Mehlville students will gain 2.5 days of instructional time under new pact

Students, teachers, parents win with pact, Palamand says.

By EVAN YOUNG

Mehlville students will gain the equivalent of two and a half days’ instructional time next school year under a memorandum of understanding approved last week between the Board of Education and the Mehlville National Education Association.

Eight early release professional development days in the 2011-2012 school year will be converted to full days of instruction under the agreement, which the board voted 6-0 at its May 19 meeting to approve.

The agreement, which was approved by 97 percent of the MNEA members who voted on it, is part of a larger collective bargaining pact that was approved in February and next month will be up for renewal through June 30, 2012.

MNEA and board negotiating teams agreed during recent discussions to make the 16 hours of professional development offered to teachers on early release days voluntary for the upcoming school year.

Teachers who participate in professional development sessions will be paid $30 per hour, according to the agreement.

The result, Board of Education President Venki Palamand said, is a cleaner school calendar and the equivalent of two and a half more days of instructional time at no additional cost to the district.

“I applaud the MNEA for being cooperative, flexible and working with the board …,” Palamand told the Call. “I see this agreement as a win for students, teachers and the parents who will not have to make special arrangements on those eight early release days.

“It’s possible that elementary parents will see meaningful savings in reduced day care because of this agreement.”

Palamand served on the board negotiating team along with board members Tom Diehl and Rich Franz, Noble and other district officials.

Representing the MNEA were chief negotiator Mike Ghormley, association President Karen Torretta and other district teachers.

Superintendent Terry Noble told the Call that while professional development sessions will be voluntary for teachers next year, he expects they will garner full attendance.

“It’s incumbent on the district to offer high-quality professional development,” the superintendent said. “They’re going to want to be there as long as we follow through on that.”

Deputy Superintendent Eric Knost, who will become superintendent on July 1, said the different approach to professional development “raises the bar on us administratively” and that officials will “do our best to make sure it’s relevant and engaging.”

Among the other points outlined in the agreement:

• The district will pursue an additional revenue source by making attendance days for seniors the same as those for other students.

• A Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation Committee established under the previous agreement “will pilot a new performance-based teacher evaluation instrument during the 2011-2012 school year. The committee will evaluate its efficacy and refine it for use by the entire district during the 2012-2013 school year.”

• Study groups will be developed to “consider increasing the number of student contact days as the district is able to fully fund the salary schedule.”

One study group will compare Mehlville’s salary schedule with those of other county school districts. The other will do the same for the number of days the district is in session.

Noble thanked district teachers at last week’s board meeting for their work on the new agreement.

“The discussions process really goes well in this district and I give a lot of the credit to all of you,” Noble said in a prepared statement. “Because of you, our discussions process has become very informal yet highly professional, very respectful and it’s obvious you share the mutual goal of protecting the interest of the district.”

He added that the new agreement is “a reflection of the level of dedication and commitment our teachers continue to demonstrate year after year in making the long-term interests of the district a top priority.”