School district heads into more union negotiations

Administrators union president says he will ask for more pay, anticipates pay-for-performance for principals

November 18, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

In the wake of the ratification of a landmark contract for Baltimore teachers, the city's administrators union is preparing to head into negotiations with school officials to bargain over what are expected to be similar provisions for principals.

The Baltimore City Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association will meet with the school system's negotiating teams as early as next week to exchange proposals, according to union president Jimmy Gittings. He said that Wednesday's passage of a new Baltimore Teachers Union contract might yield additional demands for principals being responsible for student achievement in the form of pay-for-performance.

"There's no question about it — management is going to present to us other formats in which our principals are going to be held accountable for achievement in the schools," Gittings said. "As the president of this union, I'm willing to listen. But my concern is that they already do that for test scores."

The principals' contract has been delayed while the teachers union worked in recent months to present a new three-year contract to its membership that would overhaul the way the city's educators are paid and evaluated by tying pay increases to student performance.

City schools CEO Andrés Alonso confirmed the district would begin negotiations with principals and administrators soon, though he could not provide details on what the district is proposing.

"Our hope is to duplicate the cutting-edge approach of our agreement with teachers with our administrators," Alonso said.

Principals are already held accountable for student achievement in the district and are often removed when their schools fail chronically. The schools chief has defended unprecedented leadership turnover in the district, with nearly 150 principals being replaced during his tenure. He has said the high turnover number reflects that he "is impatient about results."

Gittings said he would be proposing that administrators see a significant pay increase that is at least comparable to what teachers will receive under their new contract.

Teachers will immediately receive an automatic 2 percent pay raise, which is retroactive to the start of the 2010-2011 school year, and a $1,500 stipend.

The new teachers union pact eliminates the traditional system of "step increases," which are automatic raises based on tenure. Instead, teachers will climb a four-tier career ladder, which will see an elite corps earning six-figure salaries.

Administrators have also operated under the "step" pay system, after receiving a 3.5 percent increase in 2008. The administrators union, which represents about 620 principals, assistant principals and other administrative school staff, renews its contract every one to two years.

Gittings said the evaluation system in the teachers contract will also affect principals. In the last two years of the contract, teachers' pay will be based on a system not yet drafted by the Maryland State Department of Education that would tie a proposed 50 percent of student performance to teacher evaluations.

The teachers union contract calls for administrators to be trained in the new contract as well as in how to evaluate teachers. It also requires that district and union officials audit decisions by principals who produce a high number of unsatisfactory evaluations.

Gittings said that while the teachers union contract has several safeguards against "capricious" and "arbitrary" evaluations by principals, he believes that language is "exaggerated."

"I think our principals have been very lenient in the evaluations of a teacher, trying their best to give the type of staff development and encouragement to those who were not proving themselves," he said. "The second chances that were given to teachers are out of principals' hands now."

Some principals in the district said they looked forward to the union contracts bringing a new level of professionalism to Baltimore.

"I love the new contract because if I should be held accountable, then my teachers should be held accountable," said Amanda Rice, principal of George Washington Elementary School. "If I have outstanding teachers, I want to reward them.

"And if principals are doing something right in giving teachers what they need, then we should be compensated for that as well."

erica.green@baltsun.com

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