On the agenda: a $742,000 contract with WestEd

I keep hearing about WestEd and its prominent role in the new direction of OUSD, but until today, I hadn’t seen any big-ticket agenda items related to the San Francisco-based organization.

The school board has been asked to increase an existing WestEd contract from $62,000 to $742,000. That’s right, an increase of $680,000. This is for a 7-month period that ends in two weeks. (Funding source: English Language Program)

The item is on Wednesday’s Finance and Human Resources Committee agenda:

Approval by the Board of Education of Amendment No. 1, Professional Services Contract between the District and WestEd, San Francisco, CA, for the latter to provide a series of professional development to 101 principals, 50 instructional coaches and up to 400 teachers and 30 central office administrators and also develop up to 20 District employees to be trainers for the professional development seminar, in an additional amount not to exceed $680,000.00, increasing Contract not to exceed amount from $62,000.00 to $742,000.00, for the period November 15, 2010 through June 30, 2011. All other terms and conditions of the Contract remain in full force and effect.

Has anyone attended these trainings?

Teacher convention delegates and task force members: Is this what you had in mind for professional development? Did you weigh in on this contract?

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://www.skylinehs.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=77763&type=u&rn=6808095 David Orphal

    A team of 12 Skyline High School teachers will be attending a WestEd training on academic literacy instruction in August – I’ll write about it, how useful, I thought it was, and report next Spring if any of the lessons learned have migrated into classrooms here.

    Perhaps the WestEd $$$ is well-spent, but ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding!


  • Turanga_teach

    Holy Lord.

    If the work period seriously ends in two weeks, and we’re just now getting around to the question of whether we should pay them, this ain’t good regardless of who does or doesn’t deserve it.

    Can someone in the know PLEASE explain this?

  • Nextset

    I guess money grows on trees at OUSD.

  • AH

    This is outrageous!

    It’s offensive to me that they are contracting with an outside agency to provide these services. OUSD already has some wonderful coaches – ELD, ELA – many of whom are now back in the classroom.

    These people are carpetbaggers!

    Over the last few years, I’ve attended workshops in ELD and ELA. They were great! I’d been out of the classroom for a few years, and these programs were very helpful.

    I wonder what the salaries will look like.

    Two years ago, while in the library with my students, I noticed a young woman (mid-twenties), sitting at a nearby table. I asked her if she was a sub. No, she was a coach – her job was to help those teachers who teach seniors to prepare students for college. I asked her how long she had taught – “one year.”

    That’s it – one year and she’s collecting a salary to coach a group of very experienced teachers, who needed her like they needed a hole in the head. They were nice about it, though.

    This is what they are replacing our OUSD coaches with?

    I don’t know if she was with WestEd or some other group.


  • Oakland Teacher

    I agree that in these times we particularly should not be contracting out for PD. My favorite PD’s have always been lead by current teachers (for free); I leave with real ideas that I can use right away.

  • Oakland BTSA Mentor

    Hi Katy,
    Do you know how Oakland is cutting down on “outside” contractors? The district has notified the highly experienced retired Oakland teachers who have served as coaches for new teachers that their services will no longer be used. Instead the district is soliciting BTSA mentors from teachers who have just finished the program (second and third year teachers.)

  • Cranky Teacher

    My humble opinion is that the vast majority of professional development expenditures are pretty much like flushing money down the toilet. However, if you are paying the trainer $25 an hour (a teacher) rather than $200 an hour, you are flushing considerably less…

    However, this is not to say that teachers don’t need “developing” — we do. The problem is, PD tends to be somebody telling you about best practices (and often ones somebody else already told you about.). The real challenges are deeply accepting and implementing these best practices in a meaningful, consistent way. The reasons we don’t are deep and complicated (everything from individual biases to lack of prep time), but I am skeptical that any current budget and contract for traditional hit-and-run PD can fundamentally help.

    I do think it should be clarified that WestEd is not a private company. It is a gov-affiliated nonprofit, “a Joint Powers Agency, authorized by a California Joint Powers Agreement and governed by public entities in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah, with Board members representing agencies from these states and nationally.”

    to Oakland BTSA mentor: Since BTSA is a just some hand-holding and form-filling, I see no reason a recent BTSA grad can’t potentially do it as well as a retiree. Especially if they are at the same school teaching the same kids and ideally even the same subject. I’m sorry you’ve lost a pretty cush gig, but experience isn’t the only issue.

  • Steven Weinberg

    I have served as a BTSA mentor as both a teacher and as a retiree. I would disagree with Cranky that serving as a mentor is just “hand-holding and form-filling,” but those who have been BTSA teachers can comment on that better than I can. I can say that as a retiree mentor I had more time to devote to the teachers I was mentoring than I did when I was working. I do think experience counts for something when you are mentoring. An experienced teacher will have a wider range of solutions to the problems that a new teacher may be facing than a 4th or 5th year teacher will have. On the other hand, I do see the advantage of having a mentor who is at the same school teaching the same grades and subjects. But in cases where that is not possible I do think there is a place for retiree mentors.

  • Lisa Capuano

    Mr. Smith,

    When I went to the “Oakland Teacher Convention” to be heard , myself and others repeatedly said we want the outside contracts to become limited. Some of us even spoke of the Guthrie Report and have been around long enough to remember what it said.
    Your administration is becoming increasingly “top-heavy”. We are seeing more administration downtown with six figure salaries while our school sites are losing attendance clerks , secretaries and our administrative assistants. There is still talk of closing more SCHOOLS. I see class sizes on the rise, school site administrators burdened with trying to run a school and being taken away one day a week, on the average for meetings. I see children getting the short end of the stick. What any of us do IS NOT more important than WHO WE SERVE.
    I see people who know so little about Oakland, so little about teaching ,and educating our youth, being handed huge salaries. Some money is filtered through other organizations so the district can wipe their hands clean of it.
    I rarely get involved in the “politics” of OUSD. I am a teacher. I am one of the best. But this has me boiling. You are going at this all wrong. Mr. Chatmon’s lack of preparation for the convention was laughable until I realized how many teachers could be paid with his salary alone.
    I do not stand alone with my frustration. You have inspired me to have a voice again in the political side of being a teacher. And I begin with…NO to WestEd, and no to any more “task force” salaries, to begin with.

  • Cranky Teacher


    I shouldn’t have been so flip in my comments. Experience is important, retirees are cool. I am not an elder-basher.

    But there are advantages to being coached by an on-site peer, too, as you agree.

    My experience with BTSA was that it was mostly a lightweight check-in with some form-filling from a retiree who had taught a completely different subject then me and really had very little to offer beyond basic morale boosting. I enjoyed the psychological support during that first tough year in Oakland, but can’t really say it made me a better teacher.

  • AH

    “I do think it should be clarified that WestEd is not a private company. It is a gov-affiliated nonprofit, “a Joint Powers Agency, authorized by a California Joint Powers Agreement and governed by public entities in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah, with Board members representing agencies from these states and nationally.”

    Can you clarify this? What does WestEd really do? If we dig deep enough will we find Broad or Gates or another such foundation?

  • Katy Murphy

    This page lists the many funding sources for WestEd — foundations (including Gates), institutes, businesses, universities and school districts (including OUSD): http://www.wested.org/cs/we/print/docs/we/fund.htm

  • AH

    Thanks for posting that. It doesn’t surprise me.

  • formerBTSAstaff

    In response to BTSA Mentor, Cranky, and Steven, the retired coaches are among the most effective (Participating Teacher survey results) coaches the progam has. Their not being asked back has nothing to do with the quality of their work. It was simply a directive from above that consultant expenditures had to be cut; no consideration of what the expenditures are or why they’re there. They just have to go. Nevermind that the coach gets the same amount of money to support the participant whether the coach is an employee or a consultant. This means it will save exactly $0.

    While it would be ideal to have an on-site coach for every participant, it has been difficult historically to recruit good classroom teachers to become coaches because they simply have so little time to consistently dedicate to someone else. Many of them are heavily involved in school committees, after school activities, etc. And (sorry for Cranky’s experience), it does take a fair amount of time from the coach to really take the participant through the process thoroughly. The retired coaches really have been a great way to help get more effective coaching to more participants.

    It seems more than a little ironic that the same higher-ups who were complaining about consultant expenditures now want drop all this cash on West-Ed. Does anyone find it odd that Maria Santos’ good friend just got a fat contract for what looks like services already rendered? What happened to getting approval before doing the work? So they wait until teachers are gone for the year to “adjust” the expenditure for 3/4 of million dollars, presumably to cut down on outrage. Do you think they didn’t know they were going to exceed the $68,000 until now? This is just dirty and someone really ought to do an investigation on the Maria Santos – WestEd relationship.

  • Ms. J.

    Wow. This feels outrageous to me, too, for all of the reasons cited above. I was at the convention and I CERTAINLY did not hear people clamoring for WestEd or other outside consultants; we repeated over and over that current OUSD teachers are our best mentors and trainers. And it just does not seem right to extend a contract by such a huge amount at this date–it does indeed seem cynical if not downright dishonest. SO frustrating and demoralizing.

  • Gordon Danning

    I have no idea whether BTSA is any good. That being said, I do not understand why people think that OUSD teachers are particularly qualified to be be mentors and trainers. I, for one, have never done research on how to train teachers, nor have I read research on that topic, nor do I have experience training teachers. If teacher training is important, then it should be done professionally. Normally, that means done by professionals.

    Again, I have no idea whether WestEd is particularly qualified; I can certainly attest that most professional development that I have attended has been amateurish and/or incompetent. But the solution is to demand higher quality professional development, not to give that job to under-qualified, overworked colleagues.

  • Steven Weinberg

    FormerBTSAstaff, thank you for the information in your posting. I know that BTSA has conducted many surveys to determine the most effective ways to deliver services to new teachers, and it is a shame that the data from those surveys is being ignored by someone in the district administration.
    If you are correct that the decision not to use retired teachers as BTSA mentors was made in an effort to reduce consultant expenses, it is completely misguided. Many retired BTSA mentors are in the substitute pool and are paid on extended contract, not consultant contracts.

  • Cranky Teacher


    I guess my overall feeling is that with so little money for ALL the important things, costly PD is just something that we need to live without right now. Sure, in an ideal world we’d have all kinds of cash to pay professional mentors to come in and coach us up, but a) I believe even the best PD (if it exists) only marginally improves teachers; and b) we are in a triage situation in terms of spending.

    (I actually did BTSA in two different districts and kept in touch with all the folks from my credential program during that time — almost universally it was believe that BTSA was in the main a joke, another hoop mandated by the state to further “professionalize” teaching’s image. Dull one-size-fits-all seminars, building pointless portfolios, filling out dozens of forms — all while you are enduring the tsunami of real-world expectations in your first two years of teaching. Simply not that helpful!)

    I don’t think folks really grasp the magnitude of the budget crisis the banks have foisted on us here. It took a couple years, but the carnage wrought by the housing bubble collapse are just now really taking hold.

    However, if the WestEd contract is just taking money that was going to in-house PD and outsourcing it for roughly the same amount, than nothing has been accomplished but pushing more cash to people who make $120K a year.

    I fear our school board is not equipped to watchdog a district of this size and complexity.

  • J.R.

    “Our school board is not equipped to watchdog a district of this size and complexity”.

    Several public sector community activists,an educator,a few lawyers, a volunteer or two and you expect better? It’s pretty much in line with the academic results we get, on target to me. Not enough competency, I do agree. That’s the result of “one man, one vote”, not enough intelligent people vote.

  • 4th year Oakland teacher

    I attended a WestEd ELD training a couple summers ago. out of the week of training, I have used 3 techniques that they taught for ELD support in my mainstream class, so I did get something useful from it, but not necessarily a week’s worth.

    I also finished BTSA a couple years ago. I did not feel that the process really helped me. I had a coach from a different subject and grade level, so they did not have much concrete for me to offer. The process itself seemed like a lot of ridiculous busywork.

    My best professional development has been the result of lesson sharing with teachers in my subject area from other schools, or from peer observation and critique with teachers from my school.

  • Lisa Capuano

    The West Ed contract is very disturbing.
    How West Ed then pays out salaries to people in OUSD to supplement their salaries makes it look like they are more of a money laundering operation.
    Who in the district is on the payroll of West Ed, Katy? Whose salaries are supplemented by West Ed? This should be public information since it is a non-profit, right?

  • Jennifer Brouhard

    This is absolutely NOT what the over 200 teachers had in mind during the two-day conference. This is the same old OUSD — hiring outside overpaid consultants to do district mandated, one-size fits all PD. What we were saying is that sites should be able to choose the PD that would best benefit each site. We also felt that teachers, with stipends, could lead site-initiated PD. When I first signed on to the task force, I thought there really was new direction from the superintendent’s office, but it’s really the same old thing. I am disappointed in the leadership of Tony Smith and Maria Santos.

  • ED

    In response to Dave Orphal: A team of 12 teachers? Not all teachers support this training. Teachers want to teach! Unfortunately money will have been spent that could have gone to keep more positions for counselors, teachers, and adult education. Meanwhile, you’ll have lost valuable players that support students. Perhaps, WestEd will take your job one day!

    Yes, the out-sourcing of these services have become vultures. These agencies are supposed to be non-profit. From the sounds of it, they make more money than teachers. These people don’t have to answer to anyone in the district either.

    Hiring outside overpaid consultants to do district mandated, one-size fits all PD is outrageous. Our school used new and experiences teachers to provide some excellent PD’s. I too was excited at the beginning of the year when I learned about the task force, but it is the same old thing. How many times will we re-invent the wheel? Take the dedicated teachers, counselors, and staff that you have and work with them! This whole movement is taking valuable jobs from some of our more tenured and experienced teachers, not to mention wasting our Oakland dollars. I am extremely disappointed in the leadership of Tony Smith. He is supposed to be working for OUSD employees, students, and parents not overpaid consultants.