Section 83 (formerly 85) Finished!
The actual contract language will be posted shortly. For now here is the press release:
A joint committee of administration and teachers union appointees voted 9-0 today on the new system following more than eight months of study and discussion. The unanimous agreement brings a formal end to the one unresolved issue from the September 2011 teachers strike.
The strike settlement, brokered during a negotiating session with Gov. Chris Gregoire last fall, tasked the joint committee with developing a new way to select teachers who would be displaced from schools and how they would be placed in new schools. The committee’s mission included two caveats:
- The new method could no longer rely on seniority as the primary factor.
- Six of the nine committee members must agree to the new method.
In the new system agreed upon Wednesday, seniority becomes the last, tie-breaking factor.
Starting this fall, each school will develop a new mission and focus. Teachers, meanwhile, will develop self-reports that show how their skills and credentials fit with their school’s mission and focus. Teachers also must show some evidence of how their instruction improves student learning.
In the spring, when projections for the next school year’s enrollment and teacher needs at each school traditionally change, all these factors will go into determining which teachers at a school get displaced. In some cases, teachers can choose to displace themselves. Typically, one or two teachers at each school – on average – get displaced each year.
However, no school can displace a teacher on a plan of improvement due to performance issues.
“We set out on this journey with a dedication to collaboration,” said Superintendent Carla Santorno, who co-chaired the committee. “We wanted to create a healthy environment in our schools that encourages teachers to look around at their options and find their best fit in a school and a position. Teachers get displaced for various reasons, and we wanted to look at it as a positive.
“This new system comes with key elements that will improve learning for kids. First, every school in the district will have to rethink and clearly solidify its mission so its community understands what the school is all about. And second, by asking teachers to reflect on and write about their own work, we can better acknowledge the professionalism of our teachers and the efforts they put into their own growth to better serve kids.”
The settlement agreement from last fall called for a committee of four members from the administration and four members from the Tacoma Education Association and a ninth member appointed jointly. Superintendent Carla Santorno and TEA President Andy Coons co-chaired the committee, and they jointly appointed Jeanne Harmon, executive director of the Tacoma-based Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP).
“We are proud of the number of unique programs and learning opportunities found in Tacoma Public Schools,” said TEA President Andy Coons.” This innovation and diversity in the programs we offer however, created a staffing issue we needed to solve. How could we ensure that the interests and certifications of the educators assigned to buildings matched the schools’ mission and innovative program? Seniority had worked in the past as a determination for assignment, but in our current era of innovation, it wasn’t meeting our needs.
“The “Section 83” Committee has been successful in their charge to create an equitable and transparent system for making displacement decisions and determining “best fit” in a building.”
The committee membership included TEA appointees Derryl Finney, a math teacher at Foss High School; John Prosser, humanities teacher at Giaudrone Middle School; and Ann Welton, librarian at Stafford Elementary School; and administration appointees Toni Pace, assistant superintendent for K-12 support; Scott Rich, principal at McCarver Elementary School; and Tracy Allen, assistant principal at Baker Middle School.
Team members began last fall with a pre-meeting assignment to read the book, “Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities,” written by Adam Kahane. The book describes principles for problem-solving in constructive ways that build relationships based, in part, on Kahane’s experience as a consultant brokering the end of racial apartheid in South Africa. After analyzing the book and discussing it, the committee used Kahane’s principles and themes to develop “norms” for how the committee would operate.
Those norms included:
- Being open to possibility/exploring
- Leave our “boxes” at the door
- Call things by their name
- Assume good faith
- Hear and help others to hear
- Be relaxed and present
- Listen with empathy and wonder
- Maintain optimism and commitment
The committee then analyzed the current contract language in the Tacoma Education Association’s collective bargaining agreement with Tacoma Public Schools.
With that background work completed, committee members began brainstorming possible considerations – categories of potential criteria and data – that may or may not become factors in a new system governing displacement and reassignment. For each consideration, the committee wrote pros and cons of using those considerations in a new system. The goal of that exercise was meant to determine the potential benefits and drawbacks of each consideration.
The committee members then worked in small teams to discuss how systems could work then revised the various concepts into a new, cohesive system. Over the last few months, committee members shared their proposal with various stakeholders such as teachers, principals and other administrators to tease out potential pitfalls then made multiple revisions to create the final system approved today.
“I am proud of the collaboration, problem-solving ethic and ultimate trust amongst the committee members during the hundred plus hours we spent together creating this language. Working on a common goal that elevated the professionalism of teachers and streamlined the system involved in staffing a large urban district was just the united work we needed to do after the strike this past fall. My hope is for many more such collaborative efforts between the TEA and the Tacoma administration in the future,” said Coons.