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For some Oakland teachers, a job re-application

As we reported on Saturday night, teachers on Oakland’s Fremont and Castlemont campuses and at McClymonds High School have recently learned that if they want to stay at their schools they will have to reapply. And soon.

The Oakland school district administration says it will replace the current, 10-month teaching positions with an 11-month (204-day) job with a different job description entitled “Accelerated TSA,” for teacher-on-special-assignment.

Fremont and Castlemont are undergoing a second major transformation, as the small schools on each campus merge back into one. McClymonds already merged, in 2010, but OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said Mack was included in the plan because it, along with Fremont and Castlemont, is one of “the three highest-need schools in historically under-served neighborhoods.”

Flint said the change will allow the district to “hand pick”  teachers that are willing to fulfill the new role, which is designed to improve student achievement at those schools. The job description is likely to include such requirements as submitting weekly lesson plans and using data to inform instruction — things that many teachers already do, but that aren’t necessarily mandatory, he said.

Teachers in the new positions would be paid at the same rate they are now; with the additional time, he said, the average teacher would earn roughly $4,000 more per year.

CONTRACT DISPUTE: Flint says the administration has concluded that this move is allowed under the teacher contract, as the district already places TSAs at schools. The Oakland teachers union president says it’s a clear violation, pointing to the article that allows teachers at closed schools to follow their students when there are enough of them to necessitate an opening. (In the case of Castlemont and Fremont, existing small schools are closing and a new, larger school is opening on each campus.)

THE TIMELINE: The job description is expected to be released within the next week. Applications will be due in mid to late March, and the decisions will be announced by April 6, before spring break.

What do you make of all of this? What are your questions about the process? What is the mood like at these three campuses? Will you consider applying for one of these new “Accelerated TSA” positions?

I will be following this story, so please email me if you’d like to share your perspective on the issue and possibly set up a short phone interview (kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com). I’d love to hear what teachers, parents, community members and other OUSD staff members think of this development.

Below is the memo which Matthew Duffy, OUSD’s executive officer for school transformation, sent to staff last week to announce the change:

Greetings Staff,

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for your patience as we have been working to solidify many aspects of the new school for next year. One very important piece of the puzzle for next year is staffing. Currently, we are underway with our Principal search committees. We are now ready to begin our work around teacher staffing. Our work this year has been to design a school that will uncompromisingly serve students and families and work to radically transform the lives of our students through their educational experience. To that end, we have decided to make a significant investment in our students and our teachers by putting forth a new teaching position that is founded on the belief that teachers need significant time to plan, work, collaborate and even teach in service of their students.

We are excited to announce that we will staff the new school with 11 month Teacher on Special Assignment Positions. These new TSA positions symbolize our commitment to create a high quality school with high quality teachers that can significantly accelerate student learning, strengthen school culture and actively partner with families. As part of the Community Schools, Thriving Students strategic vision and as a result of a yearlong planning process, OUSD is excited to announce this new position. This “Acceleration TSA” as it will be called has been specifically crafted to meet the needs of our students. All teachers who join the staff of the new school will be expected to invest additional time in their students and in their school, time that will be compensated. This is an opportunity for those who wish to develop their leadership capacities, engage in rigorous and risk-taking PD, make a deep and lasting commitment on behalf of students and take part in the transformation of a community. Beginning next Wednesday, I will be working with school leadership to meet with you to discuss this further, including the specifics of an application process. I am excited by the possibilities that are before us. I look forward to furthering the excellent work you have done to date and to continue to create transformational educational experiences for our students.

Sincerely,

Matthew Duffy

Executive Officer, School Transformation
Oakland Unified School District

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jim Mordecai

    Committed Teacher:

    Why is the fact that Tony Smith is millions short in spending on the classroom “demonizing”? Why don’t you feel that he should be accountable for what he does? Why shouldn’t the highest paid administrator in the Bay Area administer QEIA grant money with the administrative effectiveness of the top third rather than the bottom third?

    How do you define Superintendent Smith’s shortcomings as “our schools have problems”?

    You attitude seems to be you want to be held accountable as a teacher but let Tony Smith skate as Superintendent. Why do you want only teachers held accountable?

    With your attitude toward administrators and teachers the idea of working in a charter school should be a match. Why would you want to continue to work in a unionized school system with rights and due process? Education for Change even pays more and you will be an at will employee.

    And, you can always petition to have your own charter school, non-union of course.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Committed Teacher

    This is the type of reaction I expected. If a teacher does not buy into the union positions 100%, they are ridiculed, shunned, treated like an idiot. There is no dialogue. Telling me to go to a charter school (more demonization)is sarcastic and immature and not what I expect from my union. I pay dues, I have a right to an opinion.

  • J.R.

    Committed,
    Some people probably liked it better when no one was really paying attention to quality in the classroom, or just didn’t care. Oakland unified has made some gains in the last few years(after decades of under-performing, and where was the union at that time……). Some people have become complacent under the layers of protection that the unions provide(yes, the incompetent as well). Thank goodness most teachers work hard, but what is so disturbing is that there are some who coast, and yet make the most….. and they are virtually untouchable(in this inadequate system we have), and they know it! You have to remember that in your union there are a percentage of teachers who would probably be next to useless in the real world, and the funny thing is those are the ones who are probably the most politically militant.

  • Nextset

    As long as people are having to “re-apply” for OUSD they could at the same time apply for a real job with a real school. Try Piedmont – and the other “monts”!

    You know, a school with real students.

    One of the dangers OUSD is obviously quite willing to have is that the “real” teachers will move on to real schools. I doubt they will be missed at OUSD.

    Because it all boils down to what the school is there for. Perhaps the teachers who are so confused need to sit down and take a cold sober look at what OUSD is really all about.

    The Union and the Administrations at OUSD are not so far apart as they may seem. If you can’t respect either of them, Jim Mordecai is right. You really should leave. Run for your life more like it.

  • J.R.

    Nextset,
    This has nothing to do with lack of respect, it’s really about foolish people being comfortable and complacency in mediocrity(at best). You have teachers who want to strive to make positive change, and then you have some who circle the wagons(and or drain) protecting their rights to job ownership, and all the perks and bennies that go with it.

  • J.R.

    edit:
    Comfortable in complacency and mediocrity.

    Speaking of that, regarding the teachers of BAMN(who are against school closings, isn’t everyone?). They have either found billions in buried treasure, or… they are going to generously volunteer to take pay cuts and or staff classrooms voluntarily, to make sure all kids are given their right to an education. Isn’t that nice?

    http://www.bamn.com/2011/09/30/stop-oakland-school-closings/

  • Livegreen

    I think Jim brings up some good points about some areas OUSD seems to be weak in. I also agree that Dr. Smith and his team need to step it up and not sacrifice these areas while they’re advancing the Strategic Plan and their other plans. Dr. Smith & OUSD owes the schools and broader OUSD population some answers on these important issues.

    However the reverse is also true: they should not stop advancing these other efforts because they are failing in some areas. Efforts that are succeeding or showing that potential should not be brought to a screaching halt because of a seperate matter.

    I fail to see the link either Jim or Committed are making with the OEA and that seems more about politics than the issues themselves.

  • J.R.

    Livegreen,
    Both sides have different weaknesses for different reasons, but one thing they both have in common is reluctance(feet dragging) to implement and adapt to drastically needed change(that is where the stubborn “NO WAY” comes from. That is why all the laws and rules are put into place, protection(the mafioso type) and politics go hand in hand.

  • Cranky Teacher

    This:

    “Of course, whether or not the experiment succeeds, its designers will move on to six-figure jobs in other school districts, or for corporate contractors, like so many in OUSD administration before them. Meanwhile, Oakland’s students, parents, and teachers will be stuck with the mess they’ve left behind.”

    I do agree, however, that OEA hardcore vets are not real thrilled to have quiet dialogue with newbies who think unions are a big part of the problem in education. They need to get over this frustration if they want to make OEA more than the impotent shell it currently is.

    It would be nice, though, if TFA kids and such would really make an effort to learn the bitter history of OUSD in particular and the systemic exploitation of “other people’s children” AND their teachers a bit before they embrace the helter-skelter reforms of the various Wizards of Oz foisted on us Mack the Turtle’s by billionaire dabblers and Sacramento politicians.

    There is so much naivete, on all sides — from the Nextsets who long for a segregated system ruled by “lion-tamers” with switches, to the J.R.s who blame seniority for all problems, to the 25-year-old Ivy Leaguers who think that nobody smart and caring every got into the teaching game before them, to the union diehards who think the golden age of the industrial age labor movement is ever coming back…

    Reality check: None of us pure of heart, but many of us try every day to do what is right. That probably includes Tony Smith, as well as the vast majority of teachers in OUSD. However, are we all pulling in the same direction? Do we believe in the same solutions? Are we carry anything like equal weight in the debate? Probably not.

    I would like to know why Katy hasn’t written about this Feb. 27 posting — it is clearly by far the biggest issue in the district, or for several years.

  • Cranky Teacher

    sorry lots of typos in that

    i will correct one:

    why Katy hasn’t written about this SINCE THE Feb. 27 posting…

  • Nextset

    While the Admin and the Teacher’s Union circle each other in OUSD, here’s what we have to look forward to:

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/07/4319254/30-students-in-racial-brawl-at.html

    Imagine OUSD when the Mexican students reach 50% and the Blacks are down to 40% or less…

    And the teachers and admin are in the lounge talking about state exams and such…

    Just like CDCR..

    If/When the schools refuse to impose their own external culture on these warring factions and they are permitted to bring their own “culture” to school – this is what will happen. And the White/Jewish students will have long since been gone. The balance of the students would be poor Asian. We’d have Los Angeles Unified North.

    Admin and Faculty bickering about pay issues will probably take a back seat to getting through the gang violence.

    This is what’s coming if the schools allow the chillun’ to bring their own comfort zones (and tattoos) to the property. They will not play nice. I still think OUSD should open a Lowell High. At least save something.

  • Nextset

    Adam Yoshida has lately been writing on education policy issues. His school district in BC is having seasonal labor issues also. His point reminds me of hypothetical of labor contract unrest & negotiations on the Titanic:

    http://adamyoshida.com/yoshiblog/2012/03/06/bc%E2%80%99s-battle-of-the-somme/

    Change is fast upon us, the schools need to get with it in a hurry.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nextset, really? One article on a race fight and you go all apocalyptic?

    I was in middle school thirty years ago and watched Mexican and Black kids brawl across the school for days at a time. Sure, it happens sometimes; but it is old news, and not the dominant story nor a rising trend — in fact, black and hispanics rarely fight today in OUSD — almost all violence in our schools (and on streets around them) is WITHIN ethnic/class groupings and is usually related to pride, sex, money, posturing, gang initiations, or boredom.

    Now, in the prisons, that may be different, I don’t know — you’ve got the big racially-based gangs, etc. But in schools? You are simply making up trends based on nothing.

    Some of us actually work in these places 10-12 hours a day — I am surprised you are so intent on telling us we don’t know what we are talking about. Just as I would never tell you about being a parole attorney or whatever it is you do, I am not sure why you claim to be a big education expert but never actually visit classrooms? You have the gall to demand a Lowell even though you never visit Tech?

  • Katy Murphy

    I did write a news story about the Accelerated TSA position (and linked to it from that Feb. 27 blog post), if that’s what you’re referring to. A follow-up is in the works, though; this afternoon I was actually just out at the informational meeting/ Q & A at Castlemont, with Tony Smith.

    If anyone at the three high school campuses would like to share their views for the story, please email me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com to set up a time.

    Also, I’m helping to plan a Tribune forum on the subject in late March. I will let you know the details once we have set the date.

  • Katy Murphy

    Ah, that makes more sense. Please see the second and third parts of my response, but disregard the first.

  • J.R.

    Cranky,
    Teachers can be a solution to the problems of the education system, or they can be part of the problem but make no mistake, they are part of this fractured education system. One would hope that all who teach are mature, clear thinking level-headed adults who are fairly clear how to follow curriculum,assign,grade and assess students and follow standard practice for classroom management and so forth(difficult in it’s own right but definitely not brain surgery by any stretch of the imagination)given three to five years on the job a person should be (as the data shows)as fully capable and sometimes even moreso than a grizzled veteran. As far as Nextset goes, he’s just reflecting on the reality a bit. If people are capable they should be able to display some progress and improvement in what they do. What does the record reflect(over the last one..two…three.. decades)?

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R., I realize we are part of the status quo, which has many problems. However, I see mostly demonization of those grinding it out in the trenches and a glib acceptance of people getting paid five times as much to make decisions which somehow are never examined later.

    Why have there been no books written about Broad and the California’s grand experimentation with OUSD between 2002-2011?

    Why have there been no movies about he successes and failures of SFUSD’s aggressive Reconstitution efforts in the 90s?

    I actually went through “reconstitution” at schools in the 70s not once but twice — and both times the school culture and safety benefited enormously (I can only guess that academics followed, although that is a sketchy assumption). This was, primarily, I believe, because of the excellent principal we had for both housecleanings.

    However, I later led an investigation of SFUSD practices which found that reconstitution of high schools there led to extreme turmoil and mixed results.

    These reforms are just tools — they are bad or good depending on how they are used and by whom and for what motive!

  • J.R.

    Cranky,
    No matter what tools you choose to use, if you do not have dedicated,competent professionals in the classroom(and yes support at home) not much will be gained. Money is not even close to being the biggest issue of education mediocrity. The kids need their own union.