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Cityview pact could set precedent for Minneapolis' partnership schools

  • Article by: Steve Brandt
  • Star Tribune
  • July 13, 2013 - 7:19 PM

The Minneapolis School District and its teachers union have agreed on significant contract changes at Cityview school this fall, possibly the first step toward the district’s vision to improve schools by giving them flexibility in exchange for performance-based accountability.

The deal requires teachers at the North Side K-5 school to work a 46-hour workweek, and to teach an extra 15 days and train for up to 15 days in the summer. But teachers will be paid about $6,000 more for their extra time, and they’ll get 90 minutes of prep time daily, double the norm.

The agreement applies only to Cityview, which the district plans to reopen as a K-5 school this fall, but it could pave the way for Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s plans to create more schools that are freed up from traditional rules but judged on performance.

The union says that adding more schools under the concept still needs to be negotiated.

Johnson hopes to create more than a dozen of the so-called partnership schools over several years. Some see potential benefit from the increased time commitment of the teachers.

“Congratulations go to both the union and the district for agreeing to go ahead with this,” said Joe Nathan, a longtime Twin Cities school-reform advocate. “The critical factor will be who the faculty are and who the principal is.”

But the Cityview deal is dependent on the district ousting a charter school from the building. Minnesota School of Science is suing to block the district from regaining the building that the science school has occupied for two years. It has paid only about 10 percent of the rent the district expected, but that’s because the state ruled that the school couldn’t get rent aid because its landlord and authorizer are the same party.

A July 30 hearing is scheduled to hear arguments on the issue.

Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said that a key difference between the Cityview agreement and the partnership concept is that the district is defining how Cityview will run so that it’s much like the charter school it is replacing, while the partnership approach is that teachers have a voice in what will change.

The union granted Cityview new-program status, which, under the current teacher contract, allows the district to hire either inside or outside to staff its classrooms. That makes it easier for the district to hire away some of the charter school’s teachers, something the charter is suing to block. A teacher hired for Cityview would make a three-year commitment to the school.

Cityview was a district-run school that closed in 2011 after dismal academic results. Minnesota School of Science opened there and grew to about 300 students. The district authorized it as a charter under its “new schools” initiative that said the district would support charters that get good results. But the district since has raised questions about the school’s test administration, financial management and other issues, and refused to allow it to transfer to another authorizer, which it needs under state law. □

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

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