Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson today outlined sweeping changes the city is seeking as it negotiates a new teachers contract, including proposals to add an extra hour to the school day and to incorporate student test scores in teacher evaluations.
School administrators also want annual teacher pay increases linked to performance reviews, and are pushing for greater staffing flexibility, allowing principals to move instructors and change schedules without the approval of teachers, Johnson said.
In an interview today at a new teacher training seminar, Johnson described management's demands as a "reasonable proposal," but she said that the negotiations will be a challenge given the city's financial constraints.
"In traditional negotiations we would have more money to put on the table in exchange for the changes we are asking for," Johnson said. "But we don't have as much money as we have had in the past and it doesn't look like we are going to get additional dollars that will be long term."
Administrators would like to introduce what Johnson described as "paying for excellence," by giving extra resources to groups of teachers at successful school. The extra money could be split among the staff as merit bonuses, or used to buy extra classroom equipment.
The proposed contract changes come as outside pressures mounts on the negotiations. Boston City Councilor John R. Connolly plans to file an order tomorrow for a hearing next month seeking input from parents, students, and others who will not be at the negotiating table but have significant stakes in the outcome.
The current contract, covering about 7,000 teachers and paraprofessionals, will expire on Aug. 31, but it is not unusual for talks to continue for months after a collect bargaining agreement ends.
"We actually have a lot in common with the school department in wanting to improve our schools, but the devil is sometimes in the details," said Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union. "We also want to help Boston attract and retain the best teachers, which we want to improve our schools."
The union has published highlights of its own contract proposal. The union agrees that a longer school day would be helpful, but is seeking "appropriate compensation," Stutman said.
Teachers and paraprofessionals would also like to see a targeted reading program, a better social safety net for students to help keep a focus on learning, and investments in crumbling infrastructure to bring school buildings into 21st century.
"There has to be a balanced approach to this. It isn't just more math and English. It takes a wider approach," Stutman said. "I think we have an agreement on a majority of the [issues], its just a question of working out the details."
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