Teachers in the District of Columbia Public Schools system this week overwhelmingly approved their latest contract, a measure which now poises them to become among the highest paid instructors in the region.

The vote to ratify the controversial contract would give DCPS instructors their first salary increases in three years, an 11 percent hike that will take effect this summer.

Overall, while the final tally has yet to be confirmed, the June 2 vote involved about 1,400 teachers in favor and 400 who expressed opposition.

“After two-and-a-half years of negotiations, I am extremely pleased that our members have voted yes on an agreement that will provide teachers with the tools, resources and respect so that all children in D.C. Public Schools will have a quality education,” said George Parker, president of the 4,400 member Washington Teachers Union.

“The contract invests in teachers’ professional growth, creates conditions for success for students, boosts teacher pay so that it is highly competitive with surrounding jurisdictions . . . and includes new checks and balances related to reduction in force.”

According to terms of the contract, the top annual pay for teachers would exceed $80,000.

Beginning with the 2010-11 school term, the average salary would hover around $74,000 compared to the current $67,000.

However, because the salaries would be linked to performance, they are in turn, expected to help students in the troubled school system become more achievement oriented.

The increases also positions DCPS instructors—who this year ranked fifth for salaries in the Washington region —to move up to the second highest paid, behind Montgomery County, Md. With the exception of Montgomery County, DCPS teachers have typically earned less than their peers in Arlington and Alexandria, Va., and Prince George’s County, Md.

But WTU Vice President Nathan Saunders said he remains concerned about the 11 percent increase and its relation to pay-for-performance, the latter of which is linked to test scores. Especially “since hasn’t been resolved,” Saunders said.

Noel Cyrus, who taught at Ballou Senior High School for nearly 20 years before being fired last October in the chancellor’s reduction in force, has been working since March as a substitute in Prince George’s County Public Schools. “I’d like to see some of the money in the contract earmarked for salary increases used to bring back good teachers like myself,” Cyrus told the AFRO. “Chancellor Rhee said some of the fired teachers were not making a difference, but what’s ironic is that I recently spoke to four of my former students who’d graduated from colleges and universities this year, so I know I made a difference.”

The contract now heads to the City Council for its approval.