Possible layoffs in Oakland schools

This letter from Superintendent Tony Smith was posted today on the district’s website. The news — that the district plans to issue more notices of possible layoff than it has in years — was buried beneath paragraphs of grim context, but you can tell where it’s going:

The most significant measure concerns advance notification of potential certificated layoffs. These notices, commonly referred to as March 15 notices, do not indicate that the recipient will be laid-off, only that such a possibility exists. This year, because of the tremendous uncertainty and the possibility of deep cuts, we plan to issue a significant number of notices to both certificated and classified staff. This is hard news at a time when schools and districts are already struggling to cope with reduced budgets. California’s budget crisis has forced us to make tough choices; tradeoffs that were unthinkable just a few years ago. It has also created an atmosphere of uncertainty as we wait anxiously for critical information and prepare for a number of alternative scenarios. Through all this, we will do our best to mitigate the impact on children.

The other big news, which is not mentioned in the letter, is that all principals and other “certificated” managers will receive a notice on March 15 that they might be reassigned to another position, and not necessarily in management.

I don’t have the numbers of potential layoff notices; district spokesman Troy Flint said it hasn’t been determined. Flint said notices will not go to all teachers, but that there could be hundreds.

BACKGROUND: State law requires districts to notify certain employees of the possibility of a layoff by March 15. (Final layoff notices are issued by May 15.) It’s been years since the Oakland school district issued a slew of these notices to tenured K-12 teachers — at least, it hasn’t happened in the four years I’ve been covering OUSD.

The district posted a detailed explanation of the kinds of March 15 notices that go out. As I’ve reported, temporary and untenured teachers have received release notices in recent years, as have adult education teachers. (Note: New teachers without tenure can be let go for any reason; it’s often unrelated to the budget.)

Clerks, custodians and other “classified” staff go through a different layoff/bumping process, which I wrote about last year.

What have you heard? Do you agree with the district’s decision to tell all principals they might be reassigned to other positions next year?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Oakland Teacher, Too

    A West Contra Costa school board member was quoted as saying OUSD plans to send out 400 pink slips. Katy, can you verify that?

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, I’ll get you the pink slip details as soon as possible. I was out of town for a family funeral this week, but I’m back today and following up on my earlier information requests on the subject.

  • Jim Mordecai


    You make a good point that dealing with topics not central to the purpose of the OEA in promoting better wages and working conditions for teachers is problematic and ultimately might undermine that purpose.

    So from the OEA Bylaws here is Article II Purposes, Section 1: The purposes of this Association are to represent its members in their relations with their employer, and to seek to be the exclusive representative of appropriate units of school employees, in all matters relating to employment conditions and employer-employee relations including, but not limited to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Section 2: The purpose of this Association shall also be to participate in activities and endeavors which promote quality public education.

    Uniting with other community groups for protests at banks over bailouts for banks and not schools and endorsing opposition to gang injunctions is OEA policy because the majority at Rep Council see the policy falling under Section 2 as “promoting quality public education”.

    My point again is under a democratic process it is up to the majority in an organization to define what activities it endorses and where it draws the line as to what is a purpose of the organization and what is not a purpose of the organization.

    I certainly will let you know when OEA Rep Council majority votes position on open spaces, green jobs, and the OPD Beats.

    I’ve tried to make fun of your point, but is a serious issue for OEA/CTA/NEA as to where to the draw the line and exclude issues.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Taxes are confiscated from the private sector and re-distributed throughout the public sector(education is the single largest cost of the state budget, and some of that gets siphoned off directly to unions through mandatory fees union member or not). We taxpayers have what in reality amounts to essentially “no say” in the matter. Long story short, they feel entitled to do whatever they wish with our money(and if that is not arrogance, I don’t know what is). You will never get a straight answer, because they feel you aren’t entitled to one. When professionals stop being professional and instead proceed like auto or factory workers, then we are all in trouble.

  • Livegreen

    Jim, Thanks for responding. Even if the majority votes that all these issues fall under Section 2, that doesn’t make it so. I mean, Congress could vote for the military to take over the Govt (& I’m sure some would say that’s what’s happened) but it doesn’t mean that it’s their right to over-step the U.S. constitution.

    So when the OEA (through majority vote) steps well beyond “promoting quality public education” and into political issues that have nothing to do with it’s own Bylaws, what higher authority is there to hold them accountable?

    Actual authority, beyond the court of Public Opinion? (which the OEA probably wouldn’t acknowledge anyway).