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Bruno: Bad District/Union Relations Lead to Bad Policy

Spy_vs_spy_untrusted_handshake_by_jasonsane0908-d2yy014The controversy du jour in the Oakland Unified School District is a plan to replace all of the standard teaching positions at three struggling high schools with "teacher-on-special-assignment" (TSA) positions. Katy Murphy reports:

Superintendent Tony Smith is requiring all teachers at those schools to apply for a new teacher-on-special assignment position if they want to remain on those campuses next year. In exchange for 18 extra days of work, they would earn an additional $4,000 to $6,000. The mandatory school year would remain the same length for students as it is now...

Smith and his staff members hope the challenge, combined with the additional pay, will make the positions more desirable, yielding a team of committed, experienced teachers with a common vision for the schools. 

Ostensibly this is supposed to help reduce turnover, but that seems improbable.  The fact is that the extra pay isn't even proportional to the increase in work days, and there's the additional disincentive of reduced job security.  Why this would improve recruitment or retention of staff is pretty mysterious.

It's hard not to conclude that the district is just really dissatisfied with some of the staff at the schools and sees this as a way to get rid of them by exploiting the ambiguous TSA language in the contract. Whether or not the district's correct in that assessment, the whole fiasco really illuminates how unproductive the relationship between the union and the district is. Their complete refusal to even play ball with each other has resulted in a contractually dubious, absurdly jerry-rigged "solution" that doesn't even explicitly name the "problem" being addressed.

And this just contributes to the vicious cycle of increasing mutual distrust in the community. Do other districts have such dysfunctional relationships with their unions? - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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My best friend is student teaching now and the discord between the districts and the teacher unions is clear. At least three teacher unions in my state have gone on strike stating the district isn't listening or agreeing to their contract demands. Teachers awnt more money and to contribute less to health insurance costs, the districts want to get the most out of teachers for as little money as possible. Meanwhile, as the taxpayers' burden for educational costs keeps skyrocketing, I have to wonder if anyone is listening to the people at all.

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