By guest blogger Liana Heitin
In a vague press release, the National Education Association announced that it has linked up with the Alexandria public schools in Virginia to review the district's employee-compensation model, claiming this to be "a first of its kind partnership."
Superintendent Morton Sherman cleared things up for me in a phone interview, explaining that the partnership evolved from a casual conversation he had with NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. At the time, Sherman, who emphasizes that he is firmly against merit pay because there have been "too many failed experiments" with it, said he was "looking for other ways to move the salary schedule ahead." He found out that Van Roekel had instituted a career ladder while heading the Arizona Education Association and he proposed that the two team up. "How many superintendents have crossed the threshold at the president of the NEA's office to talk about compensation?" asked Sherman. "We had a good conversation and agreed to work together on shaping something. I had one condition: The NEA could not come with an agenda. And we could not come with an agenda."
Van Roekel recently agreed to provide the district with NEA staff members at no charge to attend meetings with a committee of the school system's teachers and administrators. The committee will discuss policies related to salary and benefits, career paths, recruitment, evaluation, professional development, and retention. It also plans to tackle ideas around extending school time, which Sherman says he favors.
The superintendent first presented some of his ideas for a new compensation model to the school board last November in a document you can see here. The recommendations were in part a response to the district's struggles to meet federal benchmarks. ACPS' only high school, T.C. Williams, was deemed persistently low-achieving in March 2010.
Sherman said he hopes to implement compensation and policy changes for the 2013 school year. "I don't want to rush into this. I want to spend time doing it well."