OAKLAND - A row of teachers sat in stunned silence this morning after the governing board of University Preparatory Charter Academy voted 3-1 to close the troubled East Oakland school immediately rather than fight to keep it open.

"Continuing to open this school is an injustice to these students because I have no doubt it's going to be closed," said Prentice Deadrick, president of Uprep's governing board.

The sudden move comes amid a school district investigation into allegations of grade-changing, attendance fraud and cheating on state tests. Last week, Oakland school district staff sent Deadrick a letter citing new evidence of problems at school, which opened in 2001 at Eastmont Mall.

District staff threatened to close the school if those problems — and others — weren't sufficiently addressed by Aug. 17.

Although the decision will displace some 400 students, it happened at a hastily scheduled special board meeting which no parents or students attended. Deadrick told a teacher immediately afterward that the previously scheduled Aug. 4 meeting might no longer occur.

Some of the school's staff said afterward they thought the board's decision was irresponsible. And the way it happened — with almost no notice to families — was characteristic of the board's governing style, they observed. Charter school advocates and parents alike have criticized the Uprep board for its infrequent meetings, scheduling changes and a general lack of transparency.


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"I think the board members who voted to close the school are very wrong in thinking they're acting in the best interest of the students," said Art Friedman, a math teacher in the independent study program.

`I just feel like I've been to a funeral," he added. "The students that we teach are really students who have no other place to go. These are children the system has failed."

This morning, as a group of independent study teachers gathered in a classroom to process the news, students trickled in with packets of homework. Connie Kim, 18, apologized for missing her regular meeting time before she listened, wide-eyed, to the news.

"Is there another place like this school?" she asked.

The other teachers looked at one another. That is the problem, they said.

At least 250 teenagers attended Uprep's independent study program, through which they complete homework and course credits at their own pace. Although many of the problems raised in the district investigation had to do with Uprep's regular day school, the teachers said, their program will fold with the Uprep charter.

Liane Zimny, the school's interim director, said at a meeting last week that she didn't know whether the school district would be able to accommodate many of the students, especially those who are 19.

Keilah Benton, 15, said she had no idea that the school was having problems, or that it might close. She looked angry and confused as she wiped tears from her cheeks.

"I feel like a grown-up here," she said. "You do it because you want to do it, not because somebody's making you do it.

"I'm trying to make it for myself, and you want to throw it away?" she said, as if addressing the board. "It was the only school I ever really fit into."

E-mail Katy Murphy at kmurphy@oaklandtribune.com. Read her Oakland schools blog at www.ibabuzz.com/education.