By Victor Skinner

CLEVELAND – Cleveland school and union officials have agreed on a new contract that makes several significant reforms, including shifting from seniority-based employment decisions to a performance-based system.

shakinghandsThe contract, which still awaits approval from the school board and union teachers, replaces the traditional salary schedule of automatic annual raises based on the number of years employed and college credits earned to a performance-based system utilizing “achievement credits,” reports.

“This is a huge shift from what existed,” union boss David Quolke said, according to the news site.

The impetus for the change comes from new state laws and the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, a strategy announced by the mayor last year and strongly supported by Gov. John Kasich.

The proposed contract utilizes a new type of salary schedule that requires teachers to accumulate credits to move to the next pay level. The credits are based on state teacher ratings and a new evaluation process that measures teaching skills and professional growth, reports.

Beginning next fall, teachers who receive a top rating of “accomplished” receive 15 credits, a “proficient” teacher gets eight credits, and a “developing” teacher earns five credits, according to the news site.

An “ineffective” teacher gets no credits, and has one year to improve or face termination.

Other parts of the three year contract are also promising. Teachers and support staff would receive a 4 percent raise next year, no general raise in 2013-14, and a 1 percent raise in 2014-15. The initial 4 percent raise is intended to help compensate teachers who will be at school 40 minutes longer each day to help students, the news site reports.

Union members will receive a $1,500 bonus during the first year of the new evaluation system, but will also be required to contribute more toward their own health insurance. Employee contributions will increase from $45 to $75 per month for single coverage, and from $110 to $175 for families.

The new contract would also limit class sizes, provide scheduling flexibility for school administrators, implement a team approach to hiring teachers, and shift from arbitration to mediation for resolving union grievances, reports.

The district’s new salary schedule will range from $42,215 for a first year teacher to $81,760 at the top of the scale, according to the news site.

School and union officials credited a new interest-based bargaining method for the first-of-its-kind contract because the system focuses on problem solving rather than opposing positions.

“We never could have done it by simply trading pieces of paper back and forth,” Quolke told

Teachers union members and the Cleveland school board are expected to vote on the proposed contract at the end of the month.

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