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“Mutual matching” off the table in Oakland

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 10:48 pm in initiatives, teachers, Tony Smith.

There will be no mutual matching in OUSD this spring. Without the support it needed from the Oakland Education Association, the OUSD administration says it’s run out of time to reach an agreement with union leaders and implement changes to its teacher transfer policies for the upcoming school year.

There will be some changes for the 50-plus teachers displaced by school closure and other circumstances — such as time to visit some prospective schools — but their seniority rights remain fully in place. Which means that principals at the receiving schools won’t really be hiring them. Vacancies that open after May 1 will be subject to a review panel, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones said.

Do you think this is the best outcome for the district and/or its teachers? Do you think it’s something the district should consider in the future?

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  • http://www.skylinehs.org David Orphal

    I have mixed feelings about mutual matching. On the one hand, I share Betty Olson-Jones’s concerns that it could easily be abused to allow school to let go experienced, and therefore more expensive, teachers in order to meet their budget goals.

    On the other hand, I know from reading the research and from my own experience that many of our very best teachers are drawn to schools that need them the least.

    It’s caused by a combination of factors.

    First, wealthy suburban districts like Pleasanton, offer much more to teachers in terms of salary and benefits when compared to Oakland. (I will use Pleasanton as my comparison example in this because I grew up there. Go Dons!) While I know of no teachers who got into this professions “for the money,” our landlords and grocery stores are not as autistic as we are. They demand the same money for goods and services from teachers as they do from any other person. As much as I love kids, I am often temped to get a little more financial breathing room for myself and my family. I would love to not have to make a choice every year (do I work summer school again, or do I forgo new tires for the car?)

    Secondly, teachers do go into our profession because they want to feel like they are making a difference in the lives of children. While one teacher may feel that helping a child advance from far below basic reading skills to basic reading skills is more rewarding. Many other teachers want to feel like their whole class is working at or above their grade level. Because children in wealthier neighborhoods are more likely to have one or more years of preschool, more likely to go to museums and educational trips in the summer, more likely to have well-stocked libraries, etc… All of these things help teachers feel like they are making great progress with their students.

    Thirdly, many teachers are neither well prepared or emotionally ready to deal with all of the non-academic issues that kids bring to school with them everyday. Now, I’m not saying that drugs and tragedy never touches the classrooms of teachers in Pleasanton, I can say this: every year I lose one or more of my students to chronic poverty and violence. This year, thank God, it was only for a month while my student healed from the gunshot woulds he suffered. Last year, again, thank God, after a month of living on the streets, my student returned to her mother and returned to school. Two years ago, my student was shot and killed. Each of these incidents leaves a lasting mark on my class and my children. It is hard for my students to maintain hope that a good education will lead them to a good life, when each year they are reminded that violence and poverty will cling to them and continually try to drag them down.

    Finally, I must be frank about this: I feel demoralized. As schools and now teachers are continually ranked and labeled and judged by scores on a one-shot fill-in-the-bubble test, I feel like I am being punched in the gut every year.

    I know that I can simply move to Pleasanton, earn higher pay, deal with fewer crises, and be told how great a teacher I am.

    Alternately, I can stay in Oakland, struggle to make ends meet, struggle to do more for my kids with fewer resources, cry and mourn for my children every year, and constantly be told what a lousy teachers I am.

    So all of that brings me back to mutual matching. While I am of mixed feelings about the mutual matching system, I am in full support of strategically placing teachers. I feel strongly that the children in our community who need the most support should get the very best teachers and resources.

    So how do we do this? Frankly, I don’t have an easy solution. First, the district administration and the union need to work together to define what and “excellent teacher” looks like and what she does. Then, we need to agree on how we can measure that teaching excellence. Then, we can agree on some kind of incentive/staffing system that will allow us to match our very best teachers with our neediest schools and kids.

    Teaching in our toughest schools and serving our neediest children should be a high honor and a prized position for teachers. It should be difficult to apply for and be accepted to schools that serve our communities in need. Resources, salary, and respect should be accorded in ways that make teachers want to compete for those prestigious jobs.

    Until then, children who live in poverty and neighborhoods beset with violence will continue to come to school needing more, and we will continue to give them less.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    I believe the contract states that teachers can follow their students. If large numbers of students from Thurgood Marshall go to Grass Valley, then the teachers from the closing school have the option to go there. The same goes for the other schools that are closing. It is very important that the closing schools are made privy to this information.
    Many years ago I was a teacher at Burbank. This school was one of the five original schools OUSD closed. It was painful, and heart wrenching. The students and teachers from our school were looked at as failures. At a meeting ,three of the teachers were told by a former administrator, that we were “not wanted here by me or the parents. You are failing teachers bringing your failing students here to bring down our test scores.”

    I for one saw “mutual matching” as a way to avoid that mentality. I wanted to be in an environment that welcomed me and my students. That did not happen back then. Let’s make it happen now.
    I am a teacher at Burckhalter. We have been working with Lakeview for three years. Our staff has spent hours, day and night, on developing curriculum, writing prompts, rubrics, attending science inservices,becoming Red Cross Certified,attending technology workshops and staff development together. Our schools have attended Outdoor Education together. We share the same Afterschool Program that ties us together even further. We see our situation as a very unique one. Lakeview is not closing, it is relocating, it is merging, and we want the parents and students of Lakeview to know that we embrace you and want the opportunity to grow into an even better and bigger school with you.

    Does OEA support their constituents at these two schools? Is OEA privy to the number of students moving from school to school, to make sure they know where an opening should happen for those displaced teachers? Is the school district forthcoming with the information? Are they hiding the numbers going to certain schools because perhaps , let us say, Lincoln doesn’t want just anybody, because they have seniority? What is the ratio of student to FTE ?
    Yes this is all difficult, but ultimately don’t we all want to go where we are wanted and valued? I am a high seniority teacher, but frankly, I would gladly reapply for my position, or go for mutual matching if it meant that our schools would be better, everyone would be happier, and the little people we serve would be better off for it.

  • Steve Neat

    I am very proud to teach in Oakland with the two teachers who posted the responses before I did. They exemplify the caring, dedicated, and talented individuals who teach in OUSD. One thing I need to point out is that the Oakland Education Association (OEA), the teachers who posted above, and all teachers in Oakland Public Schools are one and the same. We are all the union. We are a democratic organization. We elect representatives, an Executive Board, and Officers. I am an officer myself, and yet I am still a full-time teacher. In fact, all of us, apart from the president, are full time teachers. There can be no “agreement with union leaders” that is made behind closed doors, or even at clearly orchestrated “community” meetings or sparsely attended press conferences.

    The OEA can only come to agreements as a democratic body. Democracy takes time. As part of the democratic process we distributed a survey at a Membership Meeting and we had a forum on OUSD’s Mutual Matching proposal. The forum broke into small groups and discussed OUSD’s proposal. The overwhelming response from 75%-90% of our members has been that OUSD’s proposal as it was written up was expensive, poorly designed, and unacceptably vague in many areas. It was the will of our members that put changes in teacher transfer policies on the back burner.

    I very much appreciate the space that Katy Murphy’s blog has provided for debate about education issues here in Oakland over the past few years, but we must be clear that the OEA did not prevail here. Union leaders did not prevail. The overwhelming opinion of the experts that spend 30-35 hours a week actually in the classroom with the kids–this opinion prevailed. Democracy prevailed.

  • J.R.

    The union inner workings may be of a democratic nature, but what they have inflicted upon taxpayers and their children have been anything but democratic. Democracy is freedom of choice, unions have tried to destroy or at the very least limit charters. They have used political power to lock in mechanisms to ensure their own financial survival at great cost to the taxpayer(mandatory dues or agency fees). They have codified into law multiple layers of near iron-clad protection and pension protection(all pension shortfalls will be made up by the taxpayers). No real mechanism for accountability as nothing means more than being there the longest(more perks,pay and pension for having a pulse longer than anyone else,that’s real impetus for improvement isn’t it)? The taxpayers are bending over and having it done to them, that’s not democracy as far as taxpayers are concerned. Where are the results, and why is it taking decades? I would love to see the children prevail for once!

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    Sorry, but you were misinformed if you were taught in a public or a private school that “democracy is freedom of choice”.

    Democracy is a governance concept and not an economic concept. Charter schools are corporations publicly financed and privately managed. And, why most charters are democratically authorized, the authorizers have weak oversight making charter schools less democratic than public schools.

    You say unions have tried to destroy or limit charter schools. I only wish that unions would seriously try to destroy charter schools because I believe charter schools to be a failed experiment and not in the best interest of the public. And, it is the public that is footing the bill for privatization of public education and creation of a redundant system that is less democratic, reduces resources of school districts, and charter schools overall have failed to be more effective than the traditional school districts.

    And, as for political power of unions, they were not able after Taft-Hartley to have closed shops. And, the freedom to pick union dues or agency fee was a victory for corporate America. American unions are so weak they can’t even celebrate Labor Day on May 1st. Today unions are a small percentage of the workforce. And, it is loss of union jobs that reflects the shrinking of the American middle class. And, policy of cutting governmental union jobs added to that contraction.

    Growing childhood poverty reduces choice in the lives of children. I believe this economic crisis has resulted in a huge increase of children in poverty and the crisis was caused by Wall Street, not Main Street or the political power of unions.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Jim:

    Poverty is an effect not a cause.

    “Growing childhood poverty” is the product of badly raised (badly behaving) people. At least poverty as we see in coming off the 20th Century. Even dull people are able to avoid poverty in this country. Problem is they have to want to. Self Control takes training (spmetimes at the end of a paddle), which is not in vogue nowadays.

    I do agree that government policy is intended to create massive poverty and the destruction of the middle class. But that is largely self inflicted. Starting in the mid sixties the electorate and their legislatures (and courts acting as legislatures) passed a number of measures calculated to decrease the middle class and increase the underclass.

    These include: Divorce on Demand, Large Scale Affirmative Action, Massive entitlement increases (Great Society), Tax Policy Changes disruptive of family life (no more housewives), Lowering of Voting Age. Both the exact rulings of Brown v Board of Education and even the direct election of Senators Constitutional Amendment set the stage for what we see here. Political Concentration of Power in the Federal Government at the Expense of States ensured rot from the center and prevented normal corrective processes from acting as brakes on the process of rot.

    A far as poverty goes, you’ve not seen anything yet. As the Soviet style process continues you will be seeing historic differences between haves and have nots in this country. And you are increasingly likely to see the rise of a popularly elected Facist government to “fix” it.

    It will really be interesting if such a government siezes on a certain ethnicity as a scapegoat of sorts. History repeating… Remember, the facist can be left wing or right wing. The point being they are made possible as the government rots.

    Anyway, we did this to ourselves in our refusal to observe the Constitutional limits of federal power and limits of government. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    “Poverty” has never been the problem.

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    If people have freedom to vote, that is choice which is freedom(democracy in action). Charter schools have only existed for a decade and a half and in small numbers for much of that time. In that time charters have served as(at the minimum) a vehicle of change in a system that people were locked into, and just got comfortable and apathetic(parallels with the welfare system). The education system had a monopolistic stranglehold on public money, and this created no incentive to get or do better(there was no reason to try(parallels with the welfare system). We have a large underclass because there have been and are irresponsible people(people if left to their own devices would deem it insane to have children) who even though they can’t take care of themselves are given the ability and encouraged by the system(welfare,AFDC, Sect.8) to create more irresponsible people.

    Nextset,
    You are forgetting perhaps the largest cause of poverty, the welfare system itself, and do not forget the widespread collateral damage done by this system.

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    BTW, if union dues or agency fees(75%-80% of union dues) are mandatory which they are, that is not freedom. Taking peoples money without their consent, or under pressure is wrong and immoral.

  • Nextset

    JR. right about welfare and all the entitlements.

    But no, it’s not immoral to take money wo consent or by force. It’s a function of government to force people to meet their obligations. The issue is how these obligations are created.

    I approve of child support collection. And don’t fool yourself that it’s not done by force.

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    Taking money in order to fulfill obvious obligations is one thing(of course that goes without saying), but taking money(other peoples tax money) to create a taxpayer funded special interest lobbying group is quite another.

  • J.R.

    BTW,
    Child support is(and nearly everyone can agree)necessary and appropriate to be extracted from any and all responsible parties. There is no commonality, and nothing analagous in the two issues of unions and child support.

  • classified employee

    For what it is worth (doesn’t sound like much here), when I was hired, I was explicity told I didn’t need to pay dues to the union if I didn’t want to. The equivalent amount would be withdrawn and I think they said given to some charitable fund, if I preferred. So, nobody “made me” join the union or pay them taxpayer money.

    It is funny, if you had asked me about unions 10-15 years ago, I would honestly have told you that they’d outlived their usefulness. But, as the ugliest element of our society continues to grow and the middle class continues to recede, I’m seeing things differently. I’m not sure if that means I’m getting smarter or getting senile. I guess time will tell.

  • J.R.

    Classified,
    Time will tell, and so will the money. All that voters need to do is follow the money trail.

    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/01/teachers-union-head-says-no-dues-surcharge-this-time.html

    BTW I am very familiar with the process of dues/tax money extraction.

    http://www.nrtw.org/special-legal-notice-california-teachers-how-get-least-300-refund-cta-nonbargaining-expenses

  • Nextset

    Theft is immoral.

    Government taking money from those who earn it, to award that money to parasites who are politically favored – is theft. And gifts of public funds.

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    That’s correct, but believe it or not there are people who wish to obfuscate truth for their own benefit.

  • Classified Employee

    J.R.

    I’m not sure what you find so troubling in the first link. Was it the special assessment? If so, it seems your second link seems to list various ways one need not pay those, if they object. Was it that unions might be involved in politics? In light of Citizen’s United, that seems laughable.

    Your second link seems to list many ways to get out of paying the dues (or most of it) should one desire. Doesn’t that seem to undercut your concerns a bit?

    Nextset:

    Theft is immoral.

    Government taking money from those who earn it, to award that money to parasites who are politically favored – is theft. And gifts of public funds.

    You must be talking about all of those no-bid Haliburton contracts and $400 toilet seats, right?

    And, how is any of this taxpayer money? Union dues comes from my post-tax income, so it isn’t being subsidized by the public at all. Once I pay my taxes on it, it isn’t taxpayer money, it is this taxpayer’s money. Do you consider your post-tax income to be your employer’s money?

    Regardless, the weekend calls…Some of us ne’er-do-well union members still get those….for now. Enjoy!

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    I agree with your following quote:
    “Taking money in order to fulfill obvious obligations is one thing(of course that goes without saying), but taking money(other peoples tax money) to create a taxpayer funded special interest lobbying group is quite another.”

    Only we are looking at different things. I am looking at your quote in reference to the fact that many corporate charter schools advance their interest by paying charter school association dues. These dues in part pay for lobbying charter school special interest in Sacramento and Washington. There is no law against charter schools using public education dollars for that lobbying. Nor is there a law against school boards paying for K Street lobbying.

    I believe both school boards and charter schools shouldn’t be allowed to use public education dollars for their special interest lobbying. Actually, I believe all government agencies should not be allowed to lobby for their interest using public funds. But, since charter schools are according to their supporters, such as yourself, public schools you likely would be against restrictions on using public funding to pay for lobbying.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    I am not a supporter of charter schools per se, but I do support the idea of not being forced to participate in a failing(school,district) system if and when appropriate. I also like the idea of being free to discipline students who are troublesome and disrupt the learning environment.Teachers who are not effective can be dealt with just like any other job in this country(except for fed.judges, we are stuck with them for life).There are many good public schools, and of course mostly good teachers(although I would not hazard a guess as to the percentage). The big problem is the education system-wide lack of purpose,direction and the will to do better on behalf of our students(and yes parents are partly to blame for this).The system is not set up to reward or encourage people to be their best, only to be there the longest(and there can be a massive amount of difference between the two quality-wise).The union’s insist upon stacking the deck of protection and privilege(through law and contract), and they believe all teachers should be paid as if they were the same quality(the sole determining factor being time served).The Democratic politicians are owned by the union’s, and the proof will be when everyone’s taxes are raised. None of the frivolous, useless boards,commissions or departments will be touched(except for the phony unfilled positions).

    read what are friends for about halfway down the page on this link.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/05/BA311N2U5G.DTL

    Cronyism at it’s finest.

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    But, you are forced to pay for charter schools that turn part of that payment into money that pays for lobbying. You are also forced to pay for public schools that turns some portion of that money into paying for lobbying by some school boards. Oakland pays for lobbyist in both Sacramento and Washington D.C.

    I read your reference but what you provided had nothing to do with unions but as you stated “conyism at it’s finest.”

    While unions have been traditionally aligned with the Democrat Party, that relationship has often in practice been of little advantage when it has come to fighitng off anti-labor corporate agenda of privatizing of government service sector. President Obama has promoted charter schools with taxpayers dollars providing California with $300 million to pay for new charter schools. New York has taken Obama dollars and made student test scores a part of teacher and principal evaluations–an unfair and unreliable method of personnel evaluation. These actions of a Democratic President were not the action of an education union friendly politican. And, the National Education Association just gave President Obama an early endorsement at the union’s annual meeting last summer. I voted against that endorsement. I continue to pay my dues although I believe majority is wrong to endorse someone that has done more to privatize public education than any other President.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    You speak of “unfairness, and unreliable method of personnel evaluation”, but the truth is that very few teachers who are substandard are ever shown the door. Every substandard teacher cost dozens of students educational quality every year, how fair is that to the children(you know them, the little people who are entrusted to you and years to teach)? This corrupt system has been in place for decades, and change is past due(even many democrats know that there is no excuse for this mediocrity).

    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/03/teacher_dismissal.html

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    I threw in the political cronyism just to show you that politically minded people and organizations(including unions) cannot be trusted to do what is right, only to do what is best for their own financial gain. Parents and taxpayers must stand up for themselves and do what is right for their children because no one else will.

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    Thanks for reminding me about cronyism. When I think of cronyism I think of charter schools that put on their corporate governance board friends and relatives an action sometimes referred to as nepotism.

    Jim Mordecai