Friday, December 18, 2009

From the Start I Can See the End

New Haven Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries at Public School Insights:

What is fairly distinctive about our agreement is that in the context of those turnarounds, work rules in particular and to some extent compensation essentially become a function not of the overall contract, but instead of what we call an “election to work” agreement. So the person who's managing the turnaround school, or the people who are leading that school, would say, “In this turned-around school, this is how we expect to operate. This is how long our school day will be. This is how programming will happen during the day. This is how we’ll do professional development.” That sort of thing. An individual teacher's decision to go work in that environment constitutes his or her agreement to those conditions. Essentially what we came together with the union around is the idea that we wanted to be able to create situations where you could really have a “whatever it takes” mentality and you could build a team that has bought into that approach, even if the work rules were different than they are in the standard New Haven public school system.

We did this in Providence for over a decade, and by the time it was ended by fiat -- actually, it wasn't even ended by fiat, because the change was never announced, never a memo, never a hearing, not an article in the paper, never a response from the school board about what the new policy actually was -- nobody even seemed to remember that this policy ever existed in the first place. No matter how committed the parties are in making this kind of agreement, the timescale of schooling (long!), combined with rapid turnover of administration, a constant manufactured crisis mentality (there's a problem, but it's chronic!), and the history of the American labor relations (as opposed to, say, European) makes long term success unlikely.

On the other hand, this is probably the only way forward, so... well, this is why I wouldn't consider working for an urban school district anymore.

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