| Bishop meets with faculty,
at 2 high schools over contracts
Michael C. Barber, SJ
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, has met with faculty representatives at two high schools in the diocese to hear concerns about the contract offered to teachers this spring.
The bishop met with faculty members at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, a diocesan high school, on May 27. He met with representatives of De La Salle High School in Concord, a Christian Brothers school, on June 3. Both were described as private meetings.
"Faculty and staff members had the opportunity to ask the Bishop questions and engaged in an open, honest exchange with him about their concerns. During this process it became evident to all present that there is a shared understanding and support of our common mission to provide a Catholic Christ-centered education," Bishop O'Dowd High School reported after the meeting. Later, the bishop met with a group of students.
The bishop met with faculty and administration at De La Salle High School one week later. In a statement from De La Salle, the bishop "graciously took the initiative to come and meet with representatives of the De La Salle High School Community. It is our obligation as a Catholic High School in the Diocese of Oakland to maintain a cooperative and respectful relationship with the diocesan bishop as the leader of the local Church of Oakland and chief teacher and shepherd of the Catholic faith."
In a May 29 interview with Joan Frawley Desmond, in the National Catholic Register, Bishop Barber discussed the contract:
"By the fact that "Catholic" is on the masthead of your school, it means you stand for certain ideals. The school is part of the Church, and the Church is part of Christ.
"We have to faithfully represent what Christ and the Church stand for. Every teacher is a role model for the students, whether they are teaching P.E. or math. The classroom is their pulpit, and they will help form their students as young adults.
"As an employer, my approach to teacher contracts was not to make a list of prohibitive behavior, but, rather, to set an expectation.
"That begins by posing the question: What is the mission and goal of education in a Catholic school?
"The next step is to describe the role of Catholic education and then invite our laypeople to accept that mission and vision. If they can't accept that invitation, then a Catholic school will not be a good fit for them, and a public school might be better.
"Unfortunately, some Catholic schools haven't paid attention to Catholic identity. When things drift, alternative visions replace Catholic identity.
"When I articulated my vision, one teacher wrote to say, 'Who are you to change the mission of the school?' She said the mission of the school was to create an 'inclusive and diverse' community, and, according to how those terms are understood today, that usually means all opinions are welcome at the table, except for Christ's.
"The controversy has been spurred by a few teachers and some parents who are not in agreement with most teachings of the Church.
"On May 27, when I met with the faculty of Bishop O'Dowd High School, we went around the table, and most agreed that Christ should be the point of reference and that the new language in the contracts did not need to be changed.
"I left the meeting relieved and happy that the faculty and I are in agreement. Without common agreement on what it means to be a teacher in a Catholic school, each person becomes the sole arbiter for what is acceptable. That is an untenable situation that creates tensions and confusion across the school community.
"When Christ and Church teaching set the standard for Catholic education, we are challenged to look outside ourselves. As the bishop of the diocese, I am called to follow that same standard — I don't make up my own rules."
Also on May 29, the bishop issued a statement that said, in part, "I am committed to further clarifying my meaning for all of our Catholic school teachers. I also committed to collaborating further in making decisions about any related language in our 2015-16 teachers' contracts."
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