Oct. 10: This year, 14 teachers are being moved to other schools, a process known as "consolidation," because fewer students enrolled in a particular school than the district expected, the Oakland school district has reported.
Enrollment projections are complicated, especially when school closures and new charter schools are in the picture, as was the case here. Another problem, which affects even the most popular schools? When families admitted to a school don't bother to tell anyone they're sending their child elsewhere -- essentially, holding their spots until the last minute.
According to a report I requested from OUSD, 14 teachers from 13 schools are being reassigned in what's become an annual process to balance the budget. They're from Bella Vista, Cleveland, Hoover, Kaiser, Claremont, Melrose Leadership Academy, Bret Harte, Roosevelt, Frick (two teachers), Piedmont Avenue, Allendale, La Escuelita and Rise. The report also included three vacant positions that are being consolidated at Burckhalter, Markham and Grass Valley elementary schools.
(The district, however, still has not provided the school-by-school enrollment counts. Apparently, it's because of a recurring problem with its student data systems.)
Tonight, the uber-organized parents and teachers at Kaiser Elementary School, who fended off the threat of closure this past fall, plan to make their case.
Oct. 8: A series of decisions about the costs, staffing and structure of Oakland Unified's special education department caused parents to mobilize in June against last-minute reductions to the program.
Months later, the eleventh-hour reassignment of dozens of special education teachers appears to have had a similar effect on teachers. (District staff members have since reported that many, but not all, of those changes have been rescinded.)
Within the teachers union, a new group has emerged: The OEA Special Education Caucus. The group's website features a blog, a statement of purpose, and possible solutions for improved communication and logistics, including something as simple as a roster with department staff names and contact information.
Emily Sacks, one of the organizers, said the upheaval brought teachers together. The thinking? "We can get really specific about things that are not rocket science, but that could impact the situation dramatically."
At Wednesday night's board meeting, as new director of Programs for Exceptional Children, or PEC, Karen Mates gives a presentation about plans for the department (and community involvement in the making of those plans), there could be a large special education contingent.
What issues do you hope the Special Education Caucus takes on, and what resolution do you want to see?
Oaklandteacher: Thank you for reporting on this. I think this is a crucial area of need and, as a special-education teacher, the district needs to do better.
I would love to receive an email from the special education director and/or my program specialist introducing themselves and welcoming all teachers back for a new school year. I would love to receive a weekly bulletin with new changes, documents we need to be aware of, who to call within special education for issues, etc.
Communication is the biggest piece that PEC can improve upon. As teachers, we are the first line for our administration and also our parents, and we need to be informed. Caseloads are another big issue, and I am at the legal limit but there is no response from PEC about steps they are taking to ensure I don't go above the legal limit.
Thank goodness professional development is being planned by an office other than PEC; this is another huge area of need.
I hope there is a huge turnout from the special education community. I know I will be there!
Caucus Member: One of the focuses of the caucus will be to protect the special education language in our current contract. We hope to add language that will protect students, including severely handicapped students, particularly those in wheelchairs, from being overcrowded into oversize Special Day Classes. ...
I also really encourage all special educators to attend any meeting where we can get together and meet, to share ideas, talk about students, teaching and materials and, especially right now, to organize ourselves against changes that negatively affect our work and practice. Talk to each other; find other special ed teachers and ask them what they know. Organize! Attend!