They call themselves Oakland Teachers for Innovative and Equitable Schooling, or Oakland TIES. Their platform (which I posted in full, below) calls for better teacher retention, a more representative union, greater teacher control over working conditions, needs-based funding allocations, and union involvement in revamping teacher evaluations.
The small group — it has five core members — has encouraged like-minded candidates to run for a seat on the Oakland Education Association’s executive board in May.
Emily Sacks, a special education teacher at Redwood Heights Elementary and Manzanita Community School, said TIES is not a splinter group, despite fears to the contrary, and that it’s not affiliated with any outside organizations. (Great Oakland Public Schools has also taken an interest in executive board elections, but Sacks said there wasn’t a connection.)
“Really, it was about how we strengthen the union by getting more voices into the mix,” she said.
The OEA’s executive board has pushed for smaller class sizes, particularly in flatlands schools, and for other policies that affect the daily lives of classroom teachers and their students. But the volunteer board also gets involved in causes that relate less directly to the working conditions of its members — taking a stand against the Fruitvale gang injunction, for one, or protesting the federal bailouts of banks.
And the union’s leadership did not support school parcel tax campaigns in 2008 and 2010, though the extra revenue would have raised millions of dollars a year for its members’ paychecks.
“I just don’t feel like I know what the union does for me,” Sacks said.
Sacks said she feels strongly that it’s the responsibility of members to make sure their union is representative. So she began meeting with other teachers, including Greg Cluster from Metwest and Karen Pezzetti from LIFE Academy, to see if they could figure out how to boost participation in the OEA. They began with this question: “If there were different issues at the forefront of the union conversation, would more people get involved, and more enthusiastically involved?”
Sacks said she has shared some of her ideas with Betty Olson-Jones, the OEA president, who has been “nothing but encouraging” to her.
TIES sent out a survey (which elicited responses from about 150 teachers) to see what teachers thought of their platform. You can find the results, as well as the anonymous comments, here.
If you want to learn about the group’s ideas or want to get involved, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you agree that such an effort is needed to activate rank-and-file OEA members? Do you think the union’s agenda needs to be revamped, refocused, or more clearly communicated? How? What do you think of TIES’ platform, below?
Strategic Collaboration Support OUSD schools
o Think big picture: support/advocate for getting more funding from state/federal levels
o Partner schools, more push for shared practice among schools
Retain Teachers Through Real Teacher Support
o BTSA representation on EBOARD
o 1-4 teachers paired with master teachers, new teachers released from class 2-3 hours a week to observe, 1-2 hours of feedback from master teacher
New Structures to Build a Stronger, More Representative OEA
o Reach out to new teachers
o More electronic polling of OEA membership body
o New structure for rep council so they are more efficient and productive
Revamp Evaluations for Collaborative Reflection
o More eval input from more sources (Admin ,teachers, parents, students)
o Develop to plans to support or eventually dismiss teacher who repeatedly have poor evals
o Differentiated evals for new/veteran teachers or a teacher continuum
Teachers are professionals: Real Power over Working Conditions
o Each site determines area of focus for the semester Teachers take lead on all PD
o Teacher hiring/staffing committees at all sites. Teacher input into hiring
o Teachers also evaluate admin for growth and collaboration
o Teachers elect principals from within or select from outside
We keep issues of equity at the core of the union’s positions.
o We support need-based allocation of funds
o What is fair is not always equal