When the Milwaukee school administration and the teachers’ union (MTEA) negotiated the school calendar for this year, both sides overlooked that the spring break would fall during the scheduled ACT college entrance exam date. So the school board sent the calendar back for renegotiation. Superintendent William Andrekopoulos couldn’t get the deal done; he handed the […]

When the Milwaukee school administration and the teachers’ union (MTEA) negotiated the school calendar for this year, both sides overlooked that the spring break would fall during the scheduled ACT college entrance exam date. So the school board sent the calendar back for renegotiation. Superintendent William Andrekopoulos couldn’t get the deal done; he handed the calendar off to the new superintendent, Gregory Thornton, to be resubmitted as is.

On his first day in office, Thornton came back to the school board announcing that, after a single day of negotiations, they were putting the finishing touches on a new calendar agreement that would move the spring break one week ahead avoiding the ACT testing date.

A similar impasse existed with the master teacher contract. Negotiations were into their second year with no end in sight. Thornton got an agreement in less than two months.

The simplistic answer would be to say that Thornton possessed superior negotiation skills that his predecessor lacked, too simplistic.

A major contributing factor was that the relationship between William Andrekopoulos and MTEA president Michael Langyel had become so bitter that the canyon between them was simply too difficult to bridge.

Thornton had no history with the MTEA and was determined not to let personalities get in the way. When the old administration team couldn’t get a deal, Thornton changed the players on the administration team, anything to get across the contract goal line.

The team had changed on the MTEA side of the table as well. With the sudden death of its executive director, Tom Morgan, the MTEA reactivated its retired executive director, Sam Carmen, who had a reputation for deal making.

I previously stated that a change on both sides of the table would increase the possibility of such collaboration.

Thornton couldn’t get everything done in the contract, and the predictable MPS critics will complain that he should have fought for more. But Thornton is, if anything, a realist. He knew what he could get done now, and better this contract than none. In the first two years of the contract, the superintendent estimates that health insurance savings will be in the range of $45 to $50 million dollars. Waiting for an arbitration award would have taken months with little certainty of similar savings.

So far Thornton has developed a positive relationship with the union representatives across the street. He will need to maintain that relationship because the road ahead is not likely to become any easier.

Comments

comments