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Teachers accept new contract

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 21, 2010 10:39 PM

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers ratified a new three-year contract Thursday night that for the first time ties some compensation to growth in student achievement and establishes an intensive system for mentoring and evaluating novice and struggling teachers.

PFT president Jerry Jordan hailed the agreement as “progressive, a professional contract. Teachers are going to be in the forefront of working to make sure we have effective teachers in every classroom.”

It creates a Peer Assistance and Review program (PAR), based largely on ones in Montgomery County, MD and Toledo, OH in which specially trained consulting teachers will work with new teachers and those who have been rated “unsatisfactory” to help them improve. If they continue to flounder, a joint committee appointed by the District and the union can recommend termination.

It also sets up a central committee and one in each school to periodically review and discuss safety and climate issues.

After a nearly two-hour meeting, the vote was 1,831 for to 885 against. The voting at the Liacouras Center at Temple University was overseen by the American Arbitration Association. The PFT has 17,000 members.

The agreement calls for a 3 percent raise in March and another in January 2012, and largely preserves the union’s relatively generous health benefits. Although there was a loud contingent of "No"s in a voice vote, teachers leaving the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, for the most part said that they were satisfied with the financial and benefit package.

“I’m excited about the health care,” said Nicole Gaughan, an English teacher at Central High. “There’s not much change. In this economy, you don’t often see that.”

Shortly after the vote, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman issued a statement saying the "historic" agreeement, which is over three years, "will be a critical tool in implementing important reforms in the District, recruiting and retaining the best teachers, increasing student achievement, closing the achievement gap as well as meeting the goals set forth in our five-year strategic plan."

The School Reform Commission is set to vote on it January 27.

The contract makes provisions for teachers working in so-called Renaissance Schools – those among the lowest performing that will be slated for “turnaround” under Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s Imagine 2014 plan.

These teachers will be required to work an hour longer each day and in an extended school year, through July, as well as up to two Saturdays a month. Teachers will be compensated for the time and can opt out of the summer program.

But the idea is to give students a longer, more intense academic experience with the same teachers all year rather than a separate summer school program, Jordan said.

The state and District have indicated that within the next three years, there could be as many as 76 turnaround schools, which could all be deemed Renaissance Schools.

The agreement also expands site-based selection – thus cutting a little further into treasured seniority rights. Now, about half the teacher vacancies are filled by site selection; this will increase it to about 70 percent, the union said.

All schools that are in Corrective Action II – more than 90 – under No Child Left Behind due to persistently low test scores will have full site-selection without requiring a faculty vote. Up to now, full site-selection in a school has been voluntary and about 60 schools have voted to fill vacancies this way rather than through seniority.

In Renaissance Schools undergoing turnaround, teachers will be force-transferred out and can reapply for their jobs through site selection, but no more than 50 percent can be rehired.

Representatives from the Philadelphia Effective Teaching Campaign, who have been pressing for better teacher evaluation and more equitable distribution of the most effective teachers, are still reviewing the contract in detail and plan to issue a report card on it at an event next Tuesday. They said they were impressed with the new PAR provision in the contract.

The Campaign has said it favors site selection for all schools rather than the complicated system that exists now, in which half the vacancies are filled by site selection and half through seniority, except in the schools that have voted for full site selection. This contract expands the number of full site-selection schools and moves toward a consensus model for school hiring decisions, but doesn't reduce the complexity of the system.

Nationally, the Obama administration is pushing improved teacher evaluation and school turnaround as two major strategies to compete for $4 billion in so-called Race to the Top money. Pennsylvania is one of 40 states that applied for the funds, and changes in the contract reflect the union’s willingness to tread in previously uncharted waters can only improve Pennsylvania’s chances of being among the winning states. For instance, 76 of the 128 schools in the state eligible for “turnaround” are in Philadelphia.

Along with the Peer Assistance and Review plan, the contract includes a plan for all new teachers to get a school-based mentor teacher, who will be trained and required to spend a certain amount of time with each new teacher.

“Teachers will be responsible for their own professional growth,” said Dee Phillips, a PFT executive committee member who was on the negotiating team. “It’s a big leap for all of us. We’re putting professionalism in with protections, having teachers help teachers more than ever before”

The “value-added” compensation component will pay unspecified bonuses to all PFT members in a school that shows significant growth in the school’s performance index – no just in test scores, Jordan said.

“It will reward the entire school, secretaries, non-teaching assistants, paraprofessionals,” Jordan said. It takes all staff to move a school forward.”

He opposes awards to individual teachers, which he said pits them against each other, and basing the rewards just on test scores. A District-union committee will determine the amounts of the awards.

In 2011, money goes to schools with the highest level of student growth, and a year later, money will go to the top quarter of high-need schools and the top 10 percent of schools that don’t have high needs.

The contract also ends a nearly 30-year agreement to racially balance school faculties. Jordan said that the agreement was no longer legal because the school desegregation case has been formally ended.

Ackerman will have a press conference Friday at 10:30 a.m. to outline the agreement. 

Comments (27)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 21, 2010 10:46 pm

It is horrifying to read your column claiming the contract was ratified - it was not. Most members voted against it by a loud, clear vote and once Jerry Jordan pronounced it adopted, there was outrage. It's obvious the ballots were tampered with. Is there any possibility of oversight? This is really distressing.

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on January 22, 2010 4:20 pm

Just to remind people -- the vote was counted by the American Arbitration Association.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 9:14 pm

PFT staff was handling the boxes used to cast ballots before they were turned in to the ABA. Appropriately enough, they were positioned over trash cans.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 21, 2010 11:26 pm

I agree. The voice vote was very close. Sitting in any part of the audience everyone will have a different impression of how it went, but it was close. The leadership took advantage of some people being anxious to leave and called it the way they wanted. The proper procedure in such a situation is to call for division where everyone stands for a yes or no vote so everyone can visually see how people were voting. If that is unclear then you go to the paper ballot. That is why a paper ballot is done.

I also did not appreciate Ted Kurch intervening in the debate when a member made a motion to postpone the vote so members could have time to study and discuss the contract. He was not in the line, but was allowed to cut ahead and use rules of order saying the member should have called for a motion before moving it. Wasn't he out of order?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 21, 2010 11:19 pm

He was out of order and completely prepared. PFT leadership probably read about the intentions of some members to recommend postponement and were waiting to crush that attempt on any possible technicality.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 5:49 am

The PFT is not democratic. It hasn't been in my two decades with the SDP. The leadership of the PFT operates like an oligarchy and Ted Kirsch is the king pin. So, I wasn't surprised at how the PFT leadership, and ex-leadership (Kirsch), manipulated the meeting.

The SDP is now two districts - one for "Renaissance Schools," and one for "higher achieving" school. In the case of high schools, this meas schools with admission criteria. The difference between charters and the SDP "Renaissance Schools" is the teachers will be the puppets of "downtown" - they won't have the autonomy which is suppose to be a hall mark of charters.

The PFT leadership does not represent its membership.

Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on January 22, 2010 6:59 am

The vote was close no doubt. I spoke with many members who were upset. Amazingly the majority of them did not know what Act 46 was. A few were unfamiliar with NCLB.
To make a good decision one must be informed. In view of the constraints I thought Jerry and the team produced a contract worth supporting.
In this contract we see the beginnings of Distributive Leadership and a diminishing of Principal dictatorships. Teachers will have control over discipline and mentoring by PFT members is provided for struggling teachers.
This contract was about respect because Dr. Ackerman has none for us. Respect? That teachers applauded new language in the contract giving us a right to defend ourselves when attacked shows how little respect for us there is. How many teachers will now be taking professional development at a Karate Studio? If we do our jobs on discipline committees, that may not be necessary. We must now work towards obtaining support for the families we choose to teach, the families who have difficulties in a classroom have difficulties outside a classroom.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 12:32 pm

Doesn't Ted Kirsh's wife...work for the district?

There is a strong union leader for ya...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 1:01 pm

I have 3 family memebers who have been teaching a long time in Philly. When my wife came home, I read the entire tentative agreement.
As a union member in the American Federation of Government Employees Union and past member of Teamsters Local 384, I am absolutely stunned how Jerry Jordan and Ted Kirsch BOTH feel that this is a fair contract to its members.
My respect for BOTH of them is now gone. They should remember what a union is. I feel sorry for all of the teachers who teach in these so called "Renaissance Schools".
First--What union would say it is okay to be forced to work 6 days a week and forced to stay an extra hour everyday????? Who cares that there is more money being given to do it---what about those who are parents to young children who need to pick up their child from school or daycare???
Second--What union says its okay to replace 50% of a school then make you re-apply for your position under site selection???? If you don't get chosen, where will they stick you??? Somewhere that is nowhere near your home???
Third--There should be an independent official that remains while the votes get counted.
Fourth--A measly 3% pay raise (look at the contract--its not even yearly--it is every 18 months) SEPTA doesn't even get that. And for anyone that says its because of the economy, that is wrong---they have the$$$$.
Fifth-- This is the worst contract I have ever seen. I am appalled that Kirsch and Jordan see this as good---your seniority rights are fading away.
Last--Am I the only one who says even though you can't strike, what the heck is the district goin gto do if all 12,000 of you "walk"??? They can't fire you cause they would have no one to teach.
ALL PFT MEMBERS NEED TO VOT OUT JORDAN. VOTE THE INDEPENDENT TEAM-----Bring back the once strong PFT...please!!!

Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on January 22, 2010 2:14 pm

Anonymous above, just like many others, is apparently unaware of ACT 46. Dr. Ackerman did not need to negotiate any of this with the PFT. If she wants 76 Renaissance schools tomorrow, she can have them tomorrow. All she has to do is not negotiate a contract with the PFT.

Anonymous also did not read the contract, otherwise he would have seen working at Renaissance Schools is voluntary and teachers can leave after one year if they don't like it.

And why is everyone anonymous. Last year anonymous wrote a letter to my regional superintendent. Even though I did not write it I got blamed for it and there were repercussions. Put your name on it or don't write it. If you want your union to be brave, demonstrate your bravery and commitment. Put your name on it and stand for something.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 4:27 pm

First of all, it is my right to choose to be anonymous . You sir, are only putting your full name to receive name recognition because you plan on running for public office!!
I am a family memeber of 3 teachers who have been teaching in this district for years. One has a D.O.E. Doctorate in Education from Penn, one has a Masters Plus 60 from Immaculata, adn one has a Masters from gool ole' PennState.
As a goodstanding union member in the AFGE and past member of Teamsters Local 384, you are choosing to pick and choose what you think is great about this contract.
You forget to mention the lousy 3% raise every 18 months, thats right, not every 12 months like a normal contract.
Fact, 50% OF THE STAFF GETS TAKEN OUT OF THE SCHOOL ALONG WITH THE PRINCIPAL. Where do they put them???
Fact, if you really want to make a stand, then the teachers should "walk". There is no way, even if you are not allowed to strike that all of the teachers would be fired---there would be no way to replace 10,000 teachers.
Fact, Ackerman did not need to negotiate which was smart because if the SRC imposed the contract on the PFT members then the PFT would most likely be successful in proving that ACT46 is unconstitutional. Bottom line, ACT46 needs to be revised to allow the Philly teachers the right to strike. The only other members not able to strike under ACT46 are in Chester Upland School District.
Fact, SEPTA and the Philly police received a better contract than professional teachers who work hard to earn their degrees in their field.
Fact, seniority rights diminish every time there is a new contract.
Fact, talk to the teachers who will have to teach in a Renaissance School (MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY IT THEN POST A BLOG ABOUT IT).
Fact, WHO WOULD VOTE FOR YOU---YOU SEEM NOT TO BE PRO-UNION.

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on January 22, 2010 4:49 pm

It is true that there are a lot of questions to be answered about Renaissance Schools. But the  models for turning around low-performing schools, including replacing the principal and half the faculty, are dictated by the federal government under Race to the Top. This contract puts Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application in a better competitive position; if it wins, the district could get as much as $118 million more in federal money over the next two years. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 9:41 pm

Come off it Dale, Race To the Flop is nothing more than another dodge invented by the ruling class. As one member said last night, echoing the Texas governor, when you distribute the money it amounts to one book per student. What a windfall that will be, if it even gets to that point. In return the district will be tied down to even more testing. Judging from the recent fed. government audit (about time!) Philadelphia would misspend the money they get anyway.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 9:45 pm

Do you know how Renaiissance schools work, Dale? They don't just throw out the teachers and start from scratch - they toss out the low-scoring "problem" kids. This enables them to bring up their test scores without acutally improving conditions for students. You can't sell out teachers for more money and get good results.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 4:13 pm

Crying "Act 48" is a wimp's way out, Keith. As my fellow Anonymous (some of us can't afford to risk retribution) notes, a 17,000-strong walkout trumps ACT 48. The PFT chooses to be weak; it doesn't know it's own strength.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 4:21 pm

Hey Newman,

The PFT challenged ACT46 in court. The ruling was that PFT had no grounds to stand on because there was no negative consequences involved at the time. However, if Dr. Ackerman just went and made 76 Renaissance Schools and imposed terms on the members, and did not bargin in good faith, then the PFT could challenge its constitutionality. The PFT would probably have more chance of removing certain parts of the law such as not being able to strike, and have it re-implemented so that teachers could have that right given back to them. I too am anonymous but I agree with a lot of what the other anonymous stated.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 4:18 pm

Looks like Keith Newman is down by 3 votes so far.

Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on January 22, 2010 11:33 pm

Let's review. I'm quite certain you're referring to act 46 not act 48, but that is hopefully just an honest mistake and not one due to ignorance. When the state took over the school district I spoke before the SRC countless times and attended several community meetings. The organization I was part of prevented Edison from getting 100 schools and total management of the school district operations.
I stuck my neck out then and didn't do it anonymously. When Vallas refused to release the report by Judge Green condemning the school districts lack of a discipline plan, I publicly called for and forced its release. I did not do that anonymously. When you have an issue to stand up for and want to move something forward I cannot see a reason to remain anonymous.
Race to the top as Dale mentioned is a federal program. Its not something the PFT can negotiate on. The SRC does not have to negotiate with us. If we are going to win in court then failure to negotiate on our part will automatically make us losers.
As for the comment not being pro union, I would have to assume anonymous has not seen me at any labor day marches because he or she has not been there because I have. As a matter of fact I have participated in just about every PFT event since I became a teacher and was building rep for several years.
I'm sure as teacher you have learned to choose which battles you fight. It would seem that you are picking a fight with a very popular governor who according to Education Week is probably the best Governor in the country on educational issues. On top of that you seem to want to fight the federal government. I would hardly think these are wise battles to fight from a picket line.
We do have ill advised legislation directed towards our schools.That won't change unless we send educators to Harrisburg.
I want the state to relinquish control of the school district and have the city take control back. If you want to do more than complain support my campaign. If you wish to continue to have others to blame
for the dysfunctional school district we find ourselves working for, then no action is necessary. I became a teacher to move children forward. The best place to do that now is Harrisburg. Hopefully voters will send me there. You and I should not be on the opposite side as our mission in life, our belief in union, and our knowledge as to how poorly this district is run should enable us to work together. To be successful we must change Harrisburg. I hope to do that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 22, 2010 11:17 pm

The restructuring of "Renaissance schools" is an absurd program. They want these employees to work a longer day, two Saturdays a month, and 22 days in July...and then they expect them to spend the little life they have left getting a Master's degree?? And what about the students? Is simply increasing the hours they spend in school the solution for these problem schools. It will just increase the dropout rate when they get older. Why isn't all this money for increasing the number of hours spent in school being put into reducing class size to 15 students per class at these schools with more support staff? Isn't the solution improving the quality of eduction rather then the quantity of hours spent trying to learn in horrible conditions?

Submitted by Mr. Boyle (not verified) on January 23, 2010 12:52 am

Does anyone know where to get a .pdf file of Act 46, specifically section 27? All I can find is this, http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/11-17-2000e.pdf, which is less than helpful. I've been told what Act 46 is suppose to limit, but I've never actually read the document.

Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on January 23, 2010 8:14 am

I would agree Renaissance Schools will not be effective. There was very little public support for them. The community meetings were sparsely attended and parents I spoke with saw this to be the same concept as the Diverse Provider Model.
I have never met a parent who did not want their child to be successful in school. Working with parents, identifying their needs and how we can support them is an area where energies need to be increased.

Mr. Boyle, your state rep should be able to provide you with a copy of the act 46 legislation. If you want to eliminate Act 46 that among other things, is what my campaign will be about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2010 4:57 am

The whole vote was a sham. A teacher at my school was at the Liacouras and left around 7:45, BEFORE the vote. By the time she got home at 9:30 an article had been posted to philly.com stating that the vote had been ratified. How is that possble? In less than two hours from when she left, the vote had been taken, counted, media notified, reporter wrote an article AND uploaded it to philly.com?

Sure.... Especially not possible when I was still in my seat at the Liacouras until 8:35.

Way to go Jerry..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2010 11:23 am

That's very true. The count was done by the time I finished driving back home and turned on my computer to read it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 24, 2010 12:59 pm

newsflash!!!!!! CBS is doing a news special on RUBBER ROOMS in NYC this Monday night at 11pm. Watch it so you can get a preview of coming attractions to Philly now that this scam contract has been pushed through.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2011 9:03 am

I have taught in a Turnaround school in Chicago and felt the full effects of it's
"Renaissance 2010" project which is the model for Race to the Top. Those of you who are extremely skeptical of the proposed contract and the changes Renaissance and Turnaround schools will bring are right on. Tenure or seniority is severely compromised and mass firings with no justification will be rampid. I do not know what the results were for the voting of the contract but the only benefit I can see that may check these acts would be the peer evaluation. But if Philadelphia Public Schools is as corrupt as Chicago Public Schools and participates is croneyism (sp) and extreme nepotism, like CPS, then peer evaluation may not have a lasting postive effect. the community, parents and teachers consistantly protest the closing down and turning around of public schools in chicago which has disrupted neighborhoods and, according to recent studies, have not increased in performance. If there is anything Philly teachers and intrested parties can do to stop the process, it needs to be done soon. Interested to know what effects the contract has had a year later.

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