Performance bonus

Teachers win money, lose protection in new Green Dot contract

Teachers at Green Dot New York Charter School are getting a raise, a bonus, and a little less job security.

These are some of the modifications that are set to appear in a two-year renewal of Green Dot’s landmark contract with the United Federation of Teachers. Green Dot offered its teachers a 28-page “thin contract” a year after the school opened in 2008, leaving out many of the work rules and policies – including tenure and seniority-based layoffs – that are found in the bulky union deal with the Department of Education.

That contract expired in August and Green Dot and union officials have spent the last few months hammering out a new version. It was tentatively approved by board members on Sept. 26, but details of the contract had not been shared with teachers until this week.

In a statement issued today, the chief negotiators, Leo Casey, a UFT vice president, and Gideon Stein, who serves on the school’s Board of Trustees, shared details of the contract.

Under the new terms, the staff will receive a 3 percent raise each of the next two years, amounting to what will be 20 percent above the current salaries in the Department of Education. Last year’s teachers will also receive a $2000 bonus because of the school’s high performance. The school’s first students are now seniors so graduation data isn’t available, but 95 percent of students have passed the Regents exams they have taken, according to the Green Dot web site.

“The teachers and other staff are being paid more in recognition of being part of a very successful school,” Stein said.

In one concession, teachers will no longer be able to use an independent grievance process in their first year. Instead, they can be fired any time during their first year for any reason. Once the first year is complete, any grievance would return to being handled by an independent arbiter.

“It pretty much gave us what we wanted,” said an employee at the school, who asked not to be identified because teachers are restricted from speaking publicly about the agreement until it is official. “The only area where we had to cave was the protection for first year teachers.”

In another interesting tweak, Green Dot teachers will soon be evaluated based on a system that complies with the state education department’s Race to the Top application. The DOE’s favored system, the Danielson framework, is currently being used in 33 schools, but so far the city and union have not come to an agreement about whether it could spread to the rest of the DOE schools as well.

The renewed partnership between Green Dot New York and the UFT comes at a time when the teachers’ union is making slow inroads at organizing charter schools.

Of the 14 schools in its charter school portfolio, six converted from district schools meaning that by law teachers remained in the UFT. At most of the other eight schools, teachers organized on their own. The UFT’s charter schools opened with unionized teachers.

Five charter schools remain without contracts, including three – Bronx Academy of Promise, Merrick Academy and New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industries – that have been without contracts for more than two years. In an interview last week, Casey said that those schools are in the final stages of ratification and should have contracts in place soon.

“The first contract always takes the most amount of energy in terms of negotiations,”  Casey said. “You’re starting all sorts of things from scratch.”

Two other schools  – Opportunity Charter School and Fahari Academy – only organized in recent months.

Many of the unionized charter schools struggled academically, both before and after the vote to unionize. According to the latest progress reports, eight of the unionized middle and elementary school scored a C or lower.

The latest developments come at a time when the UFT is boosting efforts to recruit teachers working for charter schools. This weekend, it is hosting a conference for charter school educators to discuss the goal of establishing a more of a union presence in charter schools. The event will also feature a panel with Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot Public Schools.

The contract still has to be finalized, after which it will be brought to the school staff for official ratification. UFT chapter leaders at the school officially recommended that their colleagues vote to approve the contract in a meeting on Wednesday.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news