Contract round up: Sacramento, Baltimore County, Billings and Laramie

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After a brief hiatus, we’re pleased to announce the return of our “Catching up onContracts” series. Once a month, we report on notable changes, or the lack thereof as the case may be, in some of the new teacher contracts in NCTQ’s Teacher Contract Database.

This month’s installment covers the new contracts in Sacramento City Unified School District, Baltimore County Public Schools, Billings Public Schools and Laramie School District One (WY).

Sacramento City Unified School District (CA), July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2016

After a rancorous negotiation process, Sacramento City USD reached a tentative agreement in September. It doesn’t appear, however, that peace between the Sacramento City Teachers Association and the district has been restored, as the Association filed an unfair labor practice with the California Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) over a unilateral decision to switch health insurers. Just this week, PERB called for the district to enter mediation on the issue. But we digress; here’s a look at the major changes from the district’s former contract to its new one:

  • Longer school day for kindergartners:
      • A new provision allows individual schools to elect to extend the kindergarten day from 200 minutes to 255, just 30 minutes less than the primary teachers’ instructional minutes. This change can only happen if at least 80 percent of all full-time, unionized teachers in the school vote in favor of the change.
      • If a school elects to implement the extended kindergarten day, teachers may opt to “self-surplus,” meaning that the district would find placement in another school for these teachers if they opt not to participate.
  • Reduced class sizes in high-poverty schools:
      • Teachers of  grades K-3 in schools with more than 75 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch will see class size limits reduced. The class size limit will gradually drop from 32 in kindergarten and 31 in grades 1-3 to 29 and 28, respectively, by 2015-2016.
  • Longer school year:
      • With the restoration of two furlough days during the recession, the teacher work year has increased from 182 to 184 days.
  • Increased teacher salaries:
      • There is a 2 percent increase in teachers’ salaries in 2014-2015 and a 1 percent increase in 2015-2016.

Baltimore County Public Schools (MD), July 1, 2014- June 30, 2017

In Baltimore County, the latest teacher contract only made changes to its teacher evaluation process. Teacher salaries will be flat from last year to this year. Interestingly, while the biggest difference in teacher evaluations was introduced in 2013-2014 when the state required the use of student growth as a significant factor in evaluating a teacher’s performance, the contract makes no mention of this. The contract only covers those evaluation policies related to teacher practice. The previous and new contracts are not vastly different from each other, but there are a few developments:

  • Less frequent evaluations for tenured teachers:
      • Most significantly, the district now follows a three-year evaluation cycle for effective, tenured teachers whereas it was formerly a two-year cycle. There is a summative evaluation once every three years with formative evaluation in the off-years.  As before, tenured teachers who were rated effective or better have the option of choosing an alternative evaluation that allows observation of practice outside of a classroom setting (i.e., peer coaching, conducting seminars, portfolios) in addition to a classroom observation. 
  • Formal observations for non-tenured teachers:
      • Teachers in the formative years now must now undergo one classroom observation each year whereas, previously, instructional performance was presumed to be satisfactory based on the teacher’s previous summative evaluation.
  • Increased number of evaluation ratings for observations and final evaluation ratings:
      • In accordance with state law, the performance ratings have changed. The previous contract called for a binary rating system of satisfactory and unsatisfactory for a teacher’s overall final rating. We now see three levels: highly effective, effective and ineffective. On the classroom observation rubric, there are now four ratings.

Billings Public Schools (MT), July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2016

Billings’ new contract brings few changes. Actually, most remarkable is the lack of change. The contract continues to require that tenured teachers be evaluated at the discretion of the administrator or upon the teacher’s request. Board Policy has gone one step further to require evaluations once every three years. However, even with that, requirements are much less rigorous than what most other districts require. (Seventy-three percent of districts in the Teacher Contract Database require tenured teachers to be evaluated more frequently than once every three years). 

  • Increase in Pay:
      • The only actual change we can report is an increase in pay for teachers. Billings’ teachers will receive a 2 percent across-the-board increase this year and again in 2015-2016.

Laramie County School District One (WY) – July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015

Billings’ neighbor to the south, the Laramie County School District, also stuck with the status quo in its latest contract, except in salaries:  

  • Cost-of-living increase:
      • Laramie teachers will receive a 2.1% cost of living increase to their pay this school year.