Oakland teachers say progress made during OUSD negotiations, but strike still on

ByAmanda del Castillo and Lena Howland KGO logo
Friday, May 12, 2023
Oakland teachers say negotiations progress made, but strike still on
With day six of the OUSD teachers strike and with no deal made yet, teachers are poised to spend a seventh day on the picket lines on Friday.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Thursday marks day six of the Oakland Unified School District teachers strike and with no deal made yet. Teachers are poised to spend a seventh day on the picket lines on Friday.

This comes as summer break is just two weeks away.

"We had to kind of pick a time where we thought that we would get their attention and we've definitely got the school district's attention now," said George Arterberry, a teacher at Castlemont High School.

The Oakland Education Association's negotiators worked with the district up until midnight at the bargaining table on Wednesday night.

RELATED: CA Superintendent Tony Thurmond says progress being made in Oakland teachers' strike

Wednesday marks day five and counting in the Oakland teachers' strike. But negotiators say progress is being made.

"There has been movement on some substantial issues and we are waiting to continue discussions today," said Tim Douglas, co-chair of the OEA bargaining team said.

However, progress hasn't been made on the union's common good proposal, which the district says would cost them more than $1 billion dollars.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell releasing a video statement to parents with this warning late Wednesday night.

"The issues cannot be tackled through school district budgets alone," Johnson-Trammell said. "They demand multi-agency and government support. Moreover, as laudable as common causes may be, they should not hold children's learning hostage."

RELATED: Oakland parents at odds over whether 'common good' goals should be in teacher contracts

But Douglas, who teaches 5th grade in the district, says those numbers aren't accurate and they're simply asking the district for a commitment.

"We're asking for a commitment to provide housing for students, we're asking for a commitment to provide climate-controlled classrooms," Douglas said. "We are not trying to end a crisis in this contract. We know there are bigger issues. We are trying to provide realistic solutions to our students."

Meanwhile, some parents not willing to cross the picket line, but still looking for something educational to do, went to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, where admission is free for any student impacted by the strike.

"Just trying to get out of the house," said Oskar Wade, a 6th grade OUSD student.

RELATED: How similar is the Oakland teachers strike to others in Chicago and Los Angeles?

Wade and his family, were no exception.

"There's a lot of interesting stuff you can do in there, you can like build paper airplanes and launch them. You can watch movies in the theater," he said.

But with no deal between the union and district in sight, Wade and his family are already expecting to spend a 7th day away from school, come Friday.

Separately, some parents are preparing their own lesson plans.

VIDEO: OUSD parent launches 'Solidarity School' as ongoing teachers' strike reaches day 6

ABC7 News got a glimpse into the growing "Solidarity School" that has become a lifeline for many of the OUSD's families during the strike.

As dozens of Oakland Unified students from TK to high school settle in around the Sequoia picnic area at Oakland's Dimond Park, ABC7 News got a glimpse into the growing "Solidarity School" that has become a lifeline for many of the district's families.

The woman behind the effort is Anna Beliel.

"It was a really quick, swift decision," she said. "I just brought all my stuff from home and came to the park, and that's all it was."

An OUSD parent herself, Beliel is standing behind the more than 3,000 educators, now on Day 6 of their teachers' strike.

The first day of her pop-up school had just four kids in attendance. On Wednesday, nearly 70 showed up.

She explained that the aim is for a one adult to four kid ratio, with their days consisting of a mix of meals, free time, circle time, group activities and classes all led by volunteers. Beliel said many of the volunteers are teachers who are currently on strike.

RELATED: How Oakland teacher pay stacks up to CA, Bay Area salaries

"I know the schools are open," she said. "We're a low income family. My daughter has autism, and I just knew sending her to school wasn't an option for us."

She said going to the picket line would've been too much for her child with sensory sensitivities.

From using her own dollars, to receiving book donations from the local library and art supplies from attending families, Beliel said she's only do her part as picketing continues.

As early as 5 a.m. on Thursday, outside an active OUSD construction site along Union Street, several educators were picketing in protest of the district spending $57 million of Measure Y funding for its new administrative center -- rather than fixing urgent safety issues at schools, they say.

RELATED: Confusion at center of Oakland teachers strike as both sides refute claims

Even construction crews that arrived in the early morning were not crossing the picket line.

"It hurts us just as much that we're losing another day of pay," Divya Farias said when asking about the disruption for the construction crews. "We're out here on strike. We haven't been working for six days."

Separate from contract negotiations at hand, Farias who is a resource specialist and educator on strike, said they want the district to use money meant for renovation and repairs on just that.

"You can't learn. You can't work if your basic needs aren't met," Farias told ABC7 News. "And so that needs to be addressed immediately by the school district and that's part of why we're here.

Back at Dimond Park for Day 6 of the strike, Beliel -- behind the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Solidarity School" -- says she's prepared to host OUSD students until the strike is over.

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