What could a new teachers contract look like?

Newly installed school board President James Sampson.

Today school board President James Sampson announced that Donald Ogilvie will serve as the Buffalo Public School District’s next Interim Superintendent. He will seek the Board’s approval at their Wednesday meeting, the first time that the newly elected majority will sit for a “business meeting.” In this Buffalo News article, Sampson confirms that after Oglivie’s hire he will be focused on long stalled contract negotiations with the Buffalo Teacher’s Federation and its president, Philip Rumore.

In an interview with WBEN’s Hardline with Dave Debo, board member Carl Paladino confirms that the new majority is planning on “buying a longer school year from the teachers” in the context of contract negotiations. That’s big news.

Certainly, a longer school year for higher salaries is needed, but unto itself it is not enough. Beyond all of the easy issues (like eliminating the cosmetic surgery rider, or introducing defined contribution rather than defined benefit plans for new hires), there are a number major issues that the new majority could achieve:

1. Substantial salary increases in exchange for a longer school year

If we are going to build the best school system in the world — then we need to provide the greatest depth and breadth of instruction. Our current calendar of 180 days should be increased to 240, which is the length of Japan’s academic year. Those 60 days would constitute a 33% increase in labor time, which should be compensated accordingly: with a 33% increase in the faculty pay scale.

2. Introduce performance incentives to supplement faculty salaries

For high performing teachers in the most difficult turnaround schools, performance incentives should supplement salaries in order to attract, retain, and motivate high quality educators in the most challenging schools. Annual bonuses should be based on standardized metrics that track the achievement growth of individual students who are being taught by each teacher. For high performing teachers, the incentives should supplement faculty salaries up to 30%.

3. Going forward, offer tenure only to faculty who obtain a Ph.D in non-education disciplines

The district should invest in the development of faculty on a continuous long term basis. All faculty should have access to free graduate studies in non-education disciplines — perhaps via partnerships with Buffalo State College and SUNY at Buffalo. If we can encourage a greater portion of faculty to obtain their Ph.D’s in the form of a tenure incentive, then we can wildly enhance the depth and breadth of information that teachers can bring into the classroom.

4. Shed all chronically underperforming teachers

Contract negotiations offer an additional one-time opportunity to clear out chronically underperforming teachers in the form of large-scale buyouts, early retirement incentives, and a robust effort to document patterns of incompetence in order to fire bad teachers through traditional termination processes.

5. Peer faculty performance evaluations

A rigorous peer-to-peer performance review process should be structured into the operations of every campus, so that faculty members continuously evaluate each other’s performance. We must cultivate a progress-oriented culture, constantly introspective and looking for self improvement.

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