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Teacher union hunts for `hidden vacancies’

scavenger hunt sketch from ryanrocketship's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsLet’s say a teacher announces in April she’s retiring at the end of the school year. The teacher tells the district’s HR department, and if that position needs to be filled, the HR department tells the teachers union, which tells its members they may apply for that job.

Teacher contracts in many districts allow displaced teachers (usually, the most junior teachers from schools that have eliminated positions, teachers from shuttered schools, or those returning from leave) to choose another job from the list of openings, based on their credentials and seniority. 

The process is called “priority placement,” and it ended June 4. As of today, however, at least 18 of the teachers need to be placed, and the district is obligated to find jobs for them before hiring outside the organization, according to the union president, Betty Olson-Jones.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Principals hate this process — not because the displaced teachers are bad, but because they have no say about who will be joining their staffs. Continue Reading

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Off again: Contract talks with Oakland teachers

Not too long ago, the Oakland teachers union and the district administration were 23 percentage points away from reaching an agreement on teacher pay, with the union asking for a 20 percent increase to the salary schedule and the district proposing a 3 percent cut.

The two sides are much closer now. Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a resolution before the summer break, they’re not quite close enough.

THE OFFER: Yesterday, the union asked for a three-year, 8 percent pay scale hike, plus a shortened work year (no instructional days would be affected). The administration countered with a 2 percent raise and a 25-student class size cap for kindergarten through third grades, though those provisions would be suspended if the state’s per-student funding dropped by 1 percent or more.

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As bargaining begins (again), Oakland teachers to “line the lake”

Lakeside Park

The Oakland school district administration and the union bargaining team return to the table again on Thursday to see if they can work out an agreement in these tense, post-contract imposition times.

To build momentum, on Wednesday the union plans to celebrate Day of the Teacher with a 3:30 p.m. rally along the north side of Lake Merritt (on Lakeshore, near Lakeside Park) and a march to the district office. I mean, what celebration would be complete without a school board meeting?

You can find the OEA flier, with more details about the event, here.

UPDATE: The OEA and OUSD put out a joint news release on bargaining with a decidedly hopeful note. You can read it here.

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Teachers give union leaders the go-ahead

The vote is in: Union leadership is now authorized to call an indefinite strike as long as a council of representatives from each school approve it first. (As long as it’s less than 10 days long, it’s considered a “short strike” and it won’t need the council’s approval.) The proposal won 75 percent approval last night.

The turnout was roughly the same as it was in January – 755 votes out of a membership of 2,800, including substitutes,according to OEA’s website. That’s about 25 percent.

755 total votes
565 – yes
184 – no
6 – abstained

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Teachers vote on labor proposal; results TBD

STUDENT AT OAKLAND TEACHERS' ONE DAY ACTION. PHOTO BY LANE HARTWELL/TRIBUNEI spent an hour outside a membership meeting at Oakland Technical High School this evening, talking with teachers about the labor dispute — and the big vote on a proposal that would authorize union leaders to call further actions, including a strike.

(An amendment to tonight’s proposal requires an indefinite strike to be approved by a majority of the union representatives at each school, in addition to the union’s 15-member executive board. Tonight’s vote tally should be available by late afternoon/early evening tomorrow.)

Here’s what they told me:

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Big decision Monday for Oakland teachers

At a 4 p.m. membership meeting tomorrow at Oakland Technical High School, teachers will take an important vote: whether to authorize its leadership to call an extended strike. As of this afternoon, the meeting has not been prominently featured on the Oakland Education Association’s website, though I saw fliers promoting it on strike day.

Union leaders met Friday evening to determine the substance of tomorrow’s secret ballot and whether it would include strike authorization. My attempts to reach OEA President Betty-Olson Jones by phone that night and the next day were unsuccessful, but fortunately I saw her last night at the Oakland Museum of California reopening. (I love cornering sources while they’re out trying to enjoy themselves…)

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Oakland teacher strike participation: 91%

picket line at Skyline High SchoolI’m no longer at the big, musical rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, but union leaders there have reported that 91 percent of the district’s teachers participated in today’s strike.

The CTA says the rally drew nearly 2,000 people. That number seems a bit high to me, but I’m not very good at crowd estimates. In any event, there were lots of teachers, students and parents there.

Still waiting on student attendance stats. If they reflect the numbers at Skyline (about 60-65, according to my head count this morning), McClymonds, Oakland Tech (a grand total of 12 kids, according to teacher David de Leeuw) and Futures Academy, the elementary school I toured this morning, it will be extremely low. Continue Reading

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Oakland teacher strike coverage

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be handing the blog over to my colleague Cecily Burt, who has kindly agreed to post reporters’ updates here while we’re out and about, along with a photographer. There’s also a live chat in the works.

I’ll be tweeting from the picket lines, too, starting at 7 a.m. Follow my updates here.

If you have any news tips tomorrow, please e-mail me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com and Cecily at cburt@bayareanewsgroup.com. Want to write about what you’ve seen and experienced? Please do! If you use your real name on the blog, even better…

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On Thursday, what’s a school secretary to do?

school secretary, by savageartworks' photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Teachers will be on strike Thursday. But what about your school secretary and custodian? Your teacher’s aide (where applicable)?

There’s been some confusion among district employees about whether the `other unions’ — the SEIU and AFSCME, mainly — will show up to work or stand with the teachers. I can empathize with the confused: I contacted the local SEIU office at least twice, called the Pasadena-based employee hotline, questioned the public relations guy, e-mailed the OUSD rep and got nowhere.

Poor timing, maybe, but there might be another reason: These unions are in a tough spot. They reached agreements with the Oakland school district months ago, or even longer, and guess what? Those contracts include no-strike clauses. This means they can’t legally call a sympathetic strike. At the same time, as the SEIU media relations guy from Pasadena told me (before promising to call me back after he “double-checked,” which he didn’t), unions don’t make a habit of crossing other unions’ picket lines. And the Alameda Labor Council supports the teacher strike.

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