Silhouettes of striking educators holding signs on a picket line.
Striking educators hold signs on a picket line at 35th and MacArthur Boulevard on May 9, 2023. The teachers union called off its strike on Monday after reaching a tentative agreement with OUSD on a new contract. Credit: Amir Aziz

This story was last updated on May 15 at 5 p.m.

The Oakland Education Association ended its strike on Monday, after reaching a tentative agreement with Oakland Unified School District over issues like pay, hours and prep time, class sizes, and other working conditions.

Around 4 a.m. Monday morning, OUSD announced it had reached an agreement with the teachers union and that normal school activities would resume on Tuesday, May 16. Monday is a transition day for teachers to return to their classrooms after being on strike since May 4. Along with K-12 teachers, OEA also represents school nurses, counselors, social workers, early childhood and adult educators, librarians, and substitutes. 

Under the tentative agreement, all OEA members will receive a 10% raise, retroactive to Nov. 1, 2022, and all full-time OEA members will receive an additional one-time payment of $5,000. Annual stipends will also be given to educators with bilingual credentials and those who teach in dual language programs. 

Beyond the raises and stipends, the agreement includes substantial changes to the teacher salary schedule, which guides how much teachers earn based on their years of experience and additional training. Starting salaries for first-year teachers will go from $52,905 to $62,696. Teachers can also reach a maximum salary of $109,878 after 24 years, whereas previously it took 32 years to reach a maximum salary of $98,980. Salary schedules for other positions, like speech-language pathologists, counselors, and early childhood educators, also saw increases. 

Union’s ‘common good’ proposals added as MOUs

Above: OEA President Ismael Armendariz, flanked by union members, speaks at a press conference announcing the union’s tentative contract agreement with OUSD at Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, Calif. on May 15, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

OEA and OUSD also reached agreements on four “common good” demands, regarding Black community schools, shared governance of community schools, school closures, and student housing and transportation. Those agreements are not technically included in the contract language, but as separate memorandums of understanding between the district and the union. According to a statement shared by OEA, the first three agreements (minus student housing and transportation) will be “enforceable” through the grievance process stipulated in the labor contract.

The common good demands had become a sticking point in the latter days of the negotiations, with OEA leaders pushing for them to be included in the collective bargaining agreement so that they would be enforceable, and OUSD leaders arguing that the issues were too broad to be included within the scope of a teachers union contract.

“Whether it’s an MOU that’s binding, that ties to our grievance process, or it’s in our contract, that doesn’t make a difference to us,” said OEA President Ismael Armendariz during a news conference on Monday afternoon at Melrose Leadership Academy. “Because in three years, we’re going to be at the table again, fighting for the same things and ensuring that our students have what they need.”

Contract must now be approved by county, school board, OEA members

Above: OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell holds discusses the tentative agreement with the teachers union during a press conference at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Calif. on May 15, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

The tentative agreement must still be ratified by OEA members and approved by the OUSD school board. 

“Beyond the economic gains, this hard-fought tentative agreement, if ratified by our members, will help ensure that educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders have a voice in the decision-making process,” OEA Vice President Kampala Taiz-Rancifer said in a statement Monday morning.

During a press conference Monday afternoon at McClymonds High School, OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell expressed gratitude to OEA leaders for their collaboration in reaching the agreement. 

“Since becoming the superintendent in 2017, my goal has always been to stabilize the foundation of our district through fiscal stewardship, so that eventually, we could position ourselves to pay our teachers and educators what they deserve,” Johnson-Trammell said from the McClymonds High School library on Monday. “We realize we’re not there yet. This is one crucial step towards getting there.”

Johnson-Trammell, who is approaching her sixth year as OUSD superintendent, highlighted several aspects of the new contract, including raises ranging from 11 to 22% for teachers, hiring more counselors, nurses, and teacher-librarians, and giving extra prep time to teachers. 

Above, from left: School board directors VanCedric Williams and Valarie Bachelor, and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Alysse Castro at a press conference announcing the tentative contract agreement between OUSD and the teachers union, at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Calif. on May 15, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Next, OUSD must submit the contract to the Alameda County Office of Education for approval, which can take up to 10 days. After that, the school board must vote to approve the contract and OEA membership will vote on the agreement. 

Johnson-Trammell added that tough financial decisions may need to happen in the next few years to account for decreasing enrollment in OUSD, and said there remains a need for greater investments in mental health supports for students, and visual and performing arts offerings to attract more families to OUSD. 

“We’re not going to get out of this situation that we’re in, in terms of declining enrollment … just through being responsible fiscal stewards. That is absolutely important,” she said. “But the other side is making some of the investments, that we’re going to have to do creatively, to address what we’re seeing that parents are wanting, into schools.”

The school year ends on May 25 for students, and some families in recent days have raised questions about whether the strike would impact year-end celebrations or require days to be added to the school year. Vanessa Sifuentes, the high school network superintendent for OUSD, said the district is not expecting any additional school days. High school graduations will begin next Monday, May 22, as planned, with Oakland High School. 

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.