DMPS, DMEA Bring Innovative Approach to New Contract

While the Des Moines School Board annually approves compensation packages for school district employees, this year’s agreement between DMPS and its teachers is a groundbreaking one that provides new teachers with greater support and the opportunity to earn an advanced degree.

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, amicable, and in the best interest of students and teachers.

“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.”

The new contract includes an alternative contract for first-year teachers, which is innovative in several ways:

  • New teachers start out at Step 4 on the district’s salary schedule, and receive pre-set raises of 1.5% in each of the next three years.
  • In return, during each of their first four years teachers work an extra two days and 90 additional minutes per week. The extra time is devoted to 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 education 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.

In addition, new teachers who opt into the innovative new contract 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.