Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson wants new teacher contract talks focused on teaching time, "fiscal responsibility" and greater flexibility in hiring, part of "fundamental change" in district culture, programs and practices.
She pressed the point Friday, outlining plans for partnerships with district schools that could lead to more decisions at the school level on how kids are taught. "There is no way there can be a one-size-fits-all strategy for every school."
Details — including what happens if schools that get more freedom from the central office don't meet their goals — are still being "fleshed out," she told The Daily Circuit.
"We're saying that we're expecting you to make this level of growth, and you're agreeing to do that" when it comes to student performance and other goals, she said. "We say, 'You'll have the autonomy to do these things and be accountable for making those metrics' ... It's not totally do whatever you want to."
Negotations on a new two-year teacher contract started this week. Union officials want to talk about smaller class sizes, student services and more prep time for teachers.
Initial talks "went exceedingly well," Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, told The Daily Circuit. Teachers like the fact that school autonomy is "on the table."
The flexibility discussions, though, doesn't mean the district and teachers are starting over in how contracts are negotiated, she added. For instance, "We know that seniority is not the problem," Nordgren said. "We want to be careful it's not just at-will hire and fire."
The district has not put anything on the table to restructure seniority rules, Johnson added. "We can't fire our way to excellence."
The district, she added, also needs to do more to get parents and students sharing the accountability for school success.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MINNEAPOLIS TEACHER TALKS:
•Minneapolis schools tie reforms to achievement
"Moving away from centralized district decision-making means schools would operate more like the charter schools that have increasingly become their competition. But offering schools more autonomy would require new agreements with the teachers' unions." (MPR News)
•Teacher contract talks begin this week in Minneapolis
"Working conditions are increasingly a target of the critics of public education who style themselves educational reformers. That, in turn, has prompted a backlash among some teachers who argue that reformers are carrying out a corporate agenda to take over schools." (Star Tribune)