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The Education Report: In Oakland, tumult in special education leads teachers to organize

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October 8, 2012
By Katy Murphy

A series of decisions about the costs, staffing and structure of Oakland Unified’s special education department caused parents to mobilize in June against last-minute reductions to the program.

Months later, the 11th-hour reassignment of dozens of special education teachers appears to have had a similar effect on teachers. (District staff have since reported that many, but not all, of those changes have been rescinded.)

Within the teacher’s union, a new group has emerged: The OEA Special Education Caucus website features a blog, a statement of purpose, and possible solutions for improved communication and logistics, including something as simple as a roster with department staff names and contact information.

Emily Sacks, one of the organizers, said the upheaval brought teachers together. The thinking?  ”We can get really specific about things that are not rocket science, but that could impact the situation dramatically.”

At Wednesday night’s board meeting, as new special education director Karen Mates gives a presentation about plans for the department (and community involvement in the making of those plans), there could be a large special education contingent.

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