OUSD Public Relations Move by Backfires

By Ken Epstein

For someone who does not understand unions and negotiations, it might appear perfectly innocent that the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) put a “polite invitation” on the teachers union Facebook page to read the school district’s latest salary proposal.

Isaac Kos-Read

Isaac Kos-Read

That’s what happened on Tuesday afternoon, and to many teachers and parents, this appeared to be a violation of the confidential negotiations that are continuing this week and an attempt to go over the heads of union leaders to sway teachers with misleading information.

Outraged, bargaining team members of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) were ready to walk out of the negotiations Tuesday afternoon when they learned of the Facebook posting.

Members of the school district’s bargaining team were also caught unaware. The statement had been posted on Facebook by the district’s public relations team without knowledge of the district’s team, said OEA President Trish Gorham.

President Gorham asked teachers to go on line to respond to the district.

“Please politely tell OUSD how you feel about a 10.5 percent raise that is contingent and still leaves Oakland educators at the bottom of Alameda County,” she said in an email to teachers.

“Please politely tell OUSD that 1.5 percent is offered for an increase in the workday, therefore not a raise,” the email continued. “Please inform OUSD that you will not take a 1.5 percent offer that will result in a pay cut for your brothers and sisters enrolled in Health Net.”

The OUSD “polite invitation” to read the district’s salary proposal was also posted on the OUSD Parents United Facebook page, and the parents responded:

“It seems inappropriate for you to be posting about this proposed raise on a third party site while you are having confidential and purportedly good faith negotiations with OEA,” the parent statement said.

“Further, the information you posted is misleading and clearly intended not to inform but to turn support away from your teachers and toward your proposal,” the statement said.

The district removed the post and apologized to the union, according to OEA President Gorham.

Isaac Kos-Read is the recently hired OUSD Chief of Communications and Public Affairs.

In response to questions from the Post, school district spokesman Troy Flint said, “It was a poor decision to post bargaining information on OUSD’s Facebook page because it was predictable that this action would be seen as an imposition and create a backlash. Nevertheless, the posting was a mild and well-intentioned–if clumsy– effort to introduce information into the discussion that has sometimes been overlooked.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)