Friday, January 22, 2010

To everything, a season

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers knew that we were going to have difficult contract negotiations when we formed our team last year. Starting in February 2009, the Board of Education publicly and prominently took every opportunity to unilaterally impose a non-negotiated wage and benefit freeze on us. Yet, while the economy was already daunting and the budget discussion at the legislature and Board of Education had our attention, what also had us concerned was that we were going to be negotiating a contract amidst a great deal of uncertainty. The superintendent was leaving, three school board members were up for re-election, two of our high schools were going through grueling and punishing restructuring, and American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds were being spent in our district without any teacher input.

We realized we had a choice: we could try to ride it out or we could show leadership ourselves and steer the ship. We decided to take the opportunity to show leadership and go into this round of contract negotiations with a powerful set of values guiding our agendas, our discussions, and our decisions. We focused our priorities in values that recognize the most important work in education occurs between educator and student,knowing that effective decision-making in education must arise from an educator’s professional practice in order to be good for students, and we wanted to ensure that educators are valued and that teaching is a sustainable profession. We were determined to show that our union is committed to help deliver excellent education to all learners and it can be done through our contract.

As a result, we sought to move the most important decisions made on behalf of students closer to students and into the hands of professional classroom teachers. Because of this focus, we won a significant opportunity for teachers and support staff to be integrally involved in their school restructuring when it has to occur, rather than forcing them to sit and watch it happen to their students and their school community. We won the opportunity to have a serious discussion about site-governed schools in our district, which will bring much-needed, community-specific conversations about what is best for students directly to the teachers who serve them. We won the ability to create a comprehensive, ‘full-spectrum’ peer assistance and review program that will substantially improve the support teachers get to remain effective as well as strengthening the achievement of tenure process during the three-year probationary period.

We reject the notion that our recent contract settlement was little more than a myopic agreement on wages. Our contract settlement signaled an opportunity to begin to trust teachers with decisions made about teaching and learning. Our very modest wage increases, despite the public and persistent pressure to freeze our salary and benefits, merely begin to recognize the additional responsibilities we have to our students. The decision-making agreed to offers an opportunity to continue steering the ship for our profession and the students we serve.


joby.f.randrup said...

So one of our 'powerful set of values' is to give some teachers a 1% raise and not others? I don't care how you justify it. The fact remains that you have decided which of your brothers and sisters gets a raise. Your might pen has done nothing but drive a divide. Are you saying that those lucky enough to get the raise are working harder than me? Your actions are. Until we are all truly treated equally, we are not 'together.'

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