• The most important work in education occurs between educator and student
• Effective decision-making in education must arise from educators’ professional practice
• By ensuring that educators are valued and that teaching is a sustainable profession, our union helps deliver excellent education to all learners
With these goals in mind, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers achieved the following in our 2009 contract negotiations:
*A starting salary of $40,000+ for beginning teachers in 2010
*Stronger standards for achievement of tenure, both in additional administrative observations and in the development of a full-spectrum peer assistance and review program (see below).
*Moved significant decision-making into our professional hands:
Full-spectrum Peer Assistance and Review
The union successfully negotiated the development of a “full-spectrum” peer assistance and review program. Our PAR program will recognize teaching as a profession of life-long learning and move away from the deficit-based thinking about teacher evaluation. The St. Paul PAR program will be developed to offer support in the traditional peer assistance and review areas by offering a more comprehensive and thorough achievement of tenure program as well as offer assistance to teachers identified as struggling in addition to offering support for teachers who self-identify or anticipate difficulties in a new or returning assignment and want to be supported in order to prevent failing. The St. Paul PAR program will also have significant opportunities for already strong teachers to explore new professional pathways (such as becoming a Master teacher in the CareerTeacher program), challenges (such as earning National Board Certification), and other opportunities to enhance their professionalism and/or give back to the profession (training to become a mentor, for example.) Just as good teachers differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every learner, our peer assistance and review program will differentiate to meet the needs of every teacher and be an asset to the profession.
Transforming our schools through restructuring
The union successfully negotiated a comprehensive process for school restructuring when restructuring is called for by No Child Left Behind or by the Board of Education. The restructured school will have a complete “Election to Work” agreement presented to staff by February 15th the year before the proposed restructuring that will be developed cooperatively with the staff and mutually approved by the union and the district that explicitly outlines:
• The application and selection process for staff, if there is to be one
• The vision and expected instructional program of the school
• The hours of instruction and length of the school day as well as the expected degree of flexibility that will be required of the staff
• The length of the school year and the school calendar
• The expected length of time teachers may be required to be present in the school outside of the school’s instructional day
• Any additional compensation program that will apply to the particular Restructured School that is different from the standard compensation schedule.
Further, contract language was secured that would require an annual review of restructured schools to determine the success of the restructuring and to identify practices and approaches that should be duplicated or avoided.
The union also won a statement of intent on Site-governed schools that will be added to the contract recognizing the extraordinary opportunity the Minnesota Site-governed school statute (123B.045) offers to create innovative school environments better designed for individual school populations. The district agreed to form a committee to begin exploring the opportunity this new legislation presents for our students immediately upon ratification of the contract to report and recommend to the superintendent and the SPFT Executive Board as soon as possible, but no later than May 1, 2011.
The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers could not have won such comprehensive professional contract language if it wasn’t for the significant support, ideas and mentoring of our fellow local teachers unions. We owe a great deal of debt to the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the Toledo Federation of Teachers, the Rochester Federation of Teachers, the New Haven Federation of Teachers, the Hillsborough (FL) Classroom Teachers Association, and the leaders of the AFT Teachers Program and Policy Council. We are indebted to our state union Education Minnesota for their support of our members and our national union the American Federation of Teachers for their belief in our ideas. Finally and notably, we are grateful to our members in St. Paul for trusting us to negotiate a contract on behalf of them, the students we serve, and the profession to which we’re dedicated.