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Schools Unveil $53M Plan

by Melissa Bailey | Dec 12, 2012 1:45 pm

(16) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools, School Reform

High-performing teachers and principals could be in line for $5,000 bonuses as soon as next spring, according to newly released details of a plan on spending a windfall of federal money.

The plan, released last week in response to a records request from the Independent, outlines the plans for $53.4 million in federal Teacher Improvement Fund money that New Haven schools won in September.

The five-year grant represents the first major national investment in the city’s school reform drive.

The money will “turbo-charge” the city’s efforts to reward, recognize and develop teachers and principals, said Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries.

The city snagged the grant after laying the groundwork with a landmark 2009 teachers contract that serves as the basis for the city’s reform drive. New Haven gained national clout for the way labor and management collaborated on a new evaluation system that grades teachers on student performance—but aims to give them extra support and a chance to improve before they are shown the door.

Click here, here, and here to read the city’s grant application.

Teachers union President Dave Cicarella said he signed off on the grant application with one key provision—that teachers have a final say in how the money gets spent. As part of the grant, New Haven schools agreed to set up a Talent Council of teachers and administrators who will determine exactly how the money gets spent.

The documents released last week give a vision for how the city will spend the money, including $12 million this academic year. Those details may change, however, as the Talent Council, decides exactly how the money gets spent. The council comprises three teachers—Cicarella, Tom Burns and Pat DeLucia—and three administrators, vo-tech guru Steve Pynn, science supervisor Richard Therrien, and Celentano Museum Academy Principal Keisha Hannans. Each trio was selected by its respective union.

The council convened in the days after the city won the grant. It has met three times, according to Harries, one of two main point people from central office working on the grant. No money has been drawn down from the grant yet, he said. The panel is still working to translate the vision into concrete terms: “OK, we actually won this. What and how do we make it real?”

Thomas MacMillan File Photo Cicarella (pictured) highlighted two aspect of the plan that will benefit the public school system’s 1,800 teachers. First, it will address an unevenness in the way administrators are implementing the new teacher evaluations, which debuted in the 2010-11 school year.

“Some principals do it well; others not so well,” he said. The grant will enable the district to even the playing field by hiring people to train principals and assistant principals in how to conduct the evaluations, he said.

Second, it will pay for teachers to receive more professional development—and for long-term substitutes to take over their classes while they’re off learning.

The plan also aims to address a deficiency in the system: That teachers have no avenue to leadership except by becoming administrators. Sometime in the second half of this school year, the school district plans to change that. It will name up to 180 teachers as “teacher leaders,” with a $5,000 bonus to boot. Those leaders will help train and mentor other teachers.

Similarly, up to half of all principals, or about 23, will be eligible for $5,000 stipends for serving as mentors to other principals.

The first batch of educators will gain that distinction in the second half of this school year, Harries said—after the Talent Council has defined the terms “leader” and “mentor.” The council has begun to wrestle with how to identify, select, and train educators for these roles, and what exactly the roles will entail, Harries said. In addition to the talent council, additional groups of teachers and principal will be enlisted to tackle those types of questions.

In future years, pending negotiations with unions, educators may be eligible for rewards if they score well on job evaluations and if they work in hard-to-serve schools.

Cicarella said if his union introduces merit pay, it will not be simply based on standardized tests. “You don’t pay for test scores,” he said. If a district starts doing that, he observed, teachers are going to “teach to the test.”

Key to the plan is a new fleet of “super subs”—full-time substitute teachers who will free up teachers and master teachers for professional development. The proposal calls for hiring three new super subs this year and three more next year, for a total of six.

Plans call for hiring a new administrative team to oversee what Harries is calling New Haven’s “human capital management system.” The grant calls for creating the following new positions this year:

• A new “talent office director,” with a $130,000 salary.
• A data analyst, to be paid $110,000.
• Three “talent associates,” paid $75,000 each.
• A junior recruiter to recruit effective teachers; $60,000.
• Six super subs, paid an average of $30,000 each.
• An administrative assistant, paid $50,000.

Harries said the school district has not started searching for candidates for those positions. Not all of them may end up getting filled.

Cicarella said before filling the positions, the Talent Council will raise the questions: “Do we need all those positions, and do we need to fund them at that level?”

“In this fiscal climate, we need to be sure that any resources we’re spending in central office, even if they’re grant-funded, are mission critical and will positively impact teachers and leaders in the schools,” Harries agreed. “We’re looking pretty hard at which of the positions do we want to hire first, which of them do we need,” or whether the school district may want to use the money in a different way.

Thomas MacMillan File Photo For example, Harries (pictured) said the Talent Council has shown an interest in assigning a super sub to each school, so some of the money could be shifted towards that purpose, with the approval of the federal Department of Education.

Plans also call for spending $1.14 million on hiring consultants in this academic year, and $1.4 million over the remaining four years of the grant. One consultant will advise the school system on revising its salary schedule to allow for “accelerated movement on salary scale for high-performing leaders.” Evaluators from UConn will give feedback on the city’s teacher evaluation system. Another consultant will guide expert teachers in training other teachers through peer-to-peer visits. Another will “calibrate” the school system’s teacher evaluation system. Another will strengthen technology, including creating a mobile apps for evaluating principals and teachers.

Another consultant would focus on “strategic budget reprioritization”—helping the school district find a way to cut costs so it can support the new talent management system when the federal money runs out.

Cicarella said the consultants have expertise the district doesn’t have, and are not meant to be long-term. “We’ll bring them in for expertise, but they should come in and they should go,” he said. “We’re going to make really darn sure that that’s what they’re going to come to do. ... We won’t have them hang around year after year after year.” Included in the $1.14 consulting figure are the people and organizations who will train principals in better administrating the teacher evaluations.

Harries said the grant is meant to will build on work the district has already begun in developing educator talent.

“We’ve been very clear in New Haven that the teachers, the principals and the educators are the most important part of the system. A lot of our work has been geared towards engaging, enhancing and working with those educators. The grant gives us the opportunity to accelerate this work.”

Some of the proposed changes—such as allowing high-performing educators to jump up to a higher salary step—would require renegotiation with the teachers and principals unions. The 2009 teachers contract is set to expire in 2014. Negotiations are set to resume in the summer of 2013 on new contracts for teachers and administrators.

Peggy Moore, president of the administrators union, said she signed off on the grant application and looks forward to seeing more teachers in leadership positions. She was asked about her union’s willingness to change its contract to reward principals for high performance and for working in hard-to-serve schools.

“I don’t wish to address that until we go into negotiations,” she said.

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posted by: anonymous on December 12, 2012  2:50pm

This is great - take a $53M Federal plan that is supposed to help children living in inner city areas succeed, and use it to increase the salaries of middle-aged union members who live almost entirely in the New Haven suburbs. 

The truth is, if instead of exporting all of our money, these types of bonuses were reserved only for teachers and administrators who live in New Haven, then we might actually begin to see some improvements.

Who is providing oversight to ensure that spending on this program is being done in an equitable way?

Detailed analyses of other Federal “stimulus” programs since 2008 shows that, in many cases, between 90% and 100% percent of the new dollars tend to flow to suburban areas and to people who identify as White/Caucasian. 

Hopefully that situation won’t happen here, but given that the unions are in charge, and that their leadership lives almost entirely in the suburbs, I won’t hold out hope.

posted by: PH on December 12, 2012  3:05pm

Love the idea of giving bonuses as incentive, and I am fully aware of the need to have competent management, but it is amazing that the only teachers who will be hired through this plan (the “super subs”) are getting paid about half of the administrative assistant’s salary!  And you could have four more “super subs” (though you gotta wonder how super they are going to be at $30k/yr) in exchange for a single data analyst.  Maybe the costs will be kept even lower by making sure the super subs are classified as part-time workers with no benefits…

posted by: streever on December 12, 2012  5:30pm

This is terrible.

Teachers at schools with students who are highly motivated or who come from wealthier backgrounds will receive bonuses, while teachers who struggle to reach the poorest and least advantaged children will not.

This money should be spent modernizing and upgrading the resources available to children, not chasing the repeatedly dis-proven myth that higher pay equals higher grades.

posted by: Bishop on December 12, 2012  6:21pm

I think the things that strike me as the most outrageous here is that the district feels the need to:

A) Hire new staff members to implement the teacher evaluation system THAT THEY DEVELOPED.  If no one in the district is competent enough to train and norm the administrators of the district, then it seems ludicrous that it should have even been implemented at all.  And I’m in FAVOR of rubric-based teacher evaluation.
B) The “super-sub” idea is absolute garbage.  Principals should be the instructional leaders of their schools and should be capable of providing support and professional development to teachers in-house.  If they can’t then they should be fired because the number one job of a principal is to support and develop their teachers so that they can better serve the needs of their students.  At the very least all of the instructional “coaches” of the district should be able to do this in-house.  Furthermore, hiring “super subs” means that the achievement of those students is somehow expendable and that it’s okay if they receive a less-than-top-quality instruction for any period of time.

Typical nonsense and a waste of money.

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 12, 2012  6:54pm

Astonishing.

Since hiring consultants and administrators seems to be the only play, then how about this?

Hire an expert to tell the NHPS administrators how to install and maintain a proper learning environment in our schools.

Now that would yield an acceptable, and rational, return on investment.

Astonishing.

posted by: TryingToRemainAnonymous on December 12, 2012  8:56pm

Your first sentence is misleading. A bonus comes as a result of hard work, not as a result of MORE work. You say “It will name up to 180 teachers as “teacher leaders,” with a $5,000 bonus to boot. Those leaders will help train and mentor other teachers.”

This seems as if the so-called “bonus” is just to pay for ADDITIONAL work…training and mentoring other teachers.

Has the union reached out to the highly-effective teachers to ask them what is needed? Not to my knowledge. Has the union reached out to level 1 teachers to ask what is needed? Not to my knowledge.

Streever is right about upgrades to the system

posted by: Jacques Strap on December 12, 2012  9:34pm

@anonymous - Quite frankly, I think you’re too caught up in race and New Haven residency.

1. You ignore the facts that John DeStefano and Reggie Mayo, an African-American like many of his administrators, live in New Haven and have overseen for nearly two decades a school system largely plagued by inconsistency, controversy and mismanagement.

2. You ignore the fact that a few schools in New Haven do excel.  Those schools have many teachers who are white and from the suburbs.  How come students at those schools can excel for white, suburban teachers, but those at struggling schools cannot (in your opinion)?

3. You ignore the facts that many of the city’s struggling schools have poor turnout at parent-teacher conferences; some parents threatening teachers and staff members, screaming and swearing during school hours when they perceive they haven’t gotten their way; some students who are indifferent, disrespectful and sometimes even violent; kids who habitually are tardy or absent.

You should be asking Mayo and DeStefano why those parents and students aren’t held accountable in any meaningful way.

4. How dare you say teachers in New Haven who don’t live in the city shouldn’t be eligible for raises.  What message are you trying to send by suggesting teachers aren’t worthy of raises/city support simply because they don’t live in the city, while complaining that money is allocated to the “white” suburbs?

Sounds racist to me.  Almost as racist as the African-American principal who during a CMT pep rally openly praised the “work” of Obama before the entire school and made all recite the “black” national anthem.

Now let me give it to you straight: People in the suburbs, generally, take an active role in their kids’ lives.  They talk to their kids, read to their kids, instill the value of education in their kids, and support teachers by attending conferences, responding promptly to teacher inquiries and ensuring their children come to school regularly and on time. Not all suburbanites do this, but most do, as reflected in their scores.

And guess what?  Many suburbanites are working two, three jobs. 

Oh, and in case you missed it, New Haven students can get a free or reduced ride to state colleges.  For doing exactly what their suburban counterparts do on a regular basis.  Except suburban parents have to PAY for their kids’ education.

What MORE do you want?!

posted by: A.T. on December 12, 2012  9:35pm

Sounds like the best teachers will be spending a significant amount of time away from their classrooms and substitutes will be in place instead. How is this productive in educating students in the “right here, right now”?

As for the list of new consultant positions- it’s simply sickening. I doubt that the current regime could find their way out of a paper bag much less reform a failed district regardless of the army of consultants. How about hiring people who actually impact children. For example, hire librarians (so that all schools may have an actual functioning, open library). Also much needed: special ed teachers, counselors, ESL teachers, tutors (for kids who need extra help and those who excel), school nurses, and paraprofessionals for each and every lower grade classroom.

I simply do not understand why this “reform” movement cannot grasp some basic common sense ideas. Teachers need support, kids need support. This support does not come from consultants. It comes from people who put in actual face time with kids.

Argh!

posted by: Patrice on December 12, 2012  11:46pm

As a human being this is disgusting. Is this what we have become? Do we really think that paying consultants and more NHPS administrators is going to change the realities of chronic, multi generational poverty? Are we really going to concentrate resources and spend said resources on “evaluating” teachers?  Teachers who spend 7 hours a day with students, Teachers who choose to work in NHPS because they foolishly think that they can remedy the symptoms of poverty and the structural violence that it creates. Judging teachers, really, is that the best we could do as a collective empathetic group? 
Paying teachers to demonstrate growth on standardized tests follows the same principle that money is the answer to all problems. That teachers will somehow work harder and sacrifice more to create these gains, is completely absurd. Teachers in NHPS don’t teach because they think that $5000 will make their lives or the lives of their students better, This model has failed time and time again, money does not buy and or influence teachers to increase their efforts at all. If anything, money makes teachers think, how can I get rid of this non english speaking, emotionally disturbed homeless kid that completely screws up my standardized test scores and essentially costs me $5k.

posted by: HhE on December 13, 2012  1:01am

There is some good here, and a lot that is bad.  Very bad.

I cannot think of anything that will gut a school faster than competitive merit pay.  Let the back stabbing begin. 

Principals as mentors does make sense to me.  About the only way someone can become a good administrator is to learn it from a good administrator.  One thing that some administrators are good at, and others are not is teacher evaluation.  My mother talks about spotting the good from the bad in her role with the Greenwich Public Schools.  So teaching administrators on this makes sense to me.

Super Sub may be a bad choice of words, but having a regular sub in a building who can mind the shop while a teacher is getting professional development makes sense to me.  Many districts employ long term subs, and I hold them and their work in high regard.  They know the school, its culture, and its climate far better than a day by day sub.  Not all in service can be done in house.  Some subjects, like Art and Tech Ed, really need staff to be able to go to conferences or such.  A Principal is the primary teacher, the Head Master, but that does not mean they can be all things to all staff.  While we can hope, and ought to expect, principal to know and be able to teach classroom management, staff development is also subject specific. 

The human capital management staffing has my jaw dropped wide open, so I am going to stop before everyone thinks I am a mouth breather.

posted by: Solsbury on December 13, 2012  9:53am

I really hope they follow what Dave Cicc said… no new permanent positions. There are at least two “teachers” in my building who think they are leaders and their position is a hold over from magnet funds that isn’t needed anymore.
How does this affect our current “leaders”? We have math coaches, literacy coaches, ELL coaches, science coaches, magnet coaches, administrative interns, deans, etc…
are these positions on TOP of those?
If they really make the leaders in areas that are NEEDED, that is great.. If it is just some teacher who wants to get out of the classroom, and couldn’t coach adults to save their life (like the coaches in my building), then no thanks!

posted by: Jacques Strap on December 13, 2012  10:07am

@Patrice - I agree with you.

Unfortunately, instead of holding accountable students and parents who are indifferent, disrespectful and irresponsible—a major problem at many of the city’s toughest schools—the city chooses to find quotes/research studies from people who haven’t taught in quite some time (or even at all) to justify its focus on teacher development.

The city does little to hold accountable parents who don’t show for report card conferences, who get their kids to school late habitually, who fail to ensure their kids turn in homework consistently, who ignore teacher inquiries or who simply blame teachers for their own child’s misbehaviors.

Think about this:  If all the “good” teachers are at the city’s Tier I schools (like Hooker), as this latest “reform” garbage would like us all to believe, then why doesn’t the city place those teachers in the city’s worst schools to help them turn around?

ANSWER: Because the city knows how bad teachers at struggling schools have it, and that they are every bit as competent and even harder workers than their Tier I peers; but what is easier for the city, holding accountable delinquent parents and students, or merely providing professional development to teachers to “show” the state and anybody else watching that it is “reforming”?!

Schools won’t improve until ALL stakeholders are held equally accountable.

posted by: anonymous on December 13, 2012  11:20am

Jacques Strap, you are missing the point, which is that all the money goes to places that don’t need it.

Granted, Mayo may live in New Haven, but considering benefits, he also earns something like $350,000 every year.  And he’s an exception - around 90% of administrator salaries go to folks who live outside the city.

How about cutting Mayo’s salary and benefit level by a third, and using that savings to hire more paraprofessional teachers in those low-income, low-performing schools where students are unruly? 

How about cutting other administrators’ salaries, by 20% across the board, too, and hiring hundreds of teenagers in Newhallville and Fair Haven for summer jobs so that they are less likely to drop out of school and go hungry all summer?

Race, being a common way in which people understand how our communities have developed, is just a proxy for this point - you can use just about any other measurement you want, and you would come to the same conclusion about who benefits from stimulus dollars like these.

If the City had residency incentives, such as homebuyer credits and free tuition for teacher who live here—like what Yale provides, very successfully—we might begin to make progress, instead of thinking that we are doing good but in reality, just enacting policies that increase inequality and poverty in New Haven.

posted by: Patrice on December 13, 2012  11:59am

A few points:

Teacher evaluation comes down to 2 factors. 1) does the administrator like / respect the teacher he or she is evaluating. 2) how can a teacher, school, district manipulate data to make everyone look good.

If your job was determined by students test scores you might fight tooth and nail to avoid teaching the emotionally disturbed, homeless, non English speaking student I referred to in a previous post.

The evaluation process is largely based on the evaluators own perception. We all know that many NHPS administrators have let their perception deceive them and create conflict. . 

Dr Mayo gets paid very well. Some would argue too well. I am more concerned with the army of folks that are also well paid to speak for him and make his decisions. It must be painful for a lobbyist with great intentions a no teaching experience to try to reform a broken school district with Dr. Mayo at the lead.

This discussion should be about how the NHPS could and should better their students and their families. Children who come from heart breaking conditions surrounded by poverty and violence are not addressed.

Where is the social development piece? Where is the discussion about rebuilding communities that have been ravished by the symptoms of poverty? Savage capitalism has thus far failed these folks. And the best Dr Mayo and his team can do is threw 5k at a very select few of teachers and hire more consultants w out teaching experience to bully them into submission or drive them out. Very concerning.

posted by: Teachergal on December 13, 2012  1:53pm

Patrice…DITTO!!!

posted by: Solsbury on December 13, 2012  2:13pm

@ Solsbury
There are not any current science coaches, who are you thinking of?

Because this is a specific limited time grant, any personnel positions would be for a very short time, as David stated.
I know that many options are being looked at, and I would encourage all educators, teachers and administrators, to give feedback and ideas.
Richard Therrien
NHPS K-12 Science Supervisor

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