Contract in Boston Calls for Site-Based Management

By Ann Bradley — May 31, 1989 4 min read

The Boston Teachers Union and the city’s school system last week said they had reached tentative agreement on a three-year contract that would bring site-based management and an “unprecedented degree of accountability” to the schools.

But Mayor Raymond L. Flynn warned that without new taxes, the city cannot afford to pay the 7 percent annual raises called for in the contract. The raises will cost $40.5 million over three years.

“He is very supportive of the contract itself,” Ellen Guiney, Mr. Flynn’s education adviser, said last week. “It’s precisely the kind of shift in authority that he thinks has to take place for meaningful reform.”

The mayor urged the Boston School Committee, which has run up deficits totaling $22 million in the last four years, to “get its fiscal house in order” so taxpayers will support his call for a tax increase, Ms. Guiney said.

Mr. Flynn has proposed a $362-million budget for fiscal year 1990, she said, compared with a $369.7-million spending plan favored by the school committee.

“Before we even talk about the costs of the teacher contract, there is a $7.7-million figure that is of great concern,” she said.

Further complicating chances for a tax increase is the mood of the state legislature, Ms. Guiney said, which is strongly against new taxes. Lawmakers must approve of putting a local tax initiative before the voters.

‘School-Site Councils’

The contract, which must be ratified by the teachers, establishes “school-site councils” made up of principals, teachers, parents, and--in the high schools--students to operate schools that elect to change their structure.

The councils will be responsible for setting educational goals, designing instructional programs, budgeting and fundraising, purchasing, scheduling, staffing and hiring, and parent-teacher relations.

The contract is similar to agreements reached by other affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers in Dade County, Fla., and Rochester, N.Y., that have given teachers a greater voice in administering the schools. The Boston pact, however, places particular emphasis on accountability at the school site.

Under the contract, school councils would receive a year of training, after which they would submit an annual plan listing their educational goals. Beginning in the 1990-91 school year, schools would be assessed against those goals based on a variety of indicators, including student test scores, dropout rates, parental involvement, and evaluations of the school climate.

If a school’s performance were judged unsatisfactory, and it did not improve following the one-year intervention of a joint labor-management team, some or all of its administrators and teachers could beel20lreplaced or reassigned, said Edward J. Doherty, president of the union.

“It should be noted that this approach is the result of lengthy study of systems in other cities,” Superintendent Laval S. Wilson said in a statement. “We recognize this may not be ‘bug free,’ but we also believe it comes the closest thus far to addressing the needs of those involved in the school system.”

Mr. Doherty added that the contract sets a “very different tone” for the school district. “Our bargaining historically has been adversarial,” he said. “We usually don’t finish until Labor Day and beyond.’'

The contract also provides for a “mentor teacher” program to help newly hired teachers, and a voluntary peer-assistance program for teachers who request support from experienced colleagues.

Beginning teachers will be paid $25,000 next year, Mr. Doherty said, while top pay for experienced teachers will reach almost $50,000 in the contract’s third year.

Business Leaders Satisfied

The contract agreement comes in the wake of a call for school improve4ment issued last fall by the city’s business leaders, who announced they would not renew the “Boston Compact” unless schools moved more quickly toward reform.

Under the compact, first signed in 1982, businesses guaranteed jobs and college aid for high-school graduates in return for systemwide improvements in student achievement and school organization.

In late March, apparently satisfied with evidence of progress, the business leaders signed “Boston Compact II.”

Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfield, chairman of the Boston Private Industry Council Inc., hailed the new labor-management contract as “fundamental to school reform and to the success of the Boston Compact.”

The new school-based management agreement also comes as the district is preparing to implement a student-assignment plan that will give parents a role in choosing their children’s schools.

Albert Shanker, president of the aft, called the agreement “a ground-breaker.”

“It demonstrates what labor-management cooperation can achieve,” Mr. Shanker said.

Teachers will vote on whether to ratify the contract June 15, according to Mr. Doherty.

A version of this article appeared in the May 31, 1989 edition of Education Week as Contract in Boston Calls for Site-Based Management