Northeast High School alumni are describing the current plans for a merger between Classen School for Advanced Studies and Northeast High School as a “takeover.”
And some believe that the move is part of a larger “takeover” of the east side by people who have little respect or concern for the black people who live there or their traditions.
“Merger” is the term being used by Oklahoma City Public Schools officials even though the proposal has evolved into simply eliminating the Northeast name, mascot, and school colors and replacing the student body.
Classen SAS has been in the original, historic Classen High School building at 1901 N. Ellison from it’s opening in 1994 with an International Baccalaureate program that has given them world recognition.
Current plans are for the Northeast campus to become the new home of the high school program and the Classen SAS Junior High will be able to expand into the original Classen High School building.
Maintain colors, mascot – merge name
As some NEHS alumni see it, decades of accomplishment of a predominantly black student body at Northeast High School will be swept away from the community’s memory at the start of next school year
A group of about 20 to 25 held signs up as members of the Board and the public entered the heavily-guarded Metro Tech lobby on their way to the auditorium.
But the guard presence was out of proportion to the dignified actions of the alums, the most menacing behaviors being occasional frowns.
The alumni want the original Northeast High School mascot and colors to be maintained and the new name to be “Northeast Classen School for Advanced Studies” when the Classen SAS high school program moves to the NEHS facility at 3100 N. Kelley Ave for the 2019-2020 school year.
Most of the alumni Free Press talked to Monday were there to protect the legacy of NEHS. None we encountered argued for stopping the Classen SAS high school program from moving to the campus.
Alumni Monday night seemed unified in their belief that current plans are simply a takeover and not a merger.
“They’re not giving us our legacy,” said Angela Mason, one among many in the group who graduated in the 1980s. “They’re not giving us things that we celebrated, that we grew up knowing.”
Sharon Gallimore seemed flummoxed by the lack of consideration of what she believes is a small ask on their part.
“It’s sad because it would be different if we were asking for something outrageous and we’re really not, you know, we can meet in the middle,” she said.
Remembering the best days
Many alumni are angry with the administration for what they see as neglect and withholding resources in recent years when turmoil has been a diversion from the many years of accomplishment at the school.
The alums speaking out now remember the glory days of the 1980s when Northeast gained its equilibrium from the desegregation upheaval of the 1970s and added the biomedical sciences program.
They were the children of those who worked hard and broke down the housing red-lining practices of banks.
Black teens of the 1980s that moved into the Northeast High School vertical believed they were on the way up. And, many were.
One such alum is Robiyale Shelley, daughter of two educators and now a nurse practitioner for the last 12 years.
Nurse practitioners are at the pinnacle of the registered nurse practice and command respect for their knowledge and experience in the field.
“I would not have been [a nurse practitioner] had it not been for Northeast Academy, Northeast High School,” said Shelley. “It was a biomedical program. I participated in OU Allied Health Services where we went through all the different ancillary programs.”
Pastor Kenneth Morgan is a graduate of Northeast High School in the 1980s and has several siblings who graduated from there as well.
But, he also had two daughters who graduated from Classen SAS and said he’s not against that school or program.
“It would definitely be a detriment to our community if that is just totally erased and nullified,” said Morgan. “It’s just the history of the northeast side kind of being forgotten.”
But, Morgan used the term “takeover” in a larger sense about the whole northeast side.
“A lot of times with the black community, of course, nobody wants to deal with the racism about it,” said Morgan. “You know, we’ll just get the short end of the stick and be erased, taken over.”
“It’s prime real estate, a big, large landmass. I’m sure they would love to take it over.”
“There’s no concern, no consideration whatsoever. They Just figure that they can do what they want to do,” said Morgan. “Come in and take what they want to take and move on. That’s what it feels like.”
A petition on Change.org has drawn 1,500 signatures but makes few demands. It reads:
The Northeast Alumni are asking for your support in signing the petition to keep the legacy of our school Northeast High School alive. Oklahoma City School Districts are consolidating schools due to Pathway to Greatness and we want to protect the history of our community and school. By signing this petition you are asking the following:
- That the Name Northeast is added into the school name when merged with Classen SAS
- Northeast Academy Colors: Maroon and Grey which was originally Crimson and Silver
- Northeast Keeps the Mascot: The Viking
It remains to be seen whether protests and pleading from NEHS alumni and arguments from the Board’s two black members will change the current plans.