, both of whom are now freshmen at UC Berkeley. The discussion was moderated by Aimee Eng, the District 2 school board director and also the board president.
While the two schools have been co-located for 15 years, the partnership has really grown in the past five years with leadership stability at both schools. As Castlemont Principal Chavarin shared, it began with a focus on security. However, the deepening of the collaboration can be traced back to Linked Learning through Oakland’s Measure N, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2014. Measure N delivers $10 million each year for 10 years to Oakland public schools — district and charter, the first citywide measure that supports all Oakland public schools. The funding goes to support college and career pathways, also known as Linked Learning, which is proven to increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and better prepare students for post-secondary success.
Both Superintendents stressed the importance of a shared need and framework. “We can work on this together because we have the college and career framework from Measure N,” Waters said. “A framework that says, ‘What are we looking for as a city? Not as a charter sector, not as LPS, not as Castlemont but as a city, for the kind of skills that students will need to be able to have in this economy. If you don’t have that common frame, you won’t be able to build deep partnerships.”
Together, the two schools have shared ideas and resources around work based learning. “From our campus this summer, we had some of the more robust internships across the city,” LPS principal Hayes said. “I think that’s a testament to the work being done on our campus. We’re really excited about that collaboration.”
Current LPS student, Britney Gomez, shared what it has meant for her to have an after school internship in the campus garden, part of Castlemont’s Sustainable Urban Design Academy (SUDA) Pathway. While part of Castlemont, students from both schools work together learning how to grow fruits and vegetables and focusing on nutrition. The garden work, she said, has really helped her confidence grow. The two graduates, Castlemont alum Jailene Lopez and LPS alum Adrian Munguia, talked about their two-hour College of Alameda dual-enrollment statistics class, part of the LPS Entrepreneurial Leadership pathway, which is also attended by students from both schools. Initially neither were sure they wanted the class. However, by the end of senior year they had their university math graduation requirement checked off before they even started at Cal. In fact, Adrian gained so many dual-enrollment college credits in high school that he entered UCas a sophomore. The two students now live on the same floor at Cal.
The shared campus allows LPS students to participate in athletics through the Castlemont athletic program, with LPS contributing financially. The schools collaborate around security and responding to crises. A veteran Castlemont ethnic studies teacher has coached and supported the LPS ethnic studies teacher. This demonstrates the focus on students, regardless of the type of school that they attend.
During Johnson-Trammell’s remarks, she asked herself this question: how do we take what’s working here and bring it to scale in service of students? “I wish I had the answer,” she said. “If I did, I’d write a book and ride off on my white horse. But I do think a lot of it begins with relationships.” She said it’s important for the district to be clear about what it means to partner with charter schools, around curriculum and instruction, and also strategic use of facilities. And it needs to be a two-way relationship.“This is a big piece of work for all of us,” she said.
Underscoring the importance of the pathways work as well as charter-district collaboration, Johnson-Trammell shared her experience of recently attending Salesforce’s megaconference Dreamforce, and looking out at an audience filled with people who don’t look like her, who don’t look like a majority of Oakland public school students. One of her takeaways was both district and charter schools need to prepare Oakland students to take jobs such as these, the “jobs of the 21st century,” the “jobs that haven’t even been created yet.” And there’s no time to waste.
“We don’t have time for this district-charter negativity,” Johnson-Trammell said. “I get the politics, I live it every nanosecond. We need to be thinking about, ‘What’s the fastest way we can accelerate quality for all of our kids.’”