City teachers receive career 'paths' under new contract

In first development since contract was passed, teachers placed on new career ladder

February 22, 2011|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore City teachers were notified last week of their new career "paths" and salaries by the school system, one of the first developments of the landmark Baltimore Teachers Union contract ratified last fall that promised more opportunities for promotion and compensation in the district.

City school officials said 6,915 teachers were placed on three new career paths: standard, professional and model. The majority of teachers — 70 percent — were placed in the professional pathway, meaning that they hold a master's degree; 26 percent were placed on the most basic pathway — standard, for those with a bachelor's degree.

Only 4 percent of the district's teachers were put on the model pathway, reserved for the most experienced teachers who have a master's degree plus 30 years in the system, or a doctorate. But teachers may also be eligible to move to model status by meeting additional eligibility criteria that have not yet been determined.

Under the new ladder, the majority of teachers saw a bump in pay for next school year. According to several interviews with teachers, the increases were as varied as $21 and $2,500 a year. If the new career path did not pay teachers at least $1,750 more than their current salary, they will receive a one-time $1,750 stipend.

The contract, ratified in December, introduced a career ladder that allows teachers to use their performance evaluations, professional development and leadership initiatives to move up the pay scale at a faster pace.

The pact eliminated traditional "step increases," which afforded teachers automatic pay raises based on the number of years in the system and master's degrees they hold. It introduced a structure that will pay teachers for their proven effectiveness in the classroom and student performance.

Teacher David Agnetti was placed in the standard pathway but said he was confused about how school officials came to that determination. Also a building representative for the union, Agnetti said teachers in his school shared his concern.

"Some of them have been very pleasantly surprised, but I think there is a certain degree of confusion about what that's going to mean for us, particularly with the budget situation," Agnetti said, referring to a nearly $70 million deficit in the 2012 fiscal year budget for the school system, which may also lose $15 million in state funding. The teachers union contract is estimated to cost about $59 million.

A proponent of the contract, Agnetti said the union gave him a different view of where he would be placed on the ladder before he voted last fall. Though he had two years' experience, he stayed at the same pay interval as a starting teacher, he said.

"I don't want to seem ungrateful, but this was part of the deal," he said. "I still think the contract is great, but I just want to make sure the implementation is there."

Amanda Peyton, a teacher with eight years' experience who will complete her master's degree in administration this spring, said she plans to apply to move into the model pathway once she obtains her degree. Placed in the standard pathway, her pay went up $330 a year. Peyton voted for the contract because she wanted to make more money without having to become an administrator.

Holding the position of teacher-leader at her school, Peyton said that she believed she would qualify for the model pathway and was glad that she could navigate her way up the ladder as she continued her professional development.

"In Baltimore City, everything changes so quickly," Peyton said. "I feel safer and more secure in my position knowing that I have options, and that I don't have to leave a classroom — that's great."

Teachers will be eligible for a fourth interval, a "lead" pathway, later in the year. It will pay teachers at the top of the scale more than $100,000, but there will be only one in each school.

School and union officials said the career ladder would reward longevity in the system without limiting teachers' responsibilities and salaries. But recently, those at the top of the pay scale have been presented with other options.

Tom Proveaux, a teacher of 33 years, received his new professional pathway, which will increase his salary by $2,500. But Proveaux, due to retire in 2013, said he is also considering an early retirement incentive offered by the school system, designed to save the district money by buying out 750 of Baltimore's most experienced teachers.

"It's a step in the right direction, and respect for our profession, especially for someone like me who's been in the system for years," he said. "I like the increase, I think I deserved it — but I have some other options."

The career pathways are the first of many developments related to the contract slated to unfold this year. School and union officials are due this month to announce committees that will devise the rest of the criteria for the career ladder.

School officials said an appeals process is available for those who want their placements reviewed.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of teacher David Agnetti. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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