In Oakland schools, the bumping is about to begin

Jan Seagren, secretary at Grass Valley Elementary

When it comes to school employees, most education coverage focuses on teachers, principals and superintendents. (Guilty!) In the last week, though, I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for the role of other school employees in making schools run smoothly.

Last month, 313 Oakland school secretaries, security officers, library clerks and other employees were told they’ll soon be laid off, demoted or reassigned to someone else’s job. It’s happening through a seniority-based “bumping” process that — because of its ripple effect — will affect most of the schools in the district in one way or another. No one I interviewed could remember this happening on such a large scale in Oakland.

I wrote a story about the people affected by the bumping process. It will be in tomorrow’s paper. You can find the online version here.

If you think 125 layoffs and 188 transfers is bad, state cuts to childhood development centers — if approved by the legislature — could mean the elimination of up to 180 more “classified” jobs in Oakland Unified. And the layoff rules for classified union employees, which are written into the state’s education law, would begin all over again in the fall.

How is this affecting your school?

Katy Murphy

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

  • arcoiris

    Our admin. assistant of 6 years is getting bumped. She has been with us since the opening of our school and was a part of our school’s design team for a couple of years prior to our opening.

    She knows our students & systems like the back of her hand. She can get contracts through like no one can. Contractors ask other secretaries to contact her to find out how things get done.

    If the bumping happened a handful of sites, the impact may not be so bad. Knowing that it’s happening at many sites is troubling. The beginning of the school year is one of the most hectic times for the front office staff. Considering the learning curve of familiarizing oneself at a new site, I expect many delays at the new sites.

    I wonder how this will impact the “Expect Success” campaign and commitment to improving customer service.

  • Adult Ed Teacher

    While I completely support seniority, as it does keep higher-paid employees from being arbitrarily laid off, there needs to be some common sense. At Neighborhood Centers Adult School, which primarily serves ESL students from China and Latin America; we are losing our Chinese and Spanish speaking support staff. The new administrative assistant who is supposed to be assigned is monolingual English speaking. And we are losing about 2/3 of our teaching staff. Oddly though, despite the huge reduction in teaching staff (and the subsequent reduction in instructional programming), adult ed has “managed” to hold on to almost all of its administrators. Teachers and support staff are, apparently, more expendable than administrators…

  • wishful

    I know it sounds terrible, but I hope that the above admin asst gets to bump ours (2 years). She gets nothing done and is inept. We still don’t have emergency contact cards for most students and the year is almost over. She spends the day surfing the web or chatting on the phone with friends, ignoring people who need help. I miss the last school secretary, who was a total gem in every way.

  • wishful

    My question is why are some people being bumped and people with less seniority are staying? I know there are different job classifications, but it seems like inequity even within the same category.

    Katie, can you find out exactly how HR decides who gets bumped? It does not appear to be just based on seniority, which is probably in their (SEIU) contract agreement.

  • Starshaped

    Our wonderful secretary is being let go and our part time attendance clerk is being bumped. I’m so bummed. Our secretary has improved the office ten-fold and has streamlined many processes. I don’t think our next secretary will be able to hold a candle to her. I’m so sad to see her go.

  • Pragmatist

    I assume this is policy is thanks to another employee union completely out of touch with how the merit-based world operates?

  • TheTruthHurts

    Listen, once I put my time in, what does it matter how effective I am? Why should it matter that I bump into a school with Spanish speaking parents and I speak English? Not my fault.

    A long time ago, I was told, “you get what you pay for.” OUSD, and I guess public employers, pay for job security over performance. That’s what they get.

    I think there should be some recognition for “putting in your time” just not to the detriment on service to the public that’s paying the bills. Maybe they can work that out.

  • J.R.

    Another asinine concept forged on the anvil of mediocrity(or worse). The world is your oyster provided you have a pulse and have been at it a long time, if you are good or not has no relevance. Wow that is so simple.

  • harlemmoon

    And now the devastation begins.
    Followed quickly by the wringing of hands and the rending of clothes.

    Can someone please explain how, against this pathetic backdrop, OEA can dare to ask for more money – and threaten a strike. Are we not totally arrogant and disconnected here?

  • Jill

    Have these secretaries, SSOs, library clerks, etc. actually been laid off or is that still to be determined? Your article says the District is “about to” and the way I read your article there was still some hope that this could be avoided through furloughs, etc. as in Mt. Diablo School District. If it could be avoided, when would people know? Would a school community be able to have any influence if they tried to advocate to keep their personnel?

  • Katy Murphy

    The employees have received final layoff (or reassignment) notices, but the district could, theoretically, rescind them before the beginning of the next school year if an alternative were to be worked out.

    It sounds to me like SEIU is considering furloughs to avoid further layoffs/bumping in the fall (if 85 percent of the childhood development center funding get eliminated, as the governor proposed, it would affect about 180 more jobs), but I don’t know how seriously it’s being considered for the 125 employees who’ve already received layoff notices.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Katy, Does state law require bumping, or just that seniority be respected when cutbacks are made? With teachers there is seniority, but no bumping. A senior teacher whose position is eliminated takes a vacant position (and someone who is new may be laid off to create that position) but other teachers are not displaced.

  • Katy Murphy

    If there’s a general layoff for tenured classroom teachers (which hasn’t happened since I’ve covered OUSD, in part because turnover is so high), those with the least experience are laid off and — if their jobs haven’t been eliminated — replaced by their more senior colleagues.

    The main difference in support staff layoffs is the sheer number of job classifications (particularly for clerical staff), and the fact that some workers have held more than one job in the district over the years. If there’s no one in their own classification (with less seniority) left to bump, they will be transferred/demoted to a type of job that they previously held, thus beginning a new round of bumping for workers in that classification.

    This also might answer one reader’s question about why some clerical staff who are relatively new to their jobs weren’t bumped. They could have a newer job title that few people have had.

    To name a few classifications, each with their own seniority lists: junior clerk, senior clerk, clerk typist, administrative assistant I, administrative assistant II, office manager, staff secretary and receptionist.

    In addition to those titles, there are 10-month and 12-month positions, which are treated as separate classifications.

    I asked Troy Christmas why the district and union don’t reduce the number of job titles, which would simplify the process and reduce the ripple effect of bumping. He said that’s “long overdue,” but that it requires the district and the union to agree on the job descriptions and salaries of the new, merged jobs.

    It takes several district staffers about 10 working days to figure out the bumping, though, as is. That’s got to add up!

    A long answer, but I hope it answers your question.

  • CarolineSF

    In San Francisco, not only does this happen with a districtwide shuffle, but the district non-certificated staff are actually part of the city of San Francisco workforce — so school secretaries have been bumped by staff who have never even set foot in a school since their childhood!

    But to show that things are always more complicated than they seems, that system has worked to the benefit of those school district employees too, because it has also given them access to higher-paid City of San Francisco jobs.