I would like to give United Teachers of Richmond’s opinion on the sale of Adams Middle School to Caliber Beta Academy.
About a month ago, an article portrayed UTR as “declaring war on Caliber.” UTR had not taken an official position, and we were incredibly disappointed that someone would accuse teachers of being against children’s education and parent choice.
We believe in the power of education, the power of teachers and the power of kids achieving their dreams. We are currently building partnerships in the community to make sure that, as a community, we are truly advocating for our children. There are so many resources and organizations that are creating important change in the lives of this community, and UTR is one of those organizations.
The article published about our opposition to the sale was a misinterpretation of what we stand for as an organization and the work we do as teachers. UTR does oppose the sale of Adams and the expansion of Caliber.
First of all, Adams Middle School is not an appropriate choice for any school to occupy, since it was closed due to safety factors. Teachers’ and students’ safety matters, regardless of school affiliation.
Secondly, there is no real basis to determine whether Caliber can successfully deliver upon promises or claims made to West Contra Costa Unified School District students and parents.
We do acknowledge that the school board of WCCUSD has legal requirements to provide Caliber with appropriate space. Their students and teachers should have a safe and adequate school but Caliber should be limited to the number of students it currently has enrolled until it shows a track record of success.
Caliber has had big turnover and administrative changes since it opened and has not delivered upon its academic promise. By selling Adams for $60,000, it allows Caliber to expand to up to 1,400 students. How does increasing the number of students without achieving academic goals support that focus if Caliber is just starting to build its vision?
The way Caliber was formed, it hurt our community. Ron Beller has offended many leaders and members of this community with his behavior suggesting that he knows what is best for Richmond without community members’ input.
How can our school board sell this property to an individual who has not shown full interest in the community his school serves?
The once united Mira Vista families were forced to argue about whether a school like Mira Vista was a good school or whether Caliber was a better choice. Mira Vista Elementary went through a series of traumas, losing students and families, being criticized for things that were not true. It had to re-create a culture of success.
Caliber being moved to Adams will once again break the community. By growing from 800 to possibly 1,400 students, Mira Vista and other community schools like Madera Elementary will be stripped of their culture and funding.
It is not a battle of public schools vs. charters, but a battle of finding sites that allow charters to help the surrounding communities without taking away from existing public schools and bulldozing their way into tight-knit communities.
Caliber’s staff, administration and students are doing wonderful things in the classroom, but until they can show success academically, Caliber should not be allowed to purchase a site that will allow expansion. Therefore, we urge our community to stand with UTR to find a site for Caliber that will be good for its students and limit its enrollment.
President of United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA.