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District Crafts a 'Constitution' for Teachers

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Teachers in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, Ill., returned to work this month with a new contract that would make them among the highest-paid in the country, while also giving them substantial authority over school policies.

The three-year agreement, called a "constitution," provides a simplified and enhanced salary schedule that would permit teachers to earn as much as $68,000 a year. The contract also establishes standing committees of teachers, parents, and administrators to oversee curricula, personnel, and finances.

In exchange for the increased pay and authority, teachers will be responsible for meeting goals set by local school councils. In addition, the district school board can unilaterally disband the agreement--and cut teachers' pay--if it concludes teachers are failing to live up to it.

Teachers and administrators hailed the agreement as enabling them to work cooperatively to im4prove the schools.

"We didn't want to be reactive," said Marilyn J. Miller, president of the Glenview Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. "We envisioned what we wanted in the future for the profession and what would enhance education for students."

"Teachers, administrators, and board members alike are interested in all issues in education," said Elizabeth I. Dinsmore, a board member. "This agreement gives us the ability to talk continually" about those issues.

A New Relationship

The unusual contract represents the culmination of a year-long effort by the union and administrators in the 3,026-pupil elementary-school district to craft a new working relationship. The two groups said they wanted to expand on the kind of cooperation that had enabled them to work together in the past few years to develop a pilot career-ladder program and a model clinical school.

In place of traditional bargaining, teachers and administrators formed joint committees to draw up the new agreement. The panels, which examined issues of professional responsibilities, organization, and compensation, agreed to drop all of the work rules found in previous contracts, replacing them with statements of principles about education and a system of "checks and balances" to ensure that the principles are upheld.

The committees also agreed to upgrade teachers' qualifications by requiring all teachers to earn a master's degree within five years of starting in the district.

William J. Attea, the district's superintendent, predicted that the community will back the arrangement.

"If they set expectations high, and we meet the expectations of the community, the community will support us," he said.--rr

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