Burlington Education Association President Andrew Styles welcomes educators back to school

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Burlington Education Association President Andrew Styles addressed the entire community of Burlington educators at an inservice held at Burlington High School, August 22, 2019.

Below is the transcript of Andrew’s speech:

My name is Andrew Styles, I am a fifth grade teacher at Edmunds Elementary and president of the Burlington Education Association, the union of Burlington’s teachers and paraeducators

Today is the start of a new year for all of us. Standing here today, I see so many educators in this room ready to get this year started. Every one of you has already been working to impact students and we’ve only just begun.

I see educators from our food services program who have been providing meals to students all summer.

I see educators from the paraeducators who have worked this summer supporting students in SOAR.

I see educators from IT who have been setting up computers and making sure everything is ready for the kids on Wednesday.

There are teachers who took professional courses over the summer to improve their practice and teachers who have been working in their rooms for the last couple of weeks to make sure everything’s just right Wednesday morning.

Educators from property services who have been working hard all summer to make sure that our facilities and equipment are safe for our students.

Educators from central office who have been working to make sure new teachers are ready to start the year and implementing new systems for handling the business of our district.

Educators who are administrative assistants that have been busy getting orders done, coming in on their own time to make sure everything’s ready for the start of our school year.

I know that this list could go on and on because each and every one of us in this room in an educator.  It requires all of us to educate every single student in this district. We have all been actively working to get ready for this year. We have all come together from across all the different specialties that are represented here today with one goal—the education of our students.

I’d like to introduce the leaders who represent you as professionals in our district.

As I mentioned before, I’m Andrew Styles a 5th Grade teacher from Edmunds Elementary. I’d also like to introduce Ann McKay, a paraeducator at C.P. Smith who is our Vice-President.

From AFSCME local 1343, I’d like to recognize our Chapter Chair and Executive Council Member, Dwight Brown, a Senior Technology Specialist. He works with five other stewards to represent Property Services, Bus Drivers, Food Services, and Technology Specialists.

From the Burlington Administrators Association, President, Lashawn Whitmore-Sells, the principal at JJ Flynn.

Our officers from the BEA are:

  • Secretary Kate Healey, Art Teacher at BHS
  • Treasurer Marcel Girouard, Math Teacher at BHS
  • Communication Chair, Betsy Nolan, Music Teacher at BHS
  • Community Outreach Chair, Aranka Gyuk, EL Teacher at IAA
  • Grievance Chair, JP Gagnon, Social Studies Teacher at Hunt
  • Office Administrator, Barb Dusablon
  • Political Action Chair, Jason Reed, Teacher at Horizons.
  • Contract Chief Negotiators Dan Hagan, English Teacher at BHS and
  • Mike Leonard, Paraeducator at BHS

Our paraeducator negotiations team members are: Ann McKay from CP Smith, Kele Bordeau from IAA and Janet Smith from Champlain and IAA.

Our teacher negotiations team members are: Laura Botte, from Edmunds Middle and Aranka Gyuk from IAA.

I am so proud to have such a great team as we go about this important work.

It amazes me when I look out and see all of our educators. It is a privilege to represent our teachers and paraeducators. As we move into yet another year of negotiations, we are excited to be collaborating with a supportive school board to build the schools our students deserve. Our negotiating team will continue bargaining for the greater good. Connecting each of our contract proposals back to meeting the needs of our students. We need a couple of elementary school teachers to step forward to represent the largest part of our union and participate in this exciting work. Please see Dan Hagan today to get involved.

As you may have heard, Vermont is moving to statewide bargaining for healthcare. AFSCME and Vermont NEA have very thoughtfully prepared a proposal that would meet the needs of teachers, paraeducators, and school staff across the state. This proposal was created based on extensive research and input from members throughout Vermont. The School Boards Association has brought the negotiations to impasse with a proposal that would devastate the paraprofessionals and staff in our district and shift responsibility for rising healthcare costs onto our entire membership. The threat is real! Please stay informed as the negotiations move to fact-finding in September and possibly binding arbitration in December. This contract will affect every person in this room. It is imperative that we stay informed and ready to support our statewide negotiators if necessary.

The paraeducator and teachers contracts are available at BEAworks.com.  Please take the time to familiarize yourself with the contract. It was created to allow us to meet the needs of our students.  If you find that there are violations in your class, duty, or meeting schedule please reach out to your building rep to help address the issue with your building administration. We are here to help, so reach out to your building rep if you have concerns.

In addition to the state and local level work done by BEA and VT NEA at the national level our representatives and national staff are constantly working to increase teacher voice in public education policy.  We are the experts in educating students, we need to have a seat at the table. The “Every Student Succeeds Act.” moves policy away from penalizing schools with low test scores to providing support to their schools with the most challenging populations.  ESSA requires teacher input at every level. This is our opportunity to get the resources we need to better meet the needs of our students living in poverty, our students who are learning English and our students suffering from developmental trauma as well as bolstering our work to educate, inspire, and mentor the children of Burlington. Ask your school leadership team about getting involved in this essential work.

For our new teachers, the district and BEA have worked collaboratively to create a mentoring program for our new elementary classroom teachers.  It is our hope that this program will be expanded to include all elementary, middle and high school teachers in the future. Colleen Cowell will be facilitating the role out of this new program which will provide ongoing support to help new teachers reflect on and refine their practice.

The BEA will continue to work with community partners such as Outright Vermont, the Council on Temporary Shelter, and other local unions who provide support to our students and families.

Before I close today, I want to welcome our new paraeducators, teachers, administrators and staff please stand to feel the support your colleagues have to offer.  Welcome!

I am so excited to see what we can create, working together, hand in hand, to build and run the schools that our students deserve. It is an honor to share this journey with all of the educators in this room.

Thank you

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