The three Rs

Many letters have been written about the possible closure of Bay Farm Middle School, most of them expressing outrage for two reasons: First, the Alameda Unified School District’s failure to communicate with the community it serves; and second, the folly of closing a superior school and “forcing” those “successful students” to attend inferior schools. Some of these letters take potshots at a school district bloated with overpaid administrators.

I read these letters with interest, but I wish they contained more facts — which brings us to the Three Rs: Rules, rules, and rules. From the simplest games to the most complex societies, humans need to make and follow rules. At some point, our nation made a rule about compulsory public education. It’s a big, complex system; imagine if you had been put in charge of setting it up from scratch. Public education is a mix of federal, state, county, and local agencies, which brings us to the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD).

The board members of AUSD are elected and accountable to the public in various ways. The same goes for the representatives we elect at the county, state, and federal levels. Presumably, AUSD must follow rules for such things as transparency, including the possible closure of schools. There should also be rules for the educational standards that we desire, such as teacher to student ratios. Similar schools across a district should have similar class sizes. So, if a school, like Bay Farm Middle School, has 23 students per classroom, while other middle schools have 32 students, that might raise some financial issues as well as educational equity issues.

As for the overall education budget, and the “bloated” administration, I haven’t seen enough facts in these letters to have an informed opinion. I’ve tried looking up basic information on official government websites, but they seem strangely opaque (maybe by design). I’d like to see more letters on education, but with a high fact to opinion ratio.

— Steven Mason