Letter from OUSD Parents United to the Board of Education Directors

April 29, 2015

Dear OUSD Board of Education Directors,

As parents of OUSD students, we are writing to you disappointed that the District has not yet reached a contract agreement with our teachers.  We are members of OUSD Parents United, a network of parents at over two dozen Oakland public schools. Parents in our organization believe that you – the elected leaders of the District – are responsible for assuring a contract settlement that will truly help make Oakland public schools the quality schools our students deserve.

We won’t repeat all the statistics to you, we know you know them. We also know that you agree with us that Oakland teachers are woefully underpaid and that teacher turnover is a problem we cannot afford to retain. Oakland teachers should be making some of the best wages in the Bay Area, not the worst. Every day that the District fails to reach a wage agreement that brings our teachers up to competitive levels without contingencies, is a day lost in our shared-goal of improving our schools.

Beyond wages, teachers and students need a contract with hard caps on the size of special education classes and caseloads for special education teachers.  We need a contract that provides meaningful ratios of counselors to students so that children can get the advice and guidance they require to be successful.

Finally, our teachers need to feel respected and valued. Some of this will come with competitive wages, but we need an OEA contract that assures veteran teachers that in the event of an involuntary transfer (or a return from an extended leave) they will not have to compete with less experienced (and less expensive) teachers for a classroom position.

As the elected leaders of the District, it is YOUR job to make sure that all of Oakland’s children receive the best possible education. If the District fails to honor its teachers with a more substantial raise, better support and working conditions and by recognizing the value of veteran teachers, we are leaving our children far short of the schools they deserve. The time is now, use your position as a leader of the District to demonstrate that OUSD values its teachers – and its children – by reaching an equitable, competitive contract for our teachers.

Sincerely,

Kim Davis

Joaquin Miller/Oakland Tech

Shaless Peoples

Sequoia Elementary

Michael-David Sasson

Glenview Elementary

Ann Swinburn

Melrose Leadership Academy

Stephanie McGraw

Hillcrest School

Melinda Gallagher

Kaiser Elementary

Kym McCourt

Crocker Highlands

Stephanie Pepitone

Sequoia Elementary

Nommi Alouf

Melrose Leadership Academy

Erin Proudfoot

Laurel Elementary

Vivian Chang

Crocker Highlands

Sarah Stephens

Cleveland Elementary

Kirsten Cross

Glenview Elementary

Amy Jo Evje

Peralta Elementary

Jody Christensen

Manzanita SEED

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Parent letter to Superintendent Wilson

Mr Wilson,
I am the parent of two students in OUSD schools. I want you to know that I am committed to Oakland Public Schools and in particular the many wonderful teachers that my children have been fortunate to have been taught by over the last 12 years (and I still have 8 years left in the District!) I have spent many hours talking to and listening to teachers, parents, OUSD officials and Board Members in order to understand the issues and to form an intelligent, well-thought out opinion. My opinion is that our teachers are the cornerstone of this District. They have demonstrated their commitment to our children. I would like the Board and the District to show their commitment to those teachers, and by extension to our children, by offering a fair and equitable contract proposal. What has been offered publicly is simply not enough.

According to GO Public Schools Data, OUSD teachers are paid between 7.6% (first year teachers) and 15% (most senior teachers) lower than the average in Alameda County. That means that our District cannot expect to attract and retain the highest quality teachers unless and until it makes up that gap in year one. The 10.5% or (13.5% with added hours and reduction in health care package) includes a 3% raise in year one, so at a minimum our teachers will be between 4.6% and 12% below average (and that does not account for raises being given to other schools in that same year one). Even with the proposed (and contingent) 7.5 % raise phased in over the second contract year, our teachers will not catch up, and that is particularly true for our veteran teachers who are so critical in the stability of a school community (not to mention their value as educators). The last offer that we have seen is simply not enough.
I know that the District has limited resources and many obligations, and have heard you lauded for your cost cutting measures, including the much touted cuts to Central Administration of 25%, but do not feel that your team is doing enough to prioritize teacher demands. The claimed Central Administrative savings of 25% must have come at the expensive of lower level employees and programs, because at the upper end of the spectrum, there is a cost outlay of nearly $1 million that we did not have in 2013-14 for administrator salaries (including 4 new positions created this year). That does not even account for the outgo of Measure J funds now going at the rate of $30,000 per month to Lance Jackson or the Ed Fund money that pays nearly $200,000 to another new position holder, Mr Kos-Read. I come from the business world, I know that there are no doubt some important reasons for some of those changes, but I also know that it is a matter of setting priorities. While that million dollars in raises/new salaries at the upper echelon of central admin would not have provided enough funds to close the salary gap, every dollar counts and it would make a very powerful statement of commitment on the part of our leaders if our upper administrative officials had foregone raises until meaningful raises for their employees were provided.
You are obviously very passionate about changing the way OUSD does business, and I applaud you for that, but in my opinion that change needs to come from within the schools, beginning with the teachers, and in particular the veteran teachers, that are the core of most schools. The compensation package does not foster teacher retention, but even more importantly, the insistence on stripping teachers of seniority protections is a signal to veteran teachers that our District does not value the people as much as the process. Oakland is a challenging District to teach in, and school downsizing and closures are a fact of its existence. Why would a teacher choose to stay in this District for less money and more challenging working conditions if they knew that in the event of an involuntary transfer (or a return from extended leave) they would have to compete against much less expensive new hire teachers for a classroom teaching position, as if their years of dedication were unimportant? I understand the value of flexibility at the school site in the crafting of a team with a common vision, but a wholesale denial of the importance of seniority is NOT the way to do it. I spoke at length to Brigitte Marshall about the Memorandum of Understanding that she very proudly crafted which provided an advisory matching process for teachers to find a school (and vice versa) in which he or she could be a meaningful partner. The District clearly knows that there is middle ground between no seniority and total flexibility and they need to find it.
This is a critical juncture in OUSD: we have new leadership, new Board Members, new money from the state and a new commitment from parents to support change in this District. If the District fails to honor its teachers with a more substantial raise, better support and working conditions and by recognizing the value of veteran teachers, we will be unable to attract and retain not just qualified teachers, we will be unable to attract and retain families who will send their kids to our schools. The time is now, use your position as the leader of this District to demonstrate that OUSD values its teachers and its children by making an equitable, competitive offer to our teachers.
Very sincerely,
Kim Davis
Parent
Joaquin Miller Elementary
Oakland Tech

Why teachers are leaving Oakland

KALW piece on Oakland Teachers

Why are teachers leaving Oakland?

It’s 8:08am, the Friday before spring break, and under other circumstances Kathleen Byrnes would already be at work.

“We would be in our classrooms preparing for the day, which is where we would rather be,” she says.

But instead, she’s out in front of Oakland’s Cleveland Elementary School with her fellow teachers — not working. They’re waiting seven minutes until 8:15 am exactly. Since February, teachers have been protesting low pay by working from only from 8:15 to 3 pm — the minimum hours required by their contract. It’s called work-to-rule. And it means things that parents expect, like student evaluations, are not making their way home. They are sitting unfinished in baskets.

“And they’ve been sitting in baskets for about a month, because I don’t have time to get to them,” explains Byrnes.

Nobody thinks that being a public school teacher is an easy profession, or a lavishly paid one. But teachers in Oakland have really been feeling the pinch. Despite working in one of the least affordable housing markets in the country, teachers in the Oakland Unified School District have gotten only a few percent raise in the past decade. They’re currently the lowest paid public school teachers in Alameda County. And close to a fifth of them leave the district every year. Teacher turnover is a national issue as well, but in Oakland things have been getting more heated as contract negotiations drag on.

The union wants teachers to get a raise, smaller classes, and more school counselors. The district understands all that but says it doesn’t have the resources to go as far as the union is pushing.  And even without the contract problems, many, many teachers are unhappy in the Oakland Unified School District. Seventy percent of teachers stop teaching in Oakland in their first 5 years. Seventy percent. Nationwide that number is between 40% and 50% – which is already huge.

The money…

Just a few blocks up the hill from Cleveland Elementary, right where Park Boulevard meets 580, is Oakland High School. Here, teachers are still working more than the minimum hours, though they did protest by closing their classrooms to students  during lunch.

US History teacher Jesse Shapiro grew up in Oakland. Like a lot of Oaklanders, he’s committed to his city. He’s been a teacher for eight years, six of them here.

“Finally I’ve reached a point where it’s like I have a stride, where I can do the other nuances of teaching other than planning,” he says. “I’m able to give better feedback to students, help them out socially and emotionally. Kids come into the classroom and they know they’re going to get a good product because people know who I am around here. I’ve earned that.”

He’s also finally gotten the classroom he’s always wanted.

“Most of the classrooms don’t have windows, you can see that I have one,” he says. “The lovely corner penthouse suite that I inherited from Steven Moreno, who was our department head, who fled to a higher paying district just a few years ago.”

Right there is one of the main reasons that Oakland is losing its talent. With an average salary of $55,000, teachers like Shapiro could drive a few miles to San Leandro and get an immediate $15,000 raise. The teacher that left this room was one of Shapiro’s mentors. Shapiro says his mentor is now making close to six figures teaching in Redwood City. And if this teacher called him up —

“And said ‘hey, we’ve got a job out here, I want you out here, will you come?’ It would be pretty difficult for me to say ‘no, I love Oakland so much that I’m going to stay here and take a $40,000 pay cut.’ You know?”

…And beyond the money

Beyond pay, many teachers feel that the district doesn’t support them and doesn’t respect them. When she stops by Shapiro’s classroom, special education teacher Jessie Muldoon says she can’t afford classroom supplies. She has to use an online donations site.

“It feels pretty crummy that you’re begging from your friends and family to subsidize your job basically,” she says, adding that she thinks about leaving the district all the time.

Social studies teacher Emily Macy complains of not having enough support staff.

“We have a library but no librarian,” she says. “They’ve tried to decrease academic counselors down to two, so it’d be two counselors serving 1500 students.”

The state recommends that a school the size of Oakland High should have four or five counselors. Currently there are three. Two would be below the legal limit.

“I think in this school district there’s this expectation that we’re going to fulfill all those roles,” says Macy. “Because those actual jobs are not being funded the way they should be.”

That means when they need support, teachers look to each other. “The teachers run this school” says Shapiro. “And the superintendent’s office needs to understand that.”

Why no resources?

Troy Flint is the spokesperson for the district. He points to two reasons they have less cash than they might.

“Poor money management led to bankruptcy in 2003,” he says. “The state took control and we only gained local control in 2009, we’re still paying off over $50 million at $6 million a year.”

And second, there just aren’t as many students.

“We’re a district that in about a dozen years went from roughly 55,000 students down to about 38,000 students if you’re not including our charter schools,” he says. Most of that drop-off is because a lot of students who were in the district are now in those charter schools, and they’ve taken their funding with them. Meanwhile, the district still has almost as many schools now as it did before the students left.

“We have probably 60-70% more schools that the average California district our size,” says Flint.

This is great if you think small schools are important, but not so great if you want to trim down the budget. Every teacher I talked with was so upset about how much money goes to administration. And Oakland used to pay yearly fines to the state because too little of its budget went to paying for teachers. The district says that that’s not true anymore. And the new superintendent, Antwan Wilson, is planning on cutting almost a third off the budget for central office staff.

“That money is going out the teachers and out to school sites,” Flint says.

Teachers agree that they already have great benefits, and in this round of contract negotiations they will get a raise, but the issue is how much. The union is pushing to put them in the middle of what teachers get paid in Alameda County. The raise that the district is offering would keep them near the bottom.

Dedication to Oakland

Back at Oakland High, the bell rings and Jesse Shapiro starts lecturing on the Vietnam War.

“Good morning everybody! Take a look at the timeline. Based on the timeline – what do you notice about the history of Vietnam?,” he asks the students.

With few resources and better job prospects one city over, you might ask why teachers stay in this city at all. Shapiro’s at an age when many teachers either cast their lot with Oakland or move on. He can see it both ways.

“I have a friend I went to middle school with,” he says. “His daughter is a freshman at Oakland High. And she’s going to be in my class in a couple years. He chose to send his daughter here and one of the reasons is he says ‘Oh – you know, your Uncle Jesse’s going to be able to watch over you.’”

On the other hand Shapiro’s wife — who’s also a teacher, but in Hayward — is pregnant. So they need to decide not only what’s best for Oakland but what’s best for their family.

“I’d say right now I’m probably 60-40 I’m going to stay,” says Shapiro. “I feel a sense of responsibility to give back to the district that I grew up in. But on the other hand if I were to leave, I just think about like, you know, people from this community who grew up in this community who want to teach in this community don’t because they don’t feel respected.”

Contract negotiations have been going on for over a year, but will hopefully be wrapped up by June. Their outcome will help make those hard decisions for Jesse Shapiro and all the other Jesse Shapiros in the district.

http://kalw.org/post/why-are-teachers-leaving-oakland

What is the District offering our teachers in terms of Compensation?

Parents are wondering if the District has come up with more money to fund the 13.5% raise they keep claiming to have offered, here is a clarification:

For 2014-15 school year: 3% raise effective mid year (1/1/15) not contingent on revenue

For 2015-16 school year: 3.5% raise effective mid year (1/1/16) AND a 4% raise effective at 11:59pm on the final day of the school year, one minute prior to the end of the contract year (6/30/16). both of these raises are contingent on revenue (so in other words, not guaranteed)

For 2016-17 school year: the parties will begin negotiations anew for this one… Nothing promised, nothing guaranteed.

This adds up to 10.5% over two years (after having had a 3.25% raise in the last ten years). The remaining three percent that the district claims to be offering is not really a raise, but compensation for longer working hours (1.5%) and cost savings created by having all teachers use only Kaiser for Healthcare (1.5%) or pay the difference on their own to keep the plan that they currently have.

A 10.5% (or even 13.5%) raise will leave our teachers well below other Districts, widening the gap between our wages and other districts and further exacerbating the teacher retention crisis that we are facing. 70% of OUSD teachers will leave within 5 years!

Please email, call, fax your Board Members and the District Office and let them know that you do not think that they are doing enough to attract or retain excellent teachers, and you expect them to do better!

Contract Negotiations Extended to Friday, NOW is the time to contact School Board Members!

PARENTS – Contract Negotiations have been extended to FRIDAY with two more days scheduled Monday and Tuesday; after that there will either be a Tentative Agreement or a Strike Authorization!!! The time is NOW to contact your school board member and the District to let them know that you want a Fair contract for our teachers which includes, at a minimum, competitive salaries, hard caps on special education class sizes, more counselors in our schools and protections for veteran, quality teachers displaced by school closure or consolidation! A board member told us that Board Members respond most to parent phone calls, emails, letters and requests for meetings. Contact your OUSD Board members today!!

Board of Education Members or Superintendent’s office
Oakland Unified School District
1000 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607-4099
Fax: 510-879-2299
Phone (Board): 510-879-8199
Phone (Superintendent): 510-879-8200

Email contacts:
Antwan Wilson: superintendent@ousd.k12.ca.us OR antwan.wilson@ousd.k12.ca.us (send to both)
Chief Talent Officer: brigitte.marshall@ousd.k12.ca.us
Chief, Public Affairs and Communications: isaac.kos-read@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 1: Jody.London@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 2: Aimee.Eng@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 3: Jumoke.Hodge@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 4: Nina.Senn@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 5: Roseann.Torres@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 6: Shanthi.Gonzales@ousd.k12.ca.us
District 7: James.Harris@ousd.k12.ca.us

Don’t live in District 1? Here’s info on how to find your District member:
http://mapgis.oaklandnet.com/ousd/

If you are a social media person you can spread the word via twitter, facebook etc.
Hashtags: ‪#‎oeacontractnow‬ ‪#‎faircontract‬ ‪#‎CapSDCcaseloads‬ ‪#‎OUSD‬‪#‎OEA‬
Handles: @OUSDNews @OaklandEA

Special Education Caucus Support Needed!

Special Education Caucus seeks parent and community help in highlighting their fight for Hard Caps in Special Education – please read the below and let the Board Members and the District know that you are behind them!

<OEA SpEd Caucus Action Alert> School Board Email Blast

Fight For Hard Caps in Special Education:

EMAIL YOUR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER!

District 2 Aimee.Eng@ousd.k12.ca.us

District 3 Jumoke.Hodge@ousd.k12.ca.us

District 4 Nina.Senn@ousd.k12.ca.us

District 5 Roseann.Torres@ousd.k12.ca.us

District 6 Shanthi.Gonzales@ousd.k12.ca.us

District 7 James.Harris@ousd.k12.ca.us

Main Number 510 879-8199

PEC: sheilagh.andujar@ousd.k12.ca.us

Superintendent Antwan.Wilson@ousd.k12.ca.us

Dear School Board Members and PEC,

I am writing in strong support of “HARD CAPS” for Special Education classes and caseloads. As the current situation shows, “soft caps” lead to larger class sizes and caseloads for teachers in Oakland. This means Special Education Students are placed into larger classrooms with less resources and less support. Our teachers work hard and our students deserve better!

We support STUDENTS and TEACHERS because HARD CAPS lead to a BETTER EDUCATION for all students.

AND I VOTE!!!

Sincerely,

__________