Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell announces funding for CBIA to start Project Opening Doors with Clay Mulford of the National Math and Science Foundation; John Rathgeber of CBIA; Don Clarke of the ExxonMobil Foundation; and Lauren Kaufman of CBIA's Education Foundation.

The State Board of Labor Relations ruled four school districts can give teachers bonuses as part of a program that provides outside funding for college-level classes.

The Plainville, Region 11, Windsor and Windsor Locks school districts can continue to participate in Project Opening Doors, a nonprofit that funds Advanced Placement classes in Connecticut public schools.

The board ruled against the Windham Board of Education in favor of the Windham Federation of Teachers on procedural grounds. Windham schools cannot continue with POD-funded classes until the board of education properly bargains over the program.

In its September ruling, the labor board found that the four other boards of education had properly bargained over the program.

Both of Connecticut’s teachers unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, have challenged the bonuses paid by POD to successful teachers of AP classes.

Three previous arbitration awards – in Stamford, Waterbury and Coventry – also allowed POD to pay bonuses to teachers. The Stamford Education Association appealed the arbitration ruling, but lost in court.

The labor board said the victory of the Windham Federation of Teachers might be short-lived.

“While it may very well be that bargaining and/or interest arbitration proceedings will culminate in results similar to those in Stamford, Coventry, and Waterbury we cannot deny the WTF (sic) relief on the basis of an assessment of bargaining proposals it is not our role to make,” the board wrote.

POD supports AP programs with funding and training in 23 schools across 19 districts. POD replicates a program from Dallas that has expanded to six states including Connecticut.

The nonprofit receives its funding from the National Math and Science Initiative. The Connecticut Business & Industry Association founded and incubated POD before transferring it to EASTCONN.

The program has five components, according to POD president J. A. Camille Vautour:

  • Professional development
  • Mentoring and support for teachers
  • Tutoring and Saturday instruction time for students
  • Open enrollment
  • Student and teacher incentives

POD, in imitation of the Dallas program, provides $100 to each student who passes an AP test with a score of 3 or higher. Each teacher receives $100 for each passing student and has the opportunity to earn additional money for crossing a threshold. For example, a teacher with 13 passing students could earn an additional $1,000 with additional bonuses at 15 and 17 students.

The thresholds are designed for each teacher individually.

In his testimony to the labor board last year, Connecticut Education Association executive director John Yrchik criticized POD for not using teacher input to create its program.

“In other successful Advanced Placement programs, that is not the case,” Yrchik said. “Educators themselves direct the course of the educational programs. The fact that this happens lends to greater buy-in among the staff, greater collaboration, greater support for the program and, I think, greater success.”

Later in his testimony, however, Yrchik admitted he had not asked any POD participants for their opinion of the program. Yrchik retired from CEA this year.