Oakland teachers start a blog on strike (and more)

OEA flierFrom the ongoing Oakland teacher contract dispute have emerged at least two new sources of information about the struggle.

Teachers have started a blog, recently posting a downloadable flier (cropped and posted here) and news about canvassing neighborhoods this weekend. The district administration hasn’t started its own website, but it has created a page to explain its position.

On a side note, I can’t find anyone who can remember a teacher contract being imposed in Oakland, as the school board might vote to do tomorrow night. Do you know if this would be a first?

I’ll be tweeting live at the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at 1025 Second Ave. If you’re not on Twitter, that’s OK, you can see the updates anyway by clicking here.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Carolyn

    Headline from blogsite: “Join us the weekend of 4/24-25 to canvas neighborhoods!” Perhaps the teachers should spend some time with their dictionaries instead. The word, of course, should be “canvass.”

  • Nextset

    Unions are important. Workers need to work together for protection from abuse and to satisfy common needs. For independent contractors we have trade guilds which serve the same function.

    If the teachers decide they need to strike, more power to them. Workers of the world unite. They have exactly the same rights as the Air Traffic Controllers did.

  • Cranky Teacher

    If they do impose the contract, they are basically forcing the union into a corner with no choice but to take a more serious work action.

    Work-to-rule is one possibility short of an open-ended strike — all teachers working precisely to the contracted hours and obligations. Berkeley teachers did this a few years back and it seemed to help lead to a settlement. However, it was also very difficult for teachers to keep to work-to-rule after the first week or two.

  • Ms. J.

    I am trying to learn not only from the blog posts but also the comments. I am trying to be open-minded and not defensive. However the snide tone of many comments (for instance number 1) makes it very difficult. Such a sarcastic and even hateful attitude crops up a lot, not only here but in the editorial pages of many newspapers. It makes me wonder what happened to the people who are writing these comments when they were in school, that they have such anger towards all teachers. I have been teaching for 12 years, and of course I’ve come across incompetence, inability to spell (or distinguish homophones), and laziness in various colleagues, but the majority of the teachers I’ve known (both as a teacher and as a student) have been good, thoughtful people who have hoped for the best for their students.
    That observation does not, of course, answer the call for educational reform. But I feel disappointed and angry when I read such smartass remarks. Yes, the people writing the blog should edit (I noticed another mistake on the blog myself). And teachers, like others, should be accurate. But why be so mean?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Ms. J, luckily our tone on the Internet is not really indicative of public opinion.

    Along those lines, check these survey stats from this report:


    A whopping 94 percent of parents nationally who got to choose their public school report they are either “very satisfied” (64%) or “somewhat satisfied” (30%) with their children’s teachers. Less than one percent were “very dissatisfied.”

    For those parents whose children go to a public school that was assigned to them without choice, the numbers are slightly lower: 91% (57/34 split). Three percent were “very dissatisfied.”

    For private school, both religions or not, the number of satisfied parents is at 97%, with a higher split for “very satisfied” (76/21 parochial, 74/23 nonsectarian).

    All numbers are national, from 2007.

    Now, do I believe nine out of ten teachers at ANY school are actually that good? No. It is very uncomfortable for parents to admit they have their children spending the day with incompetent teachers. Nevertheless, this should show that teachers are hardly the band of psycho do-nothings some posters on here would have you believe.

  • harlemmoon

    The Washington Post ran a fairly comprehensive story detailing the money woes of public schools in every corner of the country.


    Really, the question is: From where shall the money come when there is none?

    By now, we’ve all been touched by the economic downturn. Even the monied among us now admit that the past 18 months have been less than pleasant.

    But is the solution to be found in verbal warfare, unseemly accusations, strikes?

    Come on, Oakland, we can do better.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Ms. J. I agree with you. For some reason when people disagree, they feel the need to make it personal. I think it’s a human trait – an annoying one at best.

    Truth is there is a disagreement about the ability to spend money without clarity about where it will come from. The union says, “change your priorities” and the district says “there is no money”.

    In Truth (I like that word), it’s just not that simple either way. Sure, teachers are a higher priority than security guards, but is it wise to fire security guards to give teachers a raise in a district like Oakland?

    For the district, can they divert funds that are being used elsewhere toward teacher pay which they acknowledge is too low?

    I don’t know the answer, but in this economic environment I’d be VERY cautious about making any financial commitments unless God himself was co-signing. There doesn’t seem firm financial ground anywhere in California.

  • J.R.

    To be fair to the good teachers(which are the majority), the kids and their competent hardworking teachers should be “THE” priority over lawyers and the multitudes of redundant paper-pushing bureaucrats at every level of the education system. The prison system could stand for some severe trimming as well.

  • livegreen

    Ms.J, Comment #1 was not “snide” or “mean” or showing “anger”. It was mildly sarcastic, more reminiscent of J.Leno’s headlines. I do agree it was unproductive, if somewhat irrelevant.

    I sympathize with the teachers, and agree that our societies priorities are not aligned as they should be. However that is not something within OUSD’s purvue. Given the economy & OUSD’s vast deficit, where will the money come from?

    Can the OEA structurally and productively help offer OUSD solutions for the massive deficit to find the money?

    As a citizen and parent & given the situation I sympathize with both sides. In principal I agree with the teachers, but don’t understand: where will the money come from?

  • Ann

    Parents have no lobby because we have no time. Teachers are often our only allies and schools are the environment our children live in each day, they have a huge impact on our lives. I have to say, I feel of sense of disappointment and hopelessness with the Oakland Unified School District. Since Tony Smith has come into office, he has buried us in PR, meetings and “parent ware” but he seems completely incapable of working with teachers. It is like having a General who doesn’t talk to his troops; and who instead engages in complicated PR campaigns and political intrigue.
    Superintendent Smith was hired to manage schools, the district exists not to justify itself or engage me but to support what is happening in the classroom with children and teachers. Instead of finding areas of agreement and working with teachers; it has been non-stop bickering and blame. Last year polling showed that Oakland parents would gladly support a teacher’s pay tax, instead of writing a clear focused initiative the OUSD turned it into mush and opened a contentious debate on charter schools and funding. Then they ran the mushy initiative, Measure “N”, and it failed. The OUSD still has a committee dedicated to bickering about this. It’s not that complicated, run a Charter Tax and Public Teacher Pay Tax separately, and don’t try to skim off the cash for the administrative costs, the public won’t go for it
    In the current economic climate having a raging PR battle between our children’s teachers and the OUSD creates anxiety, fear and mistrust. This battle has disrupted our children’s education. The savings achieved by grinding teachers on salaries cannot possibly make up for the harm done to children and families. Both sides need to take steps toward compromise, Oakland parents need to know that the OUSD can work with their teachers to support our children. We don’t need more meetings Mr. Smith; we need the leadership.

  • Ann

    If the District imposes a contract, there will surely be ligation and complaints to the labor board. This will likely be a long, expensive and polarizing process. It will take the disagreements out of the meeting room and into the courtroom at our childrens’ expense.

    Imposition means the district is trying to declare the strike illegal and they plan to discipline and terminate participants.

    It is a very aggressive move and signals that the fight is not about money, but more about the teacher’s right to collectively bargain.

    It will attract national attention and money from charter lobbyists, private schools and the labor movement.

    It will bring Tony Smith, the national attention and help his career and it will be catastrophic for the children and families who have to endure a protracted battle between a district and its teachers. It will accelerate the flight of students and talented teachers from the OUSD. This is sad and tragic for everyone except Mr. Smith who will become an instant hero of the right wing.

  • Another_Oakland_Teacher

    The question of “Where will the money come from?” is an excellent one.

    There ARE some simple answers. Oakland Unified is demonstrably top-heavy with administration and non-classroom staff. Administrators make more, on average, than do classroom teachers. Our administrator to teacher ratio is higher than it should be.

    The state of California actually FINED us for having too high a ratio of folks out of the classroom to folks inside the classroom. Causing us to, um, pay the administrators, and then pay the fines for paying the administrators, and then say there isn’t any money for staff who aren’t administrators.

    Question of priorities, indeed.

  • livegreen

    AOT, I thought Tony Smith said most upcoming cuts WOULD come from Admin. IF this is the case, is it enough to eliminate the deficit AND give teachers raises? If not then more funding still is needed…

  • livegreen

    AOT, I thought Tony Smith said most upcoming cuts WOULD come from Admin. IF this is the case, is it enough to eliminate the deficit AND give teachers raises? If not then more cutting still is needed…

  • Another_Oakland_Teacher

    Good point, Livegreen. It may be necessary to cut compensation as well as cut number of administrative staff. I, for one, would be amazed and impressed if Tony Smith started with his personal 6% raise, then chatted with the board members about their own recent increase in compensation.

  • livegreen

    AOT, Thanks for the good points about Tony Smitth & Board raises. They have at least equal responsibility here, esp when they’re giving themselves raises…

  • TheTruthHurts

    Although the aggregate money spent on the Board and Mr. Smith doesn’t amount to much, it certainly doesn’t smell right.

  • Starshaped

    1st, administration cost are being cut…by eliminating adult education. We pay over $200,000 to Vince Matthews as the state appointed administrator and another 6 figure salary to Tony Smith AND he got a 6% raise this year. I may be a little less pissed off if Tony Smith acutally took a pay cut to the standard of a 30 year veteran teacher. That would show go faith in being part of the team and trying to move forward. He hasn’t done that. 2nd, the priorities in this district are well known, its to promote charter schools and take corporate money. It is to spend freely on consultants that tell teachers how to teach with whatever they are selling instead of having teacher run in-services that actually promote real teaching. It is to pack as many kids as possible into one classroom and expect that the test score will continue to rise. Oakland has been the most improved district in California but that won’t continue if there are too many kids in each class, teachers from the flatland schools are let go because they actually care about their kids and try to make a difference, and parents that are trying to get ahead and get their GED can’t because the services have been eliminated. The school district is shooting its self in the foot and they are too stoopid to know that they’ve been shot.

  • TheTruthHurts

    OK, Starshaped, you’ve been appointed Supt of OUSD and you have to cut $85 million by July 1. You’ve got 3 months. Your total budget is $650 million. Your first action is to fire Vince Matthews and make Tony Smith work on $70K. You’ve now saved about $450K give or take.

    You cut the 120 schools to 60 and fire 100 administrators (Principal and Assistant Principals). After the parent revolt that ensues, you’ve at least cut $10 million.

    What next? Just about $75 million to go.

    Maybe you cut contractors. Those special ed kids can walk to school – who needs busing services. Just take out loans to pay the lawsuits you lose because you fire all the lawyers. Cancel that copying contract – kids don’t need assignments on paper – let those kids in East Oakland do them online at home or on their iphones. That’ll get you another $5 million maybe.

    OK, getting closer, only $70 million to go.

    I’m outta ideas. Help me out? While you’re at it, cut another $20 million or so to pay for that 15% raise teachers deserve.

  • Adult Educator

    Adult Ed is NOT being eliminated. What IS being eliminated is the requirement to have 64 FTE contracted teachers, who are on the same (or equivalent) salary schedule as k-12 teachrs. Adult Ed will now be free to hire hourly teachers at half the salary with no benefits.

    Simultaneously, Adult Ed adminisration is being downsized from 10.5 administrators (the director is .5 because she is also .5 director of East Bay ROP) to 4.5. For some reason, the senior administrators are being kept while the program admininistrators (who are basically the principals) are being consolidated. No one understands this.

  • mike

    Good Evening teachers in Oakland. I hope your school board and association can reach an agreement before you need to strike. If you do however , remain strong and united and know that you are fighting the good fight for public education. I am in the Capistrano Unified School District and getting ready to start the 3 day or our teachers strike. United We Stand. Best of luck in your efforts in Oakland. From Mike in South Orange County CA.