Problems at urban schools hurt students, teachers most


I’ve walked down these same streets for three years since my freshman year in high school. I know every cracked smile the pavement gave, every tagged name on the splintered fence, and every once in awhile, I’d see Swisher wrappers stuck in the corner of fences with colors that varied from purple to green to red. The smell of marijuana filled my nose as I walked by a familiar group from school, and the trail of garbage intoxicated the streets with faded white plastic cups embossed with a now pink Coca-Cola logo at their center. The local fast food restaurant has those same cups, just a few blocks away.

I’m walking home from Castlemont High School campus now, after a long day of gazing, annoyance, and daydreams. Today, like any other day, was filled with frustration from my fellow peers and school work, laughter that led to tears, strange stares from the people around my friends and I, and, of course, the constant reminder of the challenges we as students face at our school. As a young adult living in deep East Oakland, I’m well aware that we are not fortunate enough to have all of the resources other high schools do.

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has been a main contributor to the instability we face on campus. Castlemont was divided up into three small schools, funds were cut, the campus was once again established as one big school, and now, our principal has been “reassigned” to another school, and we’re expecting a new principal in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year.

At a two hour drive from East Oakland, in Antioch, California, Triya Marco, an 18-year-old, rising senior faces similar inconsistencies, attending Deer Valley High School with an estimated 2,000 student population.

“The staff changes every year and no one really knows where to go when they need help with something, and when they do know, the staff isn’t available.” Like Castlemont, Marco says that at Deer Valley High, “Teachers are very helpful.”

It is clear that at any given high school, a staff of teachers with a sincere appreciation towards teaching, and respect for students can help fill that void that comes from an unstable environment.

East Oakland, California holds a negative reputation in surrounding communities. The environment surrounding Castlemont is filled with crime, poverty and other difficult situations that distract from the healthy learning environment faculty members try to provide everyday.

Aryn E. Bowman was an assistant principal for the 2012-2013 school year at Castlemont High School, and dedicated 9 years of her life being a part of “the Castle” as faculty before resigning at the end of the school year. She always helped the students at the Castle in any way that she could. Back when Castlemont was divided into three small schools, East Oakland School of the Arts (EOSA), Castlemont Business Information School (CBITS), and Leadership Prep School (LPS), Bowman taught, Ethnic Studies, AP US History, and was the principal of EOSA. The faculty of EOSA formed a small community of trust, care, and responsibility. Throughout all of the schools, students would always have someone in the faculty to go to for help.

Bowman, along with the rest of the staff members, understand what it takes to teach at a school like Castlemont, and have a deep affection towards the students. She would walk down the halls, smile at the students, and constantly tell the students that she loves them.

“We genuinely like kids. I also think that at EOSA specifically, we had a really clear mission and part of our mission was love. You have to love kids in order to set high expectations for them… We’re really rooted in this idea that in order to educate young people, you have to care about them genuinely.”

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