By Hillel Aron
It was a real kumbaya moment at the LAUSD school board today as Superintendent John Deasy and teachers union President Warren Fletcher held hands and announced that, after months of contract talks, they had a "tentative agreement" to give more schools more autonomy than ever. (OK, they didn't hold hands.)
"For the longest time, there was a very narrow band of schools that had ... freedoms," said Deasy. Now, he says, "Every school in LAUSD will be eligible for those."
The new contract may prove historic. It lets a school's administration and faculty vote to seek waivers from longtime rules about hiring and firing teachers, school scheduling and teaching methods.
At first, only a few schools will be eligible to seek waivers from the rules, but the reforms will be opened up to every school within three years.
The United Teachers Los Angeles, or UTLA, will vote on the proposed contract by December 12.
"There's no question this is very, very transformational for LAUSD," Deasy says. "There has never been anything like this between the union and the district."
Meanwhile, the union and the district are still locked in a major disagreement over a key plank of reform: how teachers are evaluated -- and whether or not students' test scores should be taken into account when grading the teachers.
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While the new contract allows more schools to join the so-called "Pilot Program" (in which some schools already use student test scores to grade the teachers), the new contract does nothing to settle a feud underlying a new lawsuit over the Stull Act, a state law that governs how teachers are evaluated (See LA Weekly, "Outing Lemon Teachers at LAUSD.")
Deasy said that LAUSD, like most districts in California, has failed to follow the state law, but argues that the Pilot Program does. He says, "We have a disagreement about how we're moving forward. But we're moving forward."
UTLA president Warren Fletcher agrees that the details aren't exactly sorted out but says, "In short run I am very hopeful." He adds wryly: "This was the second-best thing that happened this week."
On Saturday, Fletcher got married.