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School committee, NEA eliminate TE@CH program

December 16, 2013

WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — The Chariho Regional School District Committee and National Education Association (NEA) Chariho have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to adjust the 2012-2015 contract such that the TE@CH program, a performance-based compensation program, will be eliminated. The TE@CH program will be replaced with the “Recognizing Excellence, Encouraging Leaders Plan” that will reward outstanding educators and education support professionals in a variety of ways.

Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said the new program is a comprehensive recognition program.

“It takes some of our existing recognition activities and strengthens them and introduces some new ones, such a Leadership Academy to strengthen our professional development activities in the district. Bob (Mayne) and I worked through the language on this and shared a lot of ideas,” he said.

The new program will cost $35,200 per year – substantially less than TE@CH, which cost $200,000 per year.

“Adoption of this plan will allow you to remove about $165,000 from your budget,” Ricci told the school committee.

Upon hearing the savings to the budget, the committee members approved the new program posthaste.

After the meeting, NEA Chariho President Robert Mayne said that the MOA stemmed from last May when the NEA membership brought forward a proposal to give back last year’s $200,000 designated for TE@CH.

“What was approved by both the school committee and my membership was that the superintendent and I would come to both parties with a proposed draft of a MOA that would eliminate TE@CH, thus bringing up last year’s $200,000 and the balance of whatever has not been used for the Recognizing Excellence, Encouraging Leaders [program],” he said.

Mayne said the Recognizing Excellence, Encouraging Leaders Plan had some costs because part of it is a leadership academy in which teachers are used to train others.

“So, especially dealing with the 1:1 (adoption) that we’re going through – it’s a way to hire in-house people to do some training,” he said. (1:1 is a program that will provide each high school student with a personal computing device and will gradually replace textbooks with electronic versions).

In addition, eliminating TE@CH was important because it mistakenly incorporated Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) into the teacher evaluation process, Mayne said.

“The problem is that both the superintendent and myself and my membership and a lot of the school committee felt that the SLOs did not necessarily reflect the performance of the educator – either artificially inflating or deflating what we thought our performance was,” he said.

He continued, “So, if somebody does really well on all of the professional foundations and the professional practice but then their students don’t meet the target that was set at a very rigorous level, they’re penalized. So, why would you set anything at a rigorous level so that you can be penalized later or be told that you’re only “effective” as opposed to “highly effective,” or knocking you down a notch. We didn’t want people to get penalized for SLOs that really don’t measure the effectiveness of the educator, so we took that out.”

In addition, Mayne said, finding a way to lower the school budget was a priority for the NEA membership.

“Our intent was to save the district money, which in turn saves the taxpayers money,” he said.

“Nobody collected their TE@CH money last year – nobody went for it. It’s sitting in a budget item. With that one program we saved the district $165,000. And that came right from educators who were going to get some kind of bonus,” he added.

Mayne said the NEA membership voted to address taxpayer concerns, partly because many of the teachers live in the Chariho district.

“All that feedback that came from my membership said, ‘I don’t want the money and the taxpayers are hurting and we understand that.’ We’re addressing taxpayer concerns and a large chunk of our educators here live in the district,” he said. “And we fully understand the economy hasn’t gotten much better – it hasn’t changed like everybody had been hoping.”

He added, “It was unanimous – (the NEA) wanted to make a point: ‘We understand, we live here too. This is a way we can help you.’”
Mayne said eliminating TE@CH is positive for both the NEA and the Chariho School district.

“It was a program we didn’t necessarily agree with and was also a way to help out the taxpayers,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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