Controversial contract pits teachers against Oakland diocese

Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland.

The top catholic leader in the East Bay met with teachers and students at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland.

The meeting was to hear concerns about a new morality clause in the annual contracts teachers are required to sign. Three teachers are losing their jobs because they refuse.

Oakland Bishop Michael Barber arrived quietly to meet with teachers at the school about a new contract provision that has sparked much controversy.

"We're hoping that he'll hear out our concerns," said Bishop O'Dowd student Andrew Melendez.

Melendez is among a group of student leaders meeting with Barber.

"This clause has created a lot of hurt for our community. We're not sure exactly how it can be interested because it's worded in a way that's so broad. Basically, eye of the beholder," he said.

Three teachers will lose their jobs after this school year because they refused to sign a one-year contract with the diocese because it contains specific language, inserted this year by Barber.

The contract reads, in part:

"In both the employee's personal and professional life, the employee is expected to model and promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals and to do nothing that tends to bring discredit to the school or to the Diocese of Oakland."

A student-initiated petition on has collected more than 3,300 signatures. Parents have started one too, with more than 600.

Some worry more teachers will leave.

"I'm very concerned about that, that more teachers, that teachers who didn't actually take the very bold step of refusing to sign might, as time progresses, find other jobs and leave," said parent Fran Radford.

The three teachers who refused to sign were not invited to meet with the Barber and the diocese has said that Barber's dialogue with the staff and students at Bishop O'Dowd is unlikely to lead to a significant change.
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