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School History

History of McClymonds High School

McClymonds 1934

In January 1915, McClymonds High School started in a small building formerly occupied by Oakland Technical High School. Originally, 60 students were enrolled in the school, which at that time was called Vocational High School. It was the first public school in California to offer summer school.

The school was named after J.W. McClymonds, who at one time was the superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. In 1933, McClymonds High thereby became a four year high school. The name changed from J.W. McClymonds to Lowell McClymonds and then to McClymonds Lowell High School. Finally, in September 1938, the official name of the school became McClymonds, and it was moved to 26th and Myrtle.

Over the past years, McClymonds High School has changed with the times and challenges set before educational systems. In the late 1990s as a community response to over-crowding, under-funding, and poor performance in public schools, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) designed small schools from selected large high schools. As small schools were being developed in 2003, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) was placed under the management of state administrators due to management and budgetary deficits.

McClymonds High School was transformed into two schools, BEST and EXCEL, which opened in 2005 as a part of Oaklands’ Small Schools Initiative, funded by the Gates Foundation. Oakland’s New Small Autonomous Schools Policy, passed by the Board in 2000, committed the District to creating small, personalized learning environments, each with explicit core beliefs and values and a unique academic program, to support significantly improved outcomes. Cadres of educators, parents, and community members designed new educational settings, with enrollment limited to 400, and school- choice (through the District’s “options” process), encouraged student ownership of their education.

The District and Oakland Education Association (the teacher’s union), immediately compromised on a number of the essential ingredients to creating effective small schools outlined in the NSAS Policy, including the slow ramp up of schools (adding a grade each year to support the creation of a new positive school culture) and the necessity of matching staff to school vision. Both EXCEL and BEST were opened with four grades of students (counter to one of the key provisions of the NSAS policy). In addition, the District’s new “options” process, intended to empower parents with school choice, ended up robbing those high schools located in the City’s most economically depressed and violent areas of most of their neighborhood students entering high school at or above grade level in reading and math.

Mack HS band in procession in 1945

Over the first few years of the small schools’ existence, the Gates Foundation support for Oakland’s small schools for its neediest students dried up, the State experienced a major budget crisis and reduced per pupil allocation, and the District’s Options process and the proliferation of charter high schools in the city all led to continuing declining enrollment at the schools on the McClymonds campus, and OUSD leadership decided to close the small schools on the campus and reopen McClymonds once again. And so, in August 2010, McClymonds Educational Complex returned to being McClymonds High School, complete with a new administrative team and a mostly new teaching staff. The school's 2010-11 theme was "Mack is Back!” Community members and other stakeholders were determined to recapture the academic prowess that was once McClymonds.

Pictures from Calisphere, University of California.