Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oakland bishop to meet with teachers upset about morality clause

Joe Garofoli
SF Gate
May 9, 2014

Our story about how Catholic school teachers must sign a new contract Friday with the Diocese of Oakland pledging to conform to church teachings outside the workplace is getting some serious reaction.

After his spokesman said he would not meet with teachers, Oakland Bishop Michael Barber agreed to sit down with teachers from at least three high schools — St. Joseph Notre Dame and St. Elizabeth and Bishop O’Dowd — to explain the intent of the new contract language.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, called a press conference Friday morning in reaction to our story, calling the new clause in the contract “hateful.” As a Catholic, former Catholic school student and the mother of a gay child, the issue hit Skinner personally.

She worried about teachers who face an ethical dilemma: Don’t sign the contract and risk losing their job or be less than truthful and sign it. She wrote a letter to Barber Friday expressing her concerns.

“I feel for these teachers who are facing a sort of double jeopardy,” Skinner said. “I hope the bishop reconsiders what he is asking them to do.”

On Friday night, O’Dowd students were planning to out leaflets protesting the new language outside a performance on campus of “The Laramie Project,” a play based on the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was gay.

Late Friday, O’Dowd administrators sent a note to parents saying that they had met with Barber and “it is clear that there has been a great misunderstanding about the intent of the new contract language.” The note, signed by school president Steve Phelps and principal Pam Shay, said that no educators had been “released from employment” because of the new contract language.

Here is a portion of the note:

After meeting with the Bishop this morning and learning in detail of his intent, we can tell you that he fully supports the Bishop O’Dowd High School community and its core values.

We want to assure you that, as the leaders of O’Dowd, we are committed to ensuring that our school remains the inclusive, diverse community it has always been, and that we will continue to educate our students in an affirming environment that fosters mutual respect, acceptance and trust.

Following our meeting with the Bishop, it is clear there has been a great misunderstanding about the intent of the new contract language. Bishop Barber has agreed to come to our school as soon as it can be arranged and speak with members of our faculty and staff regarding their concerns.

Please understand that no one on our staff has been released from employment due to this new language.

We ask your patience as we work through the challenges of our new contract language and the unfounded fears it has generated for some of our faculty and staff. We will continue to work with the Bishop, our faculty, staff and Board of Regents concerning this matter and will keep the parents and students informed as we move forward.

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