In Support of Alameda’s Neighborhood Schools

We can make any school in Alameda good. Why not our local school?

I will be sending my second child through our neighborhood school: Will C. Wood Middle School because I believe in supporting my neighborhood school.

Neighborhood schools keep people out of cars. At neighborhood schools, kids strengthen ties to their neighbors — both adults and children — giving them a sense of place and connection to their community. And community that is created by neighborhood schools is a concrete civic asset that we should not undervalue.

In her book Reign of Error, education historian Diane Ravitch explains:

“The more that policy makers promote choice … the more they sell the public on the idea that their choice of a school is a decision they make as individual consumers, not as citizens. As a citizen, you become invested in the local public school; you support it and take pride in its accomplishments. You see it as a community institution worthy of your support, even if you don’t have children in the school ... You think of public education as an institution that educates citizens, future voters, members of your community. But as school choice becomes the basis for public policy, the school becomes not a community institution but an institution that meets the needs of its customers.” This is the dilemma that Alameda is facing: too many choices at the expense of a neighborhood school.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, I can’t say I support neighborhood schools in theory. I have heard people say they support Wood and want to see it succeed, but they aren’t willing to send their own kids there. If every family in Wood’s school boundaries sent their kids to Wood, it would have the support it needs to be a great school. 

I understand that each family is looking out for the needs and wants of their particular child, but since every family is approaching middle school this way, the hemorrhaging of Wood Middle School has happened (and this has been happening for at least the last 10 years).

Neighborhood schools do not sort kids and their families by a narrow focus, but rather ask people to come together and create a community based on the best interest of all of the children, regardless of their interests or background.

Will C. Wood has all the components to be a great school: a dedicated staff and administrative team, an innovative and exciting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) program, a maker space, engineering and multimedia labs to support a more hands-on curriculum which lends itself to the 21st Century skills that the new Common Core state standards are requiring. STEAM activities are built around open-ended real-world problems where students use inquiry to engineer a solution usually in cooperative groups.
All Wood needs now is the support of the neighborhood and its neighbors.

Margi Thomas is the mother of three children. Two currently attend Franklin School. She is a high school English and AVID teacher in Fremont.