This is a transitional contract that the school board and faculty at OPRF have just negotiated. And, with transition being its purpose, this is a very fine and strong agreement. Congratulations to all involved.

The two-year duration of the contract is right. Long enough to offer all participants some stability. Short enough to keep pressure on for continued, substantive change at the school. The one-year pay freeze, followed by a pay hike, limited in the second year to the traditional steps and lane changes is respectful of taxpayers who took it on the nose in the about-to-expire five-year contract. The money side of this tells us that all parties to the contract — board, faculty, administration — have been listening to both the pain and the frustration loose in the villages.

The most significant reform in this contract is the agreement to allow the administration to alter the traditional eight-period class schedule which has every student and teacher in the school answering to the bell every 48 minutes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is the sort of change that appears to be too “inside the walls” to be significant. But in education, and in life, there is nothing more important than how we order time. How we choose to spend our time tells us everything about our priorities and reflects our approach to accomplishing what needs to be done.

This change is the spot in this agreement where I suspect we most see the work of Steven Isoye, the second year superintendent, beginning to shape OPRF. He has spoken quietly about the need to broaden the options available to teach the school’s diverse range of students in the ways most effective for the kids — not just for the smooth running of the institution.

As with any transitional phase, the important questions are: What is the vision? What are the targets OPRF is moving toward? If the target of this brief contract and its worthy pay concessions is to transition to a better economy and then a return to the status quo of rich pay days and steady as she goes, then we will have been duped. The taxpayers will have saved a couple million bucks, but we will have been duped.

The three-page press release announcing the deal on Monday hints at broader purposes and I’ll take that as encouragement. It references next year’s long-overdue strategic planning process at the school, the rewriting of the board’s policy manual (which sounds really inside but is, in fact, the document that contains much of the petrifying DNA of the institution), and allows for the “emerging state mandates related to teacher evaluations.”

What does this tell us? That the stakeholders have bought two years’ time at favorable terms to craft the real plan for change, to further the comfort level for more real collaboration between the superintendent and the faculty, and to allow the broad national push for school reform to percolate and create a pushdown on teacher evaluations. That last part is the code for merit pay, tenure reform, testing and standards.

This is a good strategy. One year into his contract as superintendent was too soon for Isoye, who is a thoughtful, observant, cautious change agent, to shoot for the moon. This man is a ground-layer. This contract accomplishes enough and it sets up change to come.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...

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