Possibilities at D97

Opinion: Editorials

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Perhaps we are reading too much into a press release from a school district. But we are encouraged by the tone and the word selection in District 97's update on the lengthy contract negotiations taking place between school officials and the teachers union. 

Normally teacher contracts are "settled." Both sides admit to "giving a little" in order "to get it done." You know, "settled." Like a bad divorce. A truce in battle. Clearly the tradition is that teacher contract talks are business pacts. And that's fine except that it doesn't allow for the powerful truth that teacher contracts (which should also be seen as school board contracts) are central to how we go about educating our children.

So the District 97 release last week talks about "the creation" of a new contract. While it expresses hope that the creation is nearly ready for birthing, the release also notes "we will not compromise the long-term success of this critical endeavor for the sake of expediency." Good for them.

But beyond positive words this is also the moment for clear action. The two negotiating teams released a memorandum announcing they'd agreed to work together over the next two school years to forge a model on how to link student academic growth to evaluating the performance of teachers. The first year will be spent formulating a model. The second year will be testing that model, and likely tweaking that model, to find out if a genuine connection between those two complex topics has been made.

This has the potential to be huge. But only if it is linked to a funding source that allows our best teachers to be rewarded for excellence. That source ought to be the end of steps and lanes, the retro concept that hands out pay raises – beyond the negotiated pay raises – simply for years of service and for accumulating added education credits that are completely unproven as a measure of improved teaching.

That the discussions have come this far suggests a good will between the parties. Push on negotiators into the possibilities that exist in public education if we are authentically open to them.

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Posted: August 30th, 2014 5:19 PM

As a point of reference it might be worth noting that after the last D97 contract negotiation, then BOE member Peter Barber stood up and gave what can only be described as an orgasmic speech about how wonderful the teachers are. If the current negotiations even approach a situation in which there are different perspectives and teachers are asked to make any significant changes then that is progress. Sad that we expect so little even though we pay so much.

Ralph H. Lee from Oak Park  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 8:44 PM

I believe that the optimism shown in this editorial is warranted. The caution and restraint that has been shown, along with a realistic time frame for a first trial attempt to link salaries with productivity shows me that such a thing may be possible. I have no expectation that any such first attempt can be completely satisfactory, because such change cannot take place in major leaps. However, a series of corrective changes over time can work wonders. Maybe District 200 will follow suit.


Posted: August 21st, 2014 6:00 AM

No more referendums. Increase class sizes to 25. Shutter the schools that don't have the enrollment to justify being open and for goodness sakes don't pay your PhD art teachers $100K. Also, that rubber stamp Master's at National Louis should be disallowed.

Fool Me Once from OP  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 4:47 AM

After the most recent D97 referendum debacle where much was promised "for the sake of the children", but little or nothing has been delivered, I have no belief that any real change will happen at D97. I predict this lengthy "negotiation" is a smokescreen for the next tax hike they plan to suggest. Wait for it....

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