Community leaders and the school district are taking aim at a problem that, while not exclusive to Hayward, has long plagued its schools: a disparity in test scores that has black students lagging behind their peers.
School officials met with a church full of members of Congregations Organizing for Renewal -- a faith-based group that takes up social causes -- in May, at which time they agreed to make the achievement gap a priority and to create a task force to help address the problem.
Trustees reaffirmed their commitment Wednesday night, when they discussed the next steps in creating the task force, which will include meeting with COR leaders and other stakeholders at a late September summit.
However, COR members said they felt the district didn't consult with them and has taken over the reins on an effort that they've been involved in for years.
"What was proposed was something different from what COR had in mind," said Minister Joe Robinson, one of the group's leaders in the effort. "We had asked for an African-American parent-led advisory committee, but we don't want to report to the district or the board. We want to be independent, so we can hold the board's feet to the fire, hold the district's feet to the fire."
However, Chief Academic Officer Francisca Sanchez said that while the district wants to take on the issue in partnership with COR and "other organizations with students' interests at heart," in the end, the matter falls on the shoulders of Hayward Unified.
"This is a district responsibility," she said. "Our responsibility is to educate our students and educate them well. We're going to drive this issue. We have to take leadership and move forward. If we don't, we are not doing our job."
Hayward Unified test scores consistently reflect poorer performance among black students than the average. For example, the Academic Performance Index for 2010 had the district average at 707, while black students were 50 points behind.
While the 2011 API report won't be officially released until next week, board President Lisa Brunner said a preview revealed that black students made no gains while the district as a whole exceeded its growth target of 8 points.
However, she added that some Hayward schools, notably Burbank Elementary, have seen dramatic increases for black students. At that campus, their scores soared by a margin much greater than the school average.
"That's definitely a school they should be looking at," Brunner said.
Trustee Jesus Armas said that the current work is "developing the basics of a game plan," and that differences between COR and the district are "without substance."
"We all share the same goal," he said. We don't want to get sidetracked by details and lose sight of our main goal."
Armas said the board will likely consider approving the creation of a task force at its Sept. 7 meeting.