Givebacks by school district unions? Not so fast . . .

Posted: August 03, 2011

SCHOOL DISTRICT officials will be hard-pressed to get the concessions they asked for from principals, union officials said a day after members learned of the district's giving bonuses to 10 favored principals.

Administrators are scheduled to vote today on a tentative deal reached last month between district and union officials to close a huge budget gap. Details of the deal haven't been disclosed.

Reopening the principals' contract was a hard sell in the first place, but after the Daily News reported yesterday that the district had rewarded or promised $10,000 bonuses to 10 principals with connections to Promise Academies, some said the district killed any chances of getting an agreement.

"It made a lot of people angry," said a union official who has asked not to be identified. "We're in the middle of a crisis and

you're taking out of people's pockets, but giving bonuses."

Robert McGrogan, president of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, said many of his members believe that their contract should be honored.

"Dr. Ackerman [has] a contract that she expects to be honored, but unions have been asked [to make] concessions related to theirs," he said.

For her part, Ackerman worked 20 days without pay and delayed taking a $100,000 performance bonus.

In response to union members' concerns, district spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser said last night that officials have a "solid and strong relationship with union partners" and are ready to deal with any concerns that may come up.

"We listen and look to address all concerns they may have in the past and in the future," Fraser said.

The district's five unions were asked for $75 million in employee givebacks to help stave off further cuts to jobs and programs.

The principals' union and the union that represents maintenance workers were the only two to agree to renegotiate contracts.

Their ire was rekindled after district officials this year and last gave four principals the extra pay for helping shape and implement Ackerman's key but controversial Promise Academy initiative, which overhauls struggling schools with new resources.

In November, officials plan to hand out six more to leaders who stayed at their schools past their first year.

Many of their colleagues throughout the district say they are perplexed by what they perceive as the district playing favorites. Meanwhile, others say that persistent rumors of Ackerman possibly leaving have left them skeptical of what lies ahead.

"We're waiting around to see what's going to fall next," said the principal of a South Philadelphia school, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "Ackerman is not going to be here much longer, and we're voting on something that's going to affect us in the long run."

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