According to the 2012-2013 Alameda County Grand Jury, each year, 13 percent of Oakland’s teachers leave the district. That is twice the state average, and 70 percent are gone within five years.

The grand jury examined OUSD’s initiatives surrounding staffing reform, teacher assignment procedures, and teacher evaluations. It found that “the Oakland Unified School District has many problems, including high teacher turnover, low teacher pay, teacher assignment issues, an ineffective and cumbersome teacher evaluation system, contractual issues and a strained relationship with the Oakland Education Association.”

At Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center, we work to keep the community informed about policies and decisions concerning OUSD and Oakland students. We believe the Oakland community should be aware of key findings in this report, and that we all need to do more to support and retain our teachers. Click here to read the OUSD section from the grand jury’s report.

Among the grand jury’s many findings:

  • OUSD’s current staffing rules disregard quality or fit when assigning a teacher because seniority takes precedence, leaving less desirable schools with the loss of experienced teachers and little consistency or continuity resulting in morale issues for staff, students and parents.
  • Administrative efforts by the district to improve schools—through Mutual Matching, Advisory Matching and Teacher on Special Assignment—were rejected by the Oakland Education Association because these efforts went against OEA’s core belief that seniority should prevail in teacher placement.
  • The current teacher evaluation process is cumbersome and ineffective. Budget constraints and staffing reductions have affected some principals’ abilities to complete evaluations.
  • There is no centralized database to track evaluations and other personnel information.

The OUSD Board of Education is required to respond to the grand jury’s completed list of recommendations within 90 days of the report’s release (approx. Sept 24, 2013).

Recommendation 13-16: The Oakland Unified School District must immediately work to resolve the expired labor contract issues.

Recommendation 13-17: Oakland Unified School District must work collaboratively with the Oakland Education Association on a system for teacher assignments that is not based solely on seniority.

Recommendation 13-18: The Oakland Unified School District must redesign and streamline its evaluation process in conjunction with the Oakland Education Association.

Recommendation 13-19: The Oakland Unified School District must conduct regular performance evaluations for every teacher, with emphasis on offering support for teachers to become more successful.

Recommendation 13-20: The Oakland Unified School District must provide principals with the resources and time to complete teacher evaluations, and hold principals accountable for completing these tasks.

Recommendation 13-21: The Oakland Unified School District must invest in a human capital database to track teacher status and evaluations, making the information readily accessible to administrators.

Recommendation 13-22: The Oakland Unified School District must work to bring the teacher-student ratio in line with the county-wide teacher-student ratio, which would allow more money for teacher support, salaries and training.

There is a hope for improvement, though.

When the report was being compiled, the OEA and OUSD had yet to come to a labor agreement, which they since have. The OUSD Board was working to adopt a detailed framework for effective teaching. The Board since has, and allocated $300,000 to a Teacher Development Pilot and data management system. The district and OEA have agreed to pilot a new evaluation system. OUSD and OEA have a new one-year contract. The new contract creates joint committees to study and pose recommendations related to school site governance and staffing, as well as a new and more supportive evaluation system. The next round of bargaining, for next year’s contract, begins in the fall of 2013.


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

3 Responses

  1. Oakie

    Well, let’s see. If a core problem (in a district as dysfunctional and failing it’s students) is teacher placement because the OEA “core belief” is that teacher seniority is a higher priority….. Is there really any doubt whether the OEA’s highest priority is the students of the district or their self interest?

    Just asking.

  2. Rodney

    This disingenuous opinion-piece fails to recognize a few things, 1) teacher assignments are currently based on credentialing, qualifications, and experience, not “solely on seniority,” 2) mutual matching circumvents the collectively bargained agreement between OUSD and OEA to allow cost-effectiveness and nepotistic, personal preference to inform staffing decisions (see “Acceleration Teacher on Special Assignment”), 3) advisory matching has been implemented in transfers/consolidations due to school closures/replacement, 4) replacing classroom teachers with TSAs has been a failure at Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds High Schools (see point #2 above on “mutual matching”) even though OUSD’s Thriving Schools website credits it as successful implementation of staffing reform.

    This opinion-piece claims that two “Administrative efforts by the district to improve schools… Advisory Matching and Teacher on Special Assignment—were rejected by the Oakland Education Association because these efforts went against OEA’s core belief that seniority should prevail in teacher placement.”? Two of these initiatives indeed were implemented by the district with the three “Acceleration High Schools” losing experienced teachers, demoralizing classroom teachers, students and parents, and destabilizing school communities as a result. Yet OUSD heralds Acceleration TSA successful staffing reform and this opinion-pieces lauds it as “Administrative efforts by the district to improve schools”? Go to those school sites and see for yourself. OUSD administrative efforts and the school board of educations failed these schools when they failed to act as the OUSD Office of School Transformation distorted the strategic plan in destabilizing these schools.

  3. Great Oakland Public Schools

    Thank you for your comments, and for reading our blog entry.

    Rodney, it seems that your issues are with the text of the Grand Jury report, which we quoted from directly.


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