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One Oakland school’s outsized layoff threat

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 at 3:23 pm in elementary schools, initiatives, OUSD central office, teachers.

Uncertain state funding levels and the Oakland school district’s decision to issue layoff warnings to more than one-fifth of its teaching staff has created high levels of stress throughout the district. Hit especially hard were schools that have few teachers who have been in the district for more than four or five years. New teachers are — with some exceptions — the first to go.

At Futures Elementary, which opened in 2007 on East Oakland’s Lockwood campus, every teacher could be replaced next year, according to the principal. I visited Futures yesterday morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:

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  • Jesse James

    Thank you for this. Futures looks like a great place to be. What a shame it might end.

  • James

    Any idea whether the ACLU will get involved here, as they did in Los Angeles?

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogspot.com maestra

    I hope the ACLU gets involved.

  • Wondering

    Me, too. I found the comments from Troy Flint intriguing. Is he signaling the readers that this travesty — clearing out entire faculties from schools to which they are devoted — will not stand?

  • CADNerd

    This would not happen if the schools where not under the thumb of the teacher’s union. Why doesn’t the union make an exception to the seniority rules to save this school’s staff? Because their mission is not to advance education but only to protect their most senior members.

    Totally asinine.

  • J.R.

    CADNerd,
    I agree with you. It is supposedly about being fair, but it isn’t fair to the individuals who are supposed to be top priority(the students & their taxpaying parents). We need to get off this being fair garbage, and do what is right, and besides that keeping the best teachers(irregardless of service time) is fair and a common sense thing to do. The union throws every excuse it can muster against the wall to see what sticks(principals fire teachers indiscriminately, districts will fire expensive teachers), and the excuses have gone way too far. I guess parents need to take control and manage things because the kiddies(teachers and admin)cant get along and play nice like adults(maybe that’s why the public has the perception of teachers as tradesmen unionists rather than professionals). Tell you what teachers union, you show the improved results and then we will listen to you. Before you say “poverty” there is only a 40-45% proficiency rate which which means 55-60% are below proficient, but are there 55-60% kids in or near poverty? NO!

  • EO Teacher

    Actually J.R., there are definitely 55-60% of students in or near poverty at most EO schools, if not all. The free lunch line is 130% of the poverty line, and you will indeed find schools that have 90-100% of students receiving free or reduced lunch, including several in the news (Futures is in the 90′s I believe.)

    So while I agree that EO schools are disproportionately impacted by layoff policies, your supporting details don’t add up.

  • J.R.

    EO,
    The poverty line and the free reduced program(which includes a very broad and generous qualification)are two very different metrics of qualification. One of the reasons EO schools are disproportionally impacted is due to the fact that they are staffed by newer teachers . The more senior teachers choose to work at the better schools and that is due to seniority rules. That is part of the problem here, you are obfuscating and denying the root causes of problems. Poverty is a problem(up to a point)but many problems are rooted in the fact that the system has reverted to a jobs program and not much more( I apologize to the great teachers out there for saying what needs to be said, and you know who you are). The evidence for my contentions is merely by watching what the union has done over the last thirty years( benefits up, and proficiency and financial efficiency down). Actually there is much more evidence than that. Bottom line is don’t use the free reduced lunch excuse, instead use the poverty scale instead, it is much more accurate.

  • Livegreen

    Remember, we are talking about Pink-Slipped teachers. We don’t know what the District is actually planning to do with the teachers or the schools, as I imagine they’re aware of many of the implications. The tough situation OUSD finds itself in, without going up against the Union and changing seniority (which I doubt they’re going to do), is probably what they’re discussing.

    So in summary they’re probably looking right now at many of these issues, including:

    -Cuts to Schools vs. cuts to Central (issues include: how much flack they’ll get if they only make it on the Schools, the amount of Central spending that actually gets spent at or for School Sites, etc.);

    -Seniority will impact certain schools more than others (issues: much based on schools of poverty and newer small schools. But not only: some Middle Schools like Edna Brewer will also be greatly impacted);

    -Failing small schools and schools with low enrollment (issues: whether they’ll have a policy worked out around this in time for the current crisis; many such schools are in lower income areas + they would have liked to resolve Facilities & Options parts of the Strategic Plan to help these schools so as to not shut at least some of them down; recommendations from consultants are still being hashed out and not yet finalized; revenue options so they can keep some of the schools even if they’re not used for teaching, etc. etc.).

    This is complicated stuff, especially as whatever they do they’re going to have parents yelling at them. That is even more of a reason why the Administration, Central Staff, and the Board need to demonstrate they’re being Proactive and what cuts they’re looking at taking themselves. If people know everybody’s contributing and giving back, they’re more likely to buy in themselves. And swallow the bitter medicine.

    But it has to be real and it has to be meaningful.

  • Livegreen

    Sorry, my first sentence meant to say “Remember, we are talking about Pink-Slipped teachers, not final layoffs”.

    I might add that what one teacher mentioned about layoffs in past years not being nearly as bad as the # of pink slips sent out meant many teachers left anyway. That’s an excellent point and OUSD needs to be clear and give updates (or even rescind some pink slips) as the budget moves forward and if cuts aren’t as bad as predicted.

    It doesn’t help the District, schools or students in anyway to have good, motivated pink-slipped teachers leave voluntarily when the final budget would have ended up retaining them.

  • J.R.

    “it has to be real and it has to be meaningful”.

    Politicians love to obfuscate, and misdirect all the while keeping the taxpayers money flowing. The system(education,prison,legislative) is overly complicated, because it was designed to be that way, more layers of bureaucracy = more jobs(whether or not they are useful or meaningful).After all the taxpayers have an endless supply of money.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    I am sorry if in fact it does come down to every teacher at Futures being replaced by other veteran teachers — yet at the same time how is this any different than a Charter School corporation who sets up shop in “failing” schools only after so many years decides to pull out after not being any better than the previous public school management system? It appears that at least the teachers who may have to replace the current staff is walking into a model “design” that will support such veteran teachers’ keeping up with the same successes, if in fact such a “design” can be replicated by any group of teachers and administrators doing the systemic protocols. Isn’t that the purpose of all this investment in small schools, and innovative designs (other than charter schools) so that the design can create success with any Urban “failing” school? While it is true kids become attached to any quasi-care-giver, it is also true that they can transfer that bond to any loving, caring, teacher and administration. If Jerry cannot get on the June ballot the temporary tax increase, I for one have much hope and faith in the “design” that these young, idealistic, and energetic people have created and as a veteran would be thrilled to finally inherit a school that is fully equipped with an empirical protocol that along with years of experience would ensure great progress and all of that hard work that Kinder teacher attests to on the Oakland local blog will not go to waste but allow their legacy to continue. Isn’t that what any teacher-administrator would hope for either by pink-slippled, retirement, or death? I choose to have faith that everything will work out if Futures’ staff is replaced…

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    Excerpt from: A new agenda for school reform
    By Diane Ravitch
    Friday, April 2, 2010

    “We now know that choice is no panacea. The districts with the most choice for the longest period — Cleveland and Milwaukee — have seen no improvement in their public schools nor in their choice schools. Charter schools have been compared to regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and have never outperformed them. Nationally, only 3 percent of public school students are enrolled in charters, and no one is giving much thought to improving the system that enrolls the other 97 percent.”

    http://bendoregonnews.blogspot.com/2010/04/failure-of-charter-schools.html

  • J.R.

    Cheuy,
    The biggest problem is that no matter how much you may point out charter schools failures(and there are many along with successes), it doesn’t absolve the public school of responsibility for the ill prepared children of the last three decades(and all the other kids who fell in the gigantic cracks in the system). We need to get rid of whoever or whatever doesn’t work. The kids are too important to settle for any less, and I don’t care much for the idea of having to settle for merely whatever you can get(schools,teachers or whatever), because every kid deserves a shot as long as they want to give it their best.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    “This is really about our students and their rights to access quality public education,” (Katherine)Thompson said…(Excerpt from http://oaklandlocal.com/article/oaklands-futures-elementary-school-works-raise-money-during-budget-crisis)

    I applaud you Ms. Thompson on your hard work over these past few years as well as your apparent care and concern for the future of Futures, the kids, and the families…I am sorry that it is possible you could be replaced by a veteran. I also want you to know that the corporate HR paradigm is to recruit young people for temporarily and then move them on. This happens even at Whole Foods employees who are transferred every 90 days. Unfortunately, the smaill school paradigm has been abandoned by Bill Gates, and this is going to possibly create a new type of “restructuring” and just like the multiple “reconstitutions” that have moved adults and kids out these past few years, schools like yours have piloted these new designs so that when all the charters fail, or the small schools fold, everyone who was part of the Exodeus these past few years will end up going back into these schools with the hope that they will be functional and successful and the current momentum will continue. I am sorry if you will not be part of this. However, please know that despite the propaganda that has scapegoated and targeted teachers and labeled all of them as a group “incompetent” and hiding behind their union, there are for the most part very caring, competent, teachers who value self-efficacy. Likewise, many of these teachers were targeted, had resources withheld that were turned over to new schools like yours, and were basically isolated in favor of these new designs that they have the right to inheret as veterans who have weathered the storm as to speak. Good luck to you and any others who are unfortunately pink-slipped or who have be used up through OTF and other programs. The veterans will appreciate the structures that you have all put into place.

  • J.R.

    “Likewise, many of these teachers were targeted, had resources withheld that were turned over to new schools like yours, and were basically isolated in favor of these new designs that they have the right to inheret as veterans who have weathered the storm as to speak”.

    Translation: Tax money was taken that by (divine) union right belongs to us(the p.s.teachers), and given to charters. As veterans who have existed longer we also invoke our ownership rights to those jobs, and thanks for keeping our spots warm we need them to pad our retirement.

    Entitlement doesn’t have much time left, so be aware.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    IS FUTURES AND OTHERS LIKE IT A SUSTAINABLE DESIGN/MODEL IF ITS SUCCESS RELIES ONLY ON ITS CURRENT STAFF AND PRINCIPAL???

    “young staff was hired to change the school’s old reputation…”

    I am sorry that many of these young teachers as well as the principal question “What did we do the redesign for?”

    Basically between 2001 to 2008 many schools were reconstituted which caused many adults and students to be driven out and in favor of the new school design group’s strategy to create new schools which were nothing more than turn-a-round stratgies…while at the same time the propaganda against veteran teachers intensified at the same time their professionalism was attacked, then setting them up to fail by withholding of resources and instrumental support which was turned over to new young teachers, and then isolated veteran teachers by undermining their fair access to such redesign opportunities, all with the intent to favor one group of teachers over another all with the intent to publically humiliate and further falsely accuse older, veteran teachers of lack of work effort as well as insults of their personal integrity & professional efficacy, and further devaluing them with reference to age and experience.

    All of this is considered violation of the psychological contract and is the equivalent of domestic battering and assault according to most mental health professionals of at least a Ph.D or higher and trained at a reputable school of public health, psychiatry, and/or occupational psychology who are familiar with this research base.

    Because many are rising above such mindless propaganda and understand the nature of the politicization of education by not only the Bush NCLBers but also the Obama/Duncan Race to the Toppers, this arguement is getting old, and the comments of the Futures’ staff and principal are particularly offensive to say the least. YOU ALL WERE HIRED AS TURN-A-ROUND people to implement a design protocol as these veteran teachers and their students and families were all turned around as well, and now you will pass the torch back to those veterans, students, and families, who have weathered the storm, so to speak, and if all of this “Mix-It-Up” was worth it and these designs are strong enough to prove they are empirical and can be replicated anywhere, the veterans are on their way back to inherit back all that was taken from them in favor of you all, who granted, have had youthful spirit, idealism, and hard work ethics, among other things. Your work was appreciated.

    Even Whole Foods rotates its staff every 90 days and then cans them. Too bad that is the current corporate HR protocol favors temporary workers and as a result of the Corporate Bank thievery of the American rank and file’s assets. That is NOT the fault of veteran teachers, or the unions, or anyone else’s fault. If you want to protest, don’t bash the veteran teachers who are coming back to take what is theirs and to prove that if provided the structures, protocols, resources, and designs you have all be given, that the same successes and momentum can and will continue. Just like a newborn baby benefits from gazing into many different faces, veterans can and will provide the same love, care, and concern for the children and families your have served the same way, and your legacy will continue. Good Bye, Mr. Daubenspeck and the young ladies you have supervised. Auf wiedersehen….

    PS – Mr. D – If you do not know the answer to your own question, then please listen to the lyrics of this song….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU8aFNLA6MU

    AS FOR JR: Do you really think that any teacher believes that a retirement is even going to be there for them after serving in the trenches the number of years that the GM Workers did when their retirements were cancelled shortly after retiring? America is going down financially and as dominant power in the World…brave new world….will be based upon cultural, economic, and political concensus building…

    Good Job Everyone!!!

  • Steven Weinberg

    No one has pointed out the real culprits in this tragedy, the Republicans in the state legislature who refuse to let the people of California vote on extending current taxes for 5 more years, something favored by a majority of Californians. If those tax extensions are placed on the ballot and pass Oakland will not need massive lay-offs. If the Republicans block that vote the size of the cuts the district will need to make will doom Futures and many other school, regardless of how the layoffs are handled. Even if every Futures teacher was exempted from the layoffs, many of them would not be able to remain there because class sizes would need to be increased district wide. It is even likely that under these dire conditions small school like Futures would be closed.
    Let’s not argue about who is thrown overboard, let’s keep the ship afloat.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    Victory Shall Be Mine!!!…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUAGGPYjbMc

  • Nextset

    One of the above posts mention some supposed “right” to public education.

    There is no such right.

    Our “rights”, especially those regarding government policy, are in the constitution (most people think federal constitution). The original Bill or Rights followed by the amendments are the things that come to mind.

    Free public schools through a PhD isn’t in the list. With good reason.

    Congress from time to time legislates verious pork barrels, hand outs, and largess that they pay for with printing press money. What they have given any subsequent Congress can take away.

    As for the state laws, they can be written and re-written every year. The state constitution changes like the wind also with various ballot measures.

    The survival of the public schools in various forms are strictly dependent on the (once very strong) support the public schools maintain with the electorate and the taxpayers. This is why allowing rad-lib educrats training the students in Marxist dogma and having them demonstrate for Palestinian rights, Mexican rights, criminal rights, tax increases and every other rad-lib political thing antagonistic to American interests and taxpayer interests eventually leads to the abandonment of public education in favor of that education favored by the productive classes (Charters, private schools, homeschooling, etc.)

    Not only are the layoffs going to continue, the Charters are going to replace public education in urban areas (especially with the help of automation and technology). The educrats will have done it to themselves and to the students.

    And on the way the Caste system of education will have taken hold and the use of public education as the common foundation of the citizenship of the nation will end. I doubt anyone important will care about the unemployment of the rad-lib educrats either. They’ll have to go haunt some other house, they’re not well suited to industry.

    It’s going to be interesting. We live in interesting times.

    Brave New World.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    #20 – Very well stated…it is also similar to the current diaglogue in the knowledge base concerning those who were supposed to have advocated for one group or issue actually worked in partnership with those in working toward the Caste system of education you refer to as well…

    As a side note, I hear Barbara Lee is leading a movement to end all of the wars we are involved in if there is still time to save our World from further economic catostrophe…

    “Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Bipartisan Group of House Members Call on President Obama to Meaningfully Fulfill Promise of Military Drawdown in Afghanistan”

    http://lee.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=57&sectiontree=35,57&itemid=2313

  • Nextset

    As a PS to #20, we can expect to see moves to cancel public funding of education grants and student loan programs also.

    A huge amount of pork is going to “flame-out” college students who should never have been enrolled in college in the first place because of lack of academic aptitude. They take the money – which goes to the “college”, and drop out within a year. The loans go into default. The taxpayers get soaked. (the loans are sold to speculators for pennies on the dollar who then try to collect the bankruptcy-proof loans) There is very little reason for the treasury to pay for “college” playtime for a bunch of losers to take what classes they want, hang around, not fit into society, and drop out. With actuarial science it is extraordinarily easy to predict who the losers are and what loser schools they are enrolling in.

    If nothing else we can easily enforce disqualification of “colleges” from all government grants and aid when their default rates rise above 25%, 15%, 10%, or whatever cutoff you want to use. Bye Bye HBCs, and many other colleges.

    All of this is coming with the financial collapse of the municipalities and the states. You can’t print federal money forever and the states can’t print at all. Sooner or later the “education” budget is going to get pared sharply, especially when the “students” affected are seen as being either anti-social or of low value.

    We can continue the military education programs. You trade years of your life (and maybe your life) for your degree. It’s not a give away.

    It may be the pleasure of the taxpayers to pay for basic education, but they have no obligation to give away advanced secondary or college education to anyone. And what people get for free they abuse.

  • Hot r

    You are right Nextset when you said…

    “The survival of the public schools in various forms are strictly dependent on the (once very strong) support the public schools maintain with the electorate and the taxpayers. This is why allowing rad-lib educrats training the students in Marxist dogma and having them demonstrate for Palestinian rights, Mexican rights, criminal rights, tax increases and every other rad-lib political thing antagonistic to American interests and taxpayer interests eventually leads to the abandonment of public education in favor of that education favored by the productive classes (Charters, private schools, homeschooling, etc.)”

    But that is also why Reagan was elected governor…and why there were protests against the Vietnam War. don’t you forget for a moment that it is students of color who are most impacted by this. They aren’t “home schooled” nor do they go to good charters in any significant numbers. since the Black families and communities are gone like the ones that did such a good job raising you there is nothing left but public education. You had better hope that corporations do not get a hold of it.

    The financial scenario you described will result in new Jim Crow laws and cannot be allowed to happen. the real reason students will stop going to college is because there will not be jobs which will enable them to pay their loans.

  • AH

    Thank you, Cheuy_Leuy.

    As for Brewer, a former principal wanted a non-tenured staff and went about it by “encouraging” veteran teachers to leave – consolidations, involuntary transfers . . .

    Now, Brewer has it’s young, non-tenured teachers. That’s what the administration wanted, they took the risk, they get what they get.

    I’m sorry for those teachers, and I’m sure they are doing a good job. However, those new hires are no more deserving than those they replaced, who also did a good job, nor is there any reason to believe that they are better teachers. They are cheaper – keeping in mind RBB.

    Re LAUSD and lawsuit – veteran teachers assigned to one of the schools (Markham?), also managed to raise test scores. They are probably equally committed, loving, and less likely to leave because they are protected by seniority.

    Cheuy_Leuy is right, the new hires have been exploited.

    This whole business of new vs. veteran is propaganda, pure and simple.

  • Nextset

    Hor R: The good black families you referred to are still out there, but they are intermarrying as fast as they can. There’s just no margin in re-enacting the “Good Times” TV show.

    I’m a product of the WWII generation – all my male relatives were in service and my maternal grandfather (the chemist) was in WWI with his brothers. They ran into each other in Paris one day during WWI having had no idea where they were or who was where, Europe or USA. To hear the stories, both World Wars were a lot of fun for them because it got them off the farms and away from their parents. The two generations that proceeded mine were noted for their readiness to move all over the country for school or work, or just to join up with the next great thing. By the 1950s-1960s they collectively decided to put my generation into “white” schools and neighborhoods and the rest is history I suppose (previous generations generally went to all black schools and neighborhoods). Even the term “white” takes interpretation because they would never live next door to Hee Haw – try the Berkeley Hills, not rural Butte County.

    Now we have these all-black or black dominated public schools where the main order of business is keeping the chillun pacified and not getting in their faces. To my view of black history this is something never before tried and it just hasn’t worked out well. Maybe they should be defunded and closed.

    No matter how we sit and talk about this – the defunding appears to be underway. Is the problem welfare policy or is it education policy? And does it matter anyway?

  • Hot r

    I knew it. Now we have former NBA players accusing others of being “Uncle Toms” just because they dared to attend an upper crust school like Duke. That mentality is why progress cannot be made. Despite the progress in your family why was it not transferrable on a more massive scale? Bad leadership?

  • Nextset

    Hot R: There have always been black strivers.

    It appears the main reason “it has not been transferrable on a more massive scale” is US policy – diseugenic policy – fostered by the 1960s Irish Democratic Communist types who decided to federalize welfare (and block black family formation and stability) and turn welfare into an entitlement. The dregs of black society started cranking out unwanted children with generations every 12 to 15 years. I have heard the bastardy rate now among urban blacks is up to 80%. You couldn’t have created more destruction with an atom bomb.

    I suppose the Kennedys thought freed from convention & financial need, urban blacks would go to Brown or Harvard. Hell, I don’t know what they were thinking except they were warned what would happen, the warnings have come true in spades – and they didn’t care and still don’t care.

    I don’t think Black leadership has much to do with the disaster. This mess is a white production and largely remains so. Electing Obama was just more of the same.

    Another thing, why would you ever think that higher functioning blacks would ever care what a NBA player thinks? Class distinction in black society is pretty well established going back a very long time. The various groups can recognize each other across the room and don’t exactly get along, unless it’s against a common adversary.

  • Nextset

    Before the welfare tsunami was set off by the Kennedy’s and their friends, even lower class blacks were making the transition to higher status with the help of the black urban public schools which were apparently pretty tough operations. Darker skinned blacks were trying to marry up as well as educate up – the old light skinned black families were sending their kids to the national universities (some call them the “Egyptians” because they look like Nasser).

    Social climbing and upward mobility was a pass-time and the World Wars and Civil Service helped.

    Here’s a link to one family’s story from the mid 20th Century: I especially like the (military vet) father’s lecture to his 6 daughters about their darker black skin requiring them to work harder,

    http://aalbc.com/reviews/theditchdiggersdaughters.htm

    They did and the rest is history. There were similar stories in many of the principal American Cities. Sloth was not rewarded at all. And they executed people in those days as needed.