Group of Oakland (Calif.) Teachers Challenge their District -- and Union -- to Change the Status Quo

Marion Herbert's picture
Monday, November 21, 2011

Teachers from two East Oakland (Calif.) elementary schools aim to shake up the status quo in the Oakland school district.

This fall, they voted to turn their schools -- ASCEND and Learning Without Limits -- into charters that would be free of the constraints imposed by the school district administration and the union contract. They say public schools should have more control over staffing, curriculum, class size and budgeting. Public hearings on those charter-conversion petitions and others begin at 6 p.m. Monday at 1025 Second Ave.

The teachers' goals extend beyond charter conversion, however. They are beginning to organize like-minded educators around some of their ideas, such as changing the way teachers are evaluated. They want to overhaul a layoff system driven almost entirely by credential and years of service (though they're not against taking seniority into account). And, like local union leaders, they think teachers should have more say in what materials they use to teach.

At the Oakland Education Association's membership meeting last week, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits teachers circulated a flier that said: "We believe in the power of unions and collective

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