OB Elementary Parents and Students Protest Loss of Two Teachers

by on October 5, 2015 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Education, Labor, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics

OB Elem picket 10-5-15 mw 03

Parents and students protest the loss of two teachers outside Ocean Beach Elementary School on Monday morning. All photos by Matthew Wood.

By Matthew Wood

Dozens of teachers, students and parents braved the rain this morning – Monday, Oct. 5th – to protest the loss of two teachers at Ocean Beach Elementary School.

Kindergarten teachers Amie Frank and Katy Amberg will be reassigned to different schools in the San Diego Unified School District.

“We’ve taken such a large, unexpected drop in enrollment,” OB Elementary Principal Marco Drapeau explained.

“After five years of growth, this caught us by surprise. The numbers don’t support the staff by the math.”

OB Elem picket 10-5-15 mw 04The teachers were chosen because they have the least amount of seniority at the school, per the teacher’s union contract. They will still have jobs, just not at OB Elementary. And they are not guaranteed teaching positions, wherever they may be sent.

“It gets submitted to human resources,” Drapeau said. “Then they send them to schools that need it.” He said the process will be completed by the end of the month.

OB Elem picket 10-5-15 mw 05Teachers at the school said the changes will affect nearly every classroom, causing a number of combination classes.

“We’re at the point where I don’t even have a classroom,” said kindergarten teacher Marianne Silva-Flores. “Losing one (teacher) will affect us significantly. Two will devastate us.”

Drapeau said he spoke with both teachers to tell them the news. What makes things worse is that Frank was on maternity leave and is set to give birth this week.

“It’s very emotional,” Drapeau said. “These are beloved staff members and it’s not easy.”

He will meet with them later today to talk about how they will handle classrooms going forward.

“It’s going to make scheduling very, very difficult,” he said. “I am talking today with the staff. We’re trying to be strategic and smart about how to handle this.”

OB Elem picket 10-5-15 mw 02Part of the problem is the constant flux of families in the area. The large amount of parents in the military means many times students have to leave. Parents and teachers also pointed to the growing number of short-term vacation rentals eating up possible housing for families.

In the past, dozens of students outside the district are given choice enrollment because their parents want them at OB Elementary. But this year, only six students were choiced in. Many students from the school’s pre-kindergarten program were also denied enrollment.

That led to a lower total enrollment for the school and now to the loss of the two teachers.

“Our main focus is to build community,” Silva-Flores said. “The OB community is very unique. To put it like it’s just a number is not OK with us. They’re a part of our family.”

Parents and students held signs on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard to protest the changes, gaining attention from a throng of television crews and honks of support from drivers passing by.

OB Elem picket 10-5-15 mw 01One of those parents was Suzy Reid, has a student at OB Elementary and has been a vocal supporter of school causes in the past. She says it’s an unnecessary challenge facing parents, especially since the school year is almost a month old.

“It makes it hard as a parent because we have to tell the children they have a new teacher,” she said. “Chaos will ensue. It’s a disruption. And we don’t even know how long it will take to get over.”

A number of parents are planning to attend Tuesday’s school board meeting and encouraged as many other parents as possible to either come to the meeting or e-mail the school board to make their voice heard. That meeting will be at Oct 6th, 5 p.m. at 4100 Normal St.

Marianne Reiner – the parent of a second grader at OB Elementary – is helping with the effort to mobilize parents. She wants to get as many people as possible to the school board meeting to show OB parents and students have a voice.

“We are told everyone gets three minutes to speak to the board,” she said. “I intend to grab the microphone and ask for answers. We are not letting this go. Don’t mess with us.”


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Joe October 5, 2015 at 11:39 am

Congrats to Matt Wood and OB Rag for this (early morning) coverage of an important labor issue in OB.


Richard October 5, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Gentrification / Vacation Rentals / Main Street Mentality First = Fewer OB Families w Children. Likely more cuts to come! ?


Jason October 5, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Why is this a protest? The student to teacher ratio was agreed upon by the teachers and the district. And that ratio was lower than previous years so before today everything was better than previous years. The principal explained it quite clearly in his email to parents, there was an unexpected drop in enrollment so fewer teachers were needed to adhere to the agreed upon ratio. Classrooms are still smaller than previous years even with the reassignment of the 2 teachers.

Dragging children out in the rain an hour before school to protest a process that was established and an improvement to the prior situation is disrupting. Kids are going to get new teachers almost every year and will have substitutes on occasion throughout the year so if they can’t handle this “disruption” then I fear there is a bigger issue.

The real effort should be made in finding out why parents are choosing to send their children to a school other than OB when OB is their default school. Last year 72% of local kids entering the school system in the OBE area chose to stay at OBE. This year only 62% chose to stay. Where did those potential OBE students go? Why? How can we entice them to return to OBE?

Blaming gentrification? People who want nicer and bigger homes can also have children? Seems like gentrification increases the tax basis for school bonds because of increased real estate valuation and potentially brings more children into the area via larger families in larger homes.

Did any of these people “protest” military cutbacks that inevitably reduced the number of families in the area? Unlikely.

What was done was fair based on the budget and the agreement between the teacher’s union and the district. Everyone should understand and explain to their children that contracts/agreements between parties involved should be respected and not protested just because one feels harmed by the enforcement of the agreement.

For those who want to politicize it. Parents of a liberal mind should explain to their children that these great teachers went to help kids who needed more teachers and that OBE was fair enough to send those kids with bigger classes more teachers.

For conservatives, the free market system is still alive, parents had the choice to send their kids to other schools and they exercised free choice to go to a school they felt was better.


unwashedWalmarttHONG October 5, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Who let Jason into this debate. He’s way too logical for this discussion. Thanks, Jason. Good points.
Gosh, maybe the school will fail, and the corporations will influence all the mommies & daddies into going “Charter School.”

On another sad note, KPRI has gone to the dark side. I’m bummed. More propaganda to hit the airwaves because of that damned Clinton & the FCC Act in 1996.


RB October 6, 2015 at 7:08 am

There are too many schools in Point Loma for the number of students enrolled.
IMO, Cabrillo Elementary should be closed and the other schools should take these students.


Frank Gormlie October 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

Gee, on the other side, this article has 124 “likes”.


Frank Gormlie October 8, 2015 at 9:29 am

Our writer Matt Wood and his wife Loran just had a baby boy the day after he wrote this – cheers to Carter Carlos Wood!


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