Fremont teachers must reapply for longer hours, days

Fremont teachers must reapply for longer hours, days

Pearl Joy Balagot

MOBILIZING TEACHERS: Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones speaks to Fremont Federation teachers on March 2 about the district’s plan to create Teachers on Special Assignment positions and eliminate all regular teaching jobs.

The district says it is a chance to strengthen Fremont High School and give added support to children, while the teachers union says the plan violates its members contract and will hurt students.

It is called the Accelerated TSA plan and it requires all teachers to be selected  as “Teachers on Special Assignment” to continue to work at Fremont. Castlemont and McClymonds High Schools also will be included in the plan.

Those selected to work at Fremont must agree to work 18 extra days during the summer and 30 minutes extra every day, time for which they will be paid.

Oakland Education Association leaders who showed up to a March 6 meeting led by Superintendent Tony Smith for Fremont teachers were furious.

“This is a real low point in this relationship,” said OEA President Betty Olson-Jones as she described the way the district had come up with a plan without talking about it with the union first.

The union has filed a grievance over what it says is an “unfair labor practice.”

But Smith told teachers he had the power to create the TSA positions.

“I had to do what I thought was right for kids,” Smith said.

Teachers at Fremont conducted their own survey to see how eductors felt about the change. Responses were diverse and there was no majority for or against it.

About 38 percent of teachers answered that they thought that the TSA plan would improve students’ experience at Fremont.

On the other hand, 46 percent of teachers support the union’s decision to challenge the TSA plan.

“I am concerned that this is just a ploy to destroy the power of the union,” one teacher responded on the survey.

Nearly 64 percent of the teachers said they plan to apply for TSA jobs. Meanwhile, 19 percent said they will not apply for a TSA position and 17 percent are undecided. Forty-eight Fremont teachers took the anonymous survey.

Under the plan, teachers have to apply for the new positions if they decide they want to continue working at Fremont. They will also have to interview.

Teachers who said they would apply for the TSA jobs have a variety of reasons.

“I am committed to staying with Fremont High for the sake of the kids,” one teacher wrote on the survey. “I have come to love so many of the students here, and I feel it is my duty to them to stay and support their education.”

Ed Holohan is a Media Academy resource specialist who says he wants what is best for the students, but is against the plan.

“The district should go about it a different way. I think they’re breaking the law. It’s not fair,” said Holohan, who has been teaching at Fremont for 20 years.  He is undecided on whether he will apply for a TSA job.

Some students who learned about the plan see some advantages it might have.

“It’s a great idea because some of these teachers don’t care about the students or what we do, they just want they money,” said Media Academy junior Darnell Waters.

One teacher also addressed student need over teacher job security.

“It is not right to hold teachers’ interest before our children’s best interest at Fremont. OEA should see this TSA position as a support, not an attack. We will have a job regardless because they need us,” replied the teacher.

If teachers choose not to apply for the new teaching positions or are not selected but still want to work as teachers, they will be placed at a different OUSD school, according to contractual rules.

The TSA contract teachers sign would be good for one year (11 months). By March 15 each year, the district would choose which contracts to renew.

Teachers are now able to apply for the jobs on EdJoin.com and will start interviewing as soon as the Fremont High School principal is named.

Matthew Duffy, the district’s school transformation leader, explained the new positions to teachers in a Feb. 23 e-mail.

“These new TSA postions symbolize our commitment to create a high quality school with high quality teachers that can significantly accelerate student learning, strengthen school culture and actively partner with families,” he wrote.

But Richard Yacco, a Media Academy broadcast teacher, doesn’t think the TSA contracts are necessary.

“It’s wrong because [the district] can conquer the same goals by extending the [regular teachers’] contract,” he said. “This seems like it’s not in the best interest of the students.”

Some teachers believe that these new TSA positions are good for both educators and students.

“The benefits are our role(s) on campus would be more clearly defined.” said Mikel Calderon, a permanent substitute teacher on campus.

In his e-mail, Duffy wrote that the new TSA position is “founded on the belief that teachers need significant time to plan, work, collaborate and even teach in service of their students.”

Mandela Academy junior Nick Ross believes who the school hires for the jobs will make all the difference.

“If the people who are new that are hired are from the community, they have [our] best interest. People outside don’t know what we been through, so they can’t relate,” he said.

Under the plan, the application process for teachers will be shorter than when they first applied to become district teachers. They will still need to fill out an application through an online system called EdJoin, but it will not involve uploading letters of recommendation or getting college transcripts. They will have interviews starting in April.

The survey revealed that many teachers have worries about the selection process.

“I am concerned that the selection process will not rely on good criteria. I have not really been observed by [administration] in three years, and test scores don’t capture my job,” said one teacher.