Pink slips

photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

By the end of this week, more than 800 Oakland school district employees will have received a letter warning of a possible layoff. Here’s the pink slip lowdown from the district office (Note: These figures are different than the ones in a flyer that’s circulating at some schools):

  • 762 employees whose salaries come from one of the state’s special-purpose funds — even if it’s just part of their salary. Adult education is taking a big hit, since the state is permanently cutting its funding by about 20 percent. But teachers, support staff, coaches and teachers in other “categorically funded” state programs got the dreaded slip, too.
  • 18 temporary teachers, working on one-year contracts
  • 47 first- and second-year teachers, those without tenure who are sometimes called “probationary teachers.” (Not all of those potential releases are budget-related. At last night’s school board meeting, a number of Joaquin Miller Elementary School parents and teachers protested the pink slipping of second-year kindergarten teacher Sylviane Cohn, saying she received positive evaluations, that she was highly regarded by parents and staff, and that they were suspicious of the school principal’s reasons for letting her go.)
  • 5 untenured administrators (Also, these aren’t necessarily budget related.)

In addition, Flint said, said 61 teachers and supervisors will receive notice that they might be moved to a different school.

Tomorrow, the deadline for teachers to receive these warning letters, happens to be Friday the 13th. If you see a lot of people wearing pink, that’s because it’s been dubbed “Pink Friday.” I’ve heard of at least three Oakland protests planned for 4 p.m. tomorrow — one in Rockridge (51st Street and Broadway), one at the West Oakland BART Station, and one in the Laurel District (35th Avenue and MacArthur).

What programs are being hit the hardest by these potential layoffs and cutbacks? Let us know.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nancy

    It’s very simple: After Pink Friday, all opposed to impact of organizational sociopathic policies and behavior(see CNN today, need to make a favorite pie, and fill it with your favorite flavors mixed with horse doo-doo, then put lots of cream on top, and go on a pie-throwing spree at every public meeting as well as every public place those filthy, dirty, you knonw what care to show their faces after stealing from the common people and our schools.

  • Nancy

    And ditto for all those who purport to defend and uphold, as well as advocate for students, families, and employees who have also taken off with all of the money and failed to do their duty.

  • Nancy
  • Local teacher

    One thing that’s not included in this information is the fact that these notices go out every year to the categorically funded employees and probationary teachers who may not be re-elected for continued service. If I’m not mistaken, these notices are mandated by our contract.

    I don’t recall any protests last year…

    Katy – Is there any way we can get the numbers from last year for comparison’s sake?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Local Teacher:

    These notices are not part of the District/OEA Contract. And, these notices are not mandatory but they are part of the education code.

    If a District does not provide notice then they can not participate in reduction of force (RIF). For a District this will mean that their budget will have to be cut in other areas than personnel. But, personnel is 70-80% of a District’s budget and not cutting personnel puts a huge stress on a district’s budget.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nancy

    Why is “reduction in force” always put forward as the most necessary solution to stress, if any at all, on any budget? According to the articles in the Oakland Bulletin last July and the Oakland Black Caucus, the 200 named top contractors are sucking out of the City of Oakland alone, $200k/year base billing plus overtime/bonus billing equivalent or more than the base billing, just imagine if the real figures for Schools and other State and Federal government entities were honestly published? Perhaps the public officials would cease and desist such RIF ideas and settle outstanding contracts and services to the benefit of citizens they purportedly serve rather than continue to hold out on settling in good faith not only budget crisis but also labor contracts.

    The only public official I can cite with the guts to stand up to such contractor/sociopathic sucking of public money is Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr., in his State of the City Address – Moving Detroit Forward: Please view it in its entirety, Please!


    Reduction in Force is not necessary if serving children is priority.

  • ds

    Testing is the priority, not children. That is why the Hayward district more than doubled their contract with Sylvan Learning, at the same time as laying off teachers. When teachers are teaching reading 1-3rd to 34 children, instead of 10 early or late birds, it will ensure even greater profits for Sylvan, ETS and the publishers of the remedial reading curriculums, all pretty much the same group of people as administrators. This is no different from the Wall Street debacle. It’s a diversion of funds from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy.The ‘failing schools’ intervention curriculum would never be tolerated at wealthy schools. The only people who can stop this are the parents, who need to step up, at least now. The only good to come of this, as I see it, is that dozens of ‘teachers on assignment’will go back into the classroom instead of doing the admin’s (local, state and federal) work for them.

  • Nextset

    One significant thing about all this is why good people would work in an industry – the public schools – that is such a bad place to be.

    Alturism is not helpful in a survival of the fittest world. Unless you are married to a good provider, as many teachers I know are, the workers are at risk if they stay in a nuthouse environment.

    If you want to be a teacher you could work in the state’s Jr Colleges, Universities or private schools where the disfunction and mistreatment of workers is relatively less.

    Ask this question – are the CA public secondary schools really here to “educate”? Or is there another agenda?

    You know the quality of an organization by the way it treats it’s workers. The reasons why are not important.

  • Katy Murphy

    Local Teacher: Yes, a certain number of new teachers and (possibly all) contract teachers receive pink slips each year, regardless of the budget. In fact, I just checked last year’s blog post and found the same number of new teachers who were pink slipped last year.


    What’s different this year, as I understand it, is the large number of categorically funded staff who are getting these notices — such as adult ed teachers. I’ll try to get a comparison number for 2008.

  • private school teacher/public school mom

    Two comments:

    Private schools can be “nuthouses” too– I work at one. Also…In three years at this school, I have never seen my contract before 3 months into the actual year that I’m teaching, and I’m totally an at-will employee, can be fired at any time.

    Also, private schools often test even more that the public- my child attends public and tests for about 1 hour per day during a part of the testing window (about 1 1/2 wks). My private school 3rd grade students test for 2-4 hours per day over 10 days, and we are required to prep them for weeks and weeks to keep the scores up. Private schools don’t want parents to know this and downplay the testing, but there are very few (Park Day, for one) that totally eschew the testing- the rest are waaay worse about it that OUSD…

  • aly

    i am a categorically funded employee who received no pink slip last year, but was greeted by a certified letter at 10 am last saturday informing me that i could be out of a job next year.

    given the nature of my school and the high quality of my work in the last two years, i am comfortable believing my coordinator and principal when they tell me i am safe. i am happy to keep my job, i am happy to serve my students, and they are the only reason i stay in this field. i am sad for the people who, throughout our state, are not as fortunate as i am and will fall victim to the least sensible budget cut we have ever faced.

  • Katy Murphy

    A little more detail on the categorical letters, in response to Local Teacher’s question:

    In 2008, the district send out more than 600 letters informing categorically funded employees that they could lose their jobs or be reassigned, but few were actually laid off, according to OUSD spokesman Troy Flint.

    Flint didn’t have a break-down for 2009, but he said it’s likely to be similar.

  • Teri Gruenwald

    For a good portion of my 20 years of teaching, pink slips were not routinely distributed to temporary and probationary teachers. But it is a growing trend, and like so many other growing trends in public schools, it is a disheartening and destructive trend.

    I’ve been talking with my colleagues who have been around for as long as me or even longer. We remember the days when at the secondary level we had 25 kids to a class. Now we have, at minimum, 34. We remember teaching kids, not standards. We remember when we used to have aides in our classes for the English Language Learners and Title 1 kids. And we remember there being far more adults hired for other things at our sites, such as the person who specifically worked with families in financial crisis, who made home visits, and who counseled families. We remember when our librarian was full time and she had a full time clerk. We remember more adults working in the front and student offices. We remember going to conferences and even getting reimbursed for some items for our classrooms for which we spent our own money. We even remember lunches being better and healthier, as well as cheaper, than they are now. Yet we have the largest special needs population in the United States–kids qualifying for free and reduced lunch and kids learning English as a second language.

    California has the 10th largest economy in the world, and we are now reduced to #50 in school funding, down from 47 before the budget was passed. I participated in Pink Friday in my own district, but nothing will really change until not only the parents, but the general public start expressing outrage. There is no reason why California can’t fund its school system to the degree we need them to be funded. But we need to enact serious changes in how the legislature can pass budgets and how communities can raise funds to pay for schools. Until then, we are stuck with what we’ve got.

  • Nancy

    I agree with Teri G.

    Most of those jobs, performed by District employees in years past at a much lower cost savings, have been farmed out to 3rd party contractor privateers who have escaped from any form of regulation or oversight and who have ultimately raped “the people” and taken off with their money without accountabillity.

    Until the community expresses outrage and demands that all such contracts be cancelled and replaced with local people accountable for their own money and education system nothing will change.

    Remember the Boston Tea Party. True Patriots need to emerge despite attacks from those in bed with eachother and putting personal relationships above professional judgement among other things.

  • Local Teacher

    Katy – Thank you for researching these numbers.

    So it seems like we’re in the same ballpark as last year…

    It seems like so much of this is being used as political maneuvering by the union and the media as yet another reason why the district and system are failing.

    I’ve heard so many teachers comment on whether or not they’ll receive pink slips with little to no understanding of the how and why of the process – the only thing they know is what they are hearing – which is primarily gossip. How is this helpful to anyone? Especially our students?

  • aly

    Local- the problem isn’t that teachers don’t understand the process; it is that it happens at all. my favorite part is, after speaking with many people who *do* receive a notice each year, you don’t ever get a confirmation that you still have a job. all you get is a pink slip and then live under a “no news is good news” uncertainty. wonder all summer if i’ll truly have a job? no thank you.

    the fact that people get told each year they may not have a job when they ARE going to have a job seems irresponsible to me, and the system needs to address that; teachers (and other district employees) should not have to live with that each year. if they gossip about possibly not having a job next year, that is their right.

  • http://jeanswatercolors.blogspot.com Jean Womack

    I remember being a student teacher in a San Francisco high school. I had two master teachers in art. They had both been layed off at another high school years earlier, when it was reconstituted. Then after a couple of years one got a job at a middle school and was able to get her friend hired too. They finally started teaching at a high school again.

    One master teacher limited her class size. The kids were rooted to their chairs. They dared not get up and walk around the class without permission from her. The other teacher–the one who had gotten the job at the middle school that got them both rehired–let students into her classroom until they were sitting shoulder to shoulder. There were many more students than she was required to accept. I think she figured that as long as she had students, she had a job. Also, she really liked those students, even the ones who stood up in class and swore when I walked into the classroom. That’s something to think about when you are talking about limiting class sizes. Limiting class sizes means hiring more teachers, so less money for other things.

    I don’t make judgements, just observations.

    In the community colleges, there are some oldtimers who can teach with only four students in their class, but most of them are required to have at least 18 students for the class to be held.

  • http://jeanswatercolors.blogspot.com Jean Womack

    At one San Francisco middle school where I substituted quite a lot, a math/science teacher had killed herself before I started subbing there. The teachers began limiting the class sizes. I haven’t been working there for several years, but I see on the internet that they closed that middle school.

  • http://jeanswatercolors.blogspot.com Jean Womack

    I don’t know anything about what Park Day does during the regular school year. I do know they have a very nice summer arts camp. The camp directors and teachers hover over the children all the time. The children get lots of attention and they enjoy the art activities, and the other activities, like reading and water play, games and computers. The camp has a policy of inclusion and they discourage the children from forming cliques to exclude their classmates. I was very glad to be a teaching assistant there.

    Regarding testing, I do know that when I applied for Contra Costa College in the 1960’s, I had to take an entrance exam. I thought they had scored the test wrong, so I challenged the test. I still remember the question. It was about that something was between two people and among three people. I checked “among” and they said it was wrong. So I challenged the test. They let me in.

  • cranky teacher

    It is hardly a morale builder to receive a layoff notice every March in your first few years, or even beyond. Principals will often not confirm your re-hire status until the Master Schedule is set, which is usually not until June or even July.

    In districts which are attractive to teachers, pink slips are convenient for the system: Mediocre or poor teachers can be cut loose without having to show cause, and new recruits brought in.

    However, RIF pink slips are damaging to poor or chaotic districts like this one: The best young teachers often start looking around for new jobs when they get the layoff notice, “just to be safe,” then take those jobs when they realize they’ll be making more money in a more sane district (or even a different career). This only adds to the district’s endemic problems with turnover and attrition.

    Because of this, Oakland has been less “wild and crazy” with their pink slips in recent years than some districts, where all temp. and prob. teachers can expect a slip.

    Another problem with RIFs is that they can limit a teacher’s crucial development between year one and two. If you don’t know you have a job, you also can’t assume you’ll be teaching the same courses next year, or the same grade if you’re K-5. So you start divorcing from the process of assessing and building next year’s curriculum.

    Remember, 50% of teachers nationwide don’t make it to their fifth year in the profession.

  • John

    Oh well, at least Aly’s job is “safe!” All that money to bail out AIG & the banks when it could be going to public education! Teachers UNITE! Grab your picket signs and MARCH MARCH LEFT LEFT MARCH on those Obama bailed out corporate interests! Tell em you want some of that bail out money!

    Pleeeease be careful not to get splinters toting picket signs. You don’t want to risk getting a splinter infection that can’t be treated if you lose your job and health care. Even illegal aliens are increasingly being shut out of free (for them too) health care services these days (e.g. Sacramento County). After all if they can’t get free health care why the hell should you!?

    I’m sure Obama will have no objection to O’Connell transferring BIG BUCKS from the OUSD budget to local Charter Schools (“OUSD VS O’Connell). It’s the kind of charter change Obama demononstrably believes in. Hope you’re all enjoying “the change we (you) can believe in!”

    I would only plead that NO MATTER how bad it gets, even to the extent of losing your job or having to take a pay cut…KEEP PAYING THOSE UNION DUES, even if you’ve been terminated and are no longer constrained to do so. After all, it’s the left thing to do.

  • Nextset

    I’m afraid that the people I know – peers if you will – have their kids in private schools anyway. They tell me that funding cuts to Public Schools are fine with them because they have such a low regard for public schools (this is mainly the Los Angeles Crowd – they equate public schools & LAUSD with ghetto culture). Taxpayers with money want to use education funds for “better” schools and the Charters & Church/Private Schools feel “better”.

    And another thing that’s important. We cannot expect to maintain well functioning public hospitals, schools or public anything else while maintaining open borders. We have no funding to take care of the 3rd world. OUSD may not have this first in mind, but Los Angeles Unified is the biggest district in the state and take a look at the demographics there. The middle class loathes that district as shown by the shifting enrollment demographics. They don’t want to put any more money into LAUSD than into King Hospital. In both instances they want them kept in existance only to contain the ghetto clients away from the higher class taxpayers.

    Until the state public schools reform in a way to pursuade the public that they are a meaningful investment, they should expect a lot of funding cuts. People don’t want to throw good money after bad.

    I wish things were different. CA public schools were once the envy of the world.

  • http://ask alondra

    is it really nesisery to take away our teachers why do they have to get involved with childerens education dont people know we are the future