Oakman supporters rally to save school
Efforts continue to keep Oakman open
By Donald Barnes
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Oakman Orthopedic-Elementary School supporters continue to call on Detroit Public School authorities to keep their school open.
A group of parents, students and activists gathered Aug. 28 in front of the Fisher Building to get the district’s new Emergency Manager Jack Martin’s attention.
“In the last two weeks, Jack Martin issued a letter stating that the issue was not enrollment anymore,” president of the Oakman Tiger parents’ group Aliya Moore said. “We have been passing out flyers downtown, encouraging people to call (Martin’s) office. We have sent out two letters to Jack Martin’s office, asking why Oakman is closing and is he willing to sit down with parents and actually give us the right information.”
Former treasurer of the State Board of Education, Marianne Yarad-McGuire ran into Martin moments before the rally.
“I saw Jack Martin come out of the building … he came out with two body guards,” McGuire told the Michigan Citizen.
“One was guiding him as I was shouting, ‘Mr. Martin don’t close Oakman School.’ The bodyguard pushed him into the vehicle before he could say anything.”
McGuire, who decided against running again, supports Oakman School and says there is an urgent need to keep it open.
“The children will really have no other facility to use; the other schools do not have the recommended needs,” McGuire said. “The Oakman School (had) a building that was specially built to meet their particular needs. We do not think it should be closed.”
On April 11 of this year, former DPS EM Roy Roberts announced the closing of Oakman, along with three other schools. At that time, its enrollment was 315 students with 60 percent of them POHI (Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired), according to Moore. Oakman was built in 1928 with a list of notable alumni including attorney Richard Bernstein.
Parents were told most their students would be relocated to Noble Elementary School, 16 blocks away. Some would also transfer to Henderson Academy, a pre-K through eighth grade program.
According to Moore, parents met unexpectedly with Martin at AM1200 radio station, but they say nothing transpired in favor of the children from the encounter.
“I was doing an interview with Mildred Gaddis, and he was in the next booth,” Moore said.
“When I came out, one of our advocates with me, said (to Martin), ‘you have to reconsider closing Oakman.’ (Martin) kind of just looked at her like, who are you and what are you talking about. He just said ‘Ok,’ and left out; really there’s no difference between him and Roy Roberts to me, they’re still showing no respect to us and not communicating.”
Member of Keep The Vote No Take Over Detroit, Maiyoa Vang, says the organization does not support Gov. Snyder and Martin’s complicity with Robert’s decision to close Oakman. Martin is the only person that can make the situation right, says Vang.
“EM controls DPS — their rationale has not been substantiated by facts,” She said.
“What’s going to happen to these children is that they will be irrevocably harmed by the movement to Noble and Henderson.”
Keep The Vote No Take Over founder Helen Moore stood curbside on Grand Boulevard shouting “save Oakman School” at ongoing cars.
Moore told the Michigan Citizen that they’re going to keep fighting until they see justice.
“This is injustice what’s happening to the children at Oakman School, they had to have that building in order to provide the services that the federal government requires,” Moore said.
“Robert Bobb didn’t touch those schools, I’m wondering what the problem is; Robert Bobb wasn’t any good anyway. These children deserve the best, they expect the best and they had the best. That school should open back up.”
Helen says the kids should be focal point and believes: “When you die and you’ve done all this evil, especially to children, you may not ever see anything but hell. The hell you raise with these children, what you’ve done to them, broken their hearts…you reap what you sow.”
Martin’s communication team had not responded to requests for comment by press time.