Mayor’s involvement fails to convince board to reach contract agreement that stems exodus of teachers and gives teachers tools to work more closely with students
BURLINGTON – Members of the Burlington Education Association will go on strike tomorrow morning as a last-minute call by a former federal mediator and Mayor Miro Weinberger failed to convince the board to reach a deal with teachers.
“The board continues to claim that it wants to work collaboratively with us to address the achievement gap, but their actions say otherwise,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School History teacher who serves as president of the 400-member union. “Today, they had an opportunity to work with us to address the achievement gap in our elementary schools. They did not take that opportunity. They had an opportunity to work with us to stem the exodus of teachers by reaching a deal that attracts and retains the best for our city’s students. They failed to do so. And they continued their years-long quest to institute top-down approaches that do nothing for our students.”
The teachers were set to strike today, but agreed to hold off because a former federal mediator invited both sides and the mayors to meet.
The board brought this clash to a head when it voted Sept. 1 to impose terms of employment on teachers only minutes after the previous contract expired. It was the second year in a row that this board imposed terms as quickly as it could. This board is also only one of seven in the history of Vermont to take this step more than once – and most boards have never used the option even once.
“We’ve compromised – again today – on health insurance and salary,” Brock noted, saying teachers were willing to accept the recommendations of a neutral fact-finder. “I guess the board really meant what it said when it rejected the reasonable approach outlined by the fact-finder.”
Brock noted that the union’s bargaining committee accepted high school working condition language that establishes a collaborative committee to examine means of providing services to students in effort to close the achievement gap. However, the board insisted on imposing too many non-teaching duties on elementary school teachers, limiting their ability to provide professional services to students.
“We’ve been trying to get the board to understand that elementary teachers are having too much of their time drawn away from one-on-one interaction with students,” Brock said. “And now, for more than three years, they still won’t budge.”
The city’s teachers will begin their strike tomorrow morning. For regular updates, please go to www.beaworks.com.