Oakland students and teachers were glad to be back in school Tuesday to finish out the school year following the end of a seven-day teacher strike, two educators said.

After Tuesday, just seven days are left in the school year in the Oakland Unified School District, which serves about 35,000 students. District officials said Monday that the school year will not be extended because of the strike, but individual schools may adjust their calendars.

Teachers and other members of the teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association, went on strike over wages and to advocate for the needs of their students.

“The kids are excited to be back. We missed them, too.”

Samai Khattab, Franklin Elementary School teacher and librarian

“This just wasn’t about compensation,” said Wally Scott, a teacher at Fruitvale Elementary School.

Scott was on the bargaining team seeking an agreement with the school district over “common good” proposals like reparations for Black students and help for unhoused students.

Those issues the school board was already working on, but union officials secured binding memorandums of understanding with the district over those issues and two others.

The MOUs are separate agreements from the contract, which dealt with only wages and working conditions.

‘We got closer’

For union members, the biggest win may be the wage deal, which will bring some teachers pay close to the median for teachers in Alameda County.

“We got closer,” said teacher/librarian Samai Khattab, who works at Franklin Elementary School.

The pay raises though “will not solve the teacher retention crisis” in the school district, Khattab said.

Nevertheless, “our school had a very joyful return to school this morning” with lots of hugs to go around, she said.

“The kids are excited to be back,” she said. “We missed them, too.” Scott echoed Khattab’s sentiments.

“Everyone’s happy to be back,” he said.

Parents were supportive of the teachers’ efforts during the strike, Khattab said.

Khattab was also on the union bargaining team, which was made up of about 50 people, an unusually large number. In the recent past, the union team consisted of about 10 people, Scott said.

The large number of union bargaining team members helped the union express to the district what members need to effectively teach and serve students, Scott said.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.