It was unanimous. All seven members of the Oakland school board voted to immediately implement a contract for teachers — the same offer, made in December, that the union membership rejected.
Much of the audience cleared out soon after the vote — including me, because the district’s wireless Internet access was down, so I had to run home and send the story before my 9:15 deadline. But as I headed for the door, I heard Superintendent Tony Smith talking about new beginnings and pay increases for teachers. I stopped and pulled out my laptop again. Here’s what I was able to get down:
We agree that teachers in Oakland deserve higher compensation, deserve deeper appreciation for the work that they’re doing every day. This is an opportunity to finally and fundamentally close the chapter of state administration. … the board moved to protect current salaries. There were no takeaways …
We as staff are dedicated to managing the organization in ways that will increase compensation for all employees. … fundamentally close what’s been happening and open a new chapter. …
As we engage this dialogue, we must address money, we must address conditions and we must address content. We have to change the way we do business. … (asks for) direction from the board … to begin this process anew.
David De Leeuw, bargaining chair for the OEA, was on the other side of the door. He didn’t hear Smith’s comments. He said he looked forward to hearing them later on the news, but he wasn’t ready for an olive branch — or, as he put it “nice words after you slam the door in my face.”
Ben Visnick, the former OEA president who’s running for Gary Yee’s seat on the Oakland school board, said during the meeting that even Randy Ward, “the Boston bully,” bargained with the teachers and reached a settlement “at the 11th hour.”
But the school board members said the collective bargaining process wasn’t working — judging by the two-plus years without a settlement — and that the two sides needed to work together differently. David Kakishiba noted that he’s spent well over a year trying to forge a coalition around a local parcel tax that would generate $20 to $25 million a year for employee salaries. But, he said, “we get stuck on the same issues.”
So, what next? Will teachers go for an extended strike? How will Smith be able to build trust between the union and the district after this unprecedented move?