GO Public Schools’ wish list for 2011

Great Oakland Public Schools, a local advocacy group that started with funding from the Rogers Family Foundation, wants to see some new blood on the Oakland teachers union’s executive board and representative council next year. It wants district leaders to emphasize high quality instruction as well as service hubs, and a “new and better response” to an unnamed principal who has complained about the required retention of mediocre teachers.

Below is a letter from GO’s director (and former OUSD administrator) Jonathan Klein, followed by the 10-item wish list. Which of the points do you agree or disagree with?

Dear neighbors and advocates for Oakland students,

If you spend time in Oakland public schools, you know there is much to celebrate, both in the achievements of our students and in the work of the adults who serve them.

In 2010, Oakland Unified was again the most improved school district in the State of California. And in tough economic times, 66 percent of Oakland voters supported Measure L — a parcel tax to benefit Oakland public schools.

Still, our public schools face tough challenges:

The system continues to be underresourced and more cuts are coming in January. The Oakland Education Association’s leadership is threatening another strike over compensation — despite withholding their support for Measure L. Oakland continues to be challenged by violence. And many families leave Oakland public schools because of perceptions regarding safety and academic quality.

Yet, I remain hopeful. There is abundant evidence that our community, our new mayor, our superintendent, our police chief, and the thousands of men and women who work in our schools are deeply committed to giving our children and youth a healthy, bright future.

I have strong memories of election night 2008 — standing in a friend’s crowded living room — many of us with tears in our eyes — watching as West Coast polls closed and news organizations announced that Barack Obama would be our next President.

We were hopeful that night, despite understanding the enormity of our challenges.

We are still the ones that we have been waiting for.

2011 brings renewed opportunity for us to get things done for Oakland students.

Oakland Education Policy 2011 Top 10 Wish List

1. Participation from Oakland’s best teachers in the Oakland Education Association’s Representative Council and March 2011 Executive Board Election.

2. A Deputy Mayor for Education in Mayor Quan’s office who knows the issues, speaks for all students, and is empowered to convene and align agencies and partners.

3. Wisdom within Oakland’s education leadership to ensure that Thriving Students (OUSD’s new strategic direction) puts Oakland public schools on a path to be both hubs of services and centers of learning and high-quality teaching.

4. An outcomes orientation for these final 6 months of OUSD strategic planning that sees the forest through the trees and doesn’t spend all its time and energy on process.

5. A new and better answer to an Oakland principal who in a recent meeting said that the biggest pain point within OUSD is having to retain mediocre teachers.

6. Audacity and resilience among West Oakland leaders to come together to do something different and bold on behalf of West Oakland public schools and students.

7. Specificity within Thriving Students about the positive role charter public schools play in providing quality educational opportunities to Oakland children and youth.

8. Constructive dialogue to address long-standing critiques of Oakland’s charter movement (e.g. access to special education programs, “creaming,” expulsion, etc.)

9. Increased vision and emphasis on the roles of education technology and virtual learning environments in our public schools as we endeavor to do more for our students with fewer resources.

10. Generosity of spirit across neighborhoods, communities and organizations with renewed mindfulness of the proverb that rain does not fall on one roof alone.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Aimee

    Why are all the problems in the world of education teachers’ fault? This is just another person trying to demonize all Oakland teachers that do not agree with his ideals and ‘wishes’. He isn’t even a current OR former teacher! He is a FORMER administrator in bed with Educational Revisionists and charter enthusiaists. I find number 10 particularly telling. It is code for lets take away PTA money that fund ‘extras’ like art in the hill schools and ‘spread the wealth’. In theory, that sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, title 1 schools get title 1 money. An option not open for hill schools. This push to ‘spread the wealth’ will lead to hill schools possibly turning to charter schools. I hope that all concerned teachers stand up to this and all GO bullies. As an active union member, I will agressively rally against any and all involved in this group.

  • Harold

    thanks for this post Katy … one the foundations heavily invested in the OUSD Charter school movement, is trying to get a voice on OEA’s Executive Board? If so, that is BIG news!

  • On The Fence

    I read this Policy Wish List as a laughable demonstration of ‘admina-speak’. From my experience, this is the end product of many hours of meetings where administrators of some ilk attempt to determine the latest direction of an organization. Usually, what they ‘produce’ has little merit for the workers/line staff/teachers and adds little value. Unfortunately, their nonsense usually does get implemented and has long lasting consequences. In this case, however, this ‘admina-speak’ seems to have hidden teeth.

    I definitely read #10 exactly as Aimee posts above. This is an attempt to redistribute PTA money from the hills to give to flatland schools. Bad decision. In my opinion, this would be the very last straw for a large number of families who still consider Oakland public schools and still invest (financially, with their children, and with their time/skills) in their neighborhood public school. In addition, I recall looking at a list that Katy posted of the schools with the greatest and least funding in OUSD per student, and lo and behold, the better performing schools received the least amount of money, by far. Bottom line, I don’t think that money is the answer to these endemic problems anyway.

    Wish #3 seems to be the stomach turning move towards ‘service hubs’, the move to make our schools into full scale social service stations. Yeah, that’ll help educate our students into becoming self-sufficient, productive members of society. Wonder how much that’ll raise the math and reading scores.

    The postings that have stood out to me on this blog have been a call towards rigor and discipline which seems to be on nearly everyone’s wish list for OUSD. Many of the people posting have strongly requested that resources and attention be used for all students-low performing, average performing AND high performing students. We know very clearly that we are losing our high performing student population. My only wish is that someone would attend to the needs of all Oakland students.

  • Hot r

    I’m better at Ebonics than eduspeak. This was definitely written by an administrator. Other than number 9 do any of these wonkish suggestions have anything to do with the classroom?

    As for charter schools, I was reading about O’Connell’s sad tenure in the Chronicle. One thing he regretted the most was not solving any of Oakland’s problems and approving too many charter schools.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Wow, how insulting to teachers, and how blatantly unethical! What are the ulterior motives of this organization? We need more information on Johnathan Klein and other key members, Katy, so we can get a better idea of what their intentions are.

  • Steve Neat

    Happy Holidays Everyone,

    Isn’t it interesting that everyone knows how to fix public schools except teachers. As a teacher with 10 years experience (8 in OUSD), as an officer of the Oakland Education Association, and as a person whose parents and grandparents were all teachers or ministers of the church (a person raised in a tradition of public service), I offer my own Oakland Education Policy 2011 Top 10 Wish List:

    1. That OUSD spend 55% of its budget on the classroom. Currently, it is the only district in the state not to do so. Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan should stop granting OUSD a waiver of this requirement every year and hold the state trusteeship of the district accountable.

    2. That OUSD realize that having the lowest paid teachers and highest paid superintendent in Alameda County is a clear statement of priorities–and that these are not the priorities of the community of Oakland or of the teachers they strongly supported on April 29.

    3. That the OUSD administration and board of directors reaffirm–both in word AND IN DEED–that Early Childhood Education and Adult Education are integral to providing excellent public education to the community of Oakland.

    4. That the OUSD administration, board of directors, and local players in education policy–such as GO Public Schools–advocate for proven school reform like class size reduction and attracting and retaining experienced teachers rather than for measures that studies have shown to be completely ineffective: test score pay, charter schools, and top-down management.

    5. That the OUSD administration, board of directors, and local players in education policy–such as GO Public Schools–take a long hard look at the fact that more than 70% of OPS teachers who started working for OUSD in 2003 have left. By the narrow and debatable measure of high-stakes, multiple choice, once-a-year tests, OUSD students have made academic progress recently, but at what cost to the long-term development of the District.

    6. That the OUSD administration and the board of directors declare a moratorium on non-mandatory outside contracts (Si Swun Math, Edusoft, Cambridge Education, Action Learning Systems, etc.) including renewals, until Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, and class size reduction programs have been restored–and until employees have contracts that are competetive with surrounding districts.

    7. That the OUSD administration, board of directors, and local players in education policy–such as GO Public Schools–acknowledge that the main obstacle to interventions when it comes to teachers that aren’t doing their job is actually the fact that principals are over-worked, dragged off to principal meetings of dubious value every other week, and moved from site to site with dizzying frequency. This makes it impossible for them to conduct observations, give feedback, and be effective educational leaders.

    8. That the members of the OEA Executive Board continue to be democratically elected (rather than appointed by wealthy business interests) by the Oakland public school teachers they serve, and that these EBoard members continue to be among the most effective, most experienced, and (for what it’s worth) most popular teachers among parents and students.

    9. That the OUSD administration, board of directors, and local players in education policy–such as GO Public Schools–join public school teachers across the state in calling for new sources of revenue to be established to restore full funding to California public education. The third quarter of 2010 was the most profitable quarter for businesses in the U.S. ever. Period. You won’t here it from the political leaders of either party whose campaigns were funded by the top 1%, but it seems that times aren’t so tough for everybody. RAIN DOES NOT FALL ON ONE ROOF ALONE, BUT IT SEEMS THE NICER HOMES ARE ABOVE THE STORM CLOUDS.

    10. That the OUSD administration, board of directors, and local players in education policy–such as GO Public Schools–join public school teachers across California and the nation in calling on wealthy individuals like Bill Gates and the Rogers family to pay their taxes like everyone else and let accountable elected officials make decisions about schools their children will never attend.

  • Jennifer Brouhard

    GO Public Schools thinks so little of teachers that they don’t even think we can elect our own representatives? I have been a Rep Council member for several years and each month I sit in Rep Council meetings with a roomful of effective teachers. Maybe GO Public Schools (whoever the nameless individuals in this group are) should start a campaign “Talk to a Teacher.”

  • http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    Here’s background information to help readers understand what might be going on behind the scenes.

    The Broad Foundation was in charge of OUSD for six years via three successive graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy. They were assisted by a team of Broad Residents that which they brought along to help them make the changes they wanted to make. The administrators had been assigned to us by the State Superintendent Jack O’Connell. Eli Broad and his rich ed-reformy friends had made big contributions to O’Connell’s campaign.

    The only two residents still working in OUSD are Troy Christmas, the director of labor management and employee relations, and Ash Solar, who manages the human capital strategic plan, “works with data systems to support human capital investments, leads critical process improvement initiatives, and coordinates the principal recruitment and hiring processes.”

    Jonathan Klein, the director of GO Public Schools, was a Broad Resident who served as a special assistant to the state administrator from 2006-08. http://www.broadresidency.org/residents/alumni.html

    It’s a good idea to track what Broad Superintendents and Residents are working on because they have a very specific ed reform philosophy which relates to that that of billionaire Eli Broad. He believes in the business model way of running school districts, an approach which is producing disruption, closed schools, and inflamed feelings wherever his trainees go.

    In 2007 when our state control was drawing to its end, the Center for Education Reform (one of the many billionaire-funded ed reform advocacy organizations) produced a report that speculated on what Oakland’s future would be like with the Broad-types no longer in control, and if the “reforms” could be sustained. It was written by Joe Williams, the director of the trickily named “Democrats for Education Reform” (or DFER=dee-fer for short). I advise everyone interested in OUSD to read this report.

    DFER has recently expanded to California and is being headed by Gloria Romero, the State Senator from SoCal who lost to both Aceves and Torlakson in 2010’s primary for State Superintendent. Romero is yet another of that particular breed of reformers who wants more charter schools, blames everything wrong with America on the teachers, etc. She is also the person who pushed the Parent Trigger law through. This is a mechanism for converting schools to charters. It’s first test has produced tremendous friction between parents and a huge mess is going on at McKinley elementary school in LA.

    People are becoming more and more divided, and more and more emotional, about what to do — and what is being done to — public education. That conflict is going to substantially increase in 2011; some people view this as a war.

  • Catherine

    An interesting side note about the teachers – I was having dinner (a quite delicious dinner, thank you) with a group of Piedmont parents talking about what works in their schools. This is a direct quote “80% of why our students succeed in school has nothing to do with the teachers, the schools, the taxes, the principals or the superintendent. It has to do with the values the families in Piedmont have toward education. Many of the families differ on testing, how much homework should be assigned, whether we need another property tax increase; however, no one, not one parent at the school believe that education in Piedmont is the single most important factor for living in our town, no one. And the other 20% is teacher quality. At Oakland Tech and in many of the elementary schools we have spoken to the teachers are the same quality as the teachers in Piedmont. The difference is our families put education as the top priority in raising kids.”

    We need to think about the buy-in of Oakland parents, guardians and the community at large. What if 70% of the entire city believed that the single most important issue in Oakland was the quality of education for every child in our city?

    Oh, what a happy new year it would be.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Thanks for the background, Sharon. Teachers and others who value public education have our work cut out for us.
    We have to grit our teeth and meet the challenge.

  • Nextset

    Catherine, Piedmont is Piedmont. Oakland is “different” No amount of wishful thinking will ever make the people of Oakland magically turn into Piedmont. You see, demographics is destiny. Piedmont and Oakland have different demographics.

    So stop wishing Oakland were more White, Jewish and Asian. It’s not going to happen.

    And people like being what they are.

    The issue with OUSD is what can be done with what Oakland and it’s schools have to work with. OUSD would do well to continue to look at Dunbar High School and the all black schools such as that who had better results with black students.

    Compare the progress of the students to similar ethnics and not to different ethnics.
    See: http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

    If you look at it this way, things really aren’t that bad in Oakland (compared to black in other countries) and if we can bring preformance and outcomes (back) up to the historic Dunbar level they’d really be great.

    Here’s an article on Dunbar High http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar_High_School_(Washington,_D.C.)

    It would be relatively simple to establish a competitive high school however small within OUSD and keep it competitive by flunking out anybody who failes to meet higher performance standards. The school might not stay very black but that’s OK, the idea is that it would be OUSD and it would be a good school that would feed to good colleges. Students district wide could apply to attend and if they had the performance and prerequisites they would be allowed to enroll and see if they would be able to stay. Black students in OUSD would have a real good school to aspire to – or not. No more complaining about OUSD not doing right by them. They either transfer to the Dunbar school and meet the criteria to be allowed to stay or they don’t.

    The rest of the OUSD students could go to other campuses which would reduce or eliminate college prep classes in favor of more practical classes that might suit their students better.

    And everybody could get what they need to stay in school and accomplish something. No more complaining that if the (citywide) Baby Daddies and Baby Mommas would help them with their homework things would be different. The students would either be in the academic school and not flunking out or in the vocational schools and not pretending they are on college track.

    There’s no reason to bemoan the lack of parental help with the homework when no one but the teachers and the white liberals care if the students ever do the homework. If teh student is not a good students, hjas no aptitude for academic work, they don’t need to be in an academic program. They should be in a vocational program if that is their desire. Stop flogging people because they don’t want to be you and don’t want to take academic subjects.

    People have a right to be proles.

  • Nextset

    Sorry about the typos – Happy New Year! We’ll continue to debate all this in 2011.

    I’m sure that we are all in for a real interesting year! And I hope Jerry Brown stays well under all the terrible pressure he’s going to be under apportioning the slices of the pie. Good luck to all, we’re going to need it.

  • Aimee


    I am a second generation American. My maternal grandparents had a 7th and 8th grade education. My grandfather worked on the docks. My grandmother worked in a factory (and started working as a 8 year old in a laundry). Both my mother and her brother were EXPECTED to do well in school. My grandparents did not have the educational background to help them with school. My uncle, although bright, would have been considered ADHD by today’s standards. You know what, both my mother and her brother graduated from Cal. If my immigrant, ill educated, and discriminated against grandparents could hold high standards for their children, anyone can. The geography of your birth does not determine your place in life. If we hold high standards, and we have parents or gaurdians backing up those standards, even an Oakland native can succeed. I don’t think everyone has to go to college to do that. In fact, all this focus on testing has eliminated many of the great programs out there like shop and home ec where even those who weren’t great shakes at literature could succeed. I think politics, and testing, and added value have done a real number on the students of this country. So in that sense, you are right. But, naive as I may be in your eyes, I don’t think it is a dream to believe as Catherine believes that ‘buy-in’ to a quality education for all is too much to hope for.

  • CHarterteach

    Isisnt this the organization founded by the son of the Dryers ice cream owner? Kleins letter sounds like a disconnected white guy in Oakland- just what Oakland needs!

    These guys are the “Intentionals” that prove to be the problem in inner city education. They come in many forms and do not matter if they are for charters or not. Their game is to pave the way to hell for those whom they claim to save. Through excuses, low expectations, mis education etc.

    We need to be responsible for OUR own chil;dren and not weai for some outsider or millionaire rich kid to help us.

    I feel offended by his rant and ask that he work for schools in Piedmont cause he does not represent me, or m charter school.

    And Susan, war has been going on for years- your kids have never stood in front of bullets though.

  • gee yu

    in june the board gave away money in a “Memorandum of Understanding between District and The New Teacher Project, New York, NY, for the latter to provide recruiting, selection, and high quality training to practitioners to serve as Content Seminar leaders and Field Supervisors, in the Programs for Exceptional Children for the school year of July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011, serving 50-65 participants, in an additional amount not to exceed $294,776.00, increasing the Contract from an amount not to exceed of $309,391.00 to $604,167.00.”

    “the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the District and The New Teacher Project (TNTP), for the latter to recruit, select and train 40-50 new teachers, from the previous stated 75-85 new teachers, to fill critical shortage subject areas, for the period October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010, at a cumulative cost not to exceed $620,883.00.”

    why can’t they but this money into the classrooms..or even at least give raises to keep teacher turn over…

  • Oakland Teacher

    WAIT!!! I thought that special education was NOT a shortage area, hence the previous thread about the teacher being deported. BUT, at the same time, Special Education is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit and train new Special Education teachers. Hmmmm…

  • Oakland USD teacher

    I hate that education is in such a horrible state. I am happy that the crisis has resulted in considerable debate and media coverage. But I am bothered by how quick we are to attack anyone who does not share our perspective. GO Public School may not be right in all their thinking, but they are not the Devil incarnate. I think they are genuinely trying to make things better and I welcome public support of public schools. What if teachers were to participate in GO meetings and influence the discussion rather than just rant and rave?

  • Aimee

    Oakland USD teacher,

    The reason why we rant and rave is because these bullies, not devils but bullies, blame teachers and teacher unions for all the problems with the educational system. These billionairs and their minions think they know what is best for students when in truth, they haven’t set foot in a classroom since they graduated college (or not, in the case of Gates). They are not educational experts. They are interested only in the financial bottom line. They wouldn’t know best practices if they came up and bit them on the nose!

  • J.R.

    Bad teachers and unions are a part of the problem right along with bad parents(there is no getting around that),along with the bloated system chock full of paper pushers(and unnecessary nitwits). The billionaires could have not gotten a foothold if the education system didn’t collapse under it’s own bloated weight. There are no educational experts, otherwise this system wouldn’t be so tattered and torn(and has been for decades). As far as being in a classroom, a great deal of parents are college educated, and we see right through the attempt at misdirection. As far as being interested in the bottom line, there is too much of that going on from all sides, the unions(using political payback) have successfully codified into law several items that impede competence,excellence, and accountability:

    1. The 2006 law that bars the state from using student test score data for measuring teacher performance.

    2. The law That forces compulsory union dues under the facade of agency fees(taxpayers pay most or all of required union dues)This is just political payola with tax money.

    As a genuine taxpayer I believe that any taxpayer funded services should be barred by law from collective bargaining(let people bargain on their own merit).

    What would be more useful to society is a taxpayers union.

  • Public School Teacher

    It is dangerous to tie test scores to teacher salaries. If that was the case, there would be an exodus of teachers from lower-scoring districts. Although I believe in professional accountability, you cannot measure performance in classrooms where children are under-performing. Case in point, think of the teacher who is well-versed in their subject area, plans interesting lessons and teaches the standards. What happens when the student/s refuse to do homework, arrive to class with a 4th grade or below reading level, don’t pay attention and parents who refuse to help when called. Should the teacher be held accountable for this student’s performance?

    I would love an answer to this question before the union bashing and teacher accountability argument is discussed and debated again.

  • Hot r

    The answer to your question is that you already are held accountable for their achievement or lack of same, or at least your school is. I think the key issue will be improvement (value plus) in which case you might actually want underachieving kids with high potential. This is why motivation and teaching is considered an art and not anyone can do it.

    JR I agree with you it is time for a change. I am not afraid of test scores. It is used already to measure AP classes, as well as by the state and federal governments. The SAT is the biggest high stakes test of all. Students will take tests to determine their standing at the post, office, military and for any government job. We are a nation of test takers. although I do not agree it should be the sole measure of teacher effectiveness, it should be part of the equation. But I will also add that the students and parents need to have some skin in the game. If students cannot or will not pass grade level tests they should not advance a grade, just staying for a set amount of years taking classes until their skills improve or they term out at 18. The college prep idea is not for everyone. It would be much more productive to offer tech training as they do at community colleges.

  • Catherine

    Public School Teacher: Have you been peeking into my classroom?

    What about those of us who are willing to have parent/guardian/family/ teacher/student meetings on the weekends and evenings to accommodate families and still have no takers. I have resorted to standing out on the curb trying to catch parents and guardians dropping off their kids – I see them-they see me and drive past to drop of their kid(s) around the corner. Inevitably, it is the student who does not turn in homework, does not have someone to help at home, cannot or will not stay after school for free tutoring by me specifically in the student’s area of need, or who is not working at grade level in nearly all areas is would be an unlikely candidate for graduation or passing the exit exam without intervention.

    So, JR you can dock my pay anytime you can get the parents / guardians to show up and be accountable for their children and help partner with me for the student’s success. Until then, I stand outside and flag down parents after leaving dozens of messages, keep my classroom open before and after school to see if students will stop by and you can volunteer to come and knock on doors to get families to work with schools and students – deal?

  • livegreen

    There has to be accountability for the parents of failing students. Don’t they have responsibility too? Both Schools & the District need a process to do so. At least outreach, especially to help support single parents who, try as they may, have challenges keeping up with their kids once they’re out of school.

    In some of the classes in our school (neither hills nor flatland) some parents volunteer to help tutor some of the kids who are falling behind. That’s great, but there needs to be a way to drag parents in & discuss/plan what the families need to take responsibility for -or- if it’s a question of jobs/resources what the after-school or other program alternatives are.

    What would that be, though? Will “Thriving Students” achieve that? I don’t see it. It’s nowhere in the strategic plan, which puts as much emphasis on medical services.

    Kids through the end of Middle School should not be allowed to leave unaccompanied by an adult family member/guardian -or- before 5pm. If schools don’t have PTA, OFCY after-school programs, that should be where OUSD & Non-Profits (billionaire funded or other) concentrate their money.

  • livegreen

    I agree with many of you about the emphasis on teachers for what starts & ends at home. However this does not address two areas in Klein’s letter:

    -How can we get the OEA to support at least some Property Tax for teachers, with minimal (but still existent) funding for some charters?

    -#5 “A new and better answer to an Oakland principal who in a recent meeting said that the biggest pain point within OUSD is having to retain mediocre teachers.” Are you all saying that there are NO such teachers? That there is never call for dismissal?

    If that is what you’re saying then I’m just amazed that such a perfect set of employees exists on this planet. If that’s not what you’re saying, then what are the OEA’s criteria for evaluating & accepting whether a teacher should be fired? (& I’m not talking about test scores).

  • A few questions

    Aimee, #10 doesn’t mention anything about PTA money. Do you wish for generosity of spirit across neighborhoods in any form?

    Let’s Get Real, which part was insulting to teachers? Seems the opposite to me… What honors teachers more than wanting to have broader representation of quality teachers in the Union leadership? What better honors great teachers than allowing principals to replace low performing teachers?

    CHarterteach, why shouldn’t white people be involved in the discussion about how to improve Oakland education? And what do you have against ice cream?

    Oakland USD teacher, Livegreen, and others – congrats on believing in healthy discussion around issues instead of just attacking GO employees based on their backgrounds. Here’s to hoping that the tenth item on the wishlist is granted in 2011 – generosity of spirit!

  • J.R.

    OK, hold on.
    We need to have multiple objective criteria to judge effectiveness, and maybe a panel made up of PTA parents/staff/admin to recommend corrective action directly to the school board(since the principals cannot be trusted)we must send in some fully mature adults to do what needs to be done and do away with the finger pointing and accusations.

    possible objective criteria:

    Monthly check of grade-books to assure that standards are being met and followed.

    Have teachers keep a logbook of attempted contacts with parents and responses(or lack of same). This would either confirm or deny many of the teachers statements here. If it is true that parents use schools as babysitting services and nothing else then we need to enroll those kids babysitting centers with $15 per hr babysitters and not at schools with $40+ per hr teachers. Let them earn their way into a regular class by behaving and doing their work.

    At this point in time tenured teachers have no fear of just throwing their hands up and just saying “oh well”(because they aren’t going to be fired anyway, they have no skin in the game). This situation needs to change because we cannot take kids away from unfit parents, and we cannot(and or will not)fire unfit teachers, which doesn’t make any difference anyway. Enough is enough this has gone on for decades and the gravy train is over.

  • Catherine

    JR – you’re welcome to look – not only do I document in my planner – then electronically, I try to have my iPhone with me to snap pictures as needed.

    This documentation has helped when we have to retain – or try to retain, or require summer school. Only when retention or summer school is required do we hear from parents or guardians.

    I also pay for my own certified mail to the address of record. Refusal to pick up certified mail doesn’t have a receipt with a signature but in covers me when I have to defend my actions. Oh, and my “documentation” adds up to about 4 hours a week that I could be planning, grading writing or working directly with students before and after school. Time that is not included in pay or in work with students.

  • livegreen

    Catherine, What is the OUSD criteria & support built in to help you (if any)? Is it systematic (at a District or School level) or strictly up to the teacher to take care of?

  • J.R.

    You are right, good teachers should not have to deal with students who absolutely will not learn and parents who don’t care and wont make them, and likewise parents and students should not be subjected to unfit teachers. We must always keep in mind though who the system is for, is it for the adults, or is it for the children? Who has priority? Who pays the bills, the parents do!

  • J.R.

    I just want you to understand that I realize that good teachers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and part of the reason is monetary resources are being wasted on people who aren’t doing their jobs or are just unnecessary and redundant to the learning process. Those resources should go straight to the classrooms where good teachers and students can put it to good use. Catherine(this is just a loose approximation)ask yourself where the money goes at 9-10K per student(250-300K per class)60-70K per teacher, and where does all the rest of that money go? Aren’t the taxpayers paying enough? We pay amongst the most for school per capita in the world.

  • Frida

    I wanted to correct something – Mr. Klein is a former teacher. He taught in Compton, which is probably pretty comparable to Oakland, if not worse. I too am bothered by how quick we are to attack anyone who does not share our perspective. I didn’t see anything in his posting that attacked teachers or that suggested teachers can’t vote for their own union reps. And I don’t think that #10 is actually about redistributing wealth – seems like a pretty cynical leap to make here. While his list is pretty theoretical, GO Public Schools does have teachers participating, and one of their goals (I think) is that the Oakland teachers’ union engage more of their membership, which isn’t an anti-union goal at all.

  • Cranky Teacher

    It is fine for GO to do there thing, and even better for Sharon to follow the money to see what might be motivating their rather opaque positions.

    However, I do think Katy has given them a possibly excessive amount of attention since they formed. I would love to see some proof they really represent any Oakland parents, students or significant grassroots organizations.

    Happy New Year, everybody.

  • livegreen

    Right Cranky. They should have to prove their loyalty and show us their list of supporters, before teachers engage in a dialog with them.

    Catherine & JR, please stop dialoguing about the detailed points & challenges. It only serves to create a conversation and look at the dirt under the hood. If this continues we might actually have information that we can act on.

  • livegreen

    Let me amend that: “some teachers” instead of “teachers”. Clearly some are open to a conversation (including about lack of support from OUSD), while others not so much…

  • Harold

    @31&25 – When your #1 priority is the union (not children), then yes, you are going to get a thorough look-over.

  • J.R.

    What dirt? We are a lean mean edumacating machine(we are only the most improved large urban mostly minority school district in the state)of course its akin to being the prettiest person in an ugly contest.We are no longer last but second or third to last.Thats progress(possibly), unless you factor in the number of students that are leaving the district altogether.

  • Yet Another Oakland Teacher

    JR – you have a numbers issue – I have no idea where you are getting 9000 to 10,000 per student. The label over the babies heads says 6400, roughly, the state is currently deliver 4800 per child – and probably less next year. And I would love to be a teacher getting 60-70 thousand – that isn’t my reality after 10 years.

  • J.R.

    Yet another,

    Take a look at per pupil expenditures, those numbers you cite are not even close(they are ten years old). My numbers are state avg. for 2010 and not that far off,teacher pay I used the state avg. Since Oakland pays lower(except for the tenured)there is even more money lost in the system(250K-300k is pretty close for a full class, but even 200k would still be a lot of lost money that did not make it to the classroom).



  • Gordon Danning

    Your per pupil numbers are correct, but not your other ones. You can’t just multiply the per-pupil spending by 32 to get the amount spent “per classroom.” For example, Oakland High had 1807 students in 2008-2009, but 91 certificated personnel teachers (dont forget, many classes have far less than 32 students per teacher, such as Special Ed classes. Other certificated staff include administrators, counselors, a librarian and a psychiatrist). Oakland High also had 62 classified staff (including classroom aids, security, secretarial staff, janitors, and cafeteria workers). That’t a total of 153 adults for 1800 students, or about 11.5-1. So if the average adult costs $60,000 (which is probably a bit conservative, since benefits are expensive), adn using your estimate of $10,000 per pupil, then Oakland High spends 60/115ths of its money on salary and benefits. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, since we also have to buy books, supplies, electricity, water, etc, etc ,etc.

    PS: I got the numbers here: http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Navigation/fsTwoPanel.asp?bottom=/profile.asp%3Flevel%3D07%26reportNumber%3D16

  • J.R.

    First of all those numbers are just starters, there is plenty of evidence that taxpayers pay even more per capita. The numbers are being played with, you can count on that. The numbers are all over the place, but here in California only 50% of the population pays taxes at all(but we ave out as if all citizens pay taxes making it appear as we are not over-taxed)

    Oakland unified is unique to do the small schools thing,which can do the small class size but the majority of districts are at 30 kids per class(that is where the teachers have been laid off from). Special ed classes are paid federally(mandated)


  • Let’s Get Real

    @A Few Questions, # 25:

    From the “Wish List”:

    “Participation from Oakland’s best teachers in the Oakland Education Association’s Representative Council and March 2011 Executive Board Election.”

    Do I really have to explain that this is insulting because it presumes that none of the best teachers are already participating in Rep Council, and none would participate in the Executive Board Election? And that it further presumes that teachers need this organization’s help in determining who best to represent them?

    “Wish List”:

    “A new and better answer to an Oakland principal who in a recent meeting said that the biggest pain point within OUSD is having to retain mediocre teachers.”

    It would take several posts to cover OUSD’s “pain points,” and whether the retention of “mediocre” teachers (please define)is one of them is debatable.

    My main comment to you, however, is that having broad union representation and/or dismissing “low-performing” teachers (again, please define) does not honor teachers a fraction as much as respecting our opinions, sincerely seeking our input, and creating conditions in our schools that facilitate effective teaching and support great teachers. And those are just a few things that would honor us more…

  • Steven Weinberg

    JR, Special ed is federally mandated, but only about 10% is paid for by federal funds. The rest is an unfunded mandate thrust on the states. If you remember in 2001 Senator James Jeffords of Vermont switched from the Republican Party to an independent caucusing with the Democrats. That move costs the Republicans control of the Senate for the rest of that term. Jeffords switched parties because the Republicans refused to fund 33% of the costs of special education as they had earlier promised to do.

  • J.R.

    You are correct, it is a nearly unfunded mandate. And thankfully it isn’t like the nearly useless NCLB mandate.

  • Gordon Danning


    You say that “Oakland unified is unique to do the small schools thing,which can do the small class size[.]” That is wrong. Small SCHOOLS do not imply small CLASS SIZES. It is perfectly possible to have a school of 4000 students with small classes and a school of 400 with large classes.

    Moreover, the data I used were from Oakland High School, which does not (did not, since the data are from 2008-2009) have small class sizes, with the exception of a few classes of Algebra and English..

    I realize that lots of people on here “know” that money is wasted, yet, oddly, they have neither valid evidence nor valid math to support that “knowledge.” Fortunately, I am teaching about the Enlightenment this week, so I can use this blog as evidence that pre-Enlightenment “ways of ‘knowing'” are not completely dead. Thanks for making my job just a tad easier.

  • J.R.

    Did you read the east bay express article that gives reasons why Oakland unified can’t afford what it has? More smaller schools equate to more teachers, more admin staff,more janitorial and so on(this is on top of the system that needs a superintendent(plus asst and staff) in every little school district with their own district office.We have Superintendents at the state county and local level, we have county and local board of education. We have dept of education at the federal and state level. We taxpayers are just not overpaying, but we also have many more people than we absolutely need. Those of you that are drinking at the public revenue stream will choose never to see it. Its a lost cause and this state will be left broke because of it, along with other public sector liabilities.

  • livegreen

    Re. request #1, Lets Get Real & others r having trouble getting past this to discuss any of the other detail in the rest of the letter. I understand OEA member complaints about this, but it would b helpful to have some supporting detail/response from GO to understand this request. R they being anti-union, or is there some supporting detail to their request?

    For example, I recall one of Katy’s prior posts detailing how sparsely attended an OEA meeting was, when strikes would b discussed.

    Was this typical or the exception? Was this representative of such meetings or an inaccurate snap shot?

    For those of us who aren’t teachers or interest groups, supporting info (substantiation) is helpful to understanding, rather than just watching barbs and insults being traded.

  • Gordon Danning


    yes, I read the article when it first came out. Yes, OBVIOUSLY small classes = less money per teacher. But your initial point was that Oakland (or, it is all California schools?) is wasting/stealing money. My point was, and still is, that your math is totally wrong.

    Whether OUSD should close schools is a completely different question, as to which I have not expressed a position.

  • livegreen

    Catherine, if u could, please advise re question in #28?:
    What is the OUSD criteria & support built in to help you (if any)? Is it systematic (at a District or School level) or strictly up to the teacher to take care of?

  • J.R.

    Here is the first of many pieces of evidence of the waste fraud and abuse inherent in this public sector system:


    You probably wont accept it because of political leanings but, the truth is the truth.

  • J.R.