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District reaches deal with union representing principals

The agreement comes as the Washington Teachers’ Union enters its third year without a contract

D.C. Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee speaks at a news conference on the first day of classes at School Within School in Washington on Aug. 29, 2022. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

The District on Wednesday reached a four-year collective bargaining agreement with its principals union, after nearly two years without a contract.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser signed the agreement with the Council of School Officers, which represents 840 principals, assistant principals, administrators and school staff members including psychologists, speech therapists and social workers. The previous agreement was effective from Oct. 1, 2017 until Sept. 30, 2020.

“We know how critical this school year will be for our students’ comeback,” Bowser said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful that our students attend schools that are filled with adults who love them, challenge them, and who go above and beyond to support their development.”

The new agreement includes a retroactive 2.5 percent pay raise for fiscal year 2021, a 2.5 percent increase for fiscal year 2022 and a 3.5 percent raise for fiscal year 2023, which begins Oct. 1. Union members will also get a 4 percent increase during fiscal year 2024 — in all representing a 12.5 percent salary hike over four years.

The city is also increasing bonuses and including supplemental pay for members, a recognition of how many hours school leaders and staff members work outside the school day, Bowser said during a news conference.

Richard A. Jackson, president of the Council of School Officers, added that the new contract allows for members to get tuition reimbursement and sabbatical leave.

“It really makes a commitment to making sure that when someone comes to work with our families and our children, they’re committed to stay here because we’re going to support them in ways that allow them to have a good living, but provide outstanding outcomes for our students,” Jackson said.

D.C. schools and teachers struggle to reach contract after 3 years

The city’s agreement with school officers comes amid mounting frustration from traditional public school teachers, however. Members of the Washington Teachers’ Union, which represents 4,000 teachers, have gone three years without a contract with the school system.

Both sides had hoped to approve a new contract before the end of last school year, but remain at a standstill.

Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, president of the teachers union, said she congratulated her colleagues for reaching a deal.

“We’re very happy for them,” Lyons said. “But morale is really low. Teachers feel like they’re not respected and not supported. People do a lot of talking, but there’s no action.”

The union is in the mediation stage with the school district, a process during which a neutral party helps both sides negotiate. Bowser on Wednesday said she is “proud of the offer that we put on the table to them” but did not elaborate.

The current teacher contract went into effect October 2016 and expired three years later. Since then, the union and the school district have operated under the agreements set forth in that contract, but teachers have not received an increase in their base pay.

Teachers are, in part, paid based on how many years they have worked in classrooms. They have continued to get those raises while the contract is lapsed. The city’s public charter school teachers are not part of this union or covered by the contract.

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When asked about the offer put forth by the District, Lyons said that “we want what’s fair.”

Teachers have encountered other challenges in recent weeks, Lyons said. About 30 teachers said they have not been paid or received inaccurate paychecks this school year. Others did not receive stipends to pay for back-to-school supplies, she added.

School officials said that in the process of hiring new teachers, “a few employees are encountering challenges as we work to connect them to multiple systems.” Officials are aware of the compensation issues that some staff members have faced “due in part to paperwork complications” and the district is working to resolve them, they said.

Affected teachers will receive back pay, school officials said in a statement.

Lyons said members want fair compensation and better working conditions. There are also concerns about the way teachers are evaluated.

“We think part of great working conditions is safe schools and time to plan appropriately for students who have had the toughest three years in our recent history,” Lyons said. “What we’re asking for directly ties to student outcomes.”

More on local education

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On campus: The University of Maryland has pledged to expand aid for in-state students who have significant financial need. What the twists, turns and drops of roller coasters are teaching Johns Hopkins University students about engineering.