'Tensions are high:' Oakland teachers to hold non-sanctioned sickout

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Teachers from around Oakland Unified School District held a rally and a sickout on Friday, drawing support from employees, students and community members all over the city.

"It makes me feel really proud that people care," said Milah Gammon, a junior at Oakland Tech. "And I want my teachers to have better wages, supplies and support."

Despite the large outpouring of support from the nearly 300 who came out, the protest was not sanctioned by the Oakland Education Association, where members have not had a contract for the last 18 months.  President Keith Brown. He did not have a specific comment about the sickout when he spoke to KTVU earlier this week. 

Teachers from Oakland Tech, Skyline High, Fremont High, Oakland High, United for Success, and West Oakland Middle School all participated.  They changed and held signs that read, "Honk if u hella love Oakland teachers" and "If u kepe hurtin edukaton more signs will lok like dis (sic)." 

The union is asking for a 12 percent increase over three years and the district has offered a 5 percent increase over the same time period. OUSD is also facing a $30-million budget shortfall this year and leaders have been looking for ways to cut back. This year, sports teams were put on the chopping block as a result and were only saved because of private donations from individuals and the Oakland Raiders.

"Tensions are high," acknowledged California  State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. "We need to bring everyone together to focus on what's possible." He said after the fact-finding phase of the negotiation is over, the stakeholders will try to "come to the best that we can offer are teachers." 

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As a former teacher herself, Oakland Unified School Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammel said in a letter to parents that she "firmly" believes that educators should earn more. Still, she said, "any raise for our staff will mean we will have to make budget reductions, potentially including layoffs and reductions to programs or services elsewhere to pay for it."

Each one percent raise that teachers receive, she said, equals an additional $1.9 million per year in costs to the district for their additional wages and benefits. Taking into account all the represented employees, such as support staff, the costs rise to about $3.5 million per year for each 1 percent raise.

Salaries range throughout the East Bay for teachers working in various districts. The lowest starting salary is about $46,000 and the highest ending salary is $84,000, according to the union data.

Oakland teachers are paid the lowest of any teacher in the East Bay, the union data shows.

"We have  no paper to print assignments on," said Jeff Rector, a Skyline High School teacher. "The heat in the classroom is 60 to 65 degrees. Random people give us money." 

Before the sickout, Oakland Tech Principal Staci Ross-Morrison sent a robocall to parents on Thursday night, saying she "believes our teachers deserve to make the kind of money it takes to live here in the Bay Area."

Ross-Morrison said she recognized that most teachers would not be working on Friday, so the class schedules were modified. She said that students who report to school should show up in the cafeteria, the library and the auditorium instead of their regular classrooms.

The Oakland-based sickout follows on the heels of what is going on in Southern California. 

On Friday,  Los Angeles teachers will walk picket lines for a fifth day after the union and school district officials returned to the bargaining table with hopes of ending the massive strike in the nation's second-largest school district.

The demands are simlar: Better wages, teacher support and smaller class sizes. 

California ranks among the top states for average teacher salaries but also for cost of living.


Teacher salaries in Alameda County



Oakland: $46,500

Alameda: $47,600

Albany: $51,000

Berkeley: $51,000

Livermore: $51,000

Hayward: $61,600

Fremont: $65,000

Pleasanton: $64,000

New Haven (Union City) $71,000




Oakland: $63,000

Alameda: $73,000

Albany: $72,000

Berkeley: $75,000

Livermore: $77,600

Hayward: $89,000

Fremont: $89,000

Pleasanton: $90,000

New Haven (Union City) $94,000



Oakland: $84,900

Alameda: $92,000

Albany: $92,000

Berkeley: $92,000

Livermore: $93,000

Hayward: $103,000

Fremont: $114,000

Pleasanton: $106,000

New Haven (Union City) $117,000



KTVU's Sara Zendehnam contributed to this report.