Baltimore school administrators have ratified a new contract that union officials said would make city principals among the highest paid in the state and promote leaders through a new career and compensation ladder based on performance.
The Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association ratified its contract after 150 members voted Friday to approve the deal, which includes a 2 percent retroactive pay raise and $1,800 stipend.
The pact eliminates annual step increases — raises based on seniority and academic degrees — and implements a new career ladder. It also offers an incentive of $5,000 to $10,000 to administrators who choose to work in the neediest schools.
Union and district leaders said the contract represents a turning point for the 600 principals, assistant principals and central office staff represented by the union.
"During a time of economic disaster and blatant disregard of union rights to bargain, the [district] and the administrators union have agreed to an unprecedented contract," said Jimmy Gittings, president of the PSASA. "The No. 1 focus of this contract is to continue the aggressive achievement of our students."
The three-year contract would cost the district $7 million, about $400,000 more than the previous contract would have cost over the same period, school officials said.
The administrators' contract mirrors a deal approved last fall by members of the Baltimore Teachers Union. Gittings said he used the teachers' contract as a template because "it was a damn good contract, and we wanted the same thing."
He said the only stipulation was that "the negotiation team would not sacrifice any of its members in the central office for the financial gain of other members," referring to a central office reorganization that is under way and a budget scenario that could result in the loss of several school positions.
The BTU contract was hailed as the most progressive in the nation, because it would promote and compensate educators based on their proven effectiveness in the classroom and professional development. The contract also calls for safeguards against arbitrary evaluations by principals.
Marietta English, president of the BTU, quipped that the PSASA "should pay us a consultation fee for negotiating its contract."
"The BTU is the most innovative union in the United States, so much so that even our administrators wanted to emulate us — what a great compliment," English said.
Under the three-year deal, administrators would receive immediate pay raises retroactive to July 1 and a 1 percent to 3 percent cost-of-living increase in the last two years of the contract.
The contract would place city principals on a new pay scale based on their 2010-2011 salaries. If placement on the new scale would result in an increase of less than $2,000, the member would receive the difference in a lump sum.
All members represented by the union would be placed on new career pathways, which have multiple pay intervals. For example, principals will be able to pass through four pathways: standard, professional, transformational and distinguished. The top of the pay scale for distinguished principals is about $160,000. A joint oversight committee will develop the criteria for movement on the pathways and intervals.
Principals will be able to acquire "leadership units," based on professional development and leadership endeavors, for movement through the pathways.
City schools CEO Andrés Alonso congratulated the city's administrators for embracing the reform that had been set forth with the teachers contract.
"We get rid of things that have nothing to do with effectiveness and emphasize what matters most in schools," Alonso said. "It dovetails with our work with our teachers in ways that ensure alignment in everything that we do."
Alonso said one of the most important elements is that, like teachers, principals will have a voice in their evaluation criteria.
City teachers and principals ultimately would have 50 percent of their evaluations tied to student performance under the state's Race to the Top reforms. The new evaluation instrument has not been determined by the state's Education Department.
Catherine Reinholdt, principal of Violetville Elementary/Middle School, who was part of the negotiating team, said she believes the contract gives administrators "leverage to put in things that allow people to be individuals and have individual situations while at the same time trying to meet common goals."
The city school board, which must approve the contract, is scheduled to vote May 10.