Frank Knight, a teacher and basketball coach at East Oakland’s Fremont Federation of Small Schools, wrote this piece about the Oakland school district’s efforts to recruit local teachers. -Katy
As an Oakland public school teacher, the topic of finding home-grown teachers really strikes a nerve with me. I am an alumni of Oakland Public Schools. I went to Fremont High School and graduated with the Class of 1995. Now, Fremont is where I now teach AP Government/Economics and World History.
I have been teaching for seven years and find it absolutely rewarding and could not see myself doing anything else (outside of the education field).
My friends who graduated from Oakland’s public schools went into the job force thinking that teaching was not financially sustainable. That they would love to work with kids and have an impact on generations to come, but find it impossible to live a decent lifestyle being a teacher. I think that assumption is absolutely ridiculous! We all know that the Oakland school district is not at the top in terms of pay, but we have so many other ways of making additional income.
I am currently the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Fremont. I also have worked summer school, been the social science chair, worked Cyber High after school, read history essays for district assessments, worked on extended contracts, and taken on various other assignments that help pad the pay scale.
After doing a little research and asking some of my close friends for a ballpark estimate of what they make per year, I found that I was within $3,000 of their yearly pay (except for my friends in sales, of course). I have been able to buy a house, save for my kids’ college education, vacation in Europe, and do many other things that the average person who is considering teaching might not think possible on a teacher’s salary. Plus I get a lot more vacation days!
Don’t get me wrong. I am a staunch supporter of raising teacher pay. I think we are vastly undervalued for what we do. But we have additional vacation days in which we can do other jobs. Many of my colleagues use this time to do things that they enjoy and also get paid for, such as summer camps, educational consulting work, and traveling abroad through grants.
We have had several Teach For America teachers come to our school and do absolutely amazing jobs. When their time is up, they leave for greener pastures, which leaves schools and sometimes entire departments dismantled.
If we recruit teachers who have a investment in Oakland, ones who have lived and gone to school here, people who are not concerned about what everyone else is saying about the city’s public schools, I think we can get good, solid, teachers who will ‘stay the course’ and enrich not only the educational process for our students, but also the community, and serve as an example for future Oakland teachers.