As a 10-year veteran teacher, she said that under the new contract, her pay will grow by $50 a month. She said that's not enough to get her to sign a contract, given the conditions that she and her colleagues have to endure.

"I think offering a 1% raise and a stipend 'once the contract is ratified' … is just a way to get people to vote 'yes' without reading the whole contract or asking any more questions," O'Brien said in an email.

"I don't believe people understand or know the working conditions of teachers in the city," she said. "A 1 percent raise is almost insulting, given all of these things, on top of the fact that the evaluation system is unfair."

English said that while the increases may be small for some teachers, the career ladder gives them the opportunity to earn more than they could under previous contracts and other districts have seen salaries stagnate.

By earning achievement units, teachers can move through four "pathways:" standard, professional, model and lead. English said just moving up one pathway in the contract ladder could give a teacher an 11 percent raise.

Esther Ward, a speech language pathologist at Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary School, plans to vote to approve the contract because she has been rewarded financially for taking additional courses.

"Teachers work very hard, and I think that the way the contract is developed, it promotes a nice way of being able to gain more money for the work that you do," said Ward, who has been with the district for 11 years.

"There's personal growth as well as professional growth in moving through the pathways. There should always be that natural desire to learn, and I think the contract promotes constant growth."

But one of the biggest complaints about the contract has been that earning achievement units, and thus moving up the pay scale, has been harder for teachers than originally promised.

English acknowledged that some teachers were told they would receive credits for activities such as staffing clubs and groups but then the district refused to accept them. She said the process of awarding achievement units has been inconsistent, due to personnel turnover at school headquarters.

"It has been very challenging," she said, "but it's been good work."

Many teachers also said they didn't believe the union had done enough to provide clarity on teacher evaluations, now that the state is requiring teachers to be judged on student achievement.

Baltimore is the only district in Maryland whose contract ties evaluations to compensation, and English said the union is negotiating parts of the evaluations that are not dictated by the state.

Campbell McLean, a teacher at Afya Public Charter School, said he supports this contract and that he and other teachers have been able to be more successful, financially and professionally, in Baltimore than ever before.

He said that while the implementation of the contract hasn't been "smooth," he believes that teachers should have faith. "We've always had pains in the neck, and we've always had red tape, but there was nothing on the other side," he said. "And now there is."

erica.green@baltsun.com

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