DCPS reaches tentative agreement with principals union

D.C. Public Schools has reached a tentative collective-bargaining agreement with the Council of School Officers, the union that represents principals, assistant principals, business managers, master educators and other non-teachers who work in schools.

The contract would cover four years, from October 2013 to 2017, and would offer 3 percent annual raises for most of the union’s 600 members.

Principals and assistant principals — who, to the consternation of the union, received raises not available to other members in recent years — would receive a 2 percent salary increase in the first year and 3 percent each year thereafter.

“This agreement represents hard work and collaboration,” school system officials and union negotiators, led by President Aona Jefferson, said in a joint statement. “We are confident this contract addresses the issues raised by members of the union and rewards the commitment demonstrated by all CSO members.”

Union members must vote to ratify the contract, and the D.C. Council must vote to approve it, before it can become effective. School system officials could not say how much the new agreement would cost.

The school system and the union had been locked in a stalemate since the union’s last contract expired in 2007. Union members, with the exception of principals and assistant principals, have not received a raise since then.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement last fall, but members voted it down. Principals and assistant principals were particularly outraged by a provision that would have required them to notify the school system by February if they intended to leave their jobs at the end of the school year, or they would have to face a $5,000 penalty.

The new agreement gives administrators until March 15 to declare their intent to leave, and the penalty for failing to do so has been decreased to $3,500.

Jefferson and Jason Kamras, the school system’s chief of human capital, both said they were optimistic that union members will ratify this agreement.

“We had some good and productive dialogue,” Kamras said. “I think we’ve come to a really positive place.”

In addition to the salary increases, the agreement enshrines a merit pay structure that currently rewards principals with bonuses of as much as $30,000 and assistant principals with up to $15,000, and adds the possibility of $2,000 bonuses for other union members, Jefferson and Kamras said.

It also guarantees that members may use some leave during holiday breaks, and it guarantees that the school system will pay union members’ dues to professional societies.

Not addressed in the contract is the schools’ controversial evaluation system known as IMPACT. It is not subject to collective bargaining.

The school system’s tentative deal with the union comes as the city prepares to increase education spending by more than $100 million next year, and it comes after two other important labor agreements with unions whose members have not received raises in years.

Both of those agreements also cover four years and call for 3 percent annual raises.

AFSCME, which represents classroom aides and front office staff, has ratified its new contract, and the Teamsters, which represents custodians and some attendance counselors, is set to vote on its tentative agreement May 30.

The school system is still far from an agreement, however, with the union that represents the system’s more than 4,000 teachers. The Washington Teachers’ Union contract expired in 2012. Talks were reportedly close to conclusion last summer, but then-President Nathan Saunders lost his bid for reelection and negotiators had to start over with the new president, Elizabeth Davis.

“We have a lot of work to do on the contract with the WTU,” Kamras said.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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