breaking

Breaking: Union site announces new contract deal, including full retro pay

Updated, 3:30 p.m. — “The wait is over!”

That’s how the United Federation of Teachers has announced details around the tentative contract agreement it has reached with the city.

The announcement was posted on its website Thursday before the union and City Hall began spreading the news. Since then, the union restricted access to that page and the mayor’s office scheduled a press conference for 4 p.m.

The nine-year deal will last until October 2018, and salaries for UFT members will increase 18 percent over that period, according to the UFT’s announcement. The deal includes full retroactive pay for the years since the union last had a contract, and health benefits and pensions will be “preserved” at the same levels, the announcement says. Union members will get a $1,000 signing bonus when the deal is ratified, the release adds.

The deal will also include a path for teachers to earn higher salaries in exchange for taking on leadership roles, which Chalkbeat described Thursday. This “career ladder” compensation system would represent a major shift from the union’s longtime lockstep pay system. The UFT announcement says the new system will “foster idea-sharing by allowing exemplary teachers to remain teachers while extending their reach to help others.”

The union said the deal contains “major changes” that make teacher evaluations “simpler and fairer.” Now, teachers will be rated based on eight components of an observation rubric, rather than the current 22 — a shift that Chancellor Carmen Fariña has endorsed and the union has previously opposed. In addition, there will be a “a better system for rating teachers in non-tested subjects” and teachers will not have to submit unit plans, family newsletters, and other “artifacts” as part of the evaluation process, the UFT said. Also, when teachers are rated ineffective, other educators will be brought in to review their work rather than “consultants or other third parties,” the announcement said.

Educators will also face far less “unnecessary and duplicative paperwork, both written and electronic,” the union added.

The Daily News reported some wins for the city that the UFT did not trumpet, such as a streamlined process for terminating teachers accused of sexual misconduct and a change to the the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers who are on the city’s payroll but lack a teaching position. Under the deal, those teachers would get tryout periods at schools, after which they would be subject to an expedited termination hearing if the schools’ principals do not approve of their performance, the Daily News reports.

The UFT’s release doesn’t say how the pay raises will be spread out over time, but the Daily News article says that members will receive lump payments over “multiple years.”

The deal must still be approved by the Municipal Labor Committee, the joint group of city unions. Some members of that group have reportedly expressed concerns that the city will fund the teachers’ back pay with savings from health-care benefit concessions that it is seeking from the unions, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Here are some other highlights from the UFT’s announcement on Thursday:

Time and tools

“Finally, the agreement gives educators more time to carry out their professional responsibilities without adding any new time to the work day. The 150 minutes of extended time can be reconfigured in a variety of ways to build in more time for professional work, professional development and parent engagement.

The proposed agreement also obligates the DOE to provide educators in core subjects with appropriate curriculum, something which we have long fought for.”

Teacher leadership and voice

Under the tentative deal, collaborative school communities will have new opportunities to innovate outside the confines of the UFT contract and DOE regulations. A new program known as Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) will give educators in participating schools greater voice in decision-making and a chance to experiment with new strategies.”

And UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s letter:

Dear Colleagues,

The wait is over! Earlier today we reached a tentative contract agreement with the Department of Education that recognizes the hard work that we do every day in the classroom and restores the dignity of our profession after years of abuse.

It is a contract for educators but, of equal importance, it is also a contract for education that will not only benefit us but also the students, schools and communities we serve.

Working in partnership with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, we now have the opportunity to rebuild our city’s school system with educators — not bureaucrats or consultants — in the driver’s seat. Our agreement is the product of a shared belief that it is our school communities that must be the agents of change and that, when we educators are empowered to use our professional expertise, we can solve our common challenges and develop new ways to improve outcomes for our students.

Our proposed agreement, which is pending Municipal Labor Committee approval and ratification by the membership, includes the pay increases we deserve after working for five years without a contract — without a single raise.

Below are the highlights.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew

Want the latest NYC education news? Follow Chalkbeat New York on Facebook

father knows best

How a brush with death convinced one dad to get his diploma, with a boost from the Fatherhood Academy

PHOTO: Courtesy of Steven Robles
Steven Robles with his family

Steven Robles thought he might not live to see his daughter’s birth.

In May 2016, the 20-year-old was in the hospital after being shot during what he described as an argument in his neighborhood.

A year later, Robles just graduated from City University of New York’s Fatherhood Academy. He passed his high school equivalency exam and is happily celebrating his daughter Avare’s 8-month birthday.

“That conflict is what got me into the program, and what happened to me before she was born motivated me to stay in the program,” Robles said. “It motivated me to manage to pass my GED.”

Robles grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn and attended Franklin K. Lane High School. Though he liked his teachers, Robles said other students at the school were not “mature enough,” and the disorderly school environment made it hard for him to concentrate.

A quiet student, Robles said teachers would often overlook his presence in the classroom. Between that and friction with other classmates, Robles lost interest in school.

“My parents didn’t try to help me, either,” Robles said. “Nobody really tried to help me with that school, so I just stopped going.”

It was a whole different experience for him once he arrived at the Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College, a program run by CUNY for unemployed and underemployed fathers ages 18 through 28. The Academy, now partnering with the New York City Housing Authority at its LaGuardia location, was launched in 2012 and also has programs at Hostos and Kingsborough Community Colleges.

“I have interviewed many of the men who come into the program and I often ask the question, ‘What brought you here?'” said Raheem Brooks, program manager of the Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College. “Mostly every young man says, ‘I’m here because I want to create a better life for my child than I had.’ So, I think the main theme of the program is that we help promote intergenerational change.”

At the LaGuardia branch, 30 students attend classes three times a week over the course of 16 weeks. Subjects include mathematics, social studies, and writing for students seeking to get their high school equivalency diplomas. Students also attend workshops run by counselors who guide them in professional development and parenting.

Robles found out about the program after seeing a flier for it in his social worker’s office at Graham Windham, a family support services organization. Curious to see what the Academy offered, he called to find out more and officially enrolled after passing a test to prove he could read above seventh-grade level.

“Before the Academy, I was not really into school at all,” Robles said. “But when I got there, it just changed my life. In this program, I didn’t know anybody there, there were no distractions. It made me more focused, and I just really wanted to get my GED and education.”

What helped Robles the most was getting to learn from the other fathers in the class, who were going through similar experiences as him.

“Little things I didn’t know, I learned from them because they were also fathers,” Robles said. “I just liked the way they were teaching us.”

In fact, he liked the Academy so much, he doesn’t plan to leave. He is applying to study criminal justice at LaGuardia Community College and to become a mentor for the Academy next year.

Currently, Robles lives with his grandparents, his daughter and the mother of his child. Getting a place for his family is next on his to-do list, he said.

“Avare always has a smile on her face and always puts a smile on my face,” Robles said. “She motivates me to get up and do what I have to do. Anything I could do for her, I will.”

Though school did not play a huge role in his life growing up, that is not what Robles wants for his daughter. He said after participating in the Academy, he wants to make sure Avare stays motivated and in school.

“I hear a lot from people about how they think they can’t do it,” Robles said. “I almost lost my life before my daughter was born and that motivated me. If I could do it, you could do it.”

Behind the brawl

Three things to know about the Tennessee school behind this week’s graduation brawl

PHOTO: Arlington Community Schools
Arlington High School is a 2,000-plus-student school in suburban Shelby County in southwest Tennessee.

Arlington High School is considered the crown jewel of a 3-year-old district in suburban Shelby County, even as its school community deals with the unwelcome attention of several viral videos showing a fight that broke out among adults attending its graduation ceremony.

The brawl, which reportedly began with a dispute over saved seats, detracted from Tuesday’s pomp and circumstance and the more than $30 million in scholarships earned by the school’s Class of 2017. No students were involved.

“It was unfortunate that a couple of adults in the audience exhibited the behavior they did prior to the ceremony beginning and thus has caused a distraction from the celebration of our students’ accomplishments,” Arlington Community Schools Superintendent Tammy Mason said in a statement.

Here are three things to know about the 13-year-old school in northwest Shelby County.

With more than 2,000 students, Arlington is one of the largest high schools in Shelby County and is part of a relatively new district.

It’s the pride of a suburban municipality that is one of six that seceded from Shelby County Schools in 2014 following the merger of the city and county districts the year before. (School district secessions are a national trend, usually of predominantly white communities leaving predominantly black urban school systems.) More than 70 percent of Arlington’s students are white, and 6 percent are considered economically disadvantaged — in stark contrast to the Memphis district where less than 8 percent are white, and almost 60 percent are considered economically disadvantaged.

The school’s graduation rate is high … and climbing.

Last year, after adding interventions for struggling students, the school’s graduation rate jumped a full point to more than 96 percent. Its students taking the ACT college entrance exam scored an average composite of 22.5 out of a possible 36, higher than the state average of 19.9. But only a fifth scored proficient or advanced in math and a third in English language arts during 2015-16, the last school year for which scores are available and a transition year for Tennessee under a new test.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visits with students at Arlington High School during a 2016 tour.

The school was in the news last August when Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited its campus.

The commissioner spoke with students there to kick off her statewide listening tour that’s focused on ways to get students ready for college and career. McQueen highlighted the school’s extracurricular activities and students’  opportunities to intern for or shadow local professionals. She also complimented Arlington for having an engaged education community.