Strict Security Policy at Oxnard High Protested : Education: Union may file formal complaint over limiting teachers' access to classrooms after school hours. But principal says measures are needed to prevent thefts.


Union leaders for teachers at Oxnard High School said Friday they are upset with Principal Daisy Tatum for imposing new security measures that keep instructors locked out of their classrooms after school.

The Oxnard Federation of Teachers will poll 80 teachers next week to determine whether to file a formal complaint with Tatum, said union President Darrell Larkin. The union tried to settle the matter informally last month after a teacher complained, Larkin said.

But in a written reply to union leaders, Tatum said she has no intention of changing the policy because it is needed to safeguard computers, televisions, VCRs and other technology housed in the gleaming $33-million school that opened in September.

Instructors at the Gonzales Road campus are issued keys to their classrooms. But those rooms are inside four academic buildings that are locked and set with alarms during off hours, Larkin said.

Just six people--Tatum, three assistant principals and two custodians--have building keys and know the code that turns off the alarms, officials said. So the only way a teacher can return to a classroom after-hours is to reach one of the six and ask for help opening the building, Larkin said.

"The union considers this a lack of trust," Larkin said. "We want teachers to have keys to their buildings and to be able to visit those buildings whenever they want."

Tatum, however, said one $600 TV-VCR has been stolen from a classroom since September. And she wants to prevent more thefts, Tatum said.

"Once you start giving out building keys and alarm codes, there goes your security," she said. "I have seen teachers [in the past] give their keys to students."

The issue became public last month after teacher Arthur Garduna complained to the Board of Education that he does not like having to rely on an administrator for access to his classroom.

Garduna declined to give details about his concerns. But Larkin said he has been told that classroom buildings are locked as early as 4 p.m. some weekdays.

On weekends, the campus buildings are locked all day, he said. That makes it difficult for teachers to retrieve papers, prepare lessons or reorganize their classrooms, Larkin said.

But Tatum insisted the policy is not inconvenient. She said she is on campus every weeknight until at least 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

If teachers want to get into their classrooms on Sunday, all they have to do is call her at home and she will meet them at the building, Tatum said.

"I live like six minutes away," she said. "What would take longer?"

Gary Davis, the district's assistant superintendent of instructional services, also defended the policy.

"I commend Ms. Tatum for going out of her way to be available," Davis said. "My wife is a teacher there and has been at the school on Saturdays. She simply knocks on Ms. Tatum's door and she goes and opens the door."

Teachers at the district's four other high schools have access to their classrooms at any time because the doors open into outside hallways, Davis said. Tatum's procedure is the only way to totally secure the classrooms at Oxnard, he said.

"She's trying to keep unsupervised students out of the buildings," Davis said. "I don't have a problem with that."

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