Lucia Mar instructors reach deal on training program

Members of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association have overwhelmingly approved changes to a training and evaluation program that was put in place at seven schools in the South County district in 2011.

On Friday, a day after the vote, teachers union President Donna Kandel said she was relieved that some issues over the Teacher Advancement Program, commonly called TAP, had been resolved.“We felt it was the best compromise we could come to,” she said.

The TAP system combines weekly “cluster” meetings with small groups of teachers to discuss teaching strategies, multiple teacher observations tied to elements of effective teaching, and the potential for bonus pay based on evaluations and student growth.

The district is funding the program largely through a $7.2 million, five-year federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant it received in 2010. The federal money pays for TAP at Mesa and Judkins middle schools and four elementary schools: Dorothea Lange, Fairgrove, Nipomo and Oceano.

The Stuart Foundation, a San Francisco-based independent family foundation, has also given about $480,000 to fund the TAP model at Grover Heights Elementary.

The program will end June 30, 2015, unless both parties — the district and the teachers — agree to continue it. The district would have to secure funding to do so at an estimated cost of about $250,000 per school, said Andy Stenson, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum.

Negotiations between the teachers union and the Lucia Mar school district stalled last spring after teachers rejected an addendum to the original TAP agreement.

Some union members had concerns over the way teachers at TAP sites are evaluated, in part by using test scores, and that the program’s potential for performance-based pay creates a disparate situation among teachers at the district’s 18 schools.

On Thursday, the teachers union approved an addendum that allows school sites to opt out of the program with a simple majority vote of teachers; reduces the number of observations teachers in the TAP program receive to three from four per year; and includes assurances that the program will not affect the district’s general fund.

“Having found a compromise on this controversial issue, we now move on to other pressing concerns, particularly the upcoming election which is so critical to the future of our profession,” Kandel wrote in an email to teachers.

The district also agreed to give all teachers a one-time bonus of about $500 each, though doing so is contingent upon the results of the November election. If Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike measure fails, the 10 K-12 districts in San Luis Obispo County face a $16 million cut in funding, according to local school officials.

The vote on the TAP addendum passed 300-55. Though not all teachers participate in the program, all members of the teachers union could vote on the agreement.

In an email to the district’s principals Friday morning, Lucia Mar district Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said students will benefit as a result of the teachers’ vote.

“The purpose of TAP and the reason we wrote the (federal) TIF grant was because we want to improve instruction and student learning,” he wrote. “By offering support, feedback, coaching and an effective model of instruction, TAP does indeed help teachers to improve their craft, and the main beneficiaries are the students.”