For months, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has said he wants to steer more of New York City’s best principals to its lowest-performing schools. His remarks have fueled speculation that contract talks with administrators might yield changes in the way the system deploys its school leaders.
Not this time around, it seems.
Officials of the union that represents principals and other educational administrators in New York say they’ve reached a tentative agreement with city negotiators on a contract that includes no new provisions aimed at moving principals around within the 1.1 million-student district.
Members of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators have until May 8 to vote on the deal, which calls for an 8 percent wage hike over 27 months.
Jill S. Levy, the president of the union, said it wasn’t the right time for administrators to accept major changes in work rules. She points out that the current contract expired two years ago. Also, since the agreement now being voted on would be retroactive to April 2001, it would itself expire at the end of this school year.
After that, new talks could begin—although, according to the practice in the city, not until a new contract with the United Federation of Teachers is negotiated.
“After this is implemented,” Ms. Levy said of the administrators’ new contract, “then maybe we can have some serious conversation about what life should look like for principals and other people in the system.”
A spokesman for the chancellor’s office said last week that officials there would not comment on the ongoing collective bargaining process. But it’s no secret that Mr. Klein considers strengthening school leadership a hallmark of his improvement strategy for the nation’s largest school system.
In a series of proposals unveiled in December, the chancellor suggested paying $25,000 annual bonuses to experienced principals who agreed to spend three years helping to turn around low-performing schools. The plan was for participants in the bonus program to mentor aspiring principals who would take over the schools after the third year. (“N.Y.C. Chancellor Aims to Bolster Instructional Leadership,” Jan. 8, 2003.)
According to the CSA, however, the idea bogged down in the recent contract talks over whether the bonus money would be “pensionable.” Union leaders say negotiators for the district balked at their contention that the stipends should figure into the income that determines the size of administrators’ retirement benefits.
Ms. Levy said her group also rebuffed attempts to give the chancellor new authority to transfer principals between schools. Currently, principals are hired through a process in which committees of educators and parents at schools screen candidates for the positions.
Colman Genn, a former superintendent in the city’s Queens borough, said he wasn’t surprised that such changes didn’t make it into the new labor agreement. But he hopes similar proposals are able to survive the next round of negotiations.
“Right now, it’s like an industry that can’t move its people where they’re needed,” said Mr. Genn, who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association, a local nonprofit group.
News of the tentative administrators’ contract comes amid intensifying debate over the education policy changes undertaken in New York since last spring, when state lawmakers gave Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg control of the city’s school system.
At a hearing last week, legislators grilled one of Mr. Bloomberg’s deputies and Mr. Klein—who is the mayor’s handpicked schools chief—over plans to reorganize the city’s 32 community school districts into 10 regions that report more directly to the chancellor’s office. Key members of the state legislature argue that the mayor lacks the legal authority to make such changes.
In at least one respect, though, the labor agreement now before the city’s administrators would further Mr. Klein’s objective of improving the system’s corps of principals. Along with the 8 percent raise, the contract calls for additional increases for assistant principals to ensure that they’re paid more than senior teachers, which is not always the case now.
The change is aimed creating more incentive for educators in the system to move into administration. Predicts Ms. Levy: “I think we are going to have more teachers who have greater experience apply for assistant principalships.”