Change is afoot in the Oakland Unified School District, and some parents, teachers and activists aren’t happy about it.
Wednesday night, a school board meeting adjourned early after education activists started protesting school closures so loudly the board had to disappear into closed session for an hour. Ten arrests were made after midnight when activists refused to leave district headquarters, OUSD spokesman Troy Flint confirmed.
Teachers and representatives from the Oakland Education Association also showed up to protest before the meeting. The union is fighting a new program that’s being imposed by Superintendent Tony Smith. Next year, teachers at three troubled high schools will have to reapply for their jobs. Not all will be rehired. Those who are will be categorized as “Acceleration Teachers on Special Assignment,” and will be required to work a month into the summer — albeit for more pay — among other changes affecting student evaluations and parent-teacher meetings.
Flint said the program isn’t subject to union negotiations, but OEA president Betty Olson-Jones disagrees. She said the union is filing an unfair labor practice with the state.
Meanwhile, many teachers at Fremont, McClymond and Castlemont high schools are busy reapplying for their jobs before the Friday deadline. Fremont teacher Ed Holohan said he’s upset he has to re-apply for a job he’s held 20 years.
“As a special ed teacher, I’ve had some of these students since the 9th grade, they’re now in the 11th grade,” he said. “I committed that I’d be here till they graduate, and I many not be able to keep that commitment because I’m going to be interviewed in April for this position—if I get turned down then I will have to leave.”
The only real piece of business board members were able to tackle last night before adjourning involved Lazear, an elementary school in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland.
The board voted in October to close Lazear and four other schools. At Wednesday’s meeting, they voted to reconsider the school’s petition to convert into a charter school, despite a staff recommendation to the contrary. If the petition is approved at the end of April, Lazear will become a charter like Learning Without Limits and ASCEND. About 1 in 6 public school students in Oakland attends a charter school, according to Flint.
Parent Olga Gonzales has three kids at Lazear. She said she’s optimistic the school will stay open.
“We are very passionate about our school, about our staff, the way we feel about that community. So that’s why we keep fighting.”
The school board meets again Thursday at 1 p.m. to finish last night’s meeting.