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Teachers win money, lose protection in new Green Dot contract

Teachers at Green Dot New York Charter School are getting a raise, a bonus, and a little less job security.

These are some of the modifications that are set to appear in a two-year renewal of Green Dot’s landmark contract with the United Federation of Teachers. Green Dot offered its teachers a 28-page “thin contract” a year after the school opened in 2008, leaving out many of the work rules and policies – including tenure and seniority-based layoffs – that are found in the bulky union deal with the Department of Education.

That contract expired in August and Green Dot and union officials have spent the last few months hammering out a new version. It was tentatively approved by board members on Sept. 26, but details of the contract had not been shared with teachers until this week.

In a statement issued today, the chief negotiators, Leo Casey, a UFT vice president, and Gideon Stein, who serves on the school’s Board of Trustees, shared details of the contract.

Under the new terms, the staff will receive a 3 percent raise each of the next two years, amounting to what will be 20 percent above the current salaries in the Department of Education. Last year’s teachers will also receive a $2000 bonus because of the school’s high performance. The school’s first students are now seniors so graduation data isn’t available, but 95 percent of students have passed the Regents exams they have taken, according to the Green Dot web site.

“The teachers and other staff are being paid more in recognition of being part of a very successful school,” Stein said.

In one concession, teachers will no longer be able to use an independent grievance process in their first year. Instead, they can be fired any time during their first year for any reason. Once the first year is complete, any grievance would return to being handled by an independent arbiter.

“It pretty much gave us what we wanted,” said an employee at the school, who asked not to be identified because teachers are restricted from speaking publicly about the agreement until it is official. “The only area where we had to cave was the protection for first year teachers.”

In another interesting tweak, Green Dot teachers will soon be evaluated based on a system that complies with the state education department’s Race to the Top application. The DOE’s favored system, the Danielson framework, is currently being used in 33 schools, but so far the city and union have not come to an agreement about whether it could spread to the rest of the DOE schools as well.

The renewed partnership between Green Dot New York and the UFT comes at a time when the teachers’ union is making slow inroads at organizing charter schools.

Of the 14 schools in its charter school portfolio, six converted from district schools meaning that by law teachers remained in the UFT. At most of the other eight schools, teachers organized on their own. The UFT’s charter schools opened with unionized teachers.

Five charter schools remain without contracts, including three – Bronx Academy of Promise, Merrick Academy and New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industries – that have been without contracts for more than two years. In an interview last week, Casey said that those schools are in the final stages of ratification and should have contracts in place soon.

“The first contract always takes the most amount of energy in terms of negotiations,” Casey said. “You’re starting all sorts of things from scratch.”

Two other schools – Opportunity Charter School and Fahari Academy – only organized in recent months.

Many of the unionized charter schools struggled academically, both before and after the vote to unionize. According to the latest progress reports, eight of the unionized middle and elementary school scored a C or lower.

The latest developments come at a time when the UFT is boosting efforts to recruit teachers working for charter schools. This weekend, it is hosting a conference for charter school educators to discuss the goal of establishing a more of a union presence in charter schools. The event will also feature a panel with Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot Public Schools.

The contract still has to be finalized, after which it will be brought to the school staff for official ratification. UFT chapter leaders at the school officially recommended that their colleagues vote to approve the contract in a meeting on Wednesday.

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