Sunday, April 6, 2008

Studying contract: a PD everyone can enjoy

If you’re looking for the best ways educators can spend their time twice a month “developing” themselves, I can think of few topics more essential to our working life than studying contract.

It came to me after I finished reading Chaz’s article on probable cause, which is one of many posts in the blogosphere that focuses on something ambiguous in the current contract. The hearsay issue he discusses (Appendix H) has dangerous implications for teachers, perhaps even illegal ones. The ICEblog examines other clauses (e.g., 55/25 here, and letters in the file here), and doublespeak and obfuscation problems are explored by Ednotes (excessing), on this site (the stealth linkage of merit pay and 55/25), and elsewhere.

We need to spend more time studying contract.

And not only us. Principals and APs should show more interest in spending time with it as well, because as much as the contract has been weakened by union management's inexplicable passion for collaboration and BloomKlein’s ruthlessness, many administrators will still try to circumvent it. Some guess their way through the protocols or work from articles long since superseded. Others use it maliciously, or bend it with the help of weak or misguided CLs. A few just don’t know it well enough and can really hurt us through sheer ignorance, especially when it comes to charges.

Perhaps it’s the Board’s own grievance hearing people who would most benefit by contract PD. They’ve been denying pretty much everything at Step II, and nobody can convince me it’s always the grievant who’s wrong. Wouldn't it be nice if they too sat down on a regular basis and studied contract.

It’s a daunting task to get a handle on this tome of a Memorandum, and if the truth be known, I barely looked at it for the first ten years of my career. The vets did, though. I remember seeing them refer to their dog-eared copies all the time.

We all need to study contract.

I’m sure if we did this regularly in afternoon PD sessions — picked it apart, exchanged experiences relevant to particular articles, analyzed the ramifications of this or that, explored the history of the changes, posed questions and made up hypotheticals — we would get back two things we lost as a union a long time ago: perspective, and solidarity.


Chaz said...

Interesting idea. However, I can't see how administrators and teachers could work on the contract together. Many of the contract provisions are unclear and open to various interpretations.

For example Appendix H is not in the contract but a side agreement between DOE & UFT. Or the changes in the 3020-a process cannot be found in the contract.

Woodlass said...

There's a concept I was likening all this to, but didn't want to offend anyone by making the connection. In some communities, scholars study Torah, and I'm not so schooled in their ways, but I am told they study the many meanings of the texts and try to get insights.

But that's my point. If the UFT bothers to enter into a contract or sign onto any addenda, they should bother to get the wording tight so we wouldn't have to resort to scholarly work sessions to figure out the intent. They've been sloppy or complicit, hard to tell.

Chaz said...

The more I read the contract the more I feel that the UFT kept the contract language vague (different interpretations) and hid many of the side agreements and their implications to the members.

ed notes online said...

Exactly Chaz. Intentional all the way. I always suspected it - like all the class size loopholes which we fought against in the early 70's and on. But when I was chapter leader in the mid- 90's I really found purposely ambiguous stuff in the contract that the UFT used to get away with but not as principals became more savy.

One example is that elementary school clusters "shall include 20 periods." For years, that was the number. But interpret the word "include" now to mean up to 30 periods.

There are loads of them. "File a grievance" they tell you and when you do they then say you will lose.

avoicein said...

I recently participated in a "mock contract negotiation" as part of a leadership program.I was assigned to the district side. My teacher was a superintendent of a suburban school district. He taught us all of "the tricks." One of the main tactics was to know more than the other side. Apparently, the district banks on the fact that the "other side" doesn't really know the contract. As we negotiated, we "offered" them items that meant nothing and that they already had! In return, we took a significant amount of time and money away from them.
They never noticed.

UA said...

I just re-read your comment, more than 3 years later. Wow.