Open since 2008, Futures Elementary School is one of two schools that occupy what was once known as Lockwood Elementary. Since the switch, Futures has seen higher test scores and lower staff turnover.
The school has teamed with Pandora to provide music education for third graders. There is a garden on campus, a weekly Farmers Market and weekly mindfulness lessons. Where Lockwood had eight principals in eight years, Futures has had one in the last four years. This month all of the teachers at Futures Elementary school received "March 15 Notices."
"The fact that it's our entire teaching staff that's receiving these notices was pretty devastating news," said Katherine Thompson, a kindergarden teacher at Futures. "It basically means that all of the things that we've been working together for, working with our kids and working with their families for are basically out the window."
This year, 538 March 15 notices were sent out, compared to 53 notices last year. The number of actual layoffs is still uncertain. Real numbers won't be in until the state budget is finalized in June, however, the Oakland Unified School District is preparing for worst-case scenario. In the past, OUSD has cut central office staff, but now in order to cut 30 million from the unrestricted budget, the district is making cuts on campus.
"Unfortunately, unprecedented cuts to education funding mean we can no longer shield the classroom in the way we would like," OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith said in a letter to employees. "Like our neighboring districts we must also use the last resort of teacher layoffs to meet our financial obligations."
Why do they have to trim so much? Well, according to Jody London, VP of Board of Education, District 1, 80 percent of Oakland's unrestricted funds come from the state. And since 42 percent of state spending goes toward education, and the state is in crisis, education takes a hit. Certain schools are hit especially hard because many of their teachers - in the case of Futures all - started working after the key service dates.
While Thompson admits that no ones knows exactly what would happen if every teacher at her school was laid off, she notes that it would be less than ideal for the children involved.
"We do know that students form attachments to their teachers and that those relationships support their academic growth," Thompson said. "Cutting all of those relationships off is going to have a very negative impact, for not only their emotional well-being, but also academic growth."
Members of the school community have gotten together to raise awareness. Their efforts include starting Save Futures Elementary School. The site features a video that highlights the schools work to bring healthy food to the students and surrounding community. This is also one of the places supporters can go to make financial contributions to the school. Thank you notes from teachers, student artwork, and illustrated recipe booklets are being offered as tokens of appreciation to those who decide to donate.
"This is really about our students and their rights to access quality public education," Thompson said.