Teachers, School Leaders (and a Neighbor) Views on the New Teacher Contract: Taking the Pulse

A completely unscientific poll of teachers, school leaders and a neighbor responding to:

What do you think about the new teacher contract?

I texted, messaged, called and spoke with a range of folks…

Senior Teacher: I have a few years to go before retirement, I would have like more dollars, I have to decide whether it pays to stick it out through the end of the contract – less paperwork, keeping my principal off my back is a good think, otherwise, I really don’t care.

Third Year Teacher: I’m enthusiastic, there seems to be many educational items, I don’t fully understand them but it looks like the contract is “professionalizing” teaching, a good thing.

Tenth Year Teacher: I’m overjoyed, I always get excellent observations, I get along with my school leadership, and these new titles with higher pay are really attractive. I have my supervisory credentials but I really don’t want to become a boss – I was seriously thinking about applying for a job outside the city – I guess this might have been aimed at teachers like me.

An ATR: I’m petrified! This is my fourth year in the pool – I have twenty years in the system but I’m a long way from retirement. My school closed and the new schools only wanted young teachers. In the first year I went on lots of interviews – never a nibble. The last few years my ATR Field Supervisor has observed me – written satisfactory observations – if principals still don’t like me does it mean I get fired?

Teacher in a Low Performing School: I have to look into the $5,000 bonus for teachers in difficult schools – sounds like what they did in the old Chancellor’s District. My school has flirted with a closing list for years – I’m curious what this all means.

A Network Staff Member: My e-mailbox is full! I changed my phone message to “I don’t know anything about the contract.” How do you apply to become an Innovation School? Will I have to change Networks? Who decides on which teachers can bump up to the new, higher paying titles? Will the bucks come out of my budget? Will there be bonuses for principals? I have no idea and tell them “stay tuned.”

An ATR Guidance Counselor: What happens to a guidance counselor? As far as I can see principals have cut counseling staffs and I don’t see them re-hiring counselors? I hope the union calls a meeting for ATR counselors and explains the ATR provisions to us.

A School Leader: I hope teacher observations will become saner, and, hopefully fewer observations per teacher. I actually like being in classrooms talking to kids and working with teachers – I would much rather be able to observe new and probationary teachers more frequently and senior teachers less frequently. I would like to set up some inter visitations – now – I spend endless hours writing up observations and inputting data.

A Recent Retiree: Do I get retroactive pay? I retired in 2012 and would have received raises if a contract was negotiated back then … doesn’t seem fair if I don’t.

A Long Time Retiree: I’m happy for my working colleagues – when I retired salaries were a lot less than they are now – thank goodness I plowed dollars into my TDA (Tax Deferred Annuity) – I’m worried about the health plans – compared to my non-teacher friends we have a spectacular plan – saving a billion dollars sounds like we’re going to have to pay more … guess I’ll just wait and see and hope for the best.

My Neighbor: Good for the teachers – they deserve it – as long as it doesn’t bankrupt the city. Sounds like they got a good deal and sounds like its reasonable – stretching out the payments for past years seems reasonable – hopefully it can bring some sense to this testing stuff – parents I meet think it’s onerous and harmful to kids.

Teachers have many questions, and are generally positive, not ecstatic, hopeful probably describes attitudes. The only really negative comments come from the opposition caucus within the union, who, like the Republicans in Congress who oppose everything the Obama administration does, will pan everything the Mulgrew administration does, that’s politics today. And, not surprisingly the City Journal, the publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute, decries the contract as dragging the city to doom, of course, the author, Steve Malanga, also supports total vouchers and the privatization of all city services. Let’s hire the “best and the brightest,” fire the malingerers, and pay as little as possible, not exactly a formula for creating and sustaining high performing schools.

In 1995 I was at a union staff retreat a few days before the opening of school – the union had been negotiating with the Giuliani administration for months, the rumors leaked to the staff, the union agreed on a five year contract proposal with the first two years – no raises. One of my colleagues was on the negotiating team, I asked, “Marvin, this is crazy.” Marvin shrugged; this is what the union leadership decided. Additionally, there was a “retention incentive,” 5% of new teacher’s salary was withheld for five years, those who left before five years would forfeit the 5%. As I raced from school to school to “explain and sell” the contract I was pilloried by the membership. The field staff was delivering a message that the union leadership did not want to hear. The contract was voted down – six months later a similar contract, without the “retention incentive” passed easily.

The current union leadership uses a 300-member negotiating team as a “sounding board,” the members across the union spectrum by age and level and political caucus all give feedback to the union policymakers – these days the leadership takes the pulse of the membership.

The current contract, in my view, will be overwhelmingly approved by the membership, the $1,000 “signing bonus,” is a nice fillip.

The union is building a FAQ site (Frequently Asked Questions) – don’t be shy – click and ask: https://uft.wufoo.com/forms/ask-a-question-about-the-proposed-contract/

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3 responses to “Teachers, School Leaders (and a Neighbor) Views on the New Teacher Contract: Taking the Pulse

  1. In my school of 30 teachers at all levels not 1 person thought this was a good or even passable contract. Some may vote for it because they don’t think that we can get anything better. As my grandmother used to say “Don’t piss on my back and tell me it’s rain”

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  2. Peter:

    I don’t belong to any caucus and think the contract stinks. The throwing of the ATRs under the bus by having their own expedited termination process is disgraceful.

    The money is less than the inflation rate and deferred as far away as 2020. Moreover, not to give retro raises and pay to members who resigned or terminated is unfair. Finally, the termination procedures under the teacher evaluation system remains unchanged.

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  3. I’m going to vote no. I’m not scared of collectively bargaining again, especially when this proposed contract stinks.

    Article 3, sections H and I, are very scary. I want a detailed list of how those saving will be obtained. Health clinics? Fraud and misuse corrected? Mail in drugs? What would my share be if these savings cannot be found?

    The city is not broke. I cannot read that a billion is wasted on a 911 system that doesn’t work, or the city time fiasco, and for one second, believe that my raises and retro, and the raises and retro of other city agencies, would break the bank. There is NO valid reason that the day we sign, our salaries at the very least cannot go up a minimum of 10% for the years worked since 09. Any year with 0% is an insult. Retro can be payed out slowly…not a big deal. And ultimately, taxes can be raised to pay for city services like teachers.

    The UFT needs to poll its members. Changing the times worked does NOT work for teacher-parents or teachers with second jobs. As a teacher and parent, some of my “raise” now has to go to child care on Mondays and Tuesdays…not fair. I would guess that 70% of UFT members fall into the parent/second job categories.

    If you read this, please vote NO. Do not listen to the fear mongering about how this contract is the best we can do. Poll the members and get a feel for the important issues.

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