With the new school year approaching, Oakland North sits down with the newly hired Oakland Education Association (OEA) president, Trish Gorham. In this wide-ranging interview, the new head of the teachers’ union discusses school closures, the small schools movement, inequity among Oakland schools, the Lakeview protest, the challenges facing Oakland’s teachers and much more.

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OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith addressed controversial topics like the “Acceleration Teacher on Special Assignment” position that was created at three schools, which extends the school year there by a month. He also spoke about ”partnership schools”—charter schools that retain a close relationship with the district, the district’s budget and role in the city, as well as about how those who work for the district can do a better job of educating kids, especially young African American male students.

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The idea behind the concept of “mutual matching” is to find the best fit between a teacher and the school community in which they work. That concept is on the bargaining table now in discussions between the officials from the Oakland Unified School District and Oakland Education Association, as they discuss a proposal that would change the way teachers are assigned to schools in the district.

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On October 26 representatives from three of Oakland’s public elementary schools –ASCEND, Learning Without Limits, and Lazear—presented petitions to the school board to convert into charter schools. Closing the five schools, by the school district’s estimate, would save about $2 million. But if these three schools become charters, the district could lose as many as 1000 students from its rolls, pulling more than $4 million from OUSD.

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The Oakland Unified School District’s controversial proposal to close five elementary schools this fall, and more in coming years, follows a multi-year program of encouraging small small schools–subdividing bigger facilities into multiple smaller ones, each with fewer students and a more intimate climate. But funding and enrollment changes have pushed the district to what promises to be an emotional meeting and vote Wednesday night.

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Measure L, the $195 parcel tax that would have raise money for teacher salary increases, was receiving 58 percent approval in early returns tonight, with just over 10 percent of precincts reporting. But that fell short of the two-thirds supermajority required in California to pass any new tax increase.

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A majority of the Oakland Unified School District’s close to 2,400 teachers are expected to participate in a one day strike Thursday. School will be in session anyway. Though the district began hiring “emergency temporary teachers” close to a month ago, only 300 such teachers have been cleared to work tomorrow, according to OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint.

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