Connecting the dots between Antwan Wilson’s push for Privatization & OUSD’s focus on Article 12 at the Bargaining Table

17 Jan wilsons ousd strategy

Some Background information about Article 12 from the OEA FAQ’s:

Article 12 of the OEA-OUSD contract covers the rules for filling vacancies and for assigning teachers.

Under the current Article 12 language in the contract, Members who are involuntarily transferred by administration, returning from leave, or consolidated due to position reductions or school closures, and who are qualified for a vacancy by credential and experience, are to be placed in a vacancy for which they have applied in order of seniority (contrary to media-hype, they CANNOT however bump less senior teachers out of positions they currently hold). These vacancies are not open to voluntary transfers or external applicants until this process is completed. Members at sites being closed or restructured stay with their students, and are reassigned by seniority only to the extent required by enrollment reductions.

OUSD is proposing the following major changes to Article 12:

  • All bargaining unit members reassigned after consolidation, involuntary transfer, or extended leave would compete for positions with applicants from outside of the district.
  • Members at schools being closed or restructured would no longer remain with their students at the new school (even a non-charter, district school), and could be reassigned without regard for seniority or status as a current employee.
  • Seniority would no longer play any role in placement or transfer rights.
  • Any member affected by consolidation, returning from leave, or involuntarily transferred could be reassigned as a substitute, curriculum developer, team teacher, or to group instruction/individual intervention for the following year or years.

Who are the forces pushing the proposed changes to Article 12?

  1. ANTWAN WILSON’S SCHOOL DISTRICT (The same superintendent who in Denver, CO was very involved in a wave of school “turnarounds” where targeted schools, all in poor black & brown communities, were either privatized or had their entire teacher staff replaced by Teach for America fellows, college student “tutoring fellows” and retired teachers (edweek.org). Also the same superintendent who just announced plans to turnaround Fremont, McClymonds, Castlemont, Frick and Brookfield):

We must empower our schools by giving them the flexibility to design programs that best meet the needs of the students they serve. This includes the way in which we select teachers and staff. I want to ensure that every adult working on behalf of Oakland students shares the vision of the school and its community. Ideally, we will not place staff at schools where their values don’t align with those of the school or the students’ needs. This approach allows for a collaborative school culture and governance model that encourages parent engagement and staff unity while driving improved student achievement.”

  1. GO PUBLIC SCHOOLS (under the same leadership that has consistently supported charter school growth, accepted school closings, supported the accelerated TSA anti-worker rights proposal which wreaked havoc on the 3 high schools now being targeted for “turnaround,” and celebrated the selection of Antwan Wilson as our new superintendent last spring):

Teachers have the largest impact on student learning of any in-school factor. Giving teachers, parents, and principals more power to decide who teaches in their schools is an important first step in ensuring that every student in Oakland has an effective teacher.”

Antwan Wilson and GO want the public to believe that teachers’ union-protected worker rights are the main barriers to community control of schools. Is community control what this is really about?

No. While Wilson talks “collaborative school governance”, he is actively pushing a top-down undemocratic process for school turnarounds of the 5 flatland schools (and GO Public Schools has yet to speak out against it). Most of the schools had no idea their schools were being targeted until one day before the district announced its plans publicly in December. Given the number of interested charter school already coming to the table, we might wonder if the district kept the charters in the dark as long as they did the students, parents and teachers who would be so deeply impacted by this initiative. If community control of schools was really Wilson’s number one priority, he would have approached struggling schools with an asset-based, well-resourced and community leadership-oriented model for positive student/parent/teacher-led transformation of our schools. Rather, Wilson is using Article 12 to pit parents and teachers against each other at a time when we should be united against his efforts to privatize our district.

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Fremont Tigers #ShutItDown! OUSD Will Not Privatize 5 Schools Without A Fight

9 Jan

Fremont High School students interrupted, shut-down and took over tonight’s OUSD community engagement meeting.  Their independent action as students was warmly received by a room full of hundreds of other students, parents, educators, and community members concerned about the potential privatization of 5 OUSD schools.

What follows is the transcript of the speech that dozens of Fremont High School students put forward tonight at the OUSD’s community engagement meeting.  We will post more thoughts on what can be learned from these students’ leadership and example in the coming days.  

Search Instagram for #IAmFremont for pictures and video of tonight’s student action, and check back on this page for inspiring YouTube clips as they are posted.  

OUSD Admin tried to tell the students to go off into another room while they were disrupting the "community engagement" meeting.  Instead, the students linked arms and blocked the entrance to the side room, and then took over the stage.

OUSD Admin tried to tell the students to go off into another room while they were disrupting the “community engagement” meeting. Instead, the students linked arms and blocked the entrance to the side room, and then took over the stage.

The OUSD administrators say that this is not a top down process.

However, the reality is that NONE of the 5 schools requested an RFP process.  The OUSD administrators picked this.

The OUSD administrators say this is a transparent process that the community should have input into.

The reality is that we didn’t know about these “community engagement” meetings until the last week before break; this is not a transparent process.

The OUSD administrators say that they understand why there is a lack of trust, and that they want us to trust their leadership this time.

The reality is that the changes they’re proposing will further de-stabilize our schools.  First they broke us up into small schools – that was supposed to change everything.  Then they put us back together as a whole school – that was supposed to change everything.  Now they’re saying we need new administrators and that this is supposed to change everything.  This is the same process they’ve been doing – it hasn’t worked, and it won’t work.  This is why we don’t trust you – it’s not an emotional reaction, it’s a logical conclusion.

What we want now:

We want community runned meetings, real conversations that lead to our questions getting answered without giving a whole speech and not answer a single question.

We want to put a stop to the process of anyone being able to just come in and propose how to run our schools, our education is not a business or gambling game.

We want real information. You cannot expect to give us piece by piece and thats it. we want to know the real intentions in the process

What we want to stop is the OUSD’s plan; because the OUSD administration is coming with an intention; you’re not really taking our views into consideration because the plan is already being started by you – you’ve proved this through initiating the RFP on your own without our consent; you’ve proved this by giving us information last minute; you’ve proved this by giving us beautiful speeches about improving schools while not being honest about what’s happened before and what you’re really trying to do.

What we want to happen is that students and parents should get stipends to come and write their own plan.  We want teachers to get paid time to participate in this planning process too.  Fremont should make its own plan.  This plan should NOT be in competition with any other plans.  Improving schools should not be about business, it should be about community power.

Does the OUSD Want To Privatize 5 Schools This Year?

6 Jan

People have been whispering about it since the week before the December break.  Word got out that during the first week of January there would be 5 meetings happening – one at each of the following schools: Castlemont, Fremont, McClymonds, Frick and Brookfield. What was the purpose?  Antwan Wilson sent an email out to the staff at each school and made clear: schools would not be “closed” nor would schools go through “takeovers.”

phontoWhat is going to happen, according to the wishes of high ranking OUSD Administrators, is “intensive school support.”  What does this mean?  Based on the little information that’s been publicly released, it basically means that the 5 schools will be put on the market.  That is, the management of the schools is being offered up to whoever proposes the best “proposal.”  How is the district doing this?  Through what’s called an RFP – Request for Proposals.

What happens is that the district releases an RFP and then anyone can submit a proposal to shape how each of the 5 schools can be run.  Anyone, including people who are professionally trained to submit RFP submissions, like charter school organizations and others with business backgrounds.  Of course, the educators at the schools can submit proposals too. It will be one big competition for control of the schools, and of course the students and staff are the ones who will be most heavily impacted by the decision.

It’s basically the same thing they did a few months ago when they put Dewey and the old Admin building on the market for privatization.  They put out a call for investors, developers, and architects to submit qualifications and proposals so that they could choose the best one to “develop” the land on 2nd Ave. by the lake.

This process was opposed by students, educators and community members from Dewey; while the process did not end, it was slowed down and the OUSD administrators pushing for the privatization of the land were forced to address the concerns (though their answers were disappointing).  That battle is not yet over, but it’s a recent example of the processes and objectives that many OUSD administrators envision for public education in Oakland.

Problems with OUSD’s Process

One of the main problems with this “community engagement” process is that it’s not really about school communities having power to make decisions over their schools.  What we’ve seen with the Dewey situation, and what appears to be happening now, is a process where OUSD administrators rush through public meetings where the real goal is to get a stamp of approval for their already-developed proposals.  This is different than creating and resourcing spaces where staff, students, and community members can develop our own proposals based on our own needs and hopes.

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Antwan Wilson wants 5 schools to turn around, and around, and around . . .

6 Jan

Starting this week, the first week of the new year, Fremont, McClymonds, Castlemont, Frick and Brookfield are all having “community meetings” to discuss “improving” the schools.  The reality is that the management of the schools is being put up on the market for people to compete over who can best run them.  Charter school management companies will compete against the existing school staff to put out the antwanwilsonousd (1)most compelling “plan” for the schools.  And all of the staff of each school will have to work on their school plans in a rushed way, in the middle of the school year when the focus should be on students.  

Almost 100% of the people we’ve spoken to who work at the schools are incredibly upset about the process.  People are angry at the top-down way in which these meetings are being railroaded through in such a fast paced manner.  We’ve seen the same process happen with the attempt to privatize the land that Dewey Academy and the old OUSD admin building rest on; the mobilization of students, parents, community members, and school workers during the summer of 2014 slowed down the process, and we should take notes from that example.  

What follows is a quick sketch about Antwan Wilson and Allen Smith’s history of “school turnarounds”  written by Jack Gerson, a retired OUSD teacher.  We’re posting it here because it provides some very useful links and controversial analysis about the process that the people from Denver (Wilson, Smith and others) are unleashing here in Oakland.  Please post your thoughts in the comments section.  We welcome disagreement, questions, and other thoughts.  

We will be posting more on this process of privatization, as well as its connections to gentrification in Oakland, as it unfolds. 

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Antwan Wilson, Allen Smith et al are bringing their Denver turnaround schemes to Oakland. Let’s ask Wilson and the OUSD board to come clean with the facts: Wilson did not turn around Montebello High during his 2004 – 2007 stint as principal. Why did the OUSD board cite that as a — if not the — major factor in his hiring. Even superficially, couldn’t they see that only three years later, the school was being “turned around” again. These aren’t turnaround schools: they’re turnaround and around and around schools. Or maybe merrygoround schools. And we’ve seen this all in Oakland, where Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds were broken up a decade ago, put back together amidst great fanfare three years ago, and now are being reorganized again. Turn around and around and around and …

On January 4, 2006, NPR featured a story about a committed young man who just over a year earlier had moved his family from Kansas to Denver to “take the helm of Denver’s troubled Montebello high school.” (See:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5125957  ).  Yes, the corporate kingmakers had already identified Wilson as a rising star, and had passed the word on to the media they fund and influence to make it so.  [This was the hour of the “get tough” administrators — at the time, we in OUSD were blessed with one Randolph Ward.]

Indeed, Wilson only spent three years at Montebello High, promoted to Denver central administration in 2007 based on his (alleged) success in “turning around” Montebello. Said “success” is still the foundation of Wilson’s reputation. Thus, last April, when the OUSD board was ready to name Wilson superintendent, their friends at oaklandlocal.com reported:

“OUSD said that Wilson gained acclaim for his work as principal of Denver’s formerly troubled Montebello High School, where he turned around achievement such that the percentage of students accepted into two and four-year colleges soared from 35 percent in 2005 to 95 percent in 2008.”

http://oaklandlocal.com/2014/04/breaking-oakland-school-district-chooses-new-superintendent/

There’s at least one minor problem here. Wilson did not “turn around” Montebello High. He may have increased college admissions, but we’ve seen similar dramatic increases right here in OUSD which weren’t terribly meaningful; among other things, students were admitted into remedial college programs and college dropout rates remained sky-high. And it appears that something similar went on — and continues to go on — in Denver.

So on the Denver Public Schools website, there’s a report titled “School Turnaround in Denver Public Schools” (http://static.dpsk12.org/gems/turnaround/DenverCase26jun2012.pdf). It’s a 12-page case study whose purpose seemed to have been to promote the turnaround proposals for a group of schools in Northeast Denver, centered on — you guessed it — Montebello High. By 2012 Antawn Wilson was assistant superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and was overall in charge of the turnaround strategy. The executive director of the eleven northeast Denver turnaround schools was Allen Smith — that’s right, the same Allen Smith that Antwan Wilson brought to OUSD and installed as “Chief of Schools”. On page 7 of the report, the situation at Montebello is discussed:

“Sitting in a high-poverty, high-minority area, Montbello High School has a history of inconsistent leadership having experienced 27 principals in the last thirty years. Its image is one of toughness, perceived as a last stop before prison for many students, noted DSSN Director, Allen Smith. Despite three years of hard work between 2004 and 2007 by former principal Antwan Wilson, attempts to change expectations and improve performance could not overcome the entrenched negativity.”

OOPS!! It appears that Antwan Wilson didn’t really turn Montebello around after all. Indeed, this “School Turnaround in Denver Public Schools” notes (also on page 7) that “only 9% of the students in the Montebello Region scored proficient in math before the 2011 – 2012 school year”. Some miracle!!

Of course, the report goes on to claim that things picked up in 2011 – 2012, thanks to the latest “turnaround” magic dust sprinkled by Allen Smith and Antwan Wilson. If anyone thinks that such “achievement” will prove any less illusory than Wilson’s 2004 – 2007 turnaround job when he was principal of Montebello, I have a selection of bridges I’d like to offer at a remarkable discount.

I suggest that folks read “School Turnaround in Denver Public Schools” carefully, and with a critical eye.  Also, take a look at “Background — Turning Around Low Achieving Schools in Colorado”, which at least raises a few caution flags:

http://www.aplusdenver.org/_docs/TurnaroundReport11111.pdf

What’s needed is not this kind of flimflam. What’s needed are the real reforms that can make a difference: cut class size to 15 and reduce caseload; pay teachers and all other school employees adequately; provide ample resources and wraparound services, including counselors, nurses, libraries, vocational programs, etc.  Involve students, parents, and the community in the school decision-making process. That’s a start.

8 Myths of Corporate Deform

28 Dec

Many myths exist that perpetuate the inequalities we deal with in education on a daily basis.  This article and the relatively new book it reviews helps to uncover some of them.  Some of these will likely sound familiar while some might sound new.  But backed up with evidence from two leading and long-time education researchers, David Berliner and Gene Glass, and this information will be useful for anyone trying to upend corporate deform.

The 3 myths below gives you a taste of the 8 myths featured in the article.  The full book explores 50 in total.  It’s titled 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education.  Be sure to check it out!

The full article with the other 5 myths is from Edutopia. Link is here.

Myth #1: Teachers Are the Most Important Influence on a Child’s Education

Of course teachers are extremely important. Good teachers make a significant difference in achievement. But research indicates that less than 30 percent of a student’s academic success is attributable to schools and teachers. The most significant variable is socioeconomic status, followed by the neighborhood, the psychological quality of the home environment, and the support of physical health provided. There are others, but the bottom line is that teachers have far less power to improve student achievement than do varied outside factors.

Myth #2: Homework Boosts Achievement

There is no evidence that this is true. In Finland, students have higher achievement with little or no homework and shorter school hours. The more important factor is what students experience during the school day. Project-based learning, as one example, places the emphasis on what is done during the day. If students choose to do more after hours, that’s their choice. There also may sometimes be other good reasons to assign homework, butthere should be no illusion that homework will help increase student achievement.

Myth #3: Class Size Does Not Matter

In an average high school, one teacher is responsible for 100-150 students on any given day. Students inevitably get lost in the shuffle. Research evidence strongly indicates that a decrease in the number of students has a qualitative pedagogical impact. When reductions occur in elementary classrooms, evidence has shown that the extra individualized attention and instruction appear to make it more likely for these students to graduate at higher rates from high school. Affluent families more frequently opt for districts or for private schools with smaller classes. It should come as no surprise that larger class sizes may disproportionally impact the children of the poor. Therefore, reducing class sizes will in fact result in more learning.

Lessons from SF: UESF Teachers Push for Strike Vote in Contract Negotiations

28 Sep
We repost an article below which comes to us from two members of the leftist teacher’s caucus in UESF, EDU (Educators for a Democratic Union).  They and other EDU and UESF members have been fighting for a strike authorization vote throughout the summer with quite a bit of success.
 
On Aug. 14, UESF members voted strongly in favor of a strike authorization vote.  99.3% of the 2251 members who voted were in favor of the strike vote.  Here in Oakland we should learn from the struggles of UESF and be prepared to support them when needed.
 
UESF Teachers
Like us, they are faced with an intransigent district that drags out contract processes and demobilizes union members while proposing unacceptable contract offers.
 
Teachers in UESF are seeking a reasonable wage increase even though they are living in a gentrifying Bay Area with skyrocketing housing prices.
 
A few days ago UESF released an update on negotiations writing, “we can unequivocally say that the district’s salary offer was an insult to the men and women who actually do the work of educating our students. In fact, there was so little movement by the district that it is becoming likely that the district will force us into fact-finding and potentially a labor dispute.”
 
Besides needing to fight SFUSD to sign a reasonable contract, UESF members must also struggle to push a union leadership that is waffling on standing up to the district.  The union leadership is, in fact, actively blocking the democratic decision making of the union members who are pushing for a strike vote.
 
The authors write, “We are unfortunately all too used to so-called organizing that uses members as negotiating leverage rather than genuinely allowing members to weigh in on how our union should run. And President Kelly is determined to reserve the right to decide when, and if, we have a second strike vote for himself.”
 
We, in OEA, should be equally vigilant that our contract negotiations do not become top-down affairs with no input and struggle from us rank and file teachers.  Not only would that be undemocratic but it is also a recipe for a weak contract.
 

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6 Arguments For and Against The Privatization of OUSD Land

17 Sep

ClassroomStruggle:

The newest piece out on the Hands Off Dewey struggle. This one takes a look at some of the key arguments OUSD has put out in favor of moving forward with demolishing Dewey. The District arguments, though, aren’t just about Dewey or just the white-washing of a bad plan by OUSD staff. They represent concrete examples of how neoliberalism and austerity plays out in our school district. The ins and outs of these arguments should be studied by everyone who wants to fight for a socially just OUSD and world. Definitely worth reading.

Originally posted on Hands Off Dewey!:

Intro:

The past two months have seen an upsurge of community organizing on the part of public school teachers, parents, students and community members of Oakland against the privatization of the old OUSD Admin building on 2nd Avenue, and the threat of displacement that faces Dewey Academy next door.  Though the organizing, discussions, actions and analyses generated from the grassroots of OUSD’s communities have been inspiring to all those participating, they’ve been demeaned by some in OUSD.  High level board members and administrators have claimed that those of us against the privatization of public land are being “biased” in our positions.

Instead of appreciating and honoring the community organizing that happened this summer, a few high ranking OUSD board members have slandered it.  Why?  What's at stake for them?

Instead of appreciating and honoring the community organizing that happened this summer, a few high ranking OUSD board members have slandered it. Why? What’s at stake for them?  What are the arguments for and against the privatization of public land?

In order to address our critique of the pro-privatization…

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