Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Okay, I'll bite.

Here's what the UFT has to say about the contract. I've added my thoughts. I haven't done any additional research, and I want to point out that my point of view on this is that of a teacher working at an effective small school where teachers & administrators get along fine. I've never taught high school and am not familiar with the finer points of that. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments but please try to use a calm and level-headed tone. It is possible to express one's opinion without ranting & raving, without ad hominem attacks, etc.

WAGES: The agreement calls for a 15% increase over 52 months; 2% effective Dec. 1, 2003; 3.5% effective Dec. 1, 2004; 5.5% effective Nov. 1, 2005, and 3.25% effective Oct. 1, 2006. Yearly increases are compounded. A teacher with five years experience and 30 credits above a Master’s degree would go to $58,452 from $50,828 by the end of the contract. The maximum salary would go to $93,416 from $81,232. Salaries for new teachers would increase 9%, going to $42,512 from $39,000, except for those who started this year, who get the full 15% increase. The contract would run through October 12, 2007.

Interesting that the increase gets bigger the close to the present you get, which would seem to limit retroactive pay, right? Then again, there's a whole separate item (below) for retroactive pay, so maybe it was calculated separately? It's a relief that the contract will last for a couple of years before we have to go through this all again...

The math, done by Kapico and taken from the comments from NYCEducator's site: The 15% raise over 4 years works out to only 3.75% per year. If you factor in the additional days and extra time we end up working an additional 8 days. Do the Math: 50 minutes per week X 40 weeks = 2000 minutes. 2000 divided by 60 = 33.33 hours. 33.33 hours = 5 days. 5 days (from 10 minutes per day) + 3 Days = 8 Days). The school year is 180 days. 8 days of increased labor is a 4.44% increase in time worked. So, if we ratify this contract we would be willing to work an additional 4.44% of time for a 3.75% increase in wages along with all the givebacks.

RETROACTIVE: A teacher at the top of the pay scale would receive a total of about $5,771. A teacher with five years experience and a Masters would receive $4,094, and a teacher who entered the system in September 2002 would get $2,819 in retroactive pay. Those figures are more than 60% higher than recommended in the fact-finders’ report. The difference was achieved by moving up the effective dates of the first two raises by six months.

I can't WAIT for this check! Last time we got a retroactive check, though, it messed with my taxes - getting it all at once is a nice little check but it can bump you up a tax bracket that you would not have gone up if the money had come a little at a time... This is why we should get contracts settled in a timely fashion.

PARAPROFESSIONALS: Creation of a pay line for paras who earn a bachelor’s degree, bringing their top salary to at least $32,000. Retroactive pay for paraprofessionals at the top of the pay scale will be $1,974.

I don't know anything about this.

THE SCHOOL DAY: The agreement maintains the uniform school day. It adds 10 minutes to the day, which will be combined with the previous 20 minutes per day added in the last contract. That time would be used for tutorials, test preparation and/or small group instruction, limited to no more than 10 students per teacher. The instruction will be given in a 37½ minute period immediately after dismissal four days a week, Monday through Thursday, starting in February. There would be an expedited grievance process for violations of the 10-student rule. District 75 and the multiple session schools will use the time to expand each class, and the rest of the school system will have four days a week of tutoring, test prep and/or small group instruction after dismissal.

I think we would need a much bigger pay increase to make this worthwhile. Don't forget that teaching an extra period per day, even a short one, even to just ten kids, requires preparation, so when you do the math about whether or not we're really getting a raise, that prep time is not taken into account. Which means the so-called "raise" is even less a raise. It will undoubtedly be focused on math & reading, and as a science teacher, I hate teaching remedial classes in these subjects. I don't feel prepared and it isn't something I'm passionate about. And that's how we're going to get to end the day, 4 days a week, from now on? *sigh*

Also, I'm having a little trouble picturing how this is going to work. Do all kids get these extra classes, or just those who need extra help? And what, exactly, are we supposed to do with them? I think in my school this could look something like this.... we stop offering remedial math & english classes in our afterschool program, instead targeting those kids for these extra classes, which would make afterschool more fun because it could all be enrichment.... but I can see how in a lot of situations this time will turn into the most dreadfully boring test prep - boring for teacher, boring for students - and one more thing that you have to plan for and that your administration can micromanage. What happens to those ten kids when a teacher is absent? On another note, does this replace Monday PD?

When I was a middle and high school student, I think that my teachers were required to stay after school for 30 minutes every day to provide extra help, give make-up tests, etc. This is when after school detention occured, as well. All sports and clubs started after this 30 minute period. No one was assigned to any classes or anything, but all students were free to stay after to talk with teachers, get work missed during absences, etc. There were even limited stop late buses provided to help kids get home. I think this worked really well. As it is in NYC, if a kid is absent, they are going to be asking for make-up work during class, which I find hard to keep track of, and if they missed something that I need to go over with them, I end up meeting with them during lunch, which means I don't get a break and they really only get 15 minutes of help. I would love to have time built in to the day for kids to resolve lingering issues with teachers and to get extra-help in a non-bureaucratic, as-needed way. Of course, in NYC this would lead to all kinds of permission slip and transportation issues, but surely we could find a way around those?

SENIORITY TRANSFERS: The agreement calls for ending seniority transfers and bumping, while banning “forced” transfers. Principals cannot reject transfers or excesses based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation and union activities. The fact-finding panel rejected the city’s demand that any teacher “excessed” out of a job be fired if he/she could not find a new job within 18 months.

Okay, if I were running a school - and as I have seen it play out in the school where I teach now - I would want to have a lot of control over who is on my staff. I would hate it - HATE IT - if I hired someone who was a good teacher, a good fit for my school culture, etc., and then a few months later that person were bumped out of my school by someone else whom I'd never met who just happened to have more experience. The tricky thing about transfers is that there is the ideal world and the real world. In the ideal world, a school is a tightly functioning organization where each person fits into the whole in an important way, and where principals are fair and looking out for the good of the kids and the whole community above all. In that kind of setting, a principal or staff committee ought to have the ability to search for and hire the staff they want and the ability to fire those who are - on an on-going basis and after opportunities to improve - detracting from the school's educational excellence. When trying to put together an organization that will work as a team to accomplish something as difficult and important as educating kids, the idea that people could transfer in at will is ridiculous. Unfortunately, this isn't the ideal world, it's the real world, and I understand that there are principals who treat teachers unfairly, play favorites, put letters in the file for petty things, assign one teacher all the hard classes in order to set them up to fail, etc., etc. I understand that people who've put in 10 or 15 years in a really tough school feel like they've paid their dues and deserve a chance to choose a better school to work in. So, I anticipate that many will disagree with me, and I hear what you're saying, but as someone whose school would stand to lose a lot if a less-than-fantastic teacher chose to transfer in, I think ending "bumping" and seniority transfers is a good idea.

LEAD TEACHERS: Expands the creation of the UFT- and parent-initiated pilot program of a lead or master teacher program in District 9. Lead teachers, who receive an extra $10,000, use their expertise to provide educational support for all teachers in their schools, in addition to their classroom duties.

Tell me more - this sounds exciting! I think we are long past due for the creation of teaching positions that come with more responsibility and higher pay and yet are not administrative positions. Too many good teachers become bad adminstrators because it's the only place to go after 15 years of teaching... and lord knows, most of us newer teachers could benefit from someone more experienced providing support and modeling.

COVERAGES: Remain the same: Principals may assign teachers in middle and high schools to cover for an absent colleague once a term without extra pay. The panel recommended raising it to 12 times a year, but the final agreement kept it at two.

Good. Coverages stink and I think it's reasonable to expect them to find paid subs or pay us if we have to sub.

LIMITS MICROMANAGEMENT: Teachers can no longer be disciplined for “the format of bulletin boards, the arrangement of classroom furniture and the exact duration of lesson units.”

Good. There's a certain irony that a contract would have to spell out in this kind of detail what kinds of micromanagement are no longer allowed... This system MUST get a handle on the administrators who are making teachers' lives miserable.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: Both parties agreed to mandatory dismissal for any teacher found to have had a sexual relationship with a student or minor. Any teacher indicted or charged with sexual misconduct would be suspended without pay for up to three months after an arbitrator finds there is probable cause. The union insisted on language to require that any teacher found to have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct or corporal punishment would receive full back pay, and all references to the charges would be removed from the employee’s file.


CIRCULAR 6: Professional activities are maintained, but administrators will have more leeway in assigning teachers to such things as homeroom, hall patrol and cafeteria duty during those periods. The principal, after consulting with the union’s chapter leader in each school, would list the number of available positions for each activity. Teachers would select from a menu of options.

Lunch duty and hall patrol are soul-sucking... can't they find someone else to do these things? Homeroom is, in my school, something we all want to be a part of. What does "more leeway" mean? How do other states/school systems handle lunch duty, etc.? What are the options?

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT DAYS: Three professional development days would be added to the school calendar. Two would occur the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day and teachers will have time to prepare their classrooms. The third would be on Brooklyn-Queens Day, a day on which schools were closed in those boroughs. Under the agreement, there would be no classes system-wide on that day.

I wouldn't have a problem with this if the raise were really a raise. And we teachers in the Bronx never got Brooklyn-Queens Day, anyway, so I can't say I'm sad to see it go!

RETIREMENT: Both sides agreed to jointly seek state legislation to allow for retirement at age 55 with 25 years experience; commonly known as the “55-25” rule.

If I stick with it, I'll have 25 years of experience in 2026. I'll only be 48. Weird, huh?

LETTERS IN THE FILE: The agreement would eliminate the right of teachers to file a grievance over any letter the principal puts in his or her file. Teachers would have the right to meet with the principal and respond to the letter, which must be removed after three years if it is not used in a disciplinary process.

Whoa!!! This is probably the worst thing in the whole proposal! The grievance process is our protection from those things in the real world that are not as they should be. How on Earth did this ever get in here?

FAIR PROCESS: The agreement incorporates the union’s recommendation to streamline the grievance process. The fact-finding panel rejected the city’s demands to end the just cause standard – a common sense standard of fairness.

Streamlining the grievance process seems like a good idea... overall, I think things move too slowly within this big, bureaucratic system... Can anyone give any good illustrative stories about how "just cause" is applied? (Not boilerplate stories, I mean real-life examples from your own experience or that of people you know? I'm not asking in regards to the contract, I just think it's interesting).

Should we ratify? Reject? I'm not sure. I'm not wildly excited about it, but I'm not dead-set-against, either. Not being able to grieve a letter in your file is a HUGE deal and possibly a huge deal-breaker. And the more I think about this proposal, the more I see that we aren't really gaining anything. Teachers are under intense pressure these days what with testing and everything else, and NYC is arguably one of the most difficult places to teach because we are fighting such an uphill battle and our students come from such needy backgrounds, and the mayor is all excited about the test scores going up but we're the ones working our tails off. So I think we deserve at least a little bit better than this.

But - if we did reject it, what would happen then? If we hold out for something better, what is the chance that we'll get it?


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