Palo Alto Unified School District's secondary school teachers would be required next school year to use online school management system Schoology to post all course information, homework and grades under a tentative contract with the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) that is coming to the school board for discussion Tuesday night.
The new requirement regarding Schoology follows the airing of a grievance the teachers union filed against Gunn High School Principal Denise Herrmann in November, accusing her of violating the union contract by asking all teachers to use the online tool to post homework.
The grievance alleged that Herrmann violated Appendix C, Section 1 of the union contract, which states that "In order to provide readily available and inclusive access to learning expectations, secondary teachers are expected to electronically post homework assignments, instructional materials, and test and quiz dates ... in a timely manner."
The grievance was resolved after Herrmann clarified to Gunn teachers that she was asking, not demanding, that they use Schoology. School sources said the debate over Schoology continued to be a major sticking point in union negotiations throughout the school year, with the district insisting on the new mandatory language.
According to a district-prepared summary of new provisions, the new contract requires all secondary teachers to use Schoology to post their course syllabus, instructional materials, assignment handouts, graded homework assignments and assessment due dates. Test and quiz dates would be posted on the Schoology calendar, with the exception of pop quizzes, according to a staff report on the new contract.
Posting of assessment, test and quiz results will be required at least every three weeks, according to the staff report.
The new contract language itself has not been released by the district because the union had not yet approved it, which was expected prior to the start of Tuesday's board meeting.
The tentative agreement, which the district and teachers union arrived at after more than six months of bargaining, also includes a "memorandum of understanding" that establishes a transition period for teachers currently using websites they created on their own to post their class materials, according to the staff report.
This was a point of contention in negotiations before the grievance was filed, with the union offering Herrmann what PAEA President Teri Baldwin called a "compromise" in that links to teachers' external websites could be posted on Schoology. Herrmann later called this idea a "step in the right direction," but one that doesn't take advantage of the "power of the Schoology software" -- particularly a calendar feature -- to provide students and parents a full picture of their school loads.
"Teachers may post links to their websites on Schoology but will still be required to post homework assignments, assessment dates, and test/quiz dates on the Schoology calendar during this time," the staff report reads.
The district will provide ongoing teacher training on Schoology, which some have described as clunky and not user-friendly, and will create a committee of teachers and district staff to "explore the various learning management systems currently available," the report reads.
The new contract includes a range of other provisions, including a 4.5 percent increase to the 2013-14 certificated salary schedule, retroactive to July 1, 2014, and a .5 percent one-time "off schedule" increase. The salary increase is negotiated every year, so a new contract negotiation in the fall will determine pay levels for next school year and, if implemented as in the past, will be retroactive to this July 1.
If the contract is ratified, the district will also launch a two-year pilot program for district-collected student input into teacher evaluations at the high school level. Another memorandum of understanding commits the district to forming a committee of teachers and district/site staff to discuss working conditions for both special education and general education teachers in the areas of prep time, training and caseloads.
The new contract will be up for discussion at the board meeting Tuesday night, and then officially ratified at the board's June 9 meeting.
In other business Tuesday, the board will take action on a new proposed bell schedule for Gunn, hear a report from the superintendent's minority achievement and talent development committee, discuss a series of recommendations regarding Palo Alto High School's proposed new $42 million gym project and certify the results from the May 5 special parcel tax election. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.