Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc.

The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a new “Handbook”. The handbook will replace the collective bargaining agreement. Maneuvering over the terms of this very large document illuminates posturing and power structure(s) in our local government schools.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham wrote recently (September 17, 2015 PDF):

The Oversight group was able to come to agreement on all of the handbook language with the exception of one item, job transfer in the support units. Pursuant to the handbook development process, this item was presented to me for review and recommendation to the Board. My preliminary recommendation is as follows:

Job Transfer for all support units
(See Pages 151, 181, 197, 240, 261)

Superintendent Recommendation
That the language in the Handbook with regard to transfer state as follows: Vacancies shall first be filled by employees in surplus. The District has the right to determine and select the most qualified applicant for any position. The term applicant refers to both internal and external candidates for the position.

The District retains the right to determine the job qualifications needed for any vacant position. Minimum qualifications shall be established by the District and equally applied to all persons.

Rationale/Employee Concern

It is essential that the District has the ability to hire the most qualified candidate for any vacant position—whether an internal candidate or an external candidate. This language is currently used for transfers in the teacher unit. Thus, it creates consistency across employee groups.
By providing the District with the flexibility of considering both internal and external candidates simultaneously the District can ensure that it is hiring the most qualified individual for any vacant position. It also gives the District opportunities to diversify the workforce by expanding the pool of applicants under consideration. This change would come with a commitment to provide stronger development opportunities for internal candidates who seek pathways to promotion.

Employee Concern:
The existing promotional system already grants a high degree of latitude in selecting candidates, including hiring from the outside where there are not qualified or interested internal applicants. It also helps to develop a cadre of dedicated, career-focused employees.

September 24, 2015 Memo to the Madison government schools board of education from Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham:

To: Board of Education
From: Jennifer Cheatham, Superintendent of Schools
RE: Update to Handbook following Operations Work Group

The Operations Work Group met on Monday September 21, 2015. Members of the Oversight Group for development of the Employee Handbook presented the draft Employee Handbook to the Board. There was one item on which the Oversight Group was unable to reach agreement, the hiring process for the support units. Pursuant to the handbook development process, this item was presented to me for review and recommendation to the Board. There was discussion around this item during the meeting and, the Board requested that members of the Oversight Group meet again in an attempt to reach consensus.

Per the Board’s direction, District and employee representatives on the Oversight Group came together to work on coming to consensus on the one remaining item in the Handbook. The group had a productive dialog and concluded that with more time, the group would be able to work together to resolve this issue. Given that the Handbook does not go into effect until July1, 2016, the group agreed to leave the issue regarding the hiring process for the support units unresolved at this point and to include in the Handbook the phrase “To Be Determined” in the applicable sections. As such, there is no longer an open item. When you vote on the Handbook on Monday, the section on the “Selection Process” in the various addenda for the applicable support units will state “To Be Determined” with an agreement on the part of the Oversight Group to continue to meet and develop final language that the Board will approve before the Handbook takes effect in the 2016-17 school year.

Current Collective Bargaining Agreement (160 page PDF) Wordcloud:

Madison government school district 2015-2016 Collective Bargaining Agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc. (160 page PDF) Wordcloud

Proposed Employee Handbook (304 Page PDF9.21.2015 slide presentation) Wordcloud:

Madison government school district


1. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has filed suit to vacate the Madison government schools collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc.

2. Attorney Lester Pines has spent considerable time litigating Act 10 on behalf of Madison Teachers, Inc. – with some success.

3. The collective bargaining agreement has been used to prevent the development of non-Madison Government school models, such as independent charter, virtual and voucher organizations. This one size fits all approach was manifested by the rejection [Kaleem Caire letter] of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

4. Yet, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than $15,000 per student annually. See also “What’s different, this time?

5. Comparing Madison, Long Beach and Boston government school teacher union contracts. Current Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has cited Boston and Long Beach government schools as Districts that have narrowed the achievement gap. Both government districts offer a variety of school governance models, which is quite different than Madison’s long-time “one size fits all approach”.

6. Nearby Oconomowoc is paying fewer teachers more.

7. Minneapolis teacher union approved to authorize charter schools.

8. Madison Teachers, Inc. commentary on the proposed handbook (Notes and links). Wordcloud:

9. A rather astonishing quote:

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes.

10. 1,570,000 for four senators – WEAC.

11. Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Schwerpunkt via wikipedia.