Oakland teachers working to rule until contract negotiated

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Some Oakland teachers are trying to get the school district's attention by working the hours required by their contract -- and that's it.

The room was packed at the Oakland School Board meeting Wednesday night after teachers marched there. The issue of their contract will not be discussed but teachers hope to be seen and heard.

At the end of the school day, most teachers spend time working in the classroom.

"Teachers are working on their grades. Teachers are working on correcting papers, meeting with students, preparing for the next day's lessons," teacher Mark Airgood said.

But some Oakland teachers will now work-to-rule, which means none of those after-school projects will be handled.

"To make the district pay attention but, more important, to make the community pay attention," Oakland Education Association's Trish Gorham said.

Both the teacher's union and the district are in the middle of contract negotiations. The district is offering a 10 percent hike over three years but the teachers want a slightly higher increase.

"Regardless of all the political theater that occurs outside the negotiating room, we think we're making good progress at the bargaining table," Oakland Unified School District's Troy Flint said.

But one of the major sticking points is over class sizes for kids with special needs. The union is demanding a hard cap on the number of students assigned to a special education teacher.

"A hard cap means the teachers have enough time to give to each of those students," Gorham said.

The district says a hard cap would force them to hire more teachers.

"Only because we don't want to be bound into a situation that would be catastrophic for the district financially if state revenue projections failed to meet expectations," Flint said.

The district has already agreed to reduce the student-teacher ratio in transitional kindergarten through third grade to an average of 24.

"Parents at home just have to step up and do what we have to do to help teachers. As long as they can come here and put their best foot forward while they're on the clock, they've got to do what they've got to do," parent Deatrese Bonner said.

Oakland teachers aren't the only ones taking this action. On Monday, teachers with the New Haven School District started to follow their lead.
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