Voting begins Monday on Minneapolis teachers contract

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2014 - 5:29 AM

If it passes, it will significantly change how schools are run.

The contract proposal in the hands of Minneapolis teachers would mean significant changes in how schools are run, from showing really bad teachers the door more quickly to creating a new subset of schools with an emphasis on results, not how they’re achieved.

Schools in the new “partnership schools” program would get leeway from the district on how many hours and days students and teachers spend in school, how they spend their budget and how straggling students get help. Those schools would not be required to follow the district’s focused instruction curriculum but would have to meet academic performance targets to keep that flexibility.

The tentative agreement was reached March 1 and teachers will be voting Monday through March 28. Contracts are usually ratified by a handy margin.

Some teachers object to a clause that could increase the work year for teachers of the partnership schools to 211 days, compared with 196 now. These schools are a key element of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s efforts to reshape the district by granting schools working under a performance contract the ability to be flexible on work rules.

The district plans to launch the first partnership school next fall when Cityview reopens. But No. 2 administrator Michael Goar said he’s still hoping the district can add another.

Some teachers are concerned about a clause that would allow the district to ax a teacher it judges low-performing after just 45 days of working with a mentor to improve. The district said that now takes three to nine months. Alternatives to firing would include improving enough to stay with or without continued assistance or shifting to another school if there’s a personality conflict or a misfit academically.

But Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said she expects only two to three teachers a year to go through the expedited process. Some improve earlier in the process of mentor-guided intervention steps, while others are either counseled out of the profession or come to that decision on their own, she said.

Another issue for some teachers is a clause that gives the district the right to early posting of teacher openings in specialties or at schools that have trouble attracting applicants. Those jobs could be filled ahead of the normal two interview rounds for teachers axed from a school for budget reasons and those seeking a shift of schools.

The district says that early posting means that it has a better shot at hiring more qualified applicants before they’re hired by competing districts. The agreement commits the district and the union to developing efforts to hire and keep teachers in 16 struggling schools, but doesn’t specifically offer extra pay, a possibility the district floated last summer in negotiations but teacher negotiators called degrading.

 

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib

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