DMPS, DMEA Bring Innovative Approach to New Contract

The Des Moines School Board annually approves compensation packages for the district’s various employee groups, some of which are collectively bargained in negotiations that can be contentious at times. But the agreement between DMPS and its teachers unveiled at the Board meeting on June 5th is being hailed as a groundbreaking one that is the culmination of a collaborative process.

It includes an alternative contract that first-year teachers may opt for which is truly innovative in significant ways:

  • Teachers start out at Step 4 on the salary schedule.
  • They receive pre-set raises @ 1.5% in each of the next three years.
  • In each of their first four years, teachers work an extra two days and 90 additional minutes per week. All of the extra time is devoted to district-provided professional development.
  • During their first four years teachers are evaluated annually by a team comprised of their principal and two colleagues.
  • Teachers may not transfer buildings during the first four years.
  • If successful during their first four years, teachers are renewed and awarded one percent raises in each of the next four with student achievement incentives that carry the potential to earn an additional half percent in each of those years. The affected teachers will participate in the setting of those achievement benchmarks.

The alternative contract is designed to serve the following purposes:

  • Proactively address anticipated state/ federal mandates
  • Begin progress towards a revised and enhanced standard contract
  • Encourage staff continuity and teambuilding within individual schools
  • Facilitate the training of teachers specifically equipped to serve the needs of students in an urban, diverse district such as DMPS
  • Attract and retain the brightest educational talent at both the teaching and administrative levels

Those who opt into the innovative plan will achieve a Master’s Degree in Effective Teaching after six years of service in the district and be incentivized to stay for at least an additional two and hopefully beyond.

Interim Superintendent Tom Ahart and Melissa Spencer, the outgoing President of the Des Moines Education Association (DMEA), spearheaded the negotiations and both characterized them as cooperative and amicable.

“This is the right thing to do for our staff,” said Spencer. “Instead of a single mentor our new teachers will now have a support team and the professional development and graduate degree aspects of the contract will be targeted exactly to the needs of DMPS. This was a great process.”

Ahart expects this approach to hiring and training instructional staff will make DMPS a destination district for new teachers. “This program will attract teachers that want to stay part of the DMPS family and equip them with a unique skill set for moving into key leadership spots if they choose to later on,” he said. “There’s really nothing like this out there.”

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