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Miami Teachers and Officials Touting 3-Year Pact as a Model

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The Dade County, Fla., school board last week unanimously approved a teachers' contract that leaders on both sides hailed as a new step forward in collective-bargaining agreements.

The three-year contract will enable some teachers in the Miami area to earn up to $64,000 by 1990-91, making them among the highest-paid in the nation. In addition, the contract builds on earlier efforts to involve teachers in the design and management of their schools, including the selection and assessment of school principals.

Joseph A. Fernandez, superintendent of schools, said the new contract, which will cost an estimated $200- million over the next three years, proves that the district is serious about "restoring teaching to its rightful place among the professions.''

Negotiating teams for the district and the United Teachers of Dade, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, reached agreement on the contract July 23. Teachers are expected to ratify the agreement when they return to school Aug. 25.

'No Longer Adversarial'

With 260 schools and 255,000 pupils, the Dade County school system is the fourth-largest in the nation. In recent years, it has joined a handful of urban districts that have given teachers more say in the development of school budgets, curricula, and programs.

Contract negotiators said that improved relations between the district and its teachers had made the new agreement possible.

"The collective-bargaining process in our district has changed,'' said James Fleming, associate superintendent. "It is no longer adversarial ... where one group sits on one side of the table and one group sits on the other side and then it becomes a quid pro quo kind of relationship.''

Committees of negotiators for both sides worked weeks in advance of the bargaining process to develop joint proposals, he said.

Pat Tornillo, president of the teachers' union, estimated that over 50 percent of the proposals discussed at the bargaining table had been developed jointly by union and management teams.

"This is the best and most far-reaching contract I've negotiated in 25 years,'' the union leader said. He argued that it represents the "kinds of changes'' that need to take place in collective bargaining nationwide.

Nonsalary Provisions

In addition to the increases in teacher salaries, the new contract contains a number of nonsalary provisions. These include:

  • Allowing teachers in each school to help select their principals and assistant principals. A pilot program in 49 schools will also ask teachers to evaluate their school leaders.
  • Improving the physical work environment of teachers, from classrooms to faculty lounges.

Last March, Dade County voters passed a nearly $1-billion bond issue, most of which will be used for school renovation. Under the contract, teachers will work with architects to design new school buildings and remodel existing ones.

  • The district also will expand its school-based management program, which now involves 45 schools. Mr. Fernandez predicted that the number of schools participating in the program would nearly double in the coming year.
  • New opportunities for teachers to improve their professional knowledge and skills, including the creation of a "professional-leave bank'' for teachers that will enable them to attend educational conferences and meetings, and the expansion of an innovative staff-development program that allows teachers to take "mini-sabbaticals.''

Parent Initiatives

Other features of the contract are designed to make teachers and principals more responsive to the needs of parents and community members.

Student report cards, for instance, will be issued every 4 weeks, instead of every 9 weeks. And in some schools, a pilot program will enable parents to pick up their child's report card at the school and meet with his or her teacher immediately to discuss it.

Teachers have also agreed to come back to school in the evenings at least two nights a year to meet with parents.

And plans are underway to develop a community "report card'' for each school, which would enable parents and other community members to evaluate how well their local school is doing. Under the terms of the contract, a joint committee of teachers and district officials will help determine how the report cards will be developed and used.

Teachers' Salaries

Under the new contract, the average teacher salary in Dade County will rise from $30,000 at present, to $33,066 in 1988-89; $36,042 in 1989-90; and $39,646 in 1990-91. The national average is approximately $28,000.

The salary for a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience will rise from $21,250 under the present contract to $23,000 in 1988-89.

And a teacher who has 14 years of experience and a doctorate could earn up to $64,000 in year three of the contract, by agreeing to teach summer school and an extra period during the regular school year.

The district also plans to develop a career ladder for teachers during the 1988-89 school year. Although its details have not yet been determined, the program would provide an additional supplement of approximately $8,000 for some teachers during the second year of the contract.

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