HAYWARD — At a meeting marred by hostility, the district school board voted Wednesday to begin a transformation at two low-performing elementary schools, which will see complete changes of staff and rethinking of how to best educate Hayward's youth.
Longwood and Harder elementary schools were selected because of low state test scores and a failure to meet federal benchmarks for at least four years. There also was a lack of progress directly noted by district observers.
"There was staff training at Harder, but its implementation in the classroom wasn't there," said Lety Salinas, director of academic affairs for the district.
Salinas compared it with major improvements at other elementary schools such as Ruus, where results of such training were observed in the classrooms, and Cherryland, where school leaders have focused efforts on interventions with underperforming students.
A look at subgroups — Hispanic students, English-language learners and those from poorer families — found Harder and Longwood students in those groups lagging behind peers at other schools.
Diane Crawford, a teacher at Longwood, told the board that her school wasn't being given a fair shake.
"Why have some of the same procedures afforded other schools not been offered at Longwood?" she asked.
She said district guidance has been nonexistent, and the only meeting that was held with teachers was during parent-teacher conference week when few could attend.
"We never had a chance to discuss with district staff any corrections that are available to us," she said. "Why are we now discussing a redesign? If knowledge is power, shared knowledge is very powerful. Please share it with Longwood.
The restructuring will start with a change of staff. Current teachers will be relocated for the next school year, although those who want to be part of the redesign can reapply for their jobs.
Next, a task force will be assembled to come up with a blueprint for the change. They then will work over the next year "in collaboration with teachers, students and parents" to decide what kind of school they ultimately will have. That could be a K-3 model, or an arts or science magnet, or something else entirely.
Board member Luis Reynoso was the lone dissenter on the board. He began a line of questioning about how the decision was made and who was involved. But other trustees grew weary of it.
"Mr. Reynoso, you are not king of the world," trustee Sarah Gonzales said. "I cannot listen to you anymore."
Reynoso said she and the rest of the board would have to listen to him because he had further questions.
Board President Paul Frumkin then asked Reynoso if other trustees could also ask questions in a "round robin" manner because he was monopolizing the discussion.
Reynoso agreed, but the matter was quickly brought to a vote and approved.
"This motion is faulty — I was still speaking," he said. "You said it was going to be a round robin."
Reynoso continued his questioning into the next, related item — with Gonzales absent — and was asked by Frumkin again if he'd be willing to have a round-robin discussion.
"What? No!" said Reynoso, who repeatedly accused Frumkin of taking directions from interim Superintendent Janis Duran, who sits next to the board president. The seating arrangement has been a recurring point of contention for Reynoso, who says administrators have no place sitting among the board.
He objected to the restructuring on the grounds that a definite cost of the process was not available, and there is no guarantee that it will result in improvements.
"This is ridiculous," he said.
"We are about to vote on something that we have no idea how much it's going to cost. ... It's vague, ambiguous and incomplete. We're going into this willy-nilly."
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473.