Off again: Contract talks with Oakland teachers

Not too long ago, the Oakland teachers union and the district administration were 23 percentage points away from reaching an agreement on teacher pay, with the union asking for a 20 percent increase to the salary schedule and the district proposing a 3 percent cut.

The two sides are much closer now. Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a resolution before the summer break, they’re not quite close enough.

THE OFFER: Yesterday, the union asked for a three-year, 8 percent pay scale hike, plus a shortened work year (no instructional days would be affected). The administration countered with a 2 percent raise and a 25-student class size cap for kindergarten through third grades, though those provisions would be suspended if the state’s per-student funding dropped by 1 percent or more.

WALKING AWAY: At the end of the session, the union’s bargaining team announced it wouldn’t continue talks this week. Betty Olson-Jones, the union president, said it seemed highly unlikely that an agreement — which would replace the contract terms the district imposed — would be reached by the June 1 deadline both sides had set. The teachers on the bargaining team, she said, didn’t want to leave their students for another two days, right before final exams. This means bargaining might not resume until the fall, as the union doesn’t plan to negotiate during the summer.

SENIORITY RULES RESURFACE: The district’s contract proposal was very similar to its last offer to the union — except it included a provision that would change the current seniority rules for teachers displaced by closed schools, Olson-Jones said. Displaced teachers would attend a hiring fair and principals would be able to offer jobs to the candidates they wanted; the remaining vacancies would be filled as they are now, with the most senior teachers getting to pick where they’ll work, she said.

We discussed seniority rules on this blog more than two years ago, but then the issue faded into the background. Olson-Jones called the proposed changes unfair and the provision “a real poison pill.”

“It becomes a market where you have to sell yourself,” she said.

I think that’s the idea. What do you think?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Owen

    Gasp! Teachers having to sell themselves?!

    This is what other professionals must do all the time — every time they seek a new job or a new client. It keeps them (us) on their toes and motivates self-development.

    I want our teachers to get every cent they deserve — but also to be treated like professionals in every respect.

  • Another O-Town Teacher

    The trouble is that with RBB (Result Based Budgeting), the first thing that principals look at is your salary; more experienced teachers cost more; in some cases, a lot more, and so they are not competitive. If salaries came from Central, as they used to, then principals could actually choose based on other criteria. Unfortunately, this is not the current scenario…

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    In a community with such a long Civil Rights agenda and history, this type of provision not only makes it easy to displace higher cost and most likely older teachers, but it opens up the issue of further undermining Equal Employment opportunity because if you don’t look right, someone else can be chosen based on a personality contest.

  • ousd funemployed

    Principals should be allowed to determine the appropriate balance of experienced teachers and inexperienced teachers for their sites. If they hire all cheap, inexperienced teachers, student performance will suffer (assuming you believe that expensive=good, which is a BIG assumption with teachers). If they hire all the best and most expensive teachers, they will run over budget. In either case, they would be fired. If they strike the right balance, do everything else right, and succeed, their school will improve and will see increased enrollment(and money) in the future.

    And here is a really crazy idea. If a principal does an amazing job at a single school, why not allow him or her to manage a second school? (Perhaps with an extra VP to help with some of the administrative duties….) This seems to make MUCH more sense than having Nexos. To make this plan even better perhaps their second school could be located in a neighborhood with dwindling enrollment (like West Oakland). This would attract the best leaders (and probably some great teachers who will only work with great leaders) into the areas that need them most.

    What we are doing is not working. That is why everyone (including the District staff) is fleeing. Why aren’t we being more innovative?

  • TheTruthHurts

    Maybe by fall the Governor will find more money for the educrats to kick the can down the road and let OUSD give a “real” pay raise. Then again, maybe Greece will pay off its debts and teachers will think it makes sense for principals to have choice in their staff. Not holding my breath.

    Katy, I went an reread that bumping article. It doesn’t sound like OUSD is asking the same thing as back then. What changed and why?

  • Lara

    Why won’t the union bargain during the summer? It seems like it would be nice to get it over while we have a little less on our plates!

  • Starshaped

    1. In a way, Owen is right. If we want to be treated like professionals, we need to expect what every other professional must go through. On the other hand, O-Town is right, you automatically become less disirable if you cost more money because of Results Based Budgets set at the school level. If we are professionals, we should be hired based on our abilities, not the size of our salaries.

    2. Cheuy is right as well. The district may be setting itself up for future law suits about discrimination.

    3. OUSD Fun, experience doesn’t mean the best always, true. But the constant turnover of teachers who never make it past the 3rd year in Oakland isn’t doing wonders for the kids of Oakland either. It should be a balance of newer and older teachers. More experienced teachers have greater resources, class room management techniques, ect. While younger teachers come in with a lot of passion. This is great balance for school. I wish it was like this at every school. Sharing a principal can be tricky though. Your second point, I know my principal works hard everyday and comes in during the weekends to get her paperwork done. She knows the names of all the students. She makes sure that she runs a tight ship. I don’t think she’d last year running two schools.

    4. Lara, I think that they are taking the summer off because it their vacation time. I know it’d be easier to have them suck it up and work the overtime without pay would be a lot nicer for those of us who aren’t on the bargaining team, it wouldn’t be a great summer for them. I know for a fact that several of the bargining team members are going to the big RA in New Orleans this summer, that’s another reason. Also, district people can take their vacation days whenever and are paid all summer long as opposed to the teacher volunteers who have the 10 weeks in the summer without pay.

  • Ms. J.

    I appreciate the comments of each poster on this thread, and feel that I have learned while reading them. And I haven’t felt mad either! Hoorah. Complicated situation, with a lot of nuance.

  • Chris

    It sounds like an implosion so familair with OUSD is looming! I would not be suprised if many of the above aboves begin to leave.

    Just a matter of time before the old way of education is reformed. The current state and cost of education and pensions is disastrous.

    Good luck Mr. Smith……you’ll need it!

  • concerned parent

    When looking at salaries for OUSD teachers, I and others still want to know about those “consultant contracts” that are so expensive. Are they really needed? Why hasn’t anyone addressed this in a accurate, bi-partisan way? A joint OUSD and OEA committee?

    By the way, our Principal and Montera is horrible. We are just finding out the magnitude of the money he has send back to OUSD over the last 3 years he has been here. The teacher brave enough to file suit was turned down as “untimely” by OUSD. Many teachers are scared and have been harrassed. Nothing is done. I guess it will take more lawsuits. Meanwhile, good families and teachers leave OUSD. Check out his history at Lodi on the web–including Michelle Wilbourne’s experiences. Check out the large settlement Lodi paid out for CV034869–$250k. Why do we keep getting these lemons? What I wouldn’t give for a decent principal. Hire decent folks and save alot of money!

  • J.R.

    Where is the money going? Do we want “status quo” or “real” change? Time to wake up parents, and insist on the best education for your child. This system must be gutted and recreated.


  • J.R.

    Lets get this straight,
    The teachers don’t want the district to impose a contract on them, but they want to impose teachers who principals do not want, on those same principals. Can it be any more ironic than that.

  • localed

    a comment on RBB and consultant expenditures: principals and site leaders have discretion on how to best spend their allocated budget. a good site leader will involve all stakeholders in site budget expenditures. with any luck, parents and teachers participate in these leadership decisions. yes, OUSD pays consultants, and in many cases, some schools need specific resources that aren’t available from current staffing, or area of expertise. i think the tired complaint that OUSD spends too much on consultants is a sign the community isn’t involved in the process.