Monday, October 22, 2012

OEA Picture Day Winners!

Wear your OEA Green and take a picture. Send to OEA Facebook pages or Bargaining Chair, Kei Swenson: <>.

3 pizza lunches for site:
--first to post
--most creative pose or setting
--one random selection


A pizza lunch for Manzanita Seed and New Highland from your grateful OEA Bargaining Team!

Your school can still win the random drawing! Share your picture with OEA Facebook page now!


Catastrophic Leave Bank

Every year we appeal to you to sign up for this important benefit. Please read this testimonial from an OEA member on the importance of the Catastrophic Leave Bank:

"I never thought it would happen to me. I've always taken good care of my health, exercised, eaten right, and made sure to have a life outside of work. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in shock. Adding to the stress of surgery, followed by rounds of chemo and radiation, I discovered that I was not a member of the catastrophic leave bank. I thought I had enrolled, but found that wasn't the case. I am appealing to all of you to make sure you take a moment to fill out this form and enroll yourself in this valuable benefit. If you find yourself in my situation, you can take comfort in knowing that if you've donated you won't have to worry about your income or health care for up to one year after your leave begins. Having less stress at a time of great personal difficulty would have left me with more energy to focus on healing."

Anne Hamilton, Melrose Leadership Academy

Your best guarantee of coverage during a serious illness is to be a part of the Catastrophic Leave Bank. Remember, if you donate one time to the catastrophic leave bank, this benefit will cover you for up to twelve calendar months.

Anne has run out of sick days, and her 100 days of extended leave will end in November. OEA will be sending out a special appeal on Anne's behalf in an upcoming email blast, asking for donations of sick days from individual members so she can continue her treatment and recuperation. OEA is there to support our members during their time of need. And we thank OUSD for its support of our efforts on behalf of their employees.

The deadline is October 31. Ask your colleagues, "Have you contributed yet?"

Click here for enrollment form.

In Unity,

Trish Gorham, President

Oakland Education Association

Monday, September 10, 2012

OEA at the RA

OEA at the RA

Click HERE to Print

Reports from elected OEA Delegates to the
National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA) in
Washington DC

Trish Gorham, OEA President

I have attended many Representative Assemblies, but this was the first time I headed the delegation as your President. That has given me the occasion to reflect on the OEA delegates you elected as your representatives to be a presence and voice for all OEA members and the students we teach. And represent they did. In a body of almost 10,000 delegates, the participation of the Oakland delegation was not to be surpassed. OEA Delegates were running for national office, debating at the mike, serving on committees and caucuses, and strategizing and forging alliances with colleagues from across the country. From the first meeting of the California Delegation at 7:00 am through the end of the NEA RA session around 5:00 pm, your delegates represented Oakland in a way that should make you proud.

Of particular pride to me are the faces you see below. I know that there was not a more diverse or inclusive delegation in the convention hall. We reflect the best that is Oakland. We are Oakland. And we are the OEA.


 Excerpts from reports of three other OEA delegates to the NEA RA follow

Relena D. Ellis, Ed.D - Early Childhood Education Teacher

Naming and Enumerating:  The Many Sides of Advocacy

The Oakland delegation to the 2012 NEA Representative Assembly (RA) remained true to form to their tradition of progressive, bold, advocacy for educators, children and families. I was proud to be a participant, and grateful for the votes of confidence from my fellow OEA unit members who made it possible for me to go as an RA delegate. Once again, California was the most prolific in introducing New Business Items (NBI), Resolutions, and Amendments, but OEA was still the relatively top runner in that arena. OEA’s NBIs, Resolutions, and Amendments questioned the dubious, negative, and sometimes regressive practices of school administrators and local, state, and US government officials. They also offered constructive options and alternative implementation of some of those practices. Some of the many issues that the OEA delegates introduced were opting out of testing, hiring of more ethnic minority teachers, allowing new teachers to exercise their rights as unionists without penalties, tax initiatives, student loan forgiveness, and various concerns with US military involvements.

Some of the NBIs, Amendments, and Resolutions put forth by our delegation were adopted by the nearly 10,000 delegates from across the nation, and some were soundly defeated. However, there is no doubt that California, especially the Oakland Education Association delegates, heightened awareness for many participants. One NBI that I introduced to the delegation had to do with “Parent Trigger” laws that had been adopted at the recent Mayors’ Conference. The RA delegation voted to adopt my NBI #12. The “Parent Trigger” law allows parents to initiate proceedings to reconstruct, remove, or replace the staff of an underperforming school. It also allows for the school to be transformed in to a charter through the parent-initiated process. It does not encourage the usual collaboration between the school site personnel and parents. It is being heroically portrayed in the propaganda movie, Won’t Back Down to be released at the end of September. 

Keith D. Brown
Social Media at the #NEARA2012 by @keithdashawn

The NEA Representative Assembly historically has been a huge tree-killing event with thousands of flyers, policy handbooks, and daily newspapers featuring new business items parading through the convention hall. However, this year in the nation’s capitol, many delegates opted to go “green” (environmentally, if not politically) by receiving information by tablets, smart phones, and laptops. Delegates utilized social media at The 2012 Representative Assembly. The official hashtag (a way of categorizing information) #NEARA2012 was used by delegates for restaurant recommendations, sharing photos of fireworks on the 4th, scheduling DC sightseeing trips, and making dates. Of course, plenty of discussion about policy debated on the RA floor was tweeted, also!

Some delegates and locals used twitter to publicize their positions on resolutions. Some hot topics on debated Twitter included a new business item submitted by the NEA Board of Directors on the misuse of standardized testing, a failed NBI on parent opt out of standardized testing, and a controversy around NEA leadership maneuvers to object to consider a NBI submitted by Oakland delegate Mark Airgood calling for the removal of Secretary of Education and Race to Top champion Arne Duncan.

However, Oakland delegates’ call for Secretary Duncan’s removal was loudly heard through the twitterverse as OEA’s “Dump Duncan” sign was tweeted and retweeted by many RA delegates and published on many education blogs.


OEA’s twitter handle is @OaklandEA. Let’s get some action on twitter this school year and make use of social media. Social media can be an effective organizing tool. We can use Facebook and Twitter as a way of connecting with members and becoming more relevant for the techies. #Oakmtg is a hashtag that is used in Oakland City Council and School Board Meetings. We can use social media to voice our opinion if a gavel tries to silence us at a board meeting. How can the OEA use social media to build a stronger organization? Please tweet your ideas to @OaklandEA or post on our Facebook page.

Jim Mordecai
Navigating the Maze: Amendments to the NEA Constitution

Last year, at the conclusion of the Chicago 2011 NEA R.A meeting, I submitted two amendments to the NEA Constitution to be voted on in 2012. The first motion was an attempt to get the NEA delegates to endorse, as an NEA priority, the defense of collective bargaining. The second motion was to endorse tax reforms that reduce the gap in income between the wealthiest and all other economic classes.

Because both motions were amendments to NEA basic documents they were printed in the NEA official magazine, NEA Today and the NEA leadership team from the fifty states (NEA Board of Directors), took a position on both amendments. At first, the Board of Directors’ position was to oppose both amendments. But, that position was later changed with the Board of Directors from California vigorously pointing out in debate that it was foolish to put leadership in the position of opposition to collective bargaining. NEA leadership changed to a position of no position on Constitutional Amendment 1. But, the NEA Board of Directors maintained its opposition to the second amendment. To get the NEA Leadership to change its position was a political victory for me even before the RA opened, as no organization likes to change an official position.

Unlike New Business Items that are voted on by voice from the body, Constitutional Amendments are voted on by secret ballot. After debate on the floor, 90% of the delegates voted to pass Constitutional Amendment 1 as amended: NEA will “promote, support and defend public employees’ right to collective bargaining…”

I withdrew the Constitutional Amendment on taxes, deciding it was a better fit as being submitted as a Legislative Amendment. However, it was defeated as a Legislative Amendment.

Representing your OEA colleagues at the NEA RA, the largest democratically elected decision-making body in the world, is a great experience. All OEA members should consider running for the next NEA RA in Atlanta, Georgia (July 1-6, 2013). Elections for OEA delegates will be held in March.

See, and upcoming issues of the OEA Advocate for more details.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trish Gorham’s Remarks to School Board on 8.22.12

30% of the Resource Specialist Teachers have had their assignments drastically and needlessly changed.

I don’t even entirely fault the technician who created this plan. She was given a structural puzzle to solve: maximize student caseloads and reduce travel time between assigned sites. 

So, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, like a Tetras game, and ONLY THEN were the humans considered. And if they had to be massively moved in order to justify the puzzle, so be it.

THIS is the essence of the rot at the soul of this district. As was demonstrated previously by the closure of 5 schools.

And I am NOT saying there aren’t structural changes that need to take place that WILL cause discomfort and pain.

But, until you put people ahead of process, people ahead of structure, people ahead of grand visions, we will never move forward in any meaningful way.

And what if the special ed student projections for the sites are wrong? With over a thousand students redistributed through school closures, those figures may prove to be wildly off. So the teachers move again?

Troy Flint, the District’s official spin-doctor, said there were “major shortcomings in the way this was handled.”

It’s okay. We all make mistakes.

Accept it. Own it.
Hit the pause button and rethink it.
Don’t, once again, double down on a flawed process.

Let teachers return to their original sites.
Take a real assessment of site caseloads based on real enrolment.
And THEN consolidate, as needed, putting the HUMAN, not structural, need first. 

For the sake of over 500 of our most vulnerable students and their families who are affected by this proposed outrage, DO THE RIGHT THING.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Q&A: Meet new Oakland Education Association president Trish Gorham

Depending on who’s talking, the Oakland Unified School Distinct (OUSD) is either on the brink of success or failure—it’s making strides or it’s missing the mark. Parents, teachers, and community activists have fought for the last 10 months to have the school board’s decision to close five elementary schools overturned. That decision has spawned contentious debates, thunderous marches and a tent city built at Lakeview Elementary School with the help of Occupy protesters.
This round of school closures—which is supposed to save the district money—comes in the wake of a popular movement during the early 2000s that set up more than 45 new smaller institutions in Oakland, and was supported by concerned parents who wanted schools in the “flatlands” transformed. Large schools in the district were closed, or began housing more than one school within a single building or campus. (You can read more about the small schools movement here.)

But the district is now struggling to fill those schools. OUSD superintendent Tony Smith plans to reduce the number of schools in the district over the next three years. In October, 2011, the OUSD board voted 5-2 to close Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe Elementary schools and transform or merge several other schools.
The district is also still recovering from a state takeover due to the OUSD’s deep financial problems. The takeover lasted from June, 2003, to July, 2009.
Now, with the new school year approaching, Oakland North sits down with the newly hired Oakland Education Association (OEA) president, Trish Gorham. The union works as a bargaining agent for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians working for the OUSD. They negotiate salaries, benefits, and working conditions. At least 2,600 teachers—including substitutes—are members of the union. They are famous for wearing highlighter-green OEA shirts to school board meetings and protests.
The previous OEA president was Betty Olson-Jones, who served for 6 years. Gorham became president this July. Gorham, an Oakland native, has taught in the city’s public school system for 30 years. As a child, she went to Bushrod Washington Elementary (now Sankofa Academy) in North Oakland. A graduate of Cal State Hayward, she began teaching in 1982. She taught at Kaiser Elementary for seven years, and worked for 23 years as a teacher at Bushrod Washington Elementary before the state administrator closed the school—on its centennial year—in June, 2005, due to low enrollment. (Sankofa Academy, which opened in the fall of 2005, was founded on the same spot under the New Small Autonomous Schools policy).

Gorham visited the encampment at Lakeview; when it was raided, she was in Washington, DC, advocating for public education and protesting with Olsen-Jones over polices implemented by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Here she reflects on where the district finds itself today.

Oakland North: Oakland residents have watched their public school district grapple with big changes, including a state takeover, a return to local control, and the shift to multiple smaller schools, for more than a decade. What are your thoughts about the years that have led up to where the district is today?
Trish Gorham: That’s quite a huge question. For one thing, we are not out from under state control. Yes, we have a superintendent. Yes, we have a school board that can vote on various items, whereas only the state administrator could approve [them] before. But we still have a trustee and it’s still the trustee that finally approves our budget, because we still owe money to the state.
We said—ten years ago when they started the new small schools movement with Bill Gates [Foundation] money—that this was all really good, but when that soft money dried up, where are we going to be? And here we are ten years later, not being able to sustain what they ran after earlier in the decade. So, we need to think. We need to have more long-range planning. We need to think about sustainability before we move on and get soft grant money and money from millionaires who have very little ideas about how schools are run.

Oakland North: What was your first reaction to Superintendent Tony Smith’s proposal for both an immediate and long-term drop in the city’s number of public schools?
Trish Gorham: The immediacy was the problem. We understand that we have had a drop in enrollment over the last 15 years. I understand that there are some schools that are not at full capacity. But the process by which they even had this discussion was totally flawed. It had no community representation. It wasn’t thought out on a long-term basis. It was rather haphazard.
When you don’t have a process like this that is so heartfelt to the community, there are flaws and inequities, where some whole parts of the city were exempt from consideration of closure where others seemed to be targeted for rather random reasons. So, when you begin with a process like that you lose all trust that the decisions are being done for the best interest of the students.
The idea that they have saved $2 million in this process, I think, is not correct. I don’t see how they’ve done that, especially with the cost of moving a thousand students and materials. It wasn’t worth it.

Oakland North: Didn’t that savings estimate change over time?

Trish Gorham: Yes. It went up to $6 million because that’s what those schools cost to operate. But all the savings of operation are not going to be wiped out because you closed the school. There’s still personnel cost. It’s just shifted to another site.

Oakland North: How should the union be involved in this debate over school closures?
Trish Gorham: Well, it’s not just the union. It’s the community. It’s the community schools. The schools are the center of the community. And that’s where the debate and the decisions should be made.
When the district put forth the figures of student populations, they only counted the students that were enrolled in Oakland public schools. They did not count for the number of actual children in a particular district. So, when you are making these kinds of considerations, everybody needs to have all the correct information and the discussion has to be long term.
The decision—even if the discussion begins with, “I think we have to close some schools”—then that’s where you begin the discussion. You don’t say, and you don’t dictate, “We’re going to close schools and these are the ones we’re going to close.” Have the conversation. We have been a voice. We have been a force. We were there at every school board meeting saying that the process was broken, saying that they should not close these schools. We were always there. We were leading—the green shirts. If anybody was around, they saw the OEA out in force defending these schools from an ill-thought process.

Oakland North: Do you think the small schools movement—which grew across the United States in early 2000—is why Oakland was left with 101 schools? Does the district have a legitimate argument saying there a more schools than it can afford?

Trish Gorham: One thing you have to understand is in terms of schools, you’re talking about sometimes three schools that were on one campus. So, ten years ago you had Lockwood Elementary. And then it was broken up into three separate schools but it was still the same building. It was just called three different things at three different grade levels. So, it isn’t exactly that we grew. We did not grow facilities over that amount of time, we just split up student populations. The idea that we had this explosion of facilities that need to now be reigned in is just false.
As far as a legitimate argument, they haven’t proven that to me. Should we have a conversation about maximizing resources? Sure. Maximizing facilities and concentrating resources. That’s a conversation that yes, we should have. It’s a realistic conversation to have. And when everybody has all of the facts we can have that conversation, instead of dictate. Then the community, along with the district, can make thoughtful decisions about how we move forward in the future.

Oakland North: What stance does the OEA take on the increased popularity of publicly-funded but privately-run charter schools?
Trish Gorham: The charter school movement, when it began, was a bottom-up movement to seek innovation. What the charter school movement has become now is just a way to privatize education. It is a way to split off certain populations—not have a unified, guaranteed, quality public education for all.
As we see charters now, definitely in Oakland, we want a moratorium on all charters. We want all charters to come under the same accountability as the regular public schools. If they’re called a public school, then they should have the same standards and be judged by the same standards. But in state after state, including California, they have a different standard of measurement.
What the people who want to abandon public education as a right want is what they couldn’t get through vouchers. Vouchers didn’t play. OK. The public did not accept public money for private schools. So, they’ve taken the back door into charters. Charters is just vouchers by different name.

Oakland North: How much does collective bargaining or teacher seniority play into your view of charters? Don’t these issues limit protections for charter school teachers?
Trish Gorham: There are many teachers in charter schools that are doing a wonderful job. They believe in what they are doing. They believe in the students. But some of them don’t even know they don’t have to work on Saturday. It’s OK to say you’re not available after 6 o’clock in the evening, in terms of rights. Yes, [charter schools] do want a workforce that will work more for less because in the end that increases the profits. Right now, it’s about profits in many many charter schools. Charter schools—because they have individualism—it is hard to say “This is everything about charters,” because they have individual ethos. But what I do know about the charter school movement is that it is a way to break up the public school system. I have no doubt about that.

Oakland North: I’d like to move into a hotly debated issue in Oakland’s school system: affluent neighborhoods versus the flatlands. Parents and community activists have argued that a number of schools in affluent neighborhoods in Oakland, usually in the hills area, have a diverse student population. But a larger number of parents in the “flatlands”—the predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods of East and West Oakland—don’t have the means to drive their children to those locations, even if their children are enrolled in those schools through the OUSD’s options process. Do you agree?

Trish Gorham: I think it’s an unfortunate and a distracting kind of fight. Yeah there are different levels of economics in Oakland. Now, I taught at Kaiser, which was technically a “hills school,” and yet we had students from all over Oakland. We only had about nine families from the neighborhood attend Kaiser because it was a magnet school.
The driving to the school is—yes, 100 percent of people can’t drive to school, but most could. I think most have the ability to get students to and from a school.
Everybody should have the kind of school that Kaiser is—and, unfortunately, the reason Kaiser has a lot of [resources] is because parents raise money. So, inequity and funding I think is a real issue. Poverty is a real issue. How we overcome the effects of poverty?
I want to look more at early childhood education as a way to fight—mitigate—the effects of poverty.  I think that is the one proven reform that does show in kids’ progress. So, given that, why in the flatlands are we seeing a decrease in early childhood education programs? That’s something that I’m asking. I’m trying to figure out why we can’t provide that service to the most needy of the population.
And going back to the hills verses flats—what we do need to do in all of Oakland is unite behind every child getting a quality education. Those who want to pick those fights, I think we have to resist them because it is to distract us from what’s really important—“Let’s fight about the location of these schools, rather than what’s good for all the schools.”

Oakland North: In Oakland, elementary schools like Peralta, Sankofa Academy, Emerson, Kaiser (which was saved from permanent closure last year) and Chabot are all considered “above Shattuck,” or closer to the affluent areas of the Oakland Hills. Parents say those schools lie within a geographic area in the city unscathed by school closures. Is Oakland’s school system heavily segregated in this way?
Trish Gorham: Well, Kaiser was on the list and it has been historically in the past on the list of school closures many years prior to the state takeover. Sankofa was named, that was the school I came from.
I would lay that marker not at Shattuck, but at Telegraph. Sankofa is below Telegraph. That’s why I just wouldn’t put Shattuck and there’s nothing below Shattuck anymore. Golden Gate was below it, which is now Aspire [a charter school]. Santa Fe Elementary was below it.
Just as a native of Oakland who grew up in North Oakland, Telegraph was a boundary line in terms of the prosperity and different neighborhoods. It was just different neighborhoods. When I taught at Washington—and I’m going to be real honest—there were two junior highs that our students could go to. They could go to Claremont or Carter Middle School. Twenty years ago, our kids were discouraged from going to Claremont. They were encouraged to go to Carter. Not from our school. We encouraged them to go to wherever they wanted to, quite frankly, but we were in the feeder district for Claremont, so most of them went to Claremont and there were real issues there.
I think that there is a problem with the lines being drawn and protections of certain schools. I don’t know why Sankofa is a K-8 when Claremont is a middle school. Where are those middle schools coming from, if there are no kids in North Oakland because they just closed Santa Fe? I’m concerned that there is some sort of demarcation taking place in North Oakland.
When you say, ‘This is where the good schools are. This is where the not-so-good schools are,” number one, you’re discounting a lot of great schools that are scattered throughout Oakland. I kind of reject that there’s only a certain area of schools that are great. There are great schools throughout Oakland. And where they’re not great, where they don’t have the resources to have everything every school has, then that’s what we should be talking about. Not moving to where they are [good], but everybody having the same thing. Having equity throughout the district.

Oakland North: Board members cannot discontinue the options process entirely, as the No Child Left Behind federal legislation includes requirements allowing parents to move their children out of failing schools. However, the district can aspire to more neighborhood focus on schools. Is this what the city needs?
Trish Gorham: I’ve always thought that schools should be the center of the community, yeah. That’s why I don’t understand in the closing of schools—you’re eliminating the center of the community. So, it’s a little confusing there. But that has always been something I’ve thought of—having services around the schools, having the schools open at night for adults. I’ve always thought that was a way to build a community.

Oakland North: What about the district’s choice not to close any schools in West Oakland?
Trish Gorham: That’s because they’re going to do STEM [a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative] in that area. Again, have the conversation. Say “We’re not going to do anything here, but we are going to do it here.” So if you really want to concentrate the STEM resources in West Oakland, maybe concentrating resources in certain schools would be more of a benefit then over all the schools? I do not know. We never had that conversation—where instead of four adequate science labs you have three fantastic ones.

Oakland North: This year there are at least 13 candidates running to become school board members.  In past years, few people were pulling for these positions. Why has there been a surge in candidates? What are your thoughts about the upcoming election?
Trish Gorham: We went through an interview process last week of most—I think all—of the school board candidates. And what the interview team came out with was how wonderful it is to have a contested election with so many high quality, energetic people really caring about the city and caring to make change in the schools. It was really uplifting. Even though we were here until 9 o’clock four nights last week interviewing people, it was really uplifting.
So, what happens? You know, crisis often does bring out people. And bad decisions. The district and the school board have made some bad decisions over the past couple of years without proper input of teachers. The accelerated TSA [Teacher on Special Assignment program, where tenured teachers have to reapply and are not guaranteed positions at a school] is another example of things that activate people. You know, when people see real injustice and real unfair process they get activated. And actually the district, historically, has always been the union’s best organizer because they do something that gets people angry enough that they get up and they act on it. So, I’m thrilled that we have so may people that are interested and getting involved. Just getting involved.

Oakland North: Do you think the district needs to save money?
Trish Gorham: Funding is such a crazy thing to begin with. Yeah, we need to save money, but often when you have money from the state and federal government, if you don’t spend it you can’t save it. You can’t roll over money into the next year. That’s one of the catch-22’s of non-profit funding, is that if you don’t spend it, you’re not funded at the same level in the future. That’s what’s happening with the early childhood education, actually, in terms of decreased funding. So, where could we save money—or where could we use expenditures more creatively—is probably more like it.
I think historically there have been too many administrators downtown. The 55 percent [funding expenditure] rule that the state mandates goes to the classroom has not been followed by the district over several years. That needs to be more in line with 55 percent of the budget needs to be directly on classroom costs. Consultant fees are a tricky thing, but I think we could look at savings in the consultant fees, even though that’s from a different pot of money. … Often if you can save it in state and federal or Title I or monies for specific purposes, if you can save it there, then it will have an impact on the general fund.

Oakland North: What’s your reaction to the decimated Adult and Career Education program in the district?
Trish Gorham: I fear for the immigrant population of the city. That service, language-learning skills, job skills, our language learners are really dependent on the adult ed program. And I wouldn’t fear so much, thinking well maybe our community college system can absorb that, but they’re being attacked too. They’re being closed down, too. They’re shutting down services, too. So where do the young adults, and [people who are] career changing, and trying to learn different skills—I don’t know where they go. I mean, it’s just another example of us not meeting the needs of citizens in Oakland. It’s sad.

Oakland North: How can the district improve student enrollment?
Trish Gorham: You know where we start? We start with the babies. We start with early childhood. We give them what they need, we get them into the system and then they flow on to the schools that they’re attached to. So, you do begin with early childhood in order to increase enrollment.
You must address safety, because the one area where I think charter schools do guarantee—often better then the public school because they can eject students at will—is safety. The district has to, in reality, convince people that the schools are safe.
And there are things that are going very well across the district, the most improved district in California over several years. We have wonderful teachers. We have wonderful programs. We have wonderful students. If that word went out and people worked in their communities to really tell the story that’s happening within the school—because we get in there and we do the work and we do the work so hard and teachers are not the ones to toot their own horns. Those stories have to be told. The district could help themselves and give teachers a much-needed pat on the back if they really did advertise the wonderful things going on in the schools.

Oakland North: What are the biggest challenges facing teachers?
Trish Gorham: You have to understand that I’m new to this position, but in my experience the main challenges teachers have, the main reason they get burned out, the main reason they get frustrated, the main reason they leave, is administration. It is never the kids. It is the support they get by their administration and by their site administration and the respect they’re given by district administration.
On the district level there’s a lot of words spouting [about] how wonderful teachers are, but when you have not had more than a 1.25 [percent salary] raise in ten years and you are told that you have to reapply for your job because we’ve changed the title of teacher to accelerated TSA, when you impose the conditions of a contract that doesn’t give teachers much dignity, and it doesn’t uplift them to do the job that they need to do. So, what do they do? A lot of them kind of just hunker down into their own individual classroom. That’s a mentality a lot of teachers do just to protect themselves, and their own kids, and their own community. That’s one protective device. Getting active is another protective device to fight against the system when we all should just be working together to make the system better.
They don’t get paid enough. It’s expensive to live in Oakland, and unlike other urban districts over 65 percent of our teachers live in Oakland. They’re committed to the city. They’re committed to the kids of this city. And that’s not true in a lot of urban districts. There’s huge commitment to Oakland from the teachers of Oakland.

Oakland North: What do you want to accomplish as OEA president? Will you do things much differently than Betty-Olson did or do you consider yourself a similar leader?

Trish Gorham: I consider myself similar in many ways. Betty Olson-Jones’ legacy in this community and to OEA was to really create the relations throughout Oakland that really identified OEA as being a member of this community. It always has been, but she really put that forward every single day. We all have the same philosophy—the basic philosophy and goals.
… My personal role in the organization has always been to be an organizer. I’ve been a behind the scenes person making sure we’ve got the people to do an action, membership meeting or an event. So, I approach the role with an organizing emphasis, which means really getting the membership to participate, to understand what solidarity, not just union solidarity, but just solidarity at the school site, with each other, what it means and why it’s important. And why we need, in this day and age especially, to stand together as union members. So I hope that that’s what I bring.
Academically, I’m going to do everything I can to build early childhood education in this city because that’s where I think a lot of the real change is going to happen.

Oakland North: Do you have a protest history?

Trish Gorham: Oh yeah. I have a protest history. [She pulls out a picture of people holding a large protest sign] This is at the NEA, National Education Association’s, yearly meeting. That’s where Betty and I were when [the] Lakeview [raid] happened. It’s when we take care of our business—9,000 delegates—the largest democratically elected body in the world. We meet in Washington every election year because we always have the Democratic candidate for president come to speak with us. Always. But it didn’t happen this time. Joe Biden came and talked to us. And President Obama, two days later, spoke to us by phone when we were in D.C.. So, there had been talk about staging a protest because we are not happy with president Obama’s education polices, certainly not as implemented by Arne Duncan, who is the Secretary of Education and never has taught. So, when Joe Biden was just about to speak we stood up with our “Dump Duncan” signs.

Oakland North: What are your thoughts about the Lakview sit-in?

Trish Gorham: I think it was extremely important that the parents, the teachers, the community, how they came together to give a voice. Actions don’t always lead to the desired results, but the idea that they gave a voice to the frustration, to the problem, they spoke about why school closures were not the answer in short or long-term. They spoke to why this is just another encroachment and another way that we can privatize and balkanize the school distinct. … To elevate that voice and wake up a lot of the members of the community who had not paid attention to this issue before, I think, is tremendous. I hope Joel [Velasquez] stays a leader in this community and the education community because his voice is really needed. How I see the purpose of Occupy Lakeview is to get attention to the real problems that are facing public education and I think it did a marvelous job at doing that.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Letter to OEA Site Reps

TO:    OEA Site Representatives and Alternates
FROM:    Steve Neat, OEA First Vice-President
DATE:    August 10, 2010

Click HERE to print this letter
Every, nurse, speech therapist, school psychologist, counselor, and teacher in Oakland goes into the new school year looking forward to helping their students succeed. We all want to see the children work together, work hard, and get excited about learning.

We all put our heart and soul—and a lot of extra hours—into making this happen. This is why we should have contractually protected rights as we advocate for our students, their families, and our colleagues. This is why we and our students should be provided with the supports that will ensure success, like guaranteed class size and caseload limits. This is why we should all be fairly compensated for our hard work and for our commitment to Oakland’s children.

And this is why I thank you for your previous service to the members and encourage your continued commitment to provide the information and support to the members at your site that maximizes their knowledge and involvement.

As we continue with this new round of bargaining, your OEA Bargaining Team (all full-time educators) is dedicated to securing the best agreement possible for our students and for OEA members. But they cannot do it alone! We will get precisely the contract we demand. It will be through your support to members that we will achieve a contract that will give our students the support they need and our members the dignity and compensation they earn every day.

As your OEA 1st Vice President, helping achieve this OEA goal will be my primary focus.  And I will work to provide you the training opportunities, information, and support you need to support your work.

I look forward to a challenging and rewarding year as we create a stronger OEA together.
Please bring your Rep Election Form to Aug 23 or Sept 10 Rep Council.
Start collecting ticket money for the evening with Jonathan Kozol co-hosted by OEA (see  announcement). Tickets will be available at the OEA Center and at the August 23 Rep Council.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Acceleration TSAs: Another Ill-Conceived Experiment to Be Performed Upon Oakland’s Youth

After significant questions and concerns were raised by members of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and OEA leadership about “Mutual Matching,” OUSD administration dropped this ill-conceived plan 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 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 would have to reapply on a yearly basis. There was no consultation with most of the current teachers at these sites or with the OEA, no effort to bargain the effects of these changes in working conditions.

Tony Smith and Matt Duffy, from the OUSD “Office of Transformation,” have postponed their visit to meet with Castlemont teachers on Monday, March 5. Why? Well, they heard that teachers from across Oakland were coming to listen to what they had to say about their thus far poorly defined “Acceleration TSA” position. Oakland teachers understand that no school is an island. We understand that we are the OEA, we are the union, and that we are all in this together. We agree that reforms could be a positive force in the education of Oakland’s children. However, reforms should be implemented in collaboration and cooperation with the entire OUSD community: parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Reforms should be put in place considerately and thoughtfully, with what’s best for students always guiding our plans. OUSD decided that Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds would need to be reconstituted before the school year began, and they have had months to initiate and implement such collaboration and cooperation.

Instead, Superintendent Tony Smith, Matt Duffy, head of Labor Relations Troy Christmas, Human Resources consultant Brigitte Marshall, and other OUSD administration have made minimal efforts to work with teachers or parents at the affected schools. At Castlemont, for example, OUSD has frittered away two-thirds of the school year that could have been spent consulting with teachers and the community about the details of the restructuring plan for the school. Instead, OUSD meets with some small groups of teachers and not others. Instead, OUSD works behind closed doors with corporate-funded groups like Great Oakland Public Schools. Instead, once again, OUSD decides to perform an unproven experiment upon children of color in the flatlands of Oakland. The OUSD plan to staff high schools with year-to-year employees—hired and fired at the whim of a principal—will result in even more instability for Fremont, Castlemont, & McClymonds. 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.

OEA leadership has given the District numerous opportunities to work with teachers on restructuring the flatlands high schools. In fact, twice this year at OEA Executive Board Meetings, Superintendent Smith has been a guest. At both these meetings, the first on September 21, Castlemont teacher and Executive Board member Rodney Brown brought it to Smith’s attention that the principal selection process for Castlemont was not being followed according to OUSD policy. Brown also pointed out that teachers and parents had—so far—been minimally involved in the high school reconstitution process, at least at the Castlemont Business & Information Technology (CBIT) campus. On both occasions Superintendent Tony Smith expressed his concern and promised to take action. Nothing was done.

Oakland teachers and the OEA are not against reform. We believe we should look at real solutions, at real reform. Let’s talk about class size reduction. Let’s talk about split reading for grades K-3, where half of a class is taught reading for an hour in the morning and the other half for an hour in the afternoon with smaller teacher:student ratios, because it’s one-on-one and small-group instructional time that will improve student achievement in Oakland. Let’s talk about expanding programs like Teach Tomorrow in Oakland that bring local candidates and people of color to teach in our city, so that students can be taught by young role models who look like them and are from their community, because the personal connection between student and teacher matters far more than whether the school year is 180 or 190 days long. 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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Recession may be escalating coming teacher shortage

Link to 10/10/11 ARTICLE

By Tom Chorneau the CAPITOL WEEKLY

Less than two years have passed since demographic trends touched off fears of teacher shortage in California occurring when an expected spike in educator retirements would meet growing student populations and a drop off in new recruits entering the profession.

Those trends now appear to be easing in the short-term, but a longer perspective suggests the conditions may actually be escalating due to the influence of the ongoing economic recession.

According to a report to be delivered today to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the number of new students entering teacher training programs in California has not just declined – it has plummeted 39 percent over the past five years.

Meanwhile, the latest population projections show that despite the state’s economic downturn – overall enrollment in public schools is still expected to climb by 200,000 students through 2019.

Adding uncertainty to the mix are the 100,000 or so California teachers that are age 50 or older – the first cohort of which was expected to have retired by now but anecdotal evidence suggests that might not be happening.

Local reports indicate that many veteran teachers are putting off retirement. Many are dealing with lost jobs among family members; others with the plunge in real estate nest eggs; some may even face layoffs themselves.

For the short-term, analysts say, there would seem to be little concern about a teacher shortage.

But the bigger question is what happens the moment the economy turns around and a surge of retirements hit just as demand for new teachers starts to spike.

The fact is, however, no one is quite sure what to expect.

Patrick Shields, a researcher whose work in early 2010 raised concerns about the status of teacher preparation, said under normal economic conditions there would be an expectation of a teacher shortage.

“We would expect to see a shortage because fewer teachers are entering the profession while the number of students is increasing,” said Shields, director of the Center for Education Policy and Program Manager for School Reform at SRI International, a think tank based in Menlo Park.

“However, in the current fiscal climate, districts are not hiring new teachers but rather allowing class sizes to grow,” he explained. “Consequently, in the short term over the next year or so, we do not expect to see much in terms of a shortage.”

“What will happen after that, we really don’t know,” he said.

The report scheduled to be made before the CTC today notes that California’s teacher preparation program had grown significantly over the past 20 years to accommodate a spike in student population during the early 1990s and more recently the move to reduce class sizes.

The past five years has been a different story as enrollment has declined by nearly 24,000 candidates or 39 percent. In just the two year period ending in 2009-10, the number of participants in teacher training has dropped over 13 percent.

Marilyn Errett, an administrator with the CTC’s government relations office, said the array of economic and demographic conditions makes it difficult to plan for the coming need for California schools.

“Several years ago researchers were predicting a teacher shortage, no one knew, of course, that there was going to be an economic meltdown,” she said. “Things are very unpredictable.”

An answer to the question of teacher supply and demand is critical. Satisfying a sudden demand for qualified classroom teachers is not something quickly resolved. It took the state years, for instance, to respond to an almost overnight need for teachers when the class-size reduction program began in the late 1990s.

And trying to prepare now is probably not an option.

“It’s very difficult to boost a program when you can’t guarantee that someone’s going to have a job or that they won’t be laid off,” Errett said.

To read the CTC report on teacher preparation click here:
Ed’s Note: Cabinet Report’s Mary Gardner and Kim Beltran contributed to this article. Cabinet Report is the only comprehensive news service covering K-12 education issues in California. To subscribe visit Registration required. Selected stories have been shared with Capitol Weekly with permission from School Innovations & Advocacy, owner and publisher. To contact reporter Tom Chorneau:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mutual Matching - Response to Jill Tucker’s article in the SF Chronicle

KEEP THOSE RSVP'S COMING IN to 763-4020 or by emailing or

Click HERE for the flyer

by OEA President Betty Olson-Jones

Jill Tucker’s article in the Sunday, January 22, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle, “Matching teachers to jobs,” misses the mark in some key areas. Since the leadership of OEA was not interviewed for this story, we would like clarify some misstatements and shed light on some confusion.

We agreed to a “mini-pilot” of the “mutual matching” process in the fall when five first and second year teachers were “consolidated” from their teaching assignments due to budgetary reasons and class size increases, but only on the condition that if the affected teachers could not be “mutually matched,” they would be placed according to seniority. As Marian Marx, one of these teachers, states in the article, “she didn’t give high praise to mutual matching. ‘It’s pitting colleagues against each other,’ she said, adding she sees value in seniority. ‘I think experience makes you good in many ways.’ She also worried about potential bias in a selection process and that displaced veteran teachers would have to compete for a job late in their careers.”

This is precisely why we have continued to resist changing our current transfer language, while at the same time looking for ways to improve the process. We agree that the current system needs changes, and have argued for specific reforms for years. It is positive that some of these have been incorporated in the “mutual matching” conversation, including:

1. Use average instead of actual teachers’ salaries in the transfer process. (Under Oakland’s current “Results Based Budgeting” system, experienced teachers are often considered less desirable because they cost more than new ones.)

2. Provide a clear, thorough profile of every school to teachers so they are fully aware of expectations, climate, schedule, etc. before making a selection.

3. Encourage teachers to visit schools and meet with staffs so they can determine where they feel most comfortable and so that receiving staffs have a role in the process.

4. Give incentives to teachers who provide early notice of their plans to separate from the district so more vacancies are known before the end of the school year.

It is our belief that changes like these will go a long way towards helping teachers find a “good fit” without being seen as a financial burden.

So why no mention of this in the article? What’s behind the district’s push to eliminate seniority as a factor in assignments? By not acknowledging that we have been open to making needed changes and have contributed the above elements to the discussion, the district is trying to sway public opinion in its favor by misrepresenting the facts, belittling the role of experience as outlined in our mutually-binding contract, and failing to even mention the areas that have contributed to the status quo and which make it so hard for teachers to move within the district. The underlying narrative follows the current push of “corporate reformers” like Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee: get rid of seniority in the transfer process and replace it with a “business model” – let the marketplace rule, let competition reign. That is the antithesis of what is good for our students and our teachers.

The article starts with:

“In the world outside public education, people apply for a job they want, interview with their potential boss, compete against other applicants and are ultimately selected if they look like a good fit for the position. It doesn’t work that way in public education.”

What supposedly happens:

“In schools, teachers do all the normal things to get hired, but when it comes to placement, seniority is what counts, not the perfect fit. The teacher with the longest tenure in a district gets first dibs on any available job at a school, with the principal – the school’s boss – getting little or no input.”

What really happens in Oakland Unified School District:

Prospective teachers apply, including candidates enrolled in the “Teach Tomorrow in Oakland” program, which asks for a 5-year commitment to teaching and recruits primarily local candidates of color. Others come from local credential programs at colleges such as Holy Names, Mills, Patten, San Francisco State, CSU East Bay. Many have already done student teaching. They have to compete with candidates from alternative programs such as Teach for America and Oakland Teaching Fellows, where The New Teacher Project charges $2-5,000 each to place inexperienced recruits (5-6 weeks of “teaching experience”) in the “hardest to fill vacancies,” such as Special Education, math and science.

Fact: Over the past five years, Oakland has hired 2-300 new teachers each year. Contrary to the allegation that “The teacher with the longest tenure in a district gets first dibs on any available job at a school, with the principal – the school’s boss – getting little or no input,” these new teachers were placed in vacancies that were not filled by any of the 2600 teachers in Oakland, even though a number of current employees applied for a “voluntary” transfer. So what happened? Teachers who want to transfer are rarely granted their requests, since it’s ultimately up to the principals at those sites. All the site administrators have to do is acknowledge that they “considered” the transfer applicant; they are under NO obligation to accept them! It’s a well-known secret that principals often “hold onto” vacancies, denying current teachers the opportunity to transfer and saving vacancies for new, inexperienced teachers. And yet not a single principal has been disciplined for “hiding vacancies.” OEA has long been a proponent of allowing teachers to transfer if they wish to, both so they can seek a “good fit” and so that schools can achieve a better mix of new and experienced teachers.

When it comes to placement, seniority outweighs other considerations for some specific situations only – teachers who are being displaced because of school closures, teachers who’ve been “consolidated” from their positions due to decrease in enrollment or lack of funds, teachers who are returning from leave. Teachers from these categories (also called “priority placements”) select from a vacancy list and are placed according to credentials, qualifications, and seniority (and by the way, teachers don’t have “tenure,” but “permanent status” and due process rights). They are the only ones who doget first dibs on any available job at a school.” This includes teachers who want to follow their students to a new school (as long as vacancies are created). OEA believes strongly that experience is important, and that some stability for students faced with losing their school and their teachers trumps the search for a “perfect fit.”

Final fact: According to the district’s own data, 72.8% of new teachers who began in Oakland in 2003 had left by 2008. Apparently it wasn’t a “good fit” for them. We would do well to ruminate on these sorry statistics and figure out a way to change them, rather than go after our veteran, experienced teachers. Some ideas: pair new teachers with veterans, mentor and support them, stop relying on alternative certification programs and support residencies (as in medical school) as a way of helping to prepare teachers for this incredibly challenging, rewarding, important work. There are many things we can do to change the current conditions. Let’s not look to business for the answers; let’s look within our profession and our community.