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Update on Dewey

31 Jul

Posted below is our most recent update on Dewey.  We published it a couple weeks ago on the Oakland Local blog.  It’s not fully up to date at this point since it’s missing our most recent actions including our BBQ on Monday, 7/28.  Still it’s worth posting for our archives here and so everyone can get an idea of the ongoing nature of our work around Dewey and gentrification within OUSD.

 

Stopping Gentrification in OUSD:

Update from Struggle to Stop Displacement of Dewey and Privatization of Public Land

By Aram Mendoza and N. Finch

Since we last wrote about the potential development deal that would potentially displace Dewey Academy and sell off public land, we’ve witnessed an inspiring awareness and mobilization among  the OUSD community.  At each of the two relevant board meetings that happened last week, the 7-11 meeting and OUSD school board, students, educators, and community members came out to speak against the proposed development deal that would privatize public land.  Below we outline a brief update on each meeting and review the major problems of this attempt to privatize public space in Oakland.  Throughout this piece we put forth a vision of how we should approach the key issues in this process.

Specifically, we call for:

  • Public land to remain under public control; No privatization of public land.
  • Parent, staff, student, and community should decide OUSD policy.
  • The OUSD admin and the school board should become community activists and fight for taxes on property developers, corporations, and the port, rather than resorting to short-term privatization schemes.

 

Sign-making before we protested at a 7-11 Committee meeting.

Sign-making before we protested at a 7-11 Committee meeting.

 

7-11 Meeting, Community Response and Colonial Analogies

 

On Monday, June 23rd, the 7-11 Committee convened its third meeting in order to advise the school board on whether or not Dewey Academy should be considered “surplus property” and thereby offer it up to luxury condo developers as a saleable/leaseable parcel of land.  While OUSD so poorly promoted attendance at previous 7-11 meetings that no more than four or five community members showed up, this one had over 30 educators, students and parents from Dewey, joined by a handful of concerned community members.

The fact that educators and students were able to quickly get the word out and mobilize the community, without any outreach support from OUSD, demonstrates the strong opposition to the OUSD administration’s plans to privatize the public land that Dewey rests on.  The grouping of educators, students and community members put up signs around the room that read, “Schools Not Condos,” “Dewey is not Surplus,” “Not One Inch of Public Land for Private Developers,” and other messages that clearly took a clear stand against the administration’s move to privatize public space.

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Update and Next Steps to Rebuild Adult Ed

6 Jun

Dear supporters of Classroom Struggle and Public Education in Oakland,

We won $1 million dollars for Adult Ed! This is definitely a partial victory, and we should celebrate this, since it was direct action and leadership on the part of parents and teachers which won it. But we also need to be clear about the limitations of every victory.

Thank you all for coming out on Wednesday, 5/22. We have included a detailed overview of what happened on at the school board meeting, what our victories have been, the limitations of the vote taken on Wednesday, as well as some directions for next steps.

Adult Ed

A few key points:

  • At the May 22nd board meeting parents, teachers and students were united in fighting for a fair contract and against cuts (mainly to adult ed).
  • The board voted to maintain current funding for adult ed (due in large part to mobilizations by adult ed students and teachers as well as the outcome of the May Revise).
  • The vote guarantees 1 million in funding of adult education but does not guarantee how that funding will be spent.
  • It is still possible that cuts may happen because of “restructuring” by administrators or because school site budgets may not be able to pay the contribution that is currently required of them.
  • Going forward, adult ed students and teachers are continuing to fight to make sure the program continues as it is and expands to restore the 90% of this program that was cut 3 years ago. There is still work to be done THIS SCHOOL YEAR.

We want to learn from and build out of the May 22nd board meeting so please take the time to read the rest of this email to understand the details of this struggle and contact us with any thoughts/suggestions/questions.

What Happened?

The meeting started with a picket line and rally of hundreds of parents, teachers and students chanting “Save Adult Ed,” “Fair Contract Now” and “Not One Cut!” After 15 minutes of picketing outside, the contingent marched inside and held a spirited general assembly with speeches from parents, Adult Ed students, and teachers. Oakland’s educational community was out in strong force and electrifying what is otherwise an incredibly dull “business meeting” (to use School Board Member Jumoke Hodge’s own words.)

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GO Public Schools’ Proposal Gets an F from OUSD Teacher

21 Mar

We post a fiery letter  from an OUSD teacher who attended GO Public Schools’ event Wednesday night.  There GO and a coalition of other organizations (including SEIU 1021, Youth Together, Youth Uprising, OCO, and Education Trust-West) proposed to evaluate, fire, and hire teachers according to student test score data.  Click here for the report.  The teacher is as angry for what it leaves out as what it proposes.  A must read on a very relevant issue for Oakland, as GO and Tony Smith appear to be making a full-court press to evaluate teachers by test scores.

Dear Great Oakland Public Schools, National Council for Teacher Quality and the Oakland Effective Teaching Coalition,
These are my thoughts about your “Teacher Quality Roadmap” and your event tonight, March 20th.
You presentation was based on an analysis of exceptional, average and weak teachers.

The only brief explanation of how you determine who is an exceptional teacher, average or weak teachers was in the number of years a student’s learning increases within a school year (based on standardized test scores I imagine although this was not explicitly stated). They said that highly effective teachers can raised student achievement by 1.5 years in a single year, average teachers can raise achievement by 1 year and weak teachers raise it by less than 1 year. As a teacher, this definition of effectiveness in teaching seems ignorant at best and quite honestly, insulting.

How dare you limit the way you understand my students’ success to their numbers on an undetermined test? How dare you assess how will I invest in, am creative with, care for, discipline, instruct, evaluate, grow with, develop respect with, inspire and nurture my students with this single figure? Without any consideration of all of the factors out of my control and out of my students control? Without any assessment of all other kinds of growth that happen in my classroom, in my conversations with parents, in the after school and before school tutoring hours? These may not show up on whether the student progressed 1 year or 1.5 years.
Teach to test Cartoon 7
When my students show up to school everyday to learn even when people are getting mugged outside at 7am in the morning, even when a middle school student got shot last week walking to school, even when family members are being deported and laid off, even when their mothers are dealing with domestic violence and they fear for the lives of their baby siblings, even when because they are undocumented this district refuses to pay them the stipends that other students get, when they have childcare to do at home, when the district just decided to cut the classes that teach their parents how to help them with homework  – they are exceptional, no matter what the number they score on your rubric.

Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract: Aram Mendoza

1 Feb

This is a recent article from our newest newsletter analyzing the OEA contract struggle.  We post it here so you can access the citations and hyperlinks.  Here, Aram Mendoza analyzes the current contract negotiations of OEA and its importance for Oakland teachers and, more widely, the needs of Oakland students.  Aram also raises some very concrete tactics and next steps for individual teachers and teachers as a whole.

CTU FairContractNow

A Chicago teacher on strike last fall.

Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract

By Aram Mendoza

Oakland teachers, do we care about having a union?
Do we care about having a good contract?
What is an imposition and what should teachers do about it?

These are not rhetorical questions.

The reality is that we have been under an imposed “contract” since 2010.  What does this mean?  Simply put: Tony Smith and the OUSD school board have unilaterally, dictatorially, and undemocratically imposed terms of work upon education workers.  It means that the “last, best, and final” offer was put on the table by the OUSD district bargaining team and was NOT agreed to by the OEA bargaining team. Though this imposition was carried out in April of 2010 (which was why OEA’s last strike was in that same month), it was not the last time that Smith and the Board have imposed on education workers: last year’s “Accelerated TSA” campaign was imposed on Fremont, McClymonds, and Castlemont teachers without any public, democratic process.  More on this later.

Back to our current contract situation – we must ask: does our contract really matter?  As I’ve talked to co-workers and friends who are teachers in Oakland’s public schools I’ve come to see the total lack of information that we have in relation to our own contractual agreement with the district.

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How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

11 Dec

This article was submitted to us by a teacher friend.  She writes, “The article illustrates in a very simple way what needs to be done to have and be a union that is truly on the side of the working class. Two friends of mine that are teachers, and in the past had made a conscious decision to not be organizers, were pretty inspired by this article. I think the simpleness of the article is a big plus for people that don’t have politics in their heads 24/7.”

Here in Oakland, the lessons of the Chicago teachers are especially useful for us as OEA gears up for contract negotiations.  So if you’re interested in what Norine Gutekanst has to say here you might want to check out our Oct. 5 post with a video of Norine going in depth into the lessons of the strike.

Editors Note: This article was taken from zcommunications.org who reposted it from Labor Notes (we were unable to find the original link, apologies).  Thanks to both parties, and our friend, for spreading the words and work of CTU.

CTU teachers on strike. Note their signs raising working class wide demands calling for unity between teachers, parents, and students.

CTU teachers on strike. Note their signs raising working class wide demands calling for unity between teachers, parents, and students which the teacher organizers made real by fighting against school closures long before the 2012 strike.

How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

By Norine Gutekanst, CTU Organizing Director

The seven-day Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September didn’t just beat back a mayor bent on imposing some very bad “education reforms.” The union also developed a deep new layer of member leaders and won broad public support. One poll showed 66 percent of parents sided with us.

Our win was possible because of several years of patient organizing, focused on getting members to step up.

The work began with the election of a new leadership team from a reform caucus in June 2010. Many in the caucus had waged battles going back to 2001 against the school closings that were targeting Black and Latino neighborhoods.

We knew we had to build up the union to be ready to strike, if necessary, to defend our contract and our students. But the vast majority of our members had not experienced any of the nine strikes from 1967 through 1987. Leaders were committed to building a member-driven union to battle alongside parents and students and make our contract campaign one front in a bigger fight to save public education.

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LA High School Fights Against LAUSD’s Scorched-Earth Restructuring

5 Dec

A black, brown, and working class school slated for restructuring.  Years of neglect and mismanagement by the central district.  A top-down, careerist superintendent.  Veteran and outspoken teachers at risk for dismissal.  And maybe most importantly, parents, teachers, and students fighting back.

This could be describing Oakland but in this case it’s Los Angeles.  Right now Crenshaw High School is under threat just as Oakland schools have been.  Just as schools in working class, black and brown neighborhoods across the country have been.  But at the same time as the corporate-driven austerity (e.g. budget cuts and taking schools out of democratic control) attacks increase, there are signs of increasing fightbacks, such as in Chicago, anti-school closure struggles across the country, and of course here in Oakland.  While it’s too soon to say if a movement to defend and transform public education is maturing, it’s never too soon to support others in struggle against the austerity program.  So please read this letter from organizers at Crenshaw High, pass it on, and get in touch with the organizers at caputoprl@aol.com if you want to involve yourself deeper.  An injury to one is an injury to all!

The letter follows the introductory paragraphs.

A protest at Crenshaw High, Los Angeles.

A protest at Crenshaw High, Los Angeles.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I hope you’re very well. I’m writing hoping that you can urgently pass this copy-and-pasted article on to your networks. There is a struggle occurring in Los Angeles that will have local and national implications — between Superintendent Deasy and stakeholders at Crenshaw High School. Deasy is one of the most nationally-known superintendents and represents a scorched-earth approach to reform, sometimes referred to as being part of the “Ed Reformers” grouping, along with Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and others. Some say Deasy has national aspirations. Crenshaw High School is nationally-known for its arts and athletics, and has come to be known more recently for a nationally-recognized Extended Learning Cultural model, based on meeting all students’ needs, true administration-union collaboration, cultural relevance, and community investment and connection.

Superintendent Deasy now wants to reconstitute Crenshaw High School. An important struggle is emerging.

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Lakeview Teaches

4 Dec

Sometimes deep and poignant struggle is hard to capture in words.  But when someone is able to it helps keep the transformative moment alive in our hearts and pushes us on to the next upsurge.  Thankfully this reflection by a key participant of the Lakeview Sit-In truly revives what we felt during the 18 whirlwind days at the People’s School.  We hope it also carries you on to the next Lakeview.

Lakeview March 2Lakeview Class

Lakeview Teaches

By Margarita Monteverde

In the long list of defeats that keep us humble and push us forward

knowing only that growth and knowledge come quickly and are constant

yet we remain endlessly chasing wisdom

Defeat is constantly an option

and all we can do is run the risk

We never know, but we always try

As revolutionaries and as humans-

what drives our disempowered, exhausted selves

-hearing a ten year old say that they no longer want to be a cop

-when a comrade asks me to hold him because he is scared to feel his own power

-when the police scare us with trespassing notices and THEN we open the doors of a school they thought was theirs

-the anger of standing next to a killer who continues to hold more rights to a public educational space than I ever will as an educator

-the intricate maneuver of balancing security with inclusiveness (the shades of gray between being called “fascists” and keeping away “pedophiles”)

-coming “home” to 15 children: hands and faces covered in paint, making signs fighting for schools, education, our future

-that a 3 year old learned who schools really should belong to-looking at police planted where she had slept for 3 weeks stating “Who’s Schools? Our schools”

-words from a parent “Ill do my best to be out there with my son but if not keep in mind that we r there in spirit…we love you”

-A sign held by 3 little boys that says “Tony Smith…let the 99% decide”

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