Highly anticipated UFT, Green Dot contract is on the way

The highly anticipated teachers’ contract for the Green Dot charter school in the South Bronx, which has been heralded as an innovative collaboration between a Los Angeles-based charter school operator and the union president Randi Weingarten, is expected to be finalized as soon as today.

The contract is being closely watched for signs of just how flexibly Weingarten is willing to negotiate a teachers’ contract — eagerly by supporters of looser protections for teachers, and with gritted teeth by veterans who believe strong job security is crucial. The original Green Dot charter schools in Los Angeles raised many veterans’ eyebrows here because the schools’ contracts do not include the concept of “tenure” for more senior teachers. The contracts do guarantee teachers protections against unfair dismissal.

Steve Barr, the charismatic leader who founded Green Dot, told me Wednesday that he expects a contract by the end of the week. “It should be finalized this week; I would be very surprised if it’s not,” Barr said. Barr has said in the past that he expects the New York contract to be similar to the one negotiated in Los Angeles.

I put in a call to the union’s charter school office just now for a comment — and was told that the head of the charter school unit, Jonathan Gyurko, is in the middle of negotiations.

The final product of the negotiations could have repercussions for citywide contract negotiations, which could begin as soon as the summer, given that the current contract expires in October. It could also influence the national debate about whether there’s a way to raise the bar on who can be a teacher with support from teachers’ unions.

Union president Randi Weingarten has used her willingness to negotiate contracts with charter schools as an example of how unions can be a part of school reform efforts. She has recently been saying that charter schools should be seen as laboratories for new kinds of labor-management relationships, as well as laboratories for academic innovations.

The teachers’ union has negotiated one contract with a city charter school, Amber, but other charter schools whose teachers the union now represents have not yet finalized contracts.

In his conversation with me Wednesday, Barr listed some aspects of the Green Dot teachers’ contract that he said are crucial. “No tenure, no minutes and hours, but a professional workday, hiring and firing is a site-based decision, and there’s accountability,” he said. Another crucial component, he said, is to protect teachers and treat them as professionals. “We want teachers to be involved in almost every aspect of the school,” he said. The contract is also a slim 30 pages, a fraction of the 165-page New York City contract.