Last school year, the 49ers Academy announced that they would close due to lack of funding. However, M-A has hired the Academy’s former High School Program Coordinator, Armando Castillo, to run a downsized version of the Academy.
The 49ers Academy was a foundation that helped give individualized assistance to students at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School (CCRMS) and M-A. In 6th grade, students who joined the 49ers Academy, were assigned case workers who provided academic support and mentorship, and helped with attendance monitoring. Case workers also communicated with parents who were unable to use traditional communication forms.
Students had the option to continue working with the 49ers Academy in 9th grade. Castillo said, “We supported students—working with their teachers, counselors, coaches and anyone else involved in their education—to make sure they were as successful as possible at M-A.”
Right before last school year ended, though, Castillo said, “I told the 60 kids in the program that the Academy is no longer going to be at M-A. We, the case managers, are no longer going to be here.”
Senior Lazarus Thompson, who was a member of the 49ers Academy, said, “After they told us it wasn’t going to be there anymore, I went to bed crying.”
Many other students and parents expressed similar reactions. Castillo said, “When I was calling parents and telling them that the Academy is ending, I understood the impact I had on them. Parents asked me, ‘Who do I go to now? You’re the only one I’m connected to at the school.’ Those calls were really difficult to make.”
To many, the closure of the 49ers academy was a complete surprise. Principal Karl Losekoot said, “When I heard the news, I was shocked. They had provided a stable support group for around 45 to 60 students each year and now M-A was going to lose that.” Sequoia Union High School District Trustee Shawneece Stevenson, who joined 49ers Academy as a parent when she moved to the District, said in the June 21st board meeting, “The 49ers Academy was one of the District’s strongest partners and the only program that is on both M-A’s campus and CCRMS, so there will be a huge gap without them.”
According to a statement from its board of directors, the Academy was shutting down because of lack of funding. The former members of the 49ers Academy Executive Board did not respond to requests for an interview. The Academy’s Form 990 IRS filings indicate that it had a $178,000 surplus for the 2021 fiscal year but a $92,000 deficit for the fiscal year ending in 2022. It had $939,000 in assets at the end of the 2022 fiscal year. The Academy should have those assets to operate this school year.
Around 20% of the Academy’s operating budget was from the 49ers foundation. A Foundation spokesperson said, “Over the past 23 years, the 49ers Foundation has invested over $8 million into the 49ers Academy. We are extremely proud of the local impact we were able to achieve together. Although the Academy is halting operations this summer, the Foundation remains committed to serving youth across the Bay Area and will consider new community-based programs.”
Stevenson added, “I will be writing an email as a private citizen to the Academy as I am awfully disappointed that they gave us no notice.”
When the District found out that M-A was going to lose this support, they wanted to save some aspects of the program, but didn’t have the resources to pay the salaries of the entire 49ers Academy’s staff on both campuses. Losekoot said, “We came up with the idea of recruiting Armando Castillo to provide some support services, but there was no way that one staff member could provide the level of support that a whole program had. Instead, after meeting with him, we hired Armando to prioritize case management for incoming freshmen from CCRMS while also being a resource for all former Academy students.”
The 49ers Academy used to provide a link with CCRMS but M-A doesn’t have the resources to hire staff there. Losekoot said, “We probably need to refine Castillo’s position and involve CCRMS because the community that the 49ers Academy built was very important.” There is currently no plan for how to replace this connection between CCRMS and M-A.
Though Castillo is back, the Academy isn’t. Sophomore Antonina Tangilanu, who had been in the Academy since eighth grade, said, “49ers Academy is very different than it was last year: not as many people come and I miss some of the staff who aren’t here anymore. It’s sad. I can still come to the Academy to do work but it’s just not the same.”