Teacher union hunts for `hidden vacancies’

scavenger hunt sketch from ryanrocketship's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsLet’s say a teacher announces in April she’s retiring at the end of the school year. The teacher tells the district’s HR department, and if that position needs to be filled, the HR department tells the teachers union, which tells its members they may apply for that job.

Teacher contracts in many districts allow displaced teachers (usually, the most junior teachers from schools that have eliminated positions, teachers from shuttered schools, or those returning from leave) to choose another job from the list of openings, based on their credentials and seniority. 

The process is called “priority placement,” and it ended June 4. As of today, however, at least 18 of the teachers need to be placed, and the district is obligated to find jobs for them before hiring outside the organization, according to the union president, Betty Olson-Jones.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Principals hate this process — not because the displaced teachers are bad, but because they have no say about who will be joining their staffs. So some administrators keep their openings a secret from the district’s HR department until the displaced teachers have all found jobs and they can hire whomever they want (well, anyone who’s still looking for a teaching job in late June or July). They might, for example, ask a teacher to hold off on submitting his retirement or resignation paperwork until then.

The practice is so common there’s a term for it: “hiding vacancies.”

The Oakland teachers union is asking its members to help expose this open secret. It posted the district’s official vacancy list on its website, and is encouraging teachers to report any openings that are missing from it.

The union’s e-mail listserv has been ablaze with reported violations, including a number of Craigslist ads — though some have since been removed. Someone found a June 7 job listing, apparently placed by people with the district’s Middle School Staffing Initiative, for positions that weren’t included on the district’s vacancy list. (Although the ad was posted three days after the priority placement period ended, Olson-Jones said some of the displaced teachers — those still without jobs — are eligible for those positions.)

Another teacher wrote in about a principal who acknowledged asking departing teachers to keep their decisions hush-hush. Others wrote about instances in which teachers felt pushed into certain positions without adequate time to consider their options.

The district administration, as you might remember, proposed a compromise last month: a system that would let principals interview interested candidates from a pool of displaced teachers before the seniority preference kicked in. San Francisco Unified, where Superintendent Tony Smith last worked, does it that way.

The union leadership is opposed to such a change. So for now, the priority placement rules still stand — except for those who manage not to follow them.

Katy Murphy

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

  • J.R.

    Well, there we go Harold, I’m glad to hear it, I love dedicated teachers and we can agree to disagree.

  • Cranky Teacher

    # J.R. Says:
    June 16th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    “Tell me that is your last card to play, the “I teach a room of nothing but gang-bangers card”, well then it just isn’t your fault. There, do you feel better? Good back to reality: I have spent years in those classrooms, and I have witnessed it all. Even in the worst of schools in every classroom there are kids that want to learn. I can promise you something with absolute certainty, that you can leave the teaching profession any time you wish, it is your choice, and no one will force you to stay.”

    WTF are you talking about? What isn’t my fault? I never said all my kids were gang-bangers or that anybody didn’t want to learn. My point was that you are oversimplifying teaching until it is non-recognizable to anybody who has actually taught. You said experience doesn’t matter, that it is a simple point a to point b activity. I think that is ridiculous, IMHO.

    Or are you one of those folks like Sen. Tom Pawlenty I saw talking on the teevee about how we should replace state colleges with downloadable “iColleges.”

    Such things exist already, of course — they used to be called libraries and now they are called the Internet. There will always be some folks who can just digest a textbook or audiotape and move on, with knowledge retention, whether because that’s the way their brain works or because their motivation (joy or fear both work) is so high. For the rest, the vast majority, they need teachers or learning facilitators or whatever you want to call them.

    And of COURSE I can leave teaching whenever I want. What is your point? I like teaching, even though it is hard and a bit crazy-making sometimes. I just want you to deal with reality: We don’t have ENOUGH good teachers who want to do the difficult job so nobody systematically goes after the bad ones and you want to blame the weak man in all this — the union — as the bad guy.

    Now you want to bully me — “love it or leave it.” Screw that. We get it: You, like me, are frustrated by the status quo. Yet, you don’t want to hold anybody else accountable but the unions — not the taxpayers, not the officials, not the corporations, not the private “consultants.”

    But enough of that, J.R. Why don’t you offer a proposal you would make to the unions so they would give up seniority. Would you offer to increase the total compensation given to ALL teachers, as has been done in sports league negotiations? I.e., OUSD would promise to put 60% of all ADA toward teacher salaries, in exchange for a major relaxation of tenure and seniority structures.

    Now, where would the money come from? Nobody is willing to raise taxes. In D.C., the super went begging to corporations to fund her pioneering merit teacher program. Is that repeatable across the country?

    You want/guarantee unions are just going to dry up and blow away on there own. But can you tell me with a straight face this comes from a pragmatic place, or is it just a thinly disguised political position?

  • jenna

    Cranky Teacher: We did want to raise property taxes to give teachers a raise but the union took out ads to tell us to vote no. Until the ads our neighborhood (Dimond) all agreed to vote yes – the unions said to vote no and now we have this economy and people don’t want to add to the tax burden.

    The teachers and the union need to take responsibly for the stance in the last vote. You took a stand – now it is time to live up to the consequences.

  • Owen

    Whew! Take a couple of days away from this blog and look what develops…

    There are many sub-threads here, so I’ll try to tie a few together by re-conveying my personal convictions about all this:

    -I deeply respect teachers, and by and large I’ve loved the OUSD teachers my kids have had. But they had one who was ineffective, negligent, even abusive — and I believe she was the highest paid of all of them.

    -Any professional who gives their all to their job and thereby achieves success deserves to be compensated more than those who just manage to show up day after day, year after year.

    -We’re smart. Evaluating teachers fairly is very hard — but we can figure it out.

    -Strong teachers like YAOT (above) deserve far more than the $67K s/he earns, but his/her union prevents change that would allow that.

    -If I were a strong, confident teacher and learned that my union campaigned against a parcel tax that would have gotten me a raise I’d stop paying my dues tomorrow.

  • J.R.

    We’ve all seen ample evidence that the union has shot itself in the foot on several occasions(the parcel tax fiasco),and have taken a once highly respected profession and turned it into a shameful mess to pursue aims for the union:

    1. political clout

    2. union has teacher pay and benefits are uniformly high(except at the bottom tier) even for those of questionable ability(gotta keep those union dues coming).

    Re: union membership I found out that teachers can opt out of the union($1000)per month if you join and only $500-$750 if you don’t, what a bargain.The mafia would be proud.

  • J.R.

    Did I put an extra zero on that?

  • Ann

    Responding to the post
    Sara Says:
    June 15th, 2010 at 11:31 pm
    “At least the TFAs are well educated, unlike many of the teachers in their 50s and 60s.”

    The tone of your comment could lead one to assume you are not in favor of teachers in their 50’s or 60’s and I do wonder if you have family members that are of that age. Would you consider them uneducated regardless of training/exposure/degrees, because of age? In addition, are you suggesting that the myriad of colleges from which Oakland teachers receive degrees, hand out degrees, in a manner akin pulling to pulling a token from a cereal box? Sometimes listening is better than babbling. Should the audience assume you have reached your own defined capacity of “teachers in their 50s and 60s” before your time?

  • The real issue

    In response to Post 5. If after 20 years, you are indeed a better teacher, then wouldn’t merit pay and merit hiring benefit you?

  • J.R.

    Real issue,
    YAOT is being somewhat contradictory, imagine that!

  • Sara

    Ann, I am in my mid-50s. I am in favor of teachers of any age, as long as they are well educated and do a good job. I know plenty of teachers with degrees but that certainly has not meant they are well-educated. That reminds me of the PE teacher I knew with the Masters who was one of the most un-educated people I have ever met. A college degree doesn’t equal well-educated.

  • Owen

    There are so many good points being made on this thread, but sadly the ad hominem and other mean-spirited aspects really detract from the quality of the debate, and are characteristic of virtually any debate around teacher tenure and compensation that I’ve observed or participated in. Not that we’re going to solve anything commenting on this blog, but I’d urge everyone to keep it civil; JR, it seems that you and I are philosophically aligned on this issue, but sarcastic posts like yours 9:02 make it tough to be on the same side! Let’s treat each other with respect.

  • Ms. J.

    I couldn’t agree more with your post #61. The sarcasm and hostility make it hard to read this blog and posts, although I want to in order to be informed not only of OUSD news but also of public opinion.
    I generally know whose comments are going to be thoughtful and respectful at this point, and I look forward to reading the insights of many frequent posters, even if I don’t agree with their points of view. But some people seem to see this blog as an outlet for their general anger at life. And too many make blanket statements which can only be based on anecdotal evidence or stereotypes, simplifying what have been revealed by Katy and several posters to be quite complex issues.
    When I read many of the attack posts, I feel tempted to respond with my own frustration, but I don’t think that’s the point of this blog or of conversation. At least it’s not what I hope to gain from engagement with others. But it’s hard to learn and to respond respectfully when so many others are being snide, ignorant, and disrespectful.
    Ms. J.

  • Yet Another Oakland Teacher

    In response to various comments: like most of you, I’m a lot humbler in person. But I will say that at 20 years (of service) in (age 52), I’m a much better teacher now than I was 10 years ago, and 10 years ago, I was a much better teacher than I was in year one.

    I have no idea what to make of the comment that newer teachers are better educated. I’ve never heard that and it’s too absurd to merit any further comment.

    Sense of entitlement? Only in the sense that I have earned every nickel, and then some. And I know way, way, way more than twice as much as new teachers making half of my salary. And 67 k per year is not so great after 20 years of teaching Oakland kids. And I put in the extra hours, most of which are unpaid.

    Merit pay? What would you base it on? I can say in resonse to someone who wondered if I’d ever been Teacher of the Year. No, but I have won several awards for teaching, have National Board Certification, and am probably by far the most tech savvy person at my site, including the young ones, who don’t know nearly what I know about using and integrating tech into the curriculum.

    To those who would choose recent grads over experience for doctors and lawyers; can’t say I would. Experience is PRACTICE; recent grads have mostly book knowledge. And those recent grads will soon enough be older teachers. Do you really think they’ll be less effective when they’re 40 or 50 years old? The best teachers I’ve met in my 20 years have all had at leasat 10 years in, and the very best I knew was still at the top of her game when she finally retired after 40 years. So much for generalizations. And older teachers are often far more patient than younger ones and command more respect simply *because* they are older. I know I’m far more patient now than when I began.

    TFA is a good program as far as it goes, but most TFA teachers have one foot out the door before they even begin; they’re planning to do two years of do-gooder work in education before going to their real interests. They get six quick weeks of summer school training before they are dumped into their own classrooms. And you think they’re better than me?

    As far as NCLB: I’d say it’s pretty thoroughly discredited by now, and having been a mentor in the BTSA progam for many years, I do not see a huge difference in the preparation of teachers now and from 10 years ago. Teaching is not something you learn to do in education classes; you learn to do by trial and error in your own classroom.

    And for what it’s worth, my new principal is very excited to have me; my reputation as one of the best teachers in the district preceeds me; and I’m only being transferred because of school closure.

    I’m so demoralized to read the anti-teacher comments on this board. Most of you wouldn’t last one day in a classroom. And what really leads kids to be successful in school? The home environment is the number one factor in students’ academic success. The best teacher in the world can’t do much for the kid who is frequently absent, has malnutrition, poor sleeping habits, untreated health problems and lives in a home and community that undervalues education. My students who do the very best come from homes where the parent is well-educated. There is a DIRECT correlation between parent education attainment and student academic success. That doesn’t mean we don’t give all we’ve got, but too many kids come from homes that defeat much of we put in place during the school day. So, more attention should be paid to supporting parents to create better home environments.

    My .02, and worth EVERY damned cent at a million times the price.

  • harold


    thank you for post #63.

    To all the Teachers on the blog, have a restful break from the classroom.

    And a BIG

  • harold


    thank you for post #63.

    To all the Teachers on the blog, have a restful break from the classroom.

    And a BIG thank you to everyone serving on the summer-school staff.

  • The real issue

    I am also a teacher, but I don’t like the union. I think it is silly that jobs are protected simply because of tenure. I also don’t like the idea of them taking a huge part of my paycheck away every month.
    As for merit pay, I’ve said in other threads that I think Merit pay should incorporate many measures: whole school API growth, principal and lead teacher observations (minimum of two per month from each), parent and student surveys, and colleague surveys.
    I have no doubt that you are an excellent teacher, I don’t think anyone is attacking that. At least, I am not. I am attacking the resistance of teachers to move away from this idea of a guaranteed job just because you’ve been doing that job for awhile.
    I also dislike TFA and OTF because I think they perpetuate a cycle of poorly trained teachers and high rates of turnover. I would like to see an apprenticeship model of teacher education. I believe it would be better for students and for new teachers. It will take a lot of money, but isn’t the future worth it?

  • J.R.

    Real Issue,
    You have defined the problems exactly, no one should ever be guaranteed a job just because they have “paid their dues”, in this world you are owed nothing. Even freedom itself was bought with the price of blood.My heart just breaks for all the really good teachers who have been “pink slipped” under this disgusting system we have in place at the present moment. I am saddened for all the great veteran teachers whose reputations are being allowed to be smeared just for the sake of protecting incompetent teachers. You need to understand that these laggers(who are the minority) are making the profession look bad, and they need to be treated like scabs unless the straighten up and fly right.

  • xi-ping wu

    I run a budget at an oakland school and i wanted to add–if i could buy effective teachers, i’d pay any price for them and i’d buy as many as i could get. then i would eliminate all the other budget expenditures that are necessitated by ineffective teaching: extra site security, credit-recovery classes for after school, tutors from the colleges, extra counseling programming, in school suspension teacher, etc.

    The more effective teachers are in a given school, the less there is a need for these paraprofessionals. Teachers deserve all the dough–truly–but can’t we insist that they are effective? insist that they are good and support them in getting good and get rid of seniority so the folks who are not effective, can find another line of work?

    ineffective teaching (and principaling) causes 95% of the problems in schools. principals don’t get seniority and union protection – if a nexo wants to fire a principal, it takes two simple meetings. unless the parents revolt in support of the administrator…

    but my point–good teaching is the silver bullet. because principals’ hands are tied in relation to whom they can hire, how much they can pay based on performance, real reform is a joke. OEA runs OUSD and it’s sad to see so many great teachers support OEA when this union has some good goals mixed with some really bad practices. there needs to be more dialogue in OEA between teachers–i don’t think there is space for minority opinions like Real Issue’s opinion.

    i hated paying dues when i was a teacher because oea protected a teacher down the hall from me who was a god-darned SLOB. the guy came to work smelling like booze, his kids were out of class more than in class and OEA backed him up. when i saw that, i tried to opt out of union membership because it infuriated me. and this is common in teacher unions: protecting REALLY ineffective people.

    if we can get rid of seniority, the right people will get the money and teaching will improve in so many classrooms.

    i urge the thoughtful teachers to create a separate union…

  • http://www.morethankids.com bryan farley

    While teacher quality is important, I think everyone has missed the point of Katy’s article. This story is about District personnel integrity.

    The public school employees that are violating the contracts are violating our trust. These same educators are then teaching our children about honesty.

    Years ago, I taught for OUSD. I am a former OEA Union Rep. Now, I am a parent.

    I am a parent first.

    When I was younger, there was a popular book called, “Everything I Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” Something similar could be written about parenting… everything I learned about parenting a school kid…

    If OEA teachers want my support, they better support each other. If the District wants my support, it better stop breaking contracts.

    I won’t choose sides, but I do not want to hear about educators lying. I expect more from a profession that is educating my child how to become a better person.

    … and if the principals do not like the contract, too bad. Learn to Follow the rules. My kindergartener does not like all of your rules either.

  • http://www.morethankids.com bryan farley

    just an aside… I like our school and our principal.


  • TheTruthHurts

    From xi-ping wu, “i urge the thoughtful teachers to create a separate union…”

    Good luck Xi-Ping. Apathy, fear and straight up EXHAUSTION are the enemy of this ever coming to pass. I’ve met several teachers (not just in Oakland) who left the profession because they said it was too hard to do when many of there own were pulling in the opposite direction and getting paid more for it.

    I’d like to think all good teachers are superhuman martyrs who can indefinitely sacrifice and suffer disrespect for the “good of the children.” That’s simply not true and we shouldn’t expect it. That’s partly why good teachers need more pay and partly why it’s so hard to give it to them.

    When they are told or have evidence that principals and administration are against them and then they find their union supports mediocrity, they bounce (or wear down) and I can’t say I blame them.

    We should be clear about who is making a difference for kids, get that group together, let them run the union. I love that I live in a democracy, but you see what kind of elected officials we get from elections with no qualifications. Popularity contests and schmoozefests. Maybe there should be a bar you have to pass with students before you can take office in the union.

    Most outstanding teachers I’ve met run from the idea of union leadership. Of course, that’s more true in Oakland than elsewhere I’ve been. Here, I think their reputation must precede them.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Wow! Skimming over these comments I am led to believe that one really has to have taught in schools with different populations in Oakland or elsewhere to see that the major differences in achievement are due to the students and not the teachers!

    Also, school leadership can make a huge difference–a low tolerance for disruption produces a stronger learning environment.

    I am not trying to excuse poor teaching, which does exist, but on a much lower scale than has been claimed over the past decade or so. Teachers have been made scapegoats because it has become politically incorrect to criticize parents and their children. Our national union has not come out swinging in the way it should to defend us. It’s not cool to look like you’re picking on kids…

    But schools failing primarily because of bad teaching is a myth. Unfortunately, many teachers are suffering from “battered teacher” syndrome. They’ve been beat up in the media for so long, they are blaming themselves, in spite of the fact that they are being asked to accomplish more and more with less and less support.

    And come on, people! There is no magic wand that places only the “best” teachers in high-achieving schools and the “worst” ones in low-achieving schools. For the most part you could switch teachers in those schools and wind up with the same results in both institutions–because of the student population and/or the leadership.

    I hope we don’t have to wait until the public schools have been completely destroyed–and children are still failing–to see the error of our ways. Please, folks–let’s start focusing on helping our children come to school better prepared to learn and providing them with whatever extra support they need when they get there. These are the keys to better schools.

  • Pepe

    Get Real,low tolerance for disruption needs to start with the teachers, and if we were able to switch teachers between high achieving and low achieving schools, the primary change would be that most teachers now at that low performing school would not know how to effectively manage, much less teach, their new classes. The effect would primarily be felt in the low performing schools.

  • Nextset

    I tend to agree that the problem Oakland Unified has is more the bad students than the bad teachers. There is no mechanism for flunking out and removing the bad students from the normal schools. There should be. Bad students should be put in their own schools, the continuation schools, and given limited coursework, heavy on remedial reading and vocational studies.

    You would then see higher performance in the “real” schools.

  • J.R.

    The rotten apples(whether students or teachers)should be kept in a separate basket or discarded altogether. We arelosing more and more kids with this status quo crud.

  • Gordon Danning

    “Many of our teachers are substandard. That is simple fact. Most are not able to assist students in conducting research. That is also a fact. It does not serve our students’ needs to pretend otherwise, or to hush it up.”

    That is what I said in an email to an assistant principal 2 years ago. The result? She tried to issue a “letter of concern” which stated, in part, “If this kind of communication continues, further disciplinary action will be taken.”

    Of course, I wasnt worried about being fired or even transferred to a less desirable position. Why? Because I have TENURE and SENIORITY. So, the assumption that tenure and seniority act only to impede the “weeding out” of incompetent teachers is a gross over-simplification.

  • J.R.

    Those kinds of things do happen, but I have witnessed so many teachers who just “mail it in” year after year with hundreds of students having “wasted years” and then struggling to catch up(if in fact, they even do). You have to remember, when one teacher gets disciplinary action, that is one teacher, but when one teacher fails to do their job because they should be in a different career, thats “thirty kids” paying the price for each substandard teacher. The tenure and seniority criticism “is not” an assumption, it is a cold hard fact. Different principals may apply the rules differently, but it is there. Maybe schools need some kind of parent supervised disciplinary committee’s since there is no trust in the principals. I personally haven’t seen any dictatorial principals, or any who have stepped over the line. I have seen several principals who have had so much heat applied by parents that they left(that is accountability, no one is there for the expressed purpose of shielding them).I have never ever seen a teacher leave but once(she transferred to a neighboring district). The problem with saying things are “too complex” is that things will never change with that mindset. We should never stray for the one “simple” mission that public schools have, to educate our students(period), not to be an employment department, or a political PAC. It does not really have to be all that complex,but self interest and greed have a way of changing that.

  • Gordon Danning


    We both agree that teachers should be held accountable. But you want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I better solution might be to redefine the job of the principal — principals, especially in larger schools, spend vast amounts of time dealing with trivialities that have little impact on student achievement (eg: should the wood on the walls at Oakland High be painted this summer? ) Perhaps principals should have one job – visiting classrooms, holding teachers accountable, etc — and the rest of the stuff should be handled by an assistant principal.

  • J.R.

    If we had the money for assistant principals that could work(principals would be free to observe and make personnel decisions), since we don’t how about a citizens oversight committee(volunteer of course)to help with these decisions. I don’t think the central office should make these decisions anyway, these decisions should be made “on site”.We’ve got too many layers of bureaucratic paper pushers, and not enough funding for teachers I see that, but I also know that you will never get support from the public unless the unions stop being a hinderance to much needed reforms.

  • Gordon Danning


    We do have money for assistant principals, at least at larger schools where the problem is most acute (i.e., where principals have 50+ teachers, plus other staff, etc etc). It is more about funding priorities and distribution of duties. A principal could simply refuse to deal with any issue not directly related to teacher performance and curriculum. If the district supports that, it can happen.

    PS: The district might have no choice; when we interviewed principal candidates last year, there were something like 4 candidates for 5 openings. No one wants the job, as currently structured, and who can blame them?

  • http://www.morethankids.com bryan farley

    I am going to post my comments again, because I think they were easily glossed over.

    This is not a discussion about teacher quality.

    This is not a discussion about administer quality.

    This is an article about Administrators who do not follow rules.

    We can justify our behavior all we want, just as I can justify my own child’s reasons for breaking rules. But the people who are in charge of enforcing the school rules are breaking the rules.

    If the principals do not like the rules, they are free to leave Oakland.

    If teachers do not like the union contract, they are free to change the contract or leave the District.

    Let’s not make this about something else.

  • J.R.

    “This is an article about Administrators who do not follow rules”.

    It has everything to do with the quality issue at its very core.Stupid rules are like stupid laws(they exist to benefit the few to the detriment of the many). What is it about admins wanting to hire the best teachers that you do not understand? After all principals are right on the front lines when it comes to taking parental heat. They have nowhere to hide, why in heaven would they even want to hire someone inferior(it makes no sense). I know quite a few principals in quite various districts and they would never put their position in jeopardy for a friend(anyone who would do that is borderline stupid).

  • jenna

    I don’t see this as breaking the rules – I do see this as a teacher quality issue and an administrator quality issue. Both of which because each knows their “rights” and each moves to the very edge of the line to get their needs met.

    As a new teacher – when I was one – I was given a choice to pay lower union dues or higher union dues. The lower union dues to not get a vote and double union dues to get a vote. I did not get a choice to opt out of the union. I was also forced out of schools by controlling teachers who thought that I was not being loyal “to the cause” by opening my classroom early in the morning – elementary students were told they could not be in the hallways even in the pouring rain – and I was not being loyal when I kept my classroom open until 4:30 everyday to help struggling students. Eventually the pressure in the public school system was too much and I moved to the private sector where I can open my classroom early and keep it open later. This is a matter of individual choice. Principals are responsible for the quality of their schools – their jobs depend on how well and cohesive the school operates. All of this is part of the discussion.

    Students do not succeed with a revolving door of teachers.

    Students do not succeed with a revolving door of principals.

    Some teachers cannot work well with other teachers.

    Some principals cannot work well with some teachers or some styles of teachers.

    Everyone wants a job.

    Everyone needs to figure out the best way to serve students.

    Sometimes the union member “rights” make it VERY difficult to serve the needs of students.

    Sometimes the union member “rights” make it difficult to work with principals.

    Until there is some flexibility with what the union members can do to teachers or administrators, there will be methods found to serve the needs of students.

    40% of my students are on financial aid – my students are primarily students of color and nearly all are advancing 1.7 grade levels per school year as compared to public classrooms with 32 students per room. My classroom is open to serve students voluntarily from 7:45 – 8:35 and then again from 3:05 – 4:30. Students may also eat lunch in the class and work on homework, get help or simply be in the classroom to read. Something my fellow brothers and sisters did not allow and pressured the union steward and the principal to stop allowing in the public school. My former principal is someone who is not reporting the two open positions and it is a respectable choice given the hostile climate.

  • J.R.

    I have seen and heard the same kinds of things. A few union site reps will(in so many words)tell the teachers in a meeting to not “do too much”, because it makes the other teachers “look bad”. The teachers who are the politically minded types tend to be minimalists and follow the path of least resistance(translation: get away with doing as little as possible). These things need forced change from taxpayers and parents because the union and district want status quo, and we cannot afford it for many reasons.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Jenna and J.R., I can’t speak for all of the teachers you say discourage others from working before and after school hours to assist students, but I think, in most cases, it may not be rooted in just wanting to do as little as possible.

    I think it may stem more from the unfairness veteran teachers have seen developing over the years as more and more has been demanded without a commensurate increase in salary, as would be expected in other professions.

    For instance, there was a time in the not too distant past when schools had certificated reading specialists on site to help students in need. Our district phased out reading specialists over the years as it has phased out other support personnel, such as instructional assistants, leaving the responsibility for intervention entirely in the hands of the classroom teacher–unless a teacher has students who qualify for resource specialist help through special ed., or she is fortunate enough to have capable adult volunteers to assist.

    In other words, district officials have saved money by no longer hiring certain personnel, and, as a bonus, have managed to find a way for teachers to take up the slack without receiving–or even expecting–additional compensation. Think about that. It is simply not fair! If the trend continues, which it likely will if teachers don’t object, would you just continue to do more and more without complaining or would there be a breaking point for you?

    Also, not all teachers have the liberty of coming to school early and/or staying late. Shouldn’t the school district provide a means for students in those classes to receive the extra help they may need if it cannot be provided sufficiently by the classroom teacher? Why shouldn’t our district provide equitable access to all students in need by making sure all sites have a reading specialist or other resources to assist?

    I believe students should receive the extra help they need to succeed whether they are in public or private school. But I also believe those who provide the instruction and support should be compensated justly for the work they do. That is the right that every worker should have–a right that unions fight very hard to protect.

  • J.R.

    We don’t have the luxury of specialists, at this juncture. Some teachers want to do whatever it takes to get the job done(these are the excellent ones), and other teachers have priorities elsewhere, I understand that. We should never get in the way of attempted excellence, politics do not belong in education.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Since when is compensation political? Excellent teachers deserve to get paid for their hard work.

  • J.R.

    “Excellent teachers deserve to get paid for their hard work”.

    Absolutely, and some want to work harder and not be stigmatized for doing more(because it is politically incorrect). Sometimes for some teachers the reward is not simply monetary, but instead it is being highly regarded by colleagues,principals,parents, and children(changing the world if you will,sometimes even an extra 30 to 60 minutes can do that).I am very proud to say that I know many teachers like this. Jenna, my congrats to you as well for being one of the best, and believe me, people do take notice.

  • seenitbefore

    So…. only people who are willing to work overtime for free, and make sure everybody knows about it…. are excellent!?!?

    Outrageously ridiculous reasoning?

  • Steven Weinberg

    In my 40 years as an Oakland middle school teacher, many of them as the union’s site rep, I have never heard a teacher critize another teacher for putting in extra time or working too hard. There were years in which I put in considerable extra work, and years where family concerns made that impossible. When I could do extra work I always felt it was appreciated by students, parents, administrators, and other teachers; but when other facets of my life made the extra work impossible I felt no pressure or resentment from any of those groups.
    Extra work is a gift many teachers give because they love their jobs and care about the children they teach. Appreciate the gift and thank the giver, but don’t demand or expect gifts, and don’t compare or judge based on who is giving most–it is those things that lead to resentment.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Seenitbefore makes a good point. Furthermore, those teachers would not run away from payment if it were offered in those instances. In fact, this is already going on at schools that can afford it, and I can’t imagine that anyone has declined. This is another case of inequity in OUSD that should be addressed.

    And by the way, how many teachers do you know who are in this profession only for the money? There’s a difference between enjoying the rewards of teaching, but wanting to get paid for your service, and just wanting to collect a paycheck somewhere.

    Just to be clear, J.R., I do not think anyone should be put down for doing more whether paid for it or not. No one should be stigmatized for that. Originally, I was just trying to point out the historical devaluation of teaching in our district, and to make you aware that not all teachers who refuse to teach beyond their contract hours are doing so because they are “minimalists” or any less excellent than anyone else.

  • http://www.morethankids.com bryan farley

    to Jenna,

    This issue is incredibly complicated. I agree that there must be more flexibility.

    I also believe that we cannot justify our education leaders breaking or bending rules because other education leaders bent or broke rules too.

    Instead, we can challenge educators to do better. I do not expect every principal to get along with every person any more that I expect every child to get along with every classmate. However, if educators are going to teach our young people how to get along with each other and how to follow rules, then educators should practice doing it themselves.

    I think they will become better teachers.

    I also do not know your personal experience. Perhaps you might have learned more by challenging the teachers who you thought were telling you to do less. Perhaps you did the right thing by moving to another location. Whatever your personal choice, you are able to share this experience with your students… as long as you are aware that this is how you deal with conflict and uncomfortable situations.

    I do not want my children to learn how to bend rules and move on, but there are times when that is the right decision.

  • J.R.

    Seen it before,
    Did I say only those that work extra are excellent? I said that those who do extra are making an effort to show that they are excellent and most probably are. You would actually dispute that those teachers that put in extra work are not excellent? I believe excellent teaching is largely a mindset, just like learning in students. Those students that work the hardest and give it their best are generally “the best students” though there are exceptions to every rule.Extra work is a gift, as you said, but resentment is largely a childish “immaturity” reaction, and hardly worthy of professionals. Unfortunately, No one can read minds and or hearts and no one can know intent, so we have only actions to base our conclusions. The important things are not what you say but what you do, pretty much like your students.

  • J.R.

    Would you want your children to agree with slavery(which was lawful at one time)or the Chinese exclusion act in SF, or segregation? This is about right and wrong, and sometimes the law is on the wrong side of the equation. Laws are made by man(and sponsored by lobbyists)for the benefit of special interest. Your student would be well served to learn that right over wrong and morality trump the law.

  • J.R.

    In your class, does every student earn equal grades, or do the students that work the hardest, and do the best work earn the highest grades? Would it not be unfair to the students that give their best effort the same grades as those who don’t work very hard?

  • Nextset

    J.R.; I’d want the children to understand that Slavery, Chinese Exclusion, Segregation and all the other historical facts are decisions that “reasonable” people made at the time. I’d want them to understand that they cannot go through life expecting other people to do at all times what they think they would do in the same place. We can disagree with historical events and decisions all we want, but we cannot presume to believe there is only one way of thinking and that we are always the center of the universe. And there are two sides to most policy debates.

    These things, slavery and the others, have happened throughout history, are happening now and are going to happen again. The reason they happen may involve various people setting the stage. One may condemn away something while working as a stagehand (wittingly or unwittingly).

    Stalin killed more of his own people than almost anyone in history and yet the USA has plenty of people in the 20th Century (and today) who were/are communist sympathizers, CPUSA agents and fellow travellers inside the USA. Hitler could have won WWII with the help of Neville Chamberlin and the American Pacifist movement. The American nuclear arsenal prevented a Soviet Pearl Harbor against the USA yet there are many who oppose it’s creation, use, deployment or willingness to use it.

    And the list goes on. Children are best cautioned about any notion that they/we are magically morally superior and more correct to people in the past who made their own decisions (right or wrong) with their own lives on the line. That kind of thinking leads to spectacular miscalculations and failings in the future. Like thinking it can’t happen here, or it can’t happen again.

    Better policy is to study the past and look for the reasons disagreeable things happened, not to childishly presume that everything you find disagreeable (Custer, for example) only happened because the people on the scene were bad people, immoral people, “prejudiced” people (so what?) etc.

    When you are brought up to think “bad” people do disagreeable things you easily become a stagehand on some fresh disaster in the making because you can’t recognize in say, Obama (or The Pope, or your child, or anybody you like or love), the genesis of disasterous policy.

  • J.R.

    What you do not seem to understand is: moral relativism is one of the great ills of mankind, and you can gloss over it all you want. The fact remains that there are absolutes: right and wrong. Some of us as human beings do not want to be held responsible, and that is human nature itself. As far as Obama or the Pope, you should be smart enough to never put your own trust or destiny in the hands of any man or woman that is just foolish. And as far as your contention that any given era is and of itself an excuse or reason for the stupidity of various decisions is simply misguided or flat out wrong……

    You are conservative so the odds are you do not “truly” believe in the bible(money itself is much too important to you, and there isn’t room for much else), but I believe that people will be judged on their own, and for every idle word.

  • J.R.

    When you wrote “SO What”? It reminded me of the way “Tricky Dick” Cheney used to say “So?….” that was just perfectly amusing, no other comment was necessary(that said it all).

  • seenitbefore


    Yeah, you actually did make the case that somehow only teachers who work extra unpaid hours are worthy of being called excellent. I have no idea why you hate teachers so much and feel like we are to blame for every problem inherent to the OUSD. Teachers in this district have to work so hard and yet have absolutely no power or decision making clout whatsoever.

    For as long as I’ve been in this district (well over a decade), I have seen nothing but constant change and obstacles thrown at teachers. Every year it’s some new curriculum package, some new training, some new computer system, some new administrator with their own agenda, some new consultant who LEFT teaching and now has carte blanche to armchair quarterback all the teachers who STAYED in the classroom to actually TEACH the students.

    And yes, I do disagree that working longer hours is always a sign of excellence. If a teacher is knowledgeable, organized and efficient… why would they need to work longer than anyone else to get their job done? Is it because we expect teachers to do a ridiculous amount of work each day knowing full well that it cannot possibly be done within normal PAID working hours? Or, are you referring to free after school tutoring, perhaps? Most teachers willingly help any student who genuinely asks for assistance. However, have you been to some of the schools in Oakland and seen the sort of classroom behavior that many students feel is acceptable? Cursing, eating, pants sagging, rude comments disrespecting their classmates, their teachers, school rules and any authority figure. It’s appalling! Any yet,,,, the teachers still try to teach their classes. Ask an administrator for assistance in removing a disruptive student and somehow the TEACHER is to blame for “not engaging the student”. Call some (not all) parents for support in disciplining their unruly student and hear the frustration from the extended family (grandma, auntie, foster parent) who is unable to handle the child at home. So…. a teacher is “bad” if they are resentful at having to reteach underperforming students who refused to cooperate when the original lesson was taught or assist students who were unable to grasp the lesson because they were distracted by the obnoxious behavior of another student? How is that supposed to work exactly?

    And the final insult? Your rant to Bryan about how it would be unfair for all students to get the same benefits if they didn’t do the same work in class. I agree! BUT…. ironically, that’s EXACTLY what we allow to happen to the students! For 9 years (K-8) students are passed along through the OUSD based on “social promotion” and NOT on their actual grades earned. Students quickly learn that the TEACHER has NO POWER to hold them accountable for their actions because the Principal and the school system will allow them to be promoted to the next grade no matter WHAT the teacher says. Case in point, several schools including Claremont Middle School allowed EVERY 8th grader to walk the stage at promotion whether their grade point average was 2.0, 4.0 or 0.0. (yes… some students go through their entire middle school career and making F’s in every single class…. and STILL get promoted to high school) Teachers who opposed this practice were overruled by the Principal and shamed by their own union into attending this sham ceremony… which ran well past the time of their actual paid work hours by the way.

    School is SUPPOSED to be a place where STUDENTS learn, grow and take responsibility for their own futures. People like J.R. seem to forget that holding students accountable for producing results is kind of the whole point of even having school!

    And for the record, I don’t have many discipline problems in my class. I don’t tolerate it, and my students know that. If they misbehave, there WILL be a consequence. My students produce extraordinary results and are regularly assessed by independent outside sources as well as by myself. As for my work ethic, be glad that you don’t have to pay me for all of the extra hours I have willingly given to OUSD over the years. But guess what? You finally win! Because this year, I was so beaten down by having to fight constant attacks on myself and my teaching colleagues by your glorious administrators that I chose to abide by “work to rule” and am now actively looking for positions in other school districts. I’m sure that the 23 year old, non-credentialed Teach For America person wanting their college loan to be paid off in three years will do a “great” job replacing me. You will see them at school ANYTIME you demand it! Because, they will have no tenure and be so afraid of retaliation for speaking out that they will keep their mouth shut and do whatever they are told to do. No questions asked, or even allowed! In fact, I know of a TFA teacher just last week who was told by their Principal that “you ask too many questions” and “you should leave”. The actual number of excellent teachers, parent volunteers and staff members that have been run off and bullied in this way is appalling. The same group of teachers made big gains in test scores last year. This year the test scores will most likely plummet. Same teachers, different administration. What do YOU think we should attribute the decline in achievement to, J.R?

    You can’t have it both ways. Teachers are not the problem in this system. Teachers are the ONLY solution. Get rid of the top heavy administration and layers of costly do-nothing consultants. Hold each student accountable for EARNING their grades and behaving in class or they DO NOT promote. How hard is THAT to figure out????

  • seenitbefore

    But back to the original points…..

    Is it wrong for Principals to lie, hide and withhold information about vacant teaching positions?

    Isn’t it wrong for anyone to lie, hide and withhold important information from the community that they are supposed to be serving, leading and inspiring? Why would people be inspired and want to follow a liar and a cheater? Which leads to the question….

    What exactly is the role of the School Principal in OUSD?

    Do we expect our Principals to have some degree of positive interpersonal characteristics like honesty, leadership, team building and cooperation?

    Is it appropriate for schools to follow the so called “CEO-Business Model” for Principals where new principals can swoop in and use their overall power to make broad sweeping changes contradicting years of community building? Which leads to….

    WHO is the community of a school?

    Are teachers not included in the school community? Shouldn’t parents, students AND teachers be involved in the decision making process at a school? How can people make informed decisions if a Principal is lying and withholding information so as to cheat the system?