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Chapter 3 - A Disgruntled Response

Immediately following the birth of the strike the district expressed their outrage. Superintendent Carolyn Getridge somehow couldn't believe the strike was happening and readily blamed the union. She said that the OEA had "abandoned the talks," and she couldn't understand why, "the union would take this action."

"The disruption that has permeated this effort must stop and it must stop now," she added, disgruntled by the strike.[12] Schools Superintendent August Scordnaienchi responded by attacking union demands as "unrealistic." He exclaimed, "I can no longer stand back and let this happen ... The teachers need to get realistic. There's a finite amount of money out there."[13] Union members responded however by pointing out that the "finite amount of money" was in his pocket.

The angered district had little trouble being supported by the corporate press who opened large reaction spaces for those wanting to voice their opposition to the strike. It was exclaimed again and again that there simply was not enough money and that union and teachers' demands were damaging. One writer explained that it was supposedly mathematically impossible to meet striker's demands, saying, "Let's assume the district can cut 20 administrators, about 24 percent, without damaging its ability to function and those 20 administrators each earn $100,000 a year. The savings would equal $2 million, not the $18 million to $20 million needed for OEA's salary and class size demands." The writer further pointed out that the union's tactics were all wrong, and that, "they may harm the causes for which they fight - Oakland schools and the children who attend them."[14] Carolyn Getridge of course supported this notion by assuring readers that the strike "is a very damaging action by the Oakland Education Association,"[15] and assured the community that it was actually district officials who were most concerned about the students and their well being. Oakland school board president Lucella Harrison summed it up when "She accused the Oakland Education Association of misleading the public and causing an unnecessary disruption. "[16]

Eleven days into the strike the district responded by attempting to end the strike in exchange for further negotiations. They "called for a 45-day cooling-off period for negotiators. "[17] County Boardmember Jerome Wiggins said, "Teachers would go back to classrooms and the negotiators would go back to the bargaining table to forge a working agreement."[18] The teachers and the union however didn't even take this idea into consideration. It was seen as a tactic to undermine the strike and delay and weaken the OEA's bargaining power. The teachers ignored this attempt and continued to strike.

Soon after the strike began another group emerged in opposition to the strike and supposedly in favor of the students. They called themselves Parents for Resolutions and claimed the strike was bad for students, "The pure fact is it's absurd to keep our children out of school any longer." They wanted an end to the strike regardless of class size or teachers' pay. "Enough is enough!" they cried, "the stand the union is taking is self serving."[19] While Parents for Resolutions claimed to be in favor of what's best for students, their demands appeared to be in favor of the district and they gathered little support from the community. Parents for Resolutions was, however, only one of the many disgruntled - responses evoked by the district's opposition to the strike and the strikers' demands.

Footnotes 12 - 19

12. Getridge, Carolyn, as quoted by Michael Bazeley, "Oakland schools to stay open, district vows," Oakland Tribune, February 15, 1996.

13. Scornaiechi, August, as quoted by Michael Bazeley, "Teachers ,unrealistic,' chief says," Oakland Tribune, March 5, 1996.

14. Epstein, Ken, "Teachers' union on the wrong track," Montclarion, February 23, 1996.

15. Getridge, Carolyn, "Education our top priority," Montclarion, February 23, 1996.

16. District 3, Lucella Harrison Endorsements, "Saving Oakland's Schools," San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 20, 1996.

17. Scherr, Judith, and Adam King, "City officials try to mediate talks," Montclarion, March 1, 1996.

18. Ibid., Wiggins, Joe, as quoted.

19. Williams, Henry, a representative for Parents for Resolutions, as quoted by Angel Hill, "Teachers back on picket line as talks drag," Oakland Tribune, March 11, 1996.