Oakland teachers strike causes near shutdown at Fremont

Oakland teachers strike causes near shutdown at Fremont

Fremont Federation of High Schools essentially shut down operations during an all-district teachers strike on April 29.

Administrators estimate less than 100 students of the 1,200 Fremont students came to school.  The cafeteria served only 16 meals. The Tiger Clinic shut down. The only “classes” were students out on the athletic field unsupervised and some students watching a video in Mandela Academy’s hallway.

Media Academy did not hire any substitutes even though none of its teachers came to work.

Media Academy Principal Benjamin Schmookler had to work, but in support of the nine teachers on his staff who were picketing, he brought coffee, croissants, muffins and water.

“I support my team,” said Schmookler, who used to be a union leader when he was a teacher.

Craig Gordon, the teachers union representative for Paul Robeson Visual & Performing Arts, said he thought the strike was effective in getting the public’s attention to the teachers’ situation and putting pressure on the district to return to the negotiating table.

“The effect of a one-day strike is not in and of itself a big deal,” said Gordon. “It doesn’t hurt the district much. It is more of a political effect. It mobilizes community support.”

Gordon said about three-quarters of the teachers at Fremont Federation showed up to picket and that 92 percent of them chose to honor the strike by not crossing the picket line. He said four people did cross the line — two P.E. teachers, one school counselor and one substitute.

Norbert Payton, one of the P.E. teachers, who went to work during the strike said he did not want to comment until “things cool down.”

The other Fremont teacher who crossed the picket line was Darlene Miller, who told Media Studies reporters that the strike did not affect her.

The counselor who crossed the picket line was not available for comment.

While Payton, Miller and the counselor received pay for April 29, the other Fremont teachers and counselors will lose an average of $289 for missing a day of work.

Gordon said that if the strike does not get the district to offer the teachers an acceptable contract, the union could vote to go on a longer strike. He said the union will meet on May 3 at Oakland Technical High School.

The teachers union is asking for a 15 percent raise over three years. The school board imposed a contract on them that offers no pay raise or changes to benefits.

Schmookler said he does not think the district will give teachers raises even if they choose to go on a longer strike.

“There is no money,” he told Media Studies students on Friday.

Schmookler said he may have to cut one more teacher from his staff because budget cuts for next year have grown to $488,000 from $300,000.

Mike Turner, Marcus Robinson, Jameela Rougeau, George Toa and Tony Srimoukda contributed to this story.