More coverage of March for Schools Oakland Students Deserve!

Parents, Students and Teachers March for Better Schools

By Ken Epstein

Several hundred students, parents and teachers held a rally and marched through the streets of East Oakland this week to demonstrate their solidarity with the teachers’ union in its contract negotiations with the school district and to demand better public schools for students in Oakland.

<p><p>The rally at San Antonio Park and march to the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) headquarters at 1000 Broadway was held on Tuesday, when the district was closed for Cesar Chavez Day.

“This is just the beginning,” said science teacher Natalia Cooper, speaking at the rally.

“The OEA (Oakland Education Association) should be in the forefront of the changes in Oakland schools,” said Cooper, a member of Classroom Struggle, a group of educators from different schools in the teachers’ union.

It’s time to be “honest about the disparities between hills schools and flatlands schools,” she continued.

Kim Davis of Oakland Parents United called for higher teacher pay.

“OUSD needs to make teacher retention their first priority by compensating teachers fairly and giving them the support and respect they deserve,” she said.

“I want the district and the school board members to know that parents are paying attention. We are getting educated, and we support our teachers.”

Event organizers released a statement that focused on a number of their key issues: poor working conditions for teachers and school staff, which lead to high teacher turnover every year: opposition to the growth of charters schools – the need to keep schools public; the lack of hard caps for special education caseloads, which allows for “ballooning” classes in special education classrooms and “unmanageable caseloads” for counselors.

Other major issues: a “top-heavy budget that prioritizes high-level administrators far above the needs of Oakland’s classrooms; and spends more money for school police rather than for counselors and restorative justice programs.”

“Public schools are supposed to be run by the people – through their elected school board. You have to stay on the school board so they do what you want them to do,” said local attorney Federico Chavez, who is Cesar Chavez’s nephew.

“We’re here because we love our children,” said attorney Dan Siegel, who is a former member of the Oakland Board of Education.

“We have to demand that our teachers are paid what they’re worth. A teacher starts at barely $35,000 a year,” said Siegel, who urged people to vote next year to replace board members that do not represent them.

In response to the march, the school district released a statement Tuesday on teacher negotiations.

“We fully appreciate the inspiration for (this) march, especially the outpouring of support for our teachers from parents and students,” the statement said.

“We are 100 percent committed to our on-going negotiations at the bargaining table with the Oakland Education Association (OEA), the union representing all teachers in OUSD-run schools,” according to the statement. “The negotiations began long before Supt. Wilson joined the district on July 1, 2014, though it was not until his arrival that a solid pay increase and proposal package were offered.”

For the complete OUSD statement, go to

Update to Hiring of Lance Jackson for $30,000 per month

OUSD Bypasses School Board to Hire Jackson for $30,000 Per Month

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District administration bypassed Board of Education approval in order to pay Lance Jackson $30,000 a month to oversee the district’s multimillion dollar construction program, the Oakland Post has learned.

< p>While the district is conducting a search for a new person to head the work, Jackson is overseeing OUSD’s construction programs and repairs, maintenance and custodial services.

Uncertain that the Board of Education would be willing to vote for the $30,000 a month interim contract for Jackson, the administration has decided to pull the contract and instead to pay the consultant out of the ongoing contract the district has with Jackson’s company, Seville Group Inc.

Jackson is Chief Operating Officer of Seville, a construction management firm that provides oversight of OUSD construction projects.

The Post recently reported that Jackson was hired for the interim position at a rate of $360,000 a year – more than double the $156,000 a year received by former chief of construction management Tim White. Jackson’s annual salary is higher than the $280,000 annual salary that Supt. Antwan Wilson receives.

Passed by the board under Acting Supt. Gary Yee, the district’s $10.9 million contract with Seville was approved to provide program management services for Measure B and Measure J, and capital projects on behalf of the district in the Division of Facilities Planning and Management.

OUSD General Counsel Jacqueline Minor

The term of the contract commenced on Aug. 14, 2013 and concludes by Dec. 31, 2015. Seville received $4 million from the district in 2014.

Raising questions on the details of the agreement with Jackson, the Oakland Post asked the district administration what will happen to the Seville staff working in the district and the work they were doing when that money is transferred to cover Mr. Jackson’s pay.

In response, district spokesman Troy Flint said, “When working on large projects of the kind SGI (Seville) handles for OUSD, there’s flexibility to adjust, in fact, it’s a necessity. Lance’s contract is not going to impact the work delivered or the manner in which it’s delivered as, relative to our agreement with SGI, it’s a small piece of the pie.”

In response to the question, whether the agreement with Seville allows for the company to head up the facilities department, Flint said, “There’s not explicit wording in the contract to cover this specific circumstance, but the general language of the contract indicates that decisions can be made as needed to facilitate SGI’s successful management of the projects under its scope–and this falls under that consideration.”

The Post also emailed several questions to Jacqueline Minor, head of OUSD’s Legal Department.

“Can you please tell (the Post) what is your legal rational for your decision when Minor approved or advised the administration to pull that contract and to instead pay Mr. Jackson from the district’s ongoing contract with SGI?”

In addition, the Post asked: “How do you respond to the public perception that the decision appears to be a way to circumvent the decision-making power of the governing board?”

Minor did not respond.