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Will OUSD back off its high school reforms?

By Katy Murphy
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 2:58 pm in high schools, school reform, teachers.

9 P.M. UPDATE: So far, Gallo has not made the below motion on the TSAs. His focus has been on supporting Lazear Elementary School’s charter school conversion.

UPDATE: OUSD board member Noel Gallo has confirmed that he might introduce a motion tonight to direct Superintendent Tony Smith to back off the teacher-on-special-assignment plan and negotiate a solution with the teachers union.

“Right now, there’s too much divisiveness going on,” he said.

Do you agree? What do you think about the timing of all of this — right before the hiring decisions are supposed to be announced? If he does introduce the motion, he’d need three of his colleagues to vote for it.

P.S. We’re hearing Occupy Oakland will be occupying the meeting too.

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The Oakland Education Association is holding a rally today to protest the district’s decision to have teachers at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds apply for a new, 11-month teaching position if they want to remain on those campuses. (In case I haven’t reminded you enough, the Tribune is holding a forum tomorrow on this very issue.)

Do you agree with the below assessment that the district’s plan is “the latest corporate-inspired flavor of the month,” rather than a real solution?

Here’s the news release:

Oakland Teachers to Protest at 3 p.m.

Over District’s Corporate-Inspired, Top-Down High School Reforms

OAKLAND — After significant questions and concerns were raised by teachers of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and OEA leadership about “Mutual Matching,” OUSD administration dropped this ill-conceived plan for assigning displaced teachers and adopted the OEA blueprint for transfers and consolidations from closed schools. Now OUSD has initiated an even more poorly designed plan. Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds high schools are all scheduled to be “transformed.” If Superintendent Tony Smith and the District have their way, the entire teaching staff will have to apply for new positions as “Acceleration Teachers-on-Special-Assignment (TSAs),” 11-month jobs for which teachers may have to reapply on a yearly basis. There was no consultation with most of the current teachers at these sites or with the OEA, and the District is refusing to bargain the effects of these changes in working conditions. This is in flagrant violation of state law.

Teachers agree that we need reforms. However, reforms should be implemented in collaboration with the entire OUSD community: parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Instead, for most of the year the District met with some small groups of teachers and not others, and worked behind closed doors with corporate-funded groups like Great Oakland Public Schools, springing this “plan” at the eleventh hour. According to OEA President Betty Olson-Jones, “Once again, OUSD has decided to perform an unproven experiment upon children of color in Oakland’s flatlands. This plan to staff high schools with year-to-year employees—moved at the whim of a principal—will result in even more instability for Fremont, Castlemont, & McClymonds.” Teachers around the state agree.

Oakland teachers and the OEA believe we should look at real solutions, such as pre-school education, class size reduction, or split reading for grades K-3, where there are smaller teacher-student ratios. Let’s talk about expanding Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, which recruits local candidates and people of color so our students can be taught by young role models who look like them and are from their community. Let’s talk about addressing truancy, because however long the school year is, students won’t learn if they’re not in the classroom. Let’s talk about funding and staffing academic counselors at all Oakland high schools, because if we really want Oakland students to go to college that’s what it will take. The OEA is fighting for real reform, not the latest corporate-inspired flavor of the month. The OEA is fighting for our students.
WHAT: OEA SOLIDARITY ACTIONS TODAY, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28

WHEN: 3:00-4:00 pm: Rally at Fremont High School (corner of Foothill and High Street, Oakland)

4:30-6:00 pm: Rally and speak at Board of Education, 1025 2nd Avenue

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  • Cranky Teacher

    Considering our last contract was imposed upon us by the district, it is hard to imagine why we should trust the district’s motives in this or any other issue.

    It is also really hard to fathom that this plan needed to be sprung on the district at the last possible second.

    Good for Noel Gallo for at least questioning his Supe, regardless of what the board decides — they are not there to be a rubber stamp for him.

  • livegreen

    I think the OEA brings up some good points. But I don’t understand how Ms. Olsen Jones gets off using the race card or the OEA labels reform “corporate inspired” against Tony Smith or his multiracial staff.

    The fact is that Oakland teachers have a job for life, and it is so difficult to lay off the (few) failed ones that it is nigh impossible. As a result Oakland teachers effectively have a job for life, again, even the (few) failed ones.

    So what exactly are the reforms “Teachers agree that we need”? Where is the counter proposal?

    This situation reeks of compromise and this kind of race bating and name calling does not show the OEA has the faith to do what they demand of the opposite side.

  • livegreen

    BTW, what Mr. Gallo is advocating for is an effective unilateral disarmament of one side before negotiations. What kind of reform is the Superintendent going to be able to ask for from teachers if he’s barred before hand?

    What kind of endorsement or other quid pro quo has Mr. Gallo obtained from the OEA for his City Council candidacy?

  • J.R.

    All taxpayers need to do is look at the track records(reform has only been around for a decade and a half in very limited numbers), and the regular district has been mostly a disappointment for 3-4 decades or more. When teachers have a job for life, they tend to get too comfortable, and there is no reason to excel because it all pays the same. There is no professional pride because they are labor after all.

  • makeitgoaway

    These schools are truly horrible by all reasonable ways of measuring them. I am sure there are some good teachers there as well as some duds, with many in the middle. What is the problem in letting everyone apply since all are guaranteed a job?

  • J.R.

    Think for a moment about what the OEA wants, and compare that to what makes the most sense or financially feasible.

    1.Small class sizes – How can you have small class when that requires more teachers which is hindered by:
    a. LIFO – The least (experienced)expensive teachers are the first to be tossed out, and having only senior teachers is cost prohibitive(and short-sighted).
    b. more junior teacher must be shed in order to save significant budget money.
    c. Mutual matching – The OEA wants senior teachers to self select,but the senior teacher tend to gravitate away from the neediest schools(if their assertion that senior teachers are the best, wouldn’t it then make sense to put the best teachers in the weakest schools where they could do the most good)?

    It all seems so contradictory, and yet I do agree with a few things the OEA believes, the administrative portion of the education system is too big,bloated and overpaid with superfluous jobs and titles that boggle the mind.

  • RetiredLiz

    Are we really thinking of reviving split reading? It was in place 12 years go when I returned to teaching and it worked just fine. Of course the district did away with it. How about not shortening new teacher induction from 5 to 3 days as planned for next year. How about hiring qualified teachers for every classroom, providing training for teachers on the required reading curriculum, and requiring administrators to support new teachers. Failure to implement all of the previosly mentioned contribute to student under achievement. I work with new teachers as a coach and I am dismayed and appalled by how unprepared most of them are to teach. OUSD- invest in preparing and training teacers and the money now spent on intervention can be used to improve our schools!

  • Mary

    Unions in other cities have agreed to measures similar to the one Tony Smith proposed with “mutual matching.” The largest teacher’s union in the state, UTLA, has agreed to “mutual consent” hiring for both its “pilot” schools and its “local initiative schools.” When a low performing school in Los Angeles goes through “transformation” the teachers who are employed there must sign an “election to work” agreement in which they pledge to support the vision, values and pedagogical plan being put in place for school improvement. A few OEA leaders foster an “us-them” combative culture in schools serving very vulnerable populations who need every adult to work together as a team focused on their success. What Tony Smith asked for with “mutual matching” was reasonable. The TSA thing is a work-around, necessary because the OEA is so uncooperative. The district has to do something now to help the kids in these schools, and can’t wait for OEA leaders to come around, because they probably never will. Courageous leadership that is proactive in support of social justice for the most vulnerable youth in our city is what is needed now, not overheated rants about “corporate power.”

  • Rodney Brown

    Mary,

    OEA’s counterproposal was no less “reasonable” than what Tony Smith asked for. Smith not getting what he wants and then unilaterally impose “TSA” on 3 flatland high schools is not cooperation or any example of an adult working together with others. Collaboration and adults working together as a team for “low performing” schools going through “transformation” is more than agreeing to pledge allegiance to some school district’s vision, values and pedagogy, but rather the actual stakeholders at the site being active participants in designing the vision, values and pedagogical plan.

    Similar to OEA’s “Mutual Matching” Forum, both OEA and the Oakland Tribune held “Acceleration TSA” Forums. The majority of response from OEA members at all three, and from community members, parents, and the student panelist at the Trib Forum was skepticism if not flat-out opposition to these uninformed plans. How can OEA leadership go counter to the very students, parents, community, and teachers it serve and disregard their authentic input by supporting these district initiatives? Mutual matching did not come from the sites that it should have been designed to serve. It came from 1025 Second Ave. “Acceleration TSA” did not come from any of the three effective sites. It comes from the Office of School Transformation. McClymonds is not currently in the process of transformation and is not under the purview of the Office of School Transformation. These are grave abuses of power.

    “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”
    – Frederick Douglass

  • Jim Mordecai

    Mary:

    The issue is not whether Tony Smith was reasonable, nor is the issue that you can find some district out of all the districts in California that have an agreement that appears to be similar to Tony Smith’s proposed “mutual matching”.

    The issue from my point of view is that Tony Smith doesn’t want to negotiate but impose his ideas on the OEA and other District unions.

    His idea of changes in union rules belongs at the bargaining table and not op. ed. page of the Oakland Tribune.

    I assume that he keeps trying to impose his ideas rather than negotiate with unions because he is an incompetent Superintendent that hasn’t a clue about labor management relationships and the rules of collective bargaining. His latest attempt to pretend a classroom teacher under the CBA can have the job redefined as a TSA position with a change in job from 10 month position to 11 month position reinforces my belief in his administrative incompetency.

    And, how can you depict a superintendent that mismanaged 14 out of 17 QEIA schools causing them to be eliminated from future grant money for lack of administrative support as being “proactive in support of social justice”?

    Apparently he could take $50,000 from OUSD general fund and pay a consultant to help organize the 100 Black Men charter school; and in your eyes taking from the children of the Oakland Public Schools and giving to a corporate charter school is an act of courage “in support of social justice”.

    Sorry, but I just don’t agree that supporting corporate charter schools is an act of courage or an act of social justice.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Mary,
    The silver lining in all this mess is that many taxpayers and parents(especially PTA parents) are being hyper-vigilant, and watching closely what all these people in the education sector are doing(not what they are saying). We know who is looking out for the best interest of kids, and who is not. Finally the mindset “If your priorities do not conform to what is best for kids, then its time for you to do something else” is becoming the mantra of parents and taxpayers. This applies to the board,parents,teachers,admin, and anyone else. I have witnessed multiple schools that served underprivileged kids, but are now high performing California distinguished schools. It can be done, but the culture of low expectations must be broken. Whether it be parents who don’t care much or teachers who fail to stick with curriculum and give the student work that is too easy, we must all expect more work to get better return.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Mary:

    I put down the wrong number for QEIA schools. It was 14 out of 19 and not 14 out of 17 QEIA schools that after three years didn’t meet the lower class size standard and other measures of the 7 year multi-million dollar grant.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Livegreen

    Jim, I agree w/your questioning Dr. Smith and OUSD’s handling of QEIA schools and I feel OUSD should b answering us on this. Even if it’s a critique made through a Tribune blog.

    But I don’t feel you’ve made the point that it has to color every other policy implemented by Dr. Smith & OUSD.

    Much like the Mayor’s failure to pay attention to OUSD’s finances when she was a b
    Board Member didn’t prevent the OEA from endorsing her for Mayor.

    OEA members here still fail to elaborate: are they willing to negotiate and find a compromise that allows schools to have anything approaching a hiring preference and job interview? If so what is their counter proposal? Or is job placement to continue being based only on seniority?

    Have OEA members even heard of of job interviews? Or is that just a parallel universe?

  • MissMatched

    I wonder how many of the posters here would like to re-apply for their jobs every year? That’s what these so-called “Acceleration TSA’s” will have to do.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Livegreen:

    I personally worked for the Mayor’s election. But, there was no endorsement of the Mayor by OEA and in fact there were old timers that blamed the long 92 strike on Jean Quan as School Board Director. No candidate received the OEA endorsement.

    Job interview is what a teacher does when the District hires her or him. Same as when Kaiser hires a doctor for one of its hospitals.

    Some districts have different job interview policies. I recall hiking a farmer’s field to meet a school board member who passed on hiring me in 1967 for a town elementary school on the Delta. I subsequently was hired by a personnel director in Ceres.

    This isn’t about hiring so much as transfer policy. The negotiation of that policy is none at the bargaining table. Something a competent superintendent would know.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Consolidated Teacher

    MissMatched …

    Acceleration TSA’s do not have to re-apply every year. It is true that an acceleration school could decide not to extend a particular teacher’s contract for the following year and would then need to let the teacher know this by March 15, but there is no re-application needed.

  • Jim Mordecai

    MissMatched:

    My posting above your comment should have read “The negotiation of that policy is done [not none] at the bargaining table.”

    Whether or not an “Accelerated TSA position” would require a teacher to reapply for the position each year has not been negotiated. Until the question of whether or not the Superintendent has authority to create a new position without negotiating that position under the CBA is settled, the terms of Superintendent Smith’s neo-TSA position is pure speculation.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Peach

    As the district tries to remove teachers’ rights in the name of the children, what has the said district done to improve the education the children will receive?

    1. What contracts/Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)have been signed with industries, local businesses, professional organizations or trade unions in connection with the touted pathways that have been announced for McClymonds, Fremont, and Castlemont?

    2. What contracts/MOUs have been signed with the University of California or its campuses in connection with these pathwways in the Acceleration high schools to be established at the Castle, Fremont or Mack in a few months?

    3. What are the construction and equipment plans and contracts in place to ensure that the students have the requisite labs, kitchens, workshops, and studios needed to support pathways courses or are we going to have the arts without studios/muscial equipment/ instructors or culinary programs without kitchens or budgets for food/supplies such as exist in the current small schools on these campuses?

    3. What planning has taken place with the community, parents, teachers, and students in meetings with the involved industries and universities in order to have concrete high school coursework, internships, practicums, and college level courses in place for the students of the three Acceleration high schools?

    These are not rhetorical questions. Perhaps there are plans and resources in place for the transformed schools, so the taxpayng public wants to know what these are.

    Katy, has OUSD made anything available with a blueprint of their academic plans for the high school students of east and west Oakland or are we witnessing a change in name that provides an excuse to destabilize the teacher corps?

  • MissMatched

    Thanks for the update, Jim. I’ve seen it twice reported on television news programs that teachers will have to re-apply annually, but it wouldn’t surprise me too much to learn that this was not accurate. However, changing all jobs to TSA jobs also should have been negotiated, so it is unclear as to whether that will be unilaterally imposed…