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The head of the Detroit Schools teachers’ union is scheduling a contract vote for Dec. 5 or 6 at Cobo Hall after a negotiation break-through.

In an announcement with Detroit Public Schools Financial Manager Robert Bobb today, Union President Keith Johnson said negotiations are 99% complete on a contract that expired months ago. Both said negotiators are taking a break for the holiday weekend and could have a final contract as early as next week.

“We’ll come back Monday, wrap this puppy up and put a bow on it,” Johnson said, “and get back to the business of educating our children.”

Neither Bobb nor Johnson would discuss particulars, including the possibility of wage and benefit changes. But the pair said at an 8 a.m. press conference that the new contract would include the following:

• peer assistance and review

• professional staff development programs

• school-based performance bonuses

• a fellowship program to bring in professionals to team-teach with educators

• a comprehensive teacher evaluation system

• development of new schools

“There was a time when Detroit was the urban model of what a public school should look like,” Johnson said. “And somewhere along the way, we may have lost focus.”

Bobb said the reforms could temporarily increase a $218 million budget deficit projected for the district.

But he called the situation an academic emergency in 172 schools for a district that sees only 57% of students graduate, 27% drop out and thousands more behind in their studies. He said the contract is designed to institute a cooperative environment for education, not a “dictates from upon high” approach typical of the past.

“Those who carry the burden of blame are those who have held responsibility for the Detroit Public Schools,” Bobb said. “I don’t think their track record speaks very well. No longer can we blame parents, or blame children or blame teachers.”

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