by Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu
“I’m sorry. Can you repeat that? I’m really sleepy.”
One of the solidarity school volunteers was asking me a question about where to find some supplies, or what room to take the kids to, I think? I couldn’t process the information because I was multitasking while sleepy: stopping kids from roaming the hallways, mediating disagreements, settling first grader fights and attempting to answer this question. God bless our youngest students whose routines are so out of whack that some are in a perpetual state of melting down.
Day 6 is nothing like Day 1. I’m super tired. Fun fact: I was diagnosed with narcolepsy three years ago. It’s by the grace of God that I’m still functioning by the end of the day. I have to say, I honestly didn’t think we would still be on strike. We are currently entering our second week.
“Um, ‘scuse me. Mrs. Seitu? He kicked me in my private part.”
That got my immediate attention.
“He what? Sweetie, who kicked you?” The first grade boy pointed out his classmate, another first grade boy. I approached him, bent down to his level and asked, “Did you kick him in his private parts?” He solemnly nodded yes. He made no attempt to lie. While I appreciated that, I still had no idea what prompted the kicking.
“Why did you kick him?”
“He did like this in my face.” He made a symbol with both of his hands and held them up for me to see.
“So you kicked him because he put his hands in your face?”
“I was trying to kick him in the leg.”
“Ok. You do not have the right to put your hands and feet on anyone. Do you understand me?” He nodded yes and I took both boys to the Eat and Greet room to sit down and chill out. Chill, there’s no chill here. My sister Kehinde and I, the lead organizers for this site, get pulled in several different directions all day long. In the eight hours at the solidarity school, I think I sat down for a total of 30 minutes all day.
When I came home, I searched my email and WhatsApp messages for updates, any updates, on the status of the bargaining process. I saw pictures and videos from today’s citywide action located in downtown Oakland. I smiled watching a Facebook live video of teachers, students and community members chanting in the state building, “One! We are the teachers! Two! A little bit louder! Three! We want justice for our students!”
I smiled watching a Facebook live video of teachers, students and community members chanting in the state building, “One! We are the teachers! Two! A little bit louder! Three! We want justice for our students!”
It feels a little isolating working the solidarity school every day. I do not know what is happening on the picket lines or at the citywide actions. I do know, however, that I am providing a service that enables parents to continue standing in solidarity with us. That also makes me smile, and I can’t lie. Seeing all of the children’s faces every morning, them greeting me with a hug and a smile, that makes me smile too.
As stressful as this entire process has been, I have witnessed our community of educators, parents and concerned neighbors show up in a beautiful way. Every day we have been blessed with people (some returning and some new) coming in to read to the children, play music with them, create art with them, race, jump rope and play basketball, color, play games and just sit with the students who are having a tough time navigating a difficult situation. One volunteer even drove out from Stockton today and committed to coming back tomorrow.
Every day we have been blessed with people (some returning and some new) coming in to read to the children, play music with them, create art with them, race, jump rope and play basketball, color, play games and just sit with the students who are having a tough time navigating a difficult situation.
The love in action that I have seen demonstrated in the last two weeks is truly inspiring. While OUSD claims to be committed to student achievement, its actions say otherwise. Like the small child who needed my help earlier today, the district has kicked us all in our privates. However, like the strike chant says, “When our schools are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Contact Oakland-teacher-on-strike Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breaking news: Tentative agreement reached
While posting this story, we recieved the following statement from the Oakland Education Association, representing the striking teachers:
After seven days on strike – with 95% of our members on the line, 97% of students out of school, and tens of thousands on our picket lines and rallies – we have reached a tentative agreement!
This is a historic contract with a win in every major proposal we made. We are now leaps and bounds closer to the schools that Oakland students deserve.
More information to come. Tune in to OEA news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram live to be a part of our historic press conference at 4 p.m.
When we strike, we win!
Following are highlights of the tentative agreement from the Oakland Education Association – more to be released later today:
A LIVING WAGE:
An 11 percent salary increase over four years. PLUS a 3 percent bonus upon ratification. We FORCED OUSD to invest in keeping teachers in Oakland – which will give our kids experienced teachers in their classrooms. Dramatic increases for subs, and tying sub pay to the wage scale, so our substitutes never fall behind again.
MORE STUDENT SUPPORTS:
More counselors, RSPs, psychologists, speech pathologists and Newcomer support staff for our students! Bonuses and a new salary schedule to support nurse recruitment.
LOWER CLASS SIZES:
A one student reduction in class size at high needs schools next year. A one student reduction in class sizes across all schools in 2021-22. We FORCED OUSD to take this step to improve student learning conditions, especially at our highest-needs schools.
SCHOOL CLOSURE MORATORIUM:
Board President Aimee Eng has committed to introduce a resolution calling for a five month pause on school closures and consolidations and more community input into the process. The power of our strike will help us organize against future closures!
CHARTER SCHOOL MORATORIUM:
Board President Aimee Eng has committed to introduce a resolution calling for a charter school moratorium, similar to the one passed by the LAUSD Board as a result of UTLA’s historic strike. Next step: Sacramento!
WE BUILT POWER:
You united the community behind the fight for public education in Oakland and YOU WON.