Thursday, April 18, 2024

The School Committee voted Tuesday on interim contracts for teachers and administrators. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Teachers and administrators, working without contracts, got an interim agreement Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the School Committee, implementing rules as part of new state standards for educator evaluations.

Under the rotating one- and two-year processes, everyone from the superintendent down will be always in some phase of evaluation, said the district’s executive director for human resources, Barbara J. Allen. In addition, teachers will play a greater role in self-evaluation and in setting goals for themselves and their students. But probably the largest change will be the shift to “more frequent, shorter” administrator visits to observe teachers in their classrooms, with immediate feedback and suggestions, although longer, scheduled observations will continue.

“For many districts, this is perhaps a dramatic departure,” Allen said, but Cambridge had similar policies in place as long as six years ago.

Committee member Marc McGovern, who is on the negotiating team with committee vice chairman Fred Fantini, agreed “we were in a slightly better place than other districts because of what we’d done in the past.”

The interim agreement affects only the two units of the Cambridge Education Association; custodians, food service workers, safety officers and the clerical unit had contracts in place this summer.

The three-year contracts for teachers, paraprofessionals and substitute teachers didn’t end until Aug. 31. The lack of contracts for some units as school began Sept. 4 was unusual but not a sign of troubles, Chris Colbath-Hess, president of the CEA, said in August. (Paraprofessionals will vote next week on a tentative agreement for a three-year contract, after which the committee will vote, she said Tuesday. Teacher and administrator contract talks pick up again in November. The agreement gives teachers and administrators salary increases now, instead of waiting for a full three-year contract to be approved with retroactive increases.)

The agreements are compelled by Cambridge’s status as a community getting federal Race to the Top funding, Colbath-Hess said, with other categories of agreements coming in future years. A focus on student growth, for instance, is to settled next year.

The various constituencies in Cambridge examined the policies collaboratively, McGovern said, which can take longer, while “there are other communities that just take the state model and impose it.” During the Tuesday meeting, he called the interim agreement “another example of us being able to work with the CEA and them with us collaboratively.”

Colbath-Hess, in thanking the committee for its unanimous vote, agreed that “both sides worked really hard to pull it together. We truly had a partnership.”

She said it was the district’s ability to collaborate and innovate that resulted in an invitation to take part in a National Education Association-sponsored 20-district conference held Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C. Representatives included McGovern and Fantini.

This post was updated Oct. 25, 2012, to show paraprofessionals had a tentative agreement ready for a vote.