Oakland school board will now run most — but not all — of the district

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell and school board president David Kakishiba signed an agreement this afternoon at Oakland’s Grass Valley Elementary School that returned local authority over staffing and facilities.


This means that the Oakland school board now oversees three out of the five key departments. The state, however, still controls the purse strings and academic policy — areas of no small importance.

For a celebratory occasion, it was a relatively sober affair, with references to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts and Oakland’s upcoming employee contract negotiations (The budget projections recently presented by OUSD staff include no changes to the salary scale, a fact that concerns board members).

At 7:30 a.m. tomorrow morning,the school board meets in closed session to decide what to do next about its new supe-hiring powers. Does it put an interim boss in place right away? Conduct a national search? Wait until full power is restored?

They might have that answer by tomorrow.

photo by Ray Chavez, Tribune photographer

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • John

    No control of the purse strings! Let’s grab a shovel and dig up Dennis Chaconas to be Oakland’s interim superintendent until the purse strings return to district control, presenting poor little Dennis with another choking hazard. Poor little guy.

  • Sue

    No digging required – Chaconas is serving on the Alameda County Board of Education:

    Although, I don’t think he deserves much blame for the finance mess. He brought in FCMAT as soon as he became superintendent, and was implimenting their recommendations – which was how the district’s deficit was found. He simply had the misfortune to be at the helm when the mess his predecessors (temporary and interim for how many years?) left behind was finally brought to light.

    His term is up in June. Yeah, bring him back, if he’s willing. Even though Dr. Ward tried to claim the credit, the academic progress started with Chaconas.

  • Cranky teacher

    If you go back and read the very balanced East Bay Express mega-article analyzing the economic collapse, one thing that should jump out at you is that the enrollment in Oakland fell farther and faster than the WORST-CASE scenario the bean counters had laid out. Since funding is tied to attendance, the dot.com and real estate booms which sent families out of Oakland (some happy to have sold their houses at a profit, others priced out of a soaring rental market) had much more to do with the shortfalls than anything Chaconas did or didn’t do.

    Under Chaconas, morale and scores began significantly rising. Perhaps they were spending what it takes to turn this thing around?

    I don’t think you can talk about “overspending” on education as long as teachers are expected to donate 10-20 hours of free labor every week just to make the thing go.

  • Nextset

    Since when can teachers be forced to “donate” free labor to make the thing go? Don’t they have a union?

    It’s nothing new that large organizations will screw the workers – especially if the workers let it happen. That’s why there are unions… and lawyers, and a state labor code.

  • http://www.fcmat.org Pat Hudson

    Dennis Chacanos mismanaged Alameda finances. Then as Oakland supetintendent he settled for a 24% pay raise in 2000 that was a huge factor in the $75 million deficit run up by Oakland.

    As for teacher free labor, most people work to 8 to 5 for 220 days for their annual salary not 8 to 3 for 180 days.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset: I didn’t say they were “forced,” I said they were “expected” to work extra hours if they are to complete the tasks they are expected to do: Prepare lessons, teach classes, assess and grade work, provide individual student feedback, call and meet with parents, attend staff meetings, chaperone student events, etc.

    The reason many of them do it is the same reason they got into teaching — the kids.

    Of course there are teachers who “work-to-rule” but they are generally not happy — how can they be when nobody respects them?

    A couple of years ago, Berkely’s teacher union did “work-to-rule” to protest working with a contract. Most teachers bailed after the first few weeks because it meant assigning and returning no significant work and they felt this was punishing the kids.

    Pat: I’m sorry, but your comment is completely wrong-headed. If you have a teacher working 8-3, they are a ten-year veteran mailing it in teaching math with multiplie choice tests. Everybody else is working at LEAST 40-45 real hours a week, and some in their first few years are pulling 60-65 on a regular basis, both at elementary and up. I have met teachers who take speed to get through all the grading/prep every night

    Here’s my situation: I am paid 38K to work 10 months. This is either a lot of money or a little, depending on your perspective: It’s a hell of a lot better than getting $9 an hour at Starbucks but it’s not particularly high for a professional with a college degree and a post-graduate credential living in the Bay Area. In other words, it’s a decent job for a single person in their 20s but a sort of tough gig for a parent in their 40s (i.e., me). Plus, there are days I fantasize about making lattes instead of grading papers and policing the use of iPods.

    As for Chaconas and the pay raise: In hindsight, it does look like a mistake. However, Oakland’s teacher turnover is OUTRAGEOUS and improving retention of teachers has to be the #1 priority of OUSD — pay is a big part of it. Even with the big raise (and then the partial rollback), Oakland has some of the lowest pay of all surrounding districts and is generally seen as one of the three hardest districts to teach in.

    Chaconas’ priority was clear: Improve the education students were getting. Unfortunately, his timing was bad, coinciding with a massive demographic shift and bust of our state’s boom-and-bust revenue system.

  • http://www.fcmat.org Pat Hudson

    Cranky: Congratulations on starting a new career in your mid-40s since are only making $38,000 as a beginning teacher. Once you get the past the first two years and get tenure you are well on way to guaranteed annual raises due to a salary schedule with minimal review. The bad news since you started in 40s, your pension will be only 50% of annual salary when you retire compared to 85% of your fellow teachers that started in their 20s. By the way, your fellow teachers are averaging making $59,000.


    As for the 10 year Math teacher mailing it in, good luck trying to remove remove them from the profession. Pretty near impossible.

  • cranky teacher

    Dear Pat,

    Thanks for the retirement info. I would not be doing this if I was a practical person — I would have kept my peaceful, dull $85,000 a year corporate job writing memos!

    By noting the “minimal review” are you implying that such weak oversight is teachers’ fault, or the union’s fault? Or, since it is global, is it a weakness in the basic structure of public schools?

    As far as i can see, having worked in corporate environments where the ratio of boss to direct reports is about one to ten, schools are operating without ANY middle management — especially the large schools. High schools have 3-4 administrators for 100+ teachers!How can there be any real oversight with such a ratio, especially when you figure in that teachers are working in isolated classrooms? Sure, you have department heads, but they don’t have real authority or significant perks — it is usually the job nobody in the department wants and gets rotated around.

    If you want to get rid of a teacher who is not doing there job, you have to have significant oversight and a process for them to improve. What we have are drive-by evaluations every few years that amount to an administrator observing two or three lessons.

    There is nothing about the union contracts which are overly onerous or protective, it is the inability of the schools to pay for and pursue adequete management, support, training and evaluation.

    At some of the small schools, you might have 1-2 administrators for 10-12 teachers, which is at least a more realistic ratio. On the other hand, you lose a lot of support staff — secretaries, librarians, specialists, special ed, etc.

    Finally, let’s remember that if you force out teachers working to rule — not, mind you, the ones not working at all — where are all the new recruits? Richmond High opened this year with 80-something vacancies, and at Oakland high schools several science positions have been open all year. Every year intern and TFA teachers with 6-weeks of training are thrown into the deep end to sink or swim…

    Reading between the lines, it sounds like you think teachers are spoiled and a big part of the problem. Is that accurate?

  • John

    I was interested in your comment to Cranky referring to “85% of (her) fellow teachers that started in their 20s earning an average of $59,000″ and able to anticipate full retirement benefits. After 25 years teaching in Oakland my STRS monthly retirement is $1,868 per month. Until recently I was merely endorsing this check over to OUSD to compensate them for the privilege of participating in their “group” medical plan. The following (previous post) give one even greater cause to be cynical about the OUSD.

    I recently had lunch with several OPS retiree friends and disclosed the following to them. They were shocked and committed to take measures to reduce their medical costs (OPS plan participation) by stopping their participation in the OPS plan to grab their money in appreciation of their many years of loyal service to the Oakland Unified School District.

    I previously posted the following under a topic of little general interest so I doubt it got many readers, or maybe it did and no one cares – unless your the one having to choose between paying for health care and groceries. I knew long ago that I could never survive on STRS retirement and established other means of earning income to insure could one day afford to retire. However, not all teachers did so and many have now retired and need to keep every dollar coming in, not give them to OPS!

    Previous post:

    A UNION of Bedfellow Contradiction:
    Here’s an Oakland Public Schools substitute story about substituting one OPS health plan retiree health plan charge for another to make a dishonest (?) buck. It’s really nothing more than a human disinterest story about old retired teachers with 20+ years of service being “rewarded” with a WRITTEN invitation from OPS to continue their OPS Health Plan participation (at their own expense).

    It is certainly reasonable that these honored “years of service qualified” OPS retirees would believe their special status participation in the district’s GROUP health plan would save them on health care costs. After all, it’s only natural to assume they would be paying an amount equal to what OPS pays for its active employees at the group rate, right?

    So when the OUSD’s started charging its valued retirees significantly MORE than what it was paying for its active employees the retirees were none the wiser and it seems OPS much the beneficiary. Wouldn’t this be a sneaky disgusting way to subsidize district health care costs!? But then getting screwed only hurts when you know you’re getting screwed! If the victim doesn’t know perhaps some (at OPS) might say it’s almost humane.

    When I inadvertently learned I was paying above and beyond what the district pays for its active employees I converted to a private health plan, as is legally permitted without risking coverage loss. I am now paying considerably less (for equal services) than I was paying as an appreciated GOUGED (20+ year) OPS RETIREE.

    When I addressed this issue with the teachers union (OEA) & OPS I was told by an OEA Executive Director that, “As a matter of fact, the OEA does not even negotiate the rates for active members.” The OPS State administrator wrote, “These rates are part of the collective bargaining agreement.” Oh well, I guess you can’t fight city hall and the union hall when you’re squished between the contradiction of such prominent (you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours) bedfellows.

    To struggling new OPS teachers and substitutes: DON’T let yourself become an old retired Oakland teacher and VICTIM of district gratitude for your many years of dedicated service. Get some OPS experience and GET THE HELL OUT!

    To Oakland parents: What kind of message does this send to current OPS teachers about making a long term commitment to your children? (See previous paragraph)

  • Nextset

    On the issue of retirement – I’ve been told by my retirement planners to expect to pay $20,000 a year at retirement for health insurance/care for myself only. That message is the same for a receptionist or clerk of my age retiring at the firm. There is no free health insurance at retirement here, only the ability to buy at the price at the time for the group.

    So if anybody thinks they are retiring before 65 when MediCare kicks in they need a spare 20k a year handy before they pay for a postage stamp. And these projections were made some time ago before the crash of the dollar and superinflation of the currency was considered.

    I can’t retire in any way before age 65 (if then), but the prison guards and cops sure can. They retire at 30 years service with free health care for themselves and their spouse.

    Don’t know what the teachers are facing but it can’t be anything like the cops/guards. Of course all this assumes CA doesn’t end up filing for bankruptcy – like United Airlines, etc. I know some of their retirees and I saw what happened to them.

    I suspect the teachers will not be treated well. You are a reflection of the products you create. How they are regarded is how the teachers will be regarded. If I were a HS teacher I’d try real hard to get on at a Jr College.

    Brave New World.