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OAKLAND, CA, February 16, 2015 (Cardinal Newman Society) — Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of the Diocese of Oakland, presented the revised teacher contracts for the 2014-15 school year on February 2 to a largely positive response, according to The Catholic Voice. This new revision is part of a growing trend among Catholic dioceses to ensure the Catholic identity of their educational institutions by giving teachers clear guidance regarding moral conduct.

The Oakland diocese announced the changes to its teacher contracts last year, and Bishop Barber clarified that the contract would serve to provide more explicit detail on the expectations of diocesan teachers. “My intent is to call attention to the reality that teachers are role models for students,” the Bishop reportedly stated at the time. He stressed that the contract would not “redefine any roles.”

The revised contracts recently made available to teachers include the following directive:

The Teacher agrees to serve in a professional manner and to act in accordance with the Catholic doctrine and moral teachings. The Teacher is employed as an educator in a Catholic school, and he/she shall perform his/her duties as a minister and steward of the Catholic faith.

The contract also requires the employee to “[d]emonstrate a public life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, and refrain from taking a public position contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the Catholic Voice reported.

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The revised contract is a result of Bishop Barber’s numerous meetings and collaborations with teachers and school administrators over the last year. Sister Barbara Bray, the school superintendent for the diocese, told the Catholic Voice that the process was both “collaborative and pastoral” and will help in “furthering and strengthening the mission of Catholic education.”

“We really are very much on the same page—teachers, principals and bishop—of Catholic identity as the central reason for our schools,” Sr. Bray reportedly said. “The bishop’s leadership in designing and implementing this process was a great gift to all of us.”

While the announcement of the updates last year drew some initial negative reactions, Bishop Barber confirmed in May that he was “committed to collaborating further in making decisions about any related language in our 2015-16 teachers’ contract,” according to the Catholic Voice. Any concerns teachers had with the 2014-15 contract were reportedly discussed at length during the bishop’s meetings.

One diocesan high school teacher told the Catholic Voice that Bishop Barber “really wanted to hear what faculty members thought about the contract” and noted that participants “felt comfortable expressing concerns of the school.”  The updated contracts—still describing teachers’ ministerial role and requiring them to live public lives consistent with Catholic teachings—were presented to teachers at the beginning of February.

Other dioceses that have announced teacher contracts and handbook revisions in order to fortify Catholic identity include CincinnatiColumbus, HonoluluSanta Rosa, and, most recently, San Francisco.

Reprinted with permission from the Catholic Education Dailyan online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society.