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Christina teachers' union approves agreement with district in reorganization

Delaware Public Media

The Christina School District teachers’ union voted to approve an agreement spelling out their role in the district’s reorganization of its Wilmington schools.

Following months of negotiation, Christina Education Association members approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Christina School Board.  The agreement—which includes a longer school year and incentives for teachers to stay at city schools—was needed to proceed with the deal between the district and the state to reshape city schools.

Under the MOU between the state and the school district that took effect in March, students from Elbert-Palmer and Pulaski Elementary will head to new 1st-through-8th grade schools at Bayard Middle School and Bancroft Elementary.  And Stubbs Elementary will become a kindergarten center.

Sixty-two percent of CEA members turned out to vote on the MOU with the District last week, and it passed with 75 percent in favor.

Christina teachers’ union president Darren Tyson says he’s happy with the final result.

“I actually visited the five schools [in the City of Wilmington] and asked teachers what they wanted. And I believe that a lot of the things in the MOU that they asked for they are getting,” said Tyson.

Tonya Frazier is an ESL teacher at Pulaski Elementary, where she’s worked for nine years. She says one of her priorities for the MOU was that it address the high teacher turnover rate in Christina’s city schools.

“Something that would make the teachers want to commit and stay in the city instead of going elsewhere,” said Frazier.

Tyson says turnover at Christina School District’s city schools is upwards of 40 percent each year. The CEA MOU requires new city school hires sign a two-year commitment. It promises a $4,000 commitment bonus to new and returning teachers and protects teachers from layoffs during that period.

The new agreement also allocates $20,000 total per school year for teacher tuition reimbursement.

Leslie Footman has been teaching in Christina School District’s city schools for 23 years.

“Never crossed my mind to transfer out,” she said.

Footman helped negotiate the CEA MOU. She says it’s a start, but that adjustments like a longer school year will not address the bigger problem facing many Wilmington students: poverty.

“A lot of homelessness, a lot of food insecurity. I think what we’re seeing with the struggle for our students is not a lack of intelligence, but … that hierarchy of needs,” she said.

Footman has noticed these problems growing over her career teaching in the city.

“I can remember when in a school you might have one homeless kid in the entire school, and so everybody can use their efforts to support that family and that student,” she said. “Whereas now, the level of homelessness is so great— it’s the same resources, and so you’re stretching it thin.”

The new MOU between the teachers’ union and the district promises a school year that’s 20 days longer than usual at Bayard, Bancroft and Stubbs.

It states that city teachers will have the opportunity to order up to $250 of additional school supplies beyond what they’re allocated.

The agreement promises to keep class sizes for kindergarten through third grade between 15 and 18 students in Christina’s city schools. It states that city teachers will continue to be offered professional development though the Delaware Department of Education in Trauma Informed Schools, self-care and Restorative Justice.

The new agreement also allocates one reading and math intervention teacher, one permanent substitute teacher and one School Resource Officer each for Bancroft and Bayard.  

The CEA MOU is good til June 2021 — and will require renegotiation before then.  

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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