Contract designed to balance principal autonomy, union leaders say
A story that ran in Saturday's Sun focused on how the new proposed BTU contract will affect principal autonomy and how the contract was designed to provide safeguards against subjective and arbitrary evaluations by principals, an issue that the union said it has been fighting for years.
There is strongly-worded language in the new contract outlining how the union plans to protect teachers from 'capricious' actions on the part of principals, and union officials said it was on purpose. Personally, it seemed that the contract outlines more directives for principals (such as trainings and professional development) than consequences. But either way, it's clear that this topic was a large part of the conversation at the negotiating table.
Principals will play a key role in the new contract, due to be voted on Thursday, as they will be responsible for not only evaluating teachers in a new way--but those evaluations will carry significant pay increases. Moreover, the contract will give teachers an unprescedented amount of autonomy at the school level with the newly proposed "school-based options."
I spoke with Mary Beth Britt, a teacher awaiting an appeal hearing on her evaluation, who didn't make it into the story. She appealed her principal's decision to not renew her contract in May and is still waiting for a verdict. She spoke at a recent school board meeting, tearfully urging the school board to investigate principal behavior and to review evaluations. She told the board that her principal issued her non-renewal letter before he had observed her, fudged the dates on her evaluation, and skirted the process.
Of the new contract, Britt offered this perspective:
“It’s just amazing that the old contracts seemed to have protocols, and they have been able to do this anyway," she said. "The things that were done were almost criminal. Principals can take away our right to earn a livelihood. It’s devastating. The new contract, of course, has to be better. The new language can only help."
She ended very poignantly: "But, actions speak louder than words."