By Elena Perri

The Secondary School System of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Association of Catholic School Teachers, Local 1776 have reached an agreement, and the contract was ratified today by high school lay teachers in the 17 archdiocesan high schools. Classes will resume tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 19.

The new contract will give teachers an 8.3 percent salary increase over three years. This will result in a $1,300 increase in the first year, $1,400 in the second year, and $1,600 in the third.

“We are grateful to our teachers for ratifying this contract,” said Richard McCarron, archdiocesan secretary of education. “We believe this contract is a watershed contract for us in the way we deliver educational services for our students. We are very grateful to our teachers for returning to the classroom.”

Theresa Ryan-Szott, archdiocesan director of secondary school personnel and chief negotiator for the Archdiocese, said the central issue for the Archdiocese was “creating a spiritual and educational environment that was 21st century for our students.”

“We accomplished a tremendous amount of educational initiatives through this contract,” she added. “We are excited about the changes that are going to be able to take place in our schools, for our students, our parents and our teachers.”

She explained that the issue of constriction was addressed during the negotiations. “We returned to a traditional fashion of constriction, but we were able to achieve two significant changes,” Ryan-Szott said. “A teacher who selects a roster at the constriction meeting must have the credentials to be able to teach upper level courses. Any teacher accepting a roster at the constriction meeting will agree, in writing, to live by the expectations of that school and their academic program.”

In addition, Ryan-Szott said other changes include increasing the number of part-time teachers to enhance the secondary curriculum; adopting Common Core Standards; requiring teachers to use the National Education Technology Standards; and implementing GradeConnect, an online grade management system. She noted that teachers will begin using the grading system this year.

A new evaluation system will be used to recognize distinguished and proficient teachers, Ryan-Szott added. “We will grant tenure only to those teachers who are distinguished and proficient,” she said.

A change that will be implemented during the 2012-13 school year is an increase in instructional minutes for students. “During the life of this contract, the length of time in each class period will increase so that instructional minutes during the course of the week will increase,” Ryan-Szott said. “The school day will be longer; the school year will remain the same — 190 days.”

Mary Rochford, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, said students missed five days of instruction during the strike, which began Tuesday, Sept. 6. “Parents will be receiving a letter from us today notifying them that there will be five days that the students will be in class that were not previously scheduled,” Rochford said. “The schools will communicate the days to the parents. We have several holy days when the students will now be in school, and there are other holidays that the schools had planned that we need to take back to make up those five days.”

According to a letter sent to parents from Dr. Richard McCarron, Secretary for Catholic Education, and Mary E. Rochford, Superintendent of Schools, “The contract now in place is truly the watershed agreement we had hoped to obtain for the current and future benefit of students, parents, teachers, and administrators. It features the acceptance of the following items, among others, that we view as essential to continued educational excellence for our schools in a 21st century learning landscape:

  • The presence of Religious faculty membersin our schools has been affirmed as vitally important.
  • All teachers are to assist in the religious formation and education ministry of the school.
  • GradeConnect, an online course management system will be utilized by all teachers.
  • Structured lesson planswill be submitted by all teachers in the 2012-2013 School Year with in-servicing on this topic provided to teachers during the current school year.
  • Part-time teachers will be used to supplement instructional programs. This provision gives the flexibility needed to offer specialized and unique courses.
  • National Education Technology Standardswill be implemented as an expectation of all teachers.
  • Instructional time for studentswill be increased over the length of this contract.
  • Professional development time for teachershas been increased.
  • New provisions for teacher accountabilityinvolving expectations and adherence to safe environment practices.
  • A more detailed teacher evaluation system is being put into place based on Charlotte Danielson’s nationally recognized Framework for Teaching.It will make us able to recognize and acknowledge the quality of teacher performance and designate certain teachers as “distinguished” and/or “proficient.”
  • Tenure will be granted to teachers new to the System once they have earned evaluation ratings of “distinguished” or “proficient.”
  • Declaration of Purpose and Direction (Preamble): affirms the spiritual, educational and academic direction, vision and mission of our schools.

To read the full letter, go to: http://www.catholicschools-phl.org/contract-negotiations/