Celebration glosses over fine print on bonuses
My invitation to last Friday's Union Station reception for the 663 "highly effective" DCPS teachers must have gotten hung up in The Post mailroom, which happens from time to time. So I can't offer a first-hand account of the event, thrown by DCPS to honor educators who scored in the top echelon of the new IMPACT evaluation system. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said that after so much turmoil and unrest involving firings and layoffs, she wanted to do something that focused on the best the school system has to offer.
"I want the media and other people to focus on the fact that we have hundreds and hundreds of great people in the system," Rhee told WPFW's Pete Tucker, another uninvited reporter who showed up anyway.
Rhee used the reception to formally announce the first round of bonuses under the new performance pay system, dubbed "IMPACTplus." Teachers can earn annual bonuses of up to $25,000 for improving student test scores at high poverty schools, as well as base salary increases that could raise annual pay to $130,000 after nine years. That's compared to about $87,500 after 21 years under the old salary structure.
Not explicitly acknowledged by Rhee was that under the terms of the new labor contract approved in June, teachers who accept the bonus money waive their rights to certain considerations if they are excessed -- or lose their jobs because of enrollment or program changes at their schools. Other teachers in good standing who are "excessed" can take a $25,000 buyout, early retirement with 20 years service, or a full year with pay and benefits to look for another position in the system.
While it's in the contract, Eaton Elementary teacher Chris Bergfalk, one of the highly effective instructors, said he's not sure that teachers are clear on the conditions attached to the money.
"Teachers don't understand when they take that check they are giving up their rights," said Bergfalk, who is also running for president of the Washington Teachers' Union. "To me that's disgusting."
Rhee said Monday that before teachers receive the payments, "They'll have to sign something that affirmatively acknowledges they understand the conditions."
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September 14, 2010; 12:42 PM ET
Categories: Michelle Rhee , Test scores , Washington Teachers' Union
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