School officials ask board to stay at College of Alameda as June 30 deadline looms

April 25, 2022

By David Rowe, Associate Editor

Island High School, a continuation high school located at the College of Alameda (COA), may be looking for a new home when its agreement with the Peralta Community College District expires on June 30.  

The high school, which is part of the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), has been at COA for less than a year and would like to extend its agreement. The district, however, does not see Island as part of its COA master plan, according to college President Nathaniel Jones III. 

In an email statement to The Citizen, Jones said “We greatly value our partnership with AUSD and continue to look for mutually beneficial ways to collaborate and advance our missions. With respect to Island High School, we are adhering to our agreement with AUSD. Having Island on (the) COA campus was never part of our Facility Master Plan.”  Jones confirmed that the current agreement with AUSD “allows Island to occupy space on (the) COA campus through 6/30/22.”

Dr. Nathaniel Jones III, President of College of Alameda, said that Island High School is not part of the college’s master plan (Source: Leticia Luna, The Citizen)

When asked why Island was allowed to move on the COA campus in the first place, Jones responded it was “to honor the commit [sic] made by previous administrators.”

In an effort to make the district reconsider its position, four AUSD representatives addressed the Peralta Board of Trustees during the public comment portion of the April 12 governing board meeting. 

Kirsten Zazo, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services for AUSD, explained that discussions with the district began in the 2018-19 school year to “house another high school program” on the COA campus.

Alameda Science & Technology Institute (ASTI), a “public magnet” high school which, according to its website, provides its 164 students with “the opportunity to enroll as full-time community college students” has been located on the COA campus since its founding in 2004.  The plan, Zazo said, was to relocate ASTI from the portable classrooms to building C and move Island High School into the portables. 

Zazo explained that a continuation high school like Island “support(s) students who, for a variety of reasons, may be in danger of not graduating from high school, and have historically not found success in transitioning to the community college.”

Expanding on Zazo’s comments, Tracy Corbally, the Principal of ASTI, invited board members to “fast forward to the summer of 2021” when, just two days before the scheduled start of classes, “Peralta informed us that ASTI needed to move back to the portables and that Island needed to leave the (COA) campus altogether.”  

The reason provided by Peralta for the last-minute change of plans, according to Corbally, was “that building C had a crack in a wall and needed to be demolished.”   

The ASTI program was ultimately moved to building D, Corbally said, although the district was unable to provide any documentation on the irreparable damage to building C. Island remains in the portables, at least temporarily, although “Peralta leadership continues to say they do not want Island on the COA campus,” Corbally stated.  

In his email to The Citizen, Jones stated that “the C building is slated to be demolished. We just don’t know precisely when that will be.”

Corbally also provided the board with a demographic profile of the approximately 80 students currently attending Island High School. “More than 50% of our students come from a home where the highest level of education achieved by a parent is a high school diploma or an attempted high school diploma,” she stated. 

“Eighty percent of our students identify as students of color and upwards of 60% of the student body are socio economically disadvantaged.” Corbally concluded by stating “they are exactly the kind of students that COA and the Peralta system at large are committed to supporting.”

Ben Washofsky, Principal of Island High at the April 12 Peralta Board of Trustees meeting. (Source: Peralta YouTube Channel)

Ben Washofsky, the Principal of Island High, in his statement to the board, quoted comments from two of his students. Island student Tristan Teo, said he “used to skip school” but the opportunity to enroll in college-level courses “has been a game changer” for him. Teo is specifically interested in the automotive technology classes offered at COA. Fellow Island student Donancy Marquez said the ability to take high school and college classes “in the same location…makes everything more simple and easily accessible.” 

The fourth and final AUSD speaker to address the board was Jodi McCarthy, Coordinator of Student Support Services and a former Island High counselor. She said the Island students “feel defeated and confused as to why they are not welcome on the campus and our staff can’t give a good explanation since we ourselves haven’t received one.”

After public comments concluded, Trustee Linda Handy asked Washofsky for a written copy of the AUSD statements. These were sent to Handy in addition to the other Trustees, Washofsky said. When asked if he has heard back from Handy or any other district representative since the meeting, Washofsky told The Citizen in an April 15 email  “I haven’t heard back from anyone at Peralta besides you.”

In his email statement to The Citizen, COA President Jones said “with the update of our Educational Master Plan commencing in the fall, we’ll be able to update our facility master [plan] following the completion of the Educational Master Plan and can look at what would be the highest and best use of our facilities and space to meet the needs of our community.”

The Citizen asked Jones if the updated master plan may allow Island to remain on the COA campus. “I don’t know what the Education Master Plan may recommend related to Island High School” he responded. “At this time, it’s best to adhere to our agreement” which only allows Island to remain at COA through June 30. 

When asked if he has a contingency plan if the current agreement is not extended, Washofsky said “In all likelihood, Plan B would be returning to Longfellow,” the previous Island High School campus located at 500 Pacific Street in Alameda.