Negotiations start next week for the 2013-2015 labor contract governing working conditions for the Minneapolis district’s more than 3,000 teachers for the next two school years.
Those working conditions are increasingly a target of the critics of public education who style themselves educational reformers. That in turn has prompted a backlash among some teachers who argue that reformers are carrying out a corporate agenda to take over schools.
Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson laid out her position in a mid-May speech in which she called for more flexibility in the union contract and in district rules for some schools that would exchange more autonomy for accountability for results.Johnson said she wants more teaching time, more freedom in hiring, and new career paths for teachers to assume leadership.
Meanwhile a union response called for smaller classes, more services to meet the needs of students, less testing, more teaching planning time, and more culturally relevant lessons. The union is planning a series of gatherings in homes with parents to discuss its agenda.
Rick Kreyer, the district’s human resources chief, will lead the district’s negotiating team, while Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, will lead the union side.
The first two sessions are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at the union headquarters, 67 8th Av. NE, and a third is scheduled for June 17. All three sessions are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Negotiating sessions are open to the public until they enter state mediation.
The current contract expires on June 30, although an ever-green clause keeps its conditions in place while a new contract is discussed. Negotiations are starting three months earlier than the September start that marked the 2011-2013 negotiations. Those discussions didn’t produce a tentative agreement until the following March.
That contract raised contract costs by 6.4 percent over the previous pact. That was mainly due to the district paying to lengthen the teaching year by four days and the non-teaching time the teacher is required to spend in school by an average of 15 minutes daily. That added $3,090 to a typical teacher paycheck next year, before increases they got for added experience and education.
Teachers voted 83 percent for that deal, an even higher proportion than the 6-2 vote by the school board for the pact. Two new board members have taken office since then.
Don't bother showing up for summer school with the Minneapolis school district if you're not enrolled in a district school or a charter school located in Minneapolis.
That's the new dictum from Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson after she discovered that the district loses $200,000 educating non-district students. That's because it doesn't get state reimbursement for those students. At most, roughly 300 K-7 students would be affected based on preliminary counts, plus an undetermined number of high school students.
"I guess we could charge a fee for that," Johnson mused when she announced the change Tuesday evening.
Johnson at first said that no non-district students would be admitted to summer schol, but the district amended that Wednesday when it discovered the law reimburses summer school students from Minneapolis-based charters. District officials said they weren't sure of the eligibilty status for students who enroll out of the district to other public schools through open enrollment or the Choice Is Yours program.
Johnson said the loss is a luxury the district can't afford as it tries to balance its budget for next school year. The district already has cut some $24 million in expenses as it prepares the budget for board approval..
Minneapolis kids have plenty of options for enrolling elsewhere: private and parochial schools, charter schools, open enrollment to suburbs and the Choice is Yours program.
Summer school for students entering eighth grade or younger starts June 17 and goes for six hours daily four days a week through July 25. The deadline for registering was last Friday, although some households didn't get a district resource guide telling them that until this week. Other options for older students, including classes that help high school students make up credits, or entering ninth graders to get a head start on them, also are available.
Non-district students will still be eligible for the summer meals program, Johnson said, because the district gets reimbursed for that, Johnson said.
The building that has represented Minneapolis schools for more than 80 years should be sold to an experienced local developer that has renovated six other old buildings within six blocks, the Minneapolis school board decided Tuesday evening.
The board approved a staff recommendation on an 8-0 vote to negotiate a sale of 807 Broadway to Hillcrest Development over six competing offers. The board decision differed from recent proposals to sell other school buildings in that the board, staff and neighborhood agreed on the choice.
The building has served as school headquarters since 1930. It’s where generations of parents registered their kids for school or voiced complaints to the board, where desegregation plans that reshaped a city were devised, and where teachers picketed in a teacher strike that reformed state public employee law. The headquarters staff moved to 1250 Broadway last summer.
The district got three “really close offers” from developers, once various contingencies were weighed against the offered price, according to Mark Bollinger, chief administrative officer. The other two offers were for residential redevelopment, and had more contingencies, he said.
The sale of the equivalent of more than a city block of property comes with a 1914 building and subsequent add-ons for district back shops that total 236,000 square feet. Hillcrest said it wants to create space for small and medium-size businesses, in keeping with the Logan Park neighborhood’s desire for jobs to replace those lost when the headquarters moved.
The size of Hillcrest’s offer won’t be disclosed until the sale is completed, and the proceeds will help pay for the new headquarters. But based on the size of the complex and offers per square foot in the area, the building was expected to fetch in the $2 million to $3 million. “Our due diligence period will be very short,” said Scott Tankenoff, Hillcrest’s managing partner, referring to the pollution checks the firm will make before closing on the property.
He said he has no tenants for the building and will start marketing shortly after the purchases closes. He mentioned arts, creative and other business tenants as possibilities.
Hillcrest sold itself in the developer competition as experienced, particularly in environmental remediation, having developed more than three million square feet of commercial space since 1989. It has developed 325,000 square feet nearby in the last five years, Tankenoff said. The firm is based elsewhere in northeast Minneapolis.
No one was injured Tuesday when a handgun inside a student's backpack discharged outside shortly before dismissal at Bethune Community School on the North Side, the school district said.
According to spokeswoman Rachel Hicks, the firing was considered accidental and happened around 3 p.m., or about 10 minutes before students are dismissed, so few students were nearby. Some may have heard the shot or witnessed smoke from the discharge, she said.
She said that an initial Internet report that the student was a second grader was incorrect. The district sent a mass e-mail to Bethune parents to notify them.
Hicks said that police were interviewing the parents of the student, school staff and a school bus driver who was nearby when the gun discharged. That caused the driver's route to run about 30 to 45 minutes late, she said.
Bethune is at 919 Emerson Av. N. and enrolled 339 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grades as of early April.
The record for fund-raising in the relatively new category of district seats on the Minneapolis school board has jumped again, thanks to an amended report by a teacher-backed political fund.
The Local 59 Political Fund now reports spending just over $15,000 on behalf of Patty Wycoff in the election last fall on the West Side of Minneapolis that was won by Josh Reimnitz in a squeaker. All byt $300 of that was an independent expenditure. The new total reported in March is triple the amount disclosed by the teacher fund in January.
The total raised in the race is now more than $67,000, including both campaign and independent fundraising. That's largely swelled by the previously reported $40,000 raised by Reimnitz and his campaign committee, which is a new record for any school campaign, whether city-wide or for one of the board's six district seats. The independent spending for Reimnitz reported in January by the New York City-based 50CAN education reform advocacy arm adds $6,000.
Wycoff raised a mere $7,195, but spent $8,445, according to the campaign report. The increased amount of $15,000 spent by teacher union members somewhat reduced the campaign spending finance gap between the two candidates. But more than twice as mcuh was spent to elect Reimnitz.
Reimnitz had already eclipsed the previous funding record from 2010 set by board member Richard Mammen, who raised $34,523 in running city-wide.
Independent spending late int he cmapaign by both the union and 50CAN drew cries of foul from the opposite side. Both expenditures came late enough in the campaigns that the amounts and donors didn't have to be disclosed before Election Day.
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