The Trust Agreement Project

Broadening the Vision of School Labor-Management Relations: A First-Year Progress Report
Julia E. Koppich
J. Koppich & Associates
Charles Taylor Kerchner
Claremont Graduate University

The purposes of the Trust Agreement Project are: 1) to develop new forms of school organization and new patterns of relationships among teachers and school administrators, and 2) to expand the range of labor-management discussions in education from the technical, procedural work rules that are the traditional purview of collective bargaining to substantive areas of educational policy.

The 1987–88 Trust Agreement Project was a collaborative effort of the California Federation of Teachers and the California School Boards Association, under the auspices of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Six California school districts­ Lompoc, Newport-Mesa, Petaluma, Poway, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz- participated in this unique experiment Each district selected an area of educational policy in which it would attempt to craft a oust agreement Lompoc, Poway, and Santa Cruz designated the area of peer assistance and review. Newport-Mesa chose staff development as its area of emphasis, and Petaluma selected the general area of staff evaluation. San Francisco chose to develop two trust agreements. One is a career development program for paraprofessionals (teachers' aides) to enable qualified individuals to earn teaching credentials. The other is an elementary school level interdisciplinary literature-based reading program involving a single elementary school.

First-year experience with trust agreements has led to seven tentative conclusions about the process:

  1. Trust agreement discussions are substantively different from contract negotiations.
  2. Strong union and district leadership are necessary components of trust agreement success.
  3. Trust agreements may not be prerequisites to reform, but they serve as catalysts to speed change..
  4. Trust agreements produce role changes.
  5. Determining the policy area for trust agreement work is not nearly as thorny as developing a successful process by which to reach agreement.
  6. The definition of a trust agreement is dependent on school district context.
  7. Developing a network among participating districts is an essential element of the program.

Significantly, trust agreements developed in first-year project districts have begun conspicuously to alter the ways in which organizational decisions are made. Adversarial relationships have begun to give way to collaboration. Teachers are being included as partners in decisions about the structure and method of operation of school districts. These initial results provide hope that trust agreements can help school districts to "leap-frog" from the nineteenth century industrial model on which they are patterned to a new model of organization and decision-making more appropriate lo schools of the twenty-first century.

Suggested citationKerchner, C. T., Koppich, J. E. (1988, September). The Trust Agreement Project: Broadening the Vision of School Labor-Management Relations: A First-Year Progress Report [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.