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At least two decades of ugly tradition in Oklahoma City Public Schools was broken when the Board of Education approved the 2018-2019 negotiated agreement with its teachers March 5.

Over the last 25+ years, the district and its teachers’ union has come to a negotiated agreement no earlier than mid-summer and typically as late as winter of the year they were in.

But this year the district and the teachers’ union completed negotiations and the board approved the next school year’s agreement the winter before.

The board also finished off the same-as-usual process of cleaning up and then approving retroactively the agreement for the current school year.

Ed Allen - AFT-OKC president (file, Brett Dickerson)
Ed Allen – AFT-OKC president (file, Brett Dickerson)

“I’ve been in this district for 26 years and I can’t remember the board and the union coming to a negotiated agreement this early,” Ed Allen told Free Press.

Allen is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309.

The AFT officially represents all OKCPS teachers in negotiations with the district where the union chooses its negotiating team and the district administration chooses theirs.

He said in his memory the earliest the two parties have come to an agreement has been mid-summer.

Jean Bostwick - chief academic officer, OKCPS (file, Brett Dickerson)
Jean Bostwick – chief financial officer, OKCPS (file, Brett Dickerson)

Jean Bostwick, chief financial officer for OKCPS, was the leader of the district’s negotiating team.

“Both the AFT and OKCPS team are so proud of the hard work we accomplished together in this year’s teacher negotiations,” said Bostwick in an email. “Our teachers are at the heart of our mission, and they deserve all of the support we can provide.”

She said that with this agreement, teachers will be able to start next school year with a contract already in place.

Bostwick and Allen both were enthused that they got the hard part of the process out of the way although there are still some language tweaks that need to be made before a finished contract Is placed before the teachers.

They said teachers will move up one step in the salary schedule and one more step will be added to the top of the schedule to encourage experienced teachers to stay in the district.*

The salary schedule rewards years in the district and education levels but is not locked in from one year to the next.

Each year the district and its teachers negotiate whether teachers will move up another step on the schedule.

As a result of this year’s negotiations, teachers will move up one step in the salary schedule both for the current year retroactively and for the new agreement for 2018-2019.

In addition, one more step will be added to the top of the schedule for the current year and 2018-2019 each to encourage experienced teachers to stay in the district.

There were 19 steps on the schedule, this year there will be 20 and for 2018-2019 there will be 21.

The new step 20 for this year will give a $600 increase and step 21 will give a $700 increase.

Allen said unlike some districts, the OKCPS schedule is not uniform from top to bottom. The biggest raises in steps come in the middle of the OKCPS schedule where other neighboring districts have just about the same amount of increase between steps.

“We’ve always held out for our teachers to make more money earlier in the schedule, so you may not make more money at first, but you will be making more by mid-career,” he said.

New stipends

Allen said this year they did extensive work on stipends to strengthen extracurricular pay, especially for academic coordination at the school level.

The biggest accomplishment was establishing department chair stipends in 5 more academic areas in the high schools beyond the English positions they already had.

In the middle schools, six department chair stipends were established where they had none before.

In addition to traditional academic subjects, extra-curricular activities such as debate and several music areas will have stipends either added or strengthened.

Department chairs are peers among teachers in their same school who coordinate and strengthen the academic work of their particular subject areas.

Typically, they are chosen because of their experience and expertise in their subject area.

Allen said this year is the first year they have been able to establish department chairs in the middle schools.

*UPDATE, 2018-3-12, 12:15 p.m.: In our original report we inaccurately reported that every teacher would receive a $600 increase in pay this year and a $700 increase next year. Those increases go to establish new steps on the schedule and will not apply to all steps. We expanded our explanation of the changes to the salary schedule to give more depth of understanding.

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