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Boston schools OK part of union proposal

Agree to teacher evaluation idea, reject other items

In an effort to wrap up contentious teacher contract talks, the Boston School Department announced Tuesday it has accepted several union proposals — including a possible compromise on a new teacher evaluation system — but rejected other union measures.

By agreeing to the union’s compromise on evaluations, the School Department is showing its willingness again to push beyond the biggest stumbling blocks in the talks in hopes of settling the contract soon without state intervention.

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“We worked throughout the weekend to come up with a thorough and well-thought-out plan that addresses the major issues that remain,” said Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman.

The department made its announcement several hours ahead of a deadline set by the union to accept or reject a plan it pitched last Thursday to resolve negotiations that have dragged on for more than two years.

The union had wanted the School Department to accept its entire plan, which called for the union to agree to the city’s wage increase offer and a compromise on teacher evaluations so long as the School Department accepts several measures from the union. It is unclear how the union will react to the School Department handpicking a few items, while also adding some of its own requests.

Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, said that union officials will look at the School Department’s proposal and “will respond appropriately.’’

The exchange of proposals is a last-ditch attempt to avoid having the contract settled by the state Department of Labor Relations. That agency said last week that it was honoring Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s request to select a fact-finder to investigate the contract stalemate and recommend a resolution.

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Menino requested the intervention one month after the School Department dropped a proposal to extend the day at most schools by 45 minutes — at that time, the biggest sticking point — in an effort to bring a quick end to the contract talks. But then the dispute on teacher evaluations emerged.

The union compromise on teacher evaluations involves implementing a system developed by the state that both the union and the School Department had criticized for a variety of conflicting reasons.

The union believed the state model made it too easy for school officials to dismiss ineffective teachers without first providing them enough help to improve. School officials, on the other hand, argued the state model was too cumbersome, saying it included too many deadlines and other procedures.

Boston, like all districts statewide, must comply with changes made last year in state regulations that call for making student test scores a central part of judging an educator’s effectiveness.

Boston agreed to put that new system in place for this school year, in exchange for federal funds to overhaul public schools.

Beyond the teacher evaluation issue, the School Department’s proposal also accepts the union’s request to hire six additional nurses and eight social workers.

But the department rejected two other requests the union made as a condition of going through with its concessions on pay and evaluations: reducing maximum class sizes in the sixth and ninth grades by one student, and hiring substitutes for absent classroom aides who work with special education students.

The School Department’s proposal also addresses unresolved issues on other aspects of the contract, such as awarding pay raises to new teachers based on performance rather than the current practice of automatic annual increases.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeVaznis.

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