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After Eastside parents 'beat up' their teachers over merger, Russell says, 'close them both'

Eastside alternative elementary parents who have strongly opposed a merger with the poorer and browner Harris neighborhood elementary have verbally "beat up" their own teachers to the point where half may no longer want to work at the school, according to 4J Superintendent George Russell.

"I worry now how Eastside can be Eastside if half or more of the teachers are deciding they don't want to be Eastside," Russell said at a school board meeting today, March 8.

"It's not right for the teachers to get beat up by parents," Russell said of the Eastside teachers who have supported talking with Harris teachers about a merger or some other collaborative hybrid. Harris is 67 percent free and reduced lunch (FRL) and 25 percent Latino while Eastside is 5 percent FRL and 1 percent Latino.

Russell said given the opposition of Eastside parents to a merger with Harris, he may want to close both schools. "Probably the way I feel now, I'd make a recommendation to close them both."

Several school board members shared Russell's dismay at the parents at Eastside, one of the whitest and wealthiest schools in the entire state. "I was disheartened by what I heard from the parents of Eastside," said board member Alicia Hays. "I don't think Eastside is viable because I don't think they are going to be able to diversify."

"To the extent there is an exodus of teachers, that suggests to me a viability question," said board member Craig Smith. The merger/collaboration offered Eastside parents the opportunity to show their "good faith" commitment to diversify, Smith said. "What we're hearing is they don't want to do that."

Russell said that some Eastside and Harris teachers are talking about another meeting on Tuesday to further discuss mixing the two schools. Some board members said they would like Russell to meet with the teachers to see if the merger still has any chance of success.

Board member Yvette Webber-Davis said, "I think there is at least some sentiment on the board for trying to give Eastside and Harris a chance."