BEA President Fran Brock and Chief Negotiator Bob Church appeared on the Burlington Free Press’ The Table program on September 8th. Brock and Church spoke about the pathway to settlement, the lack of budgetary transparency and to urge the Burlington Board of School Commissioners to settle the contract for the 2016-2017 school year.
Catch the podcast on the Burlington Free Press’ website: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2016/09/09/table-037-teacher-contract-negotiations-cont/90120946/ or by clicking below. You can also listen to it through iTunes by clicking here.
Good morning! I am Fran Brock, president of the Burlington Education Association. Let me introduce your other officers, please stand: Andrew Styles, Vice President; Marcel Girouard, Treasurer; and Greg Gillard, Secretary. Also, here are the key committee chairs: Beth Fialko Casey, Crisis Committee; Tim Korman, Grievance; and Bob Church, Chief Negotiator. These folks along with their committees and the building representatives are all working for you!
So welcome back!
Primary grade teachers and paraeducators, please stand and stay standing: You have a crucial purpose. You are the group that introduces youngsters to the wonder and mystery of learning. You are the ones who ignite the candle in each child that will enable them to think.
Middle School teachers and paraeducators, please stand: You too have a crucial purpose. First of all, you are working with young people as they enter that dark and confused period of adolescence. You guide them through the frightening changes that confront each young person at this stage of human life. And while you offer guidance, you continue to nurture that flame in each student that excites the skills of questioning and thinking.
Okay, High School, Tech Center, Horizon and OnTop teachers and paraeducators. Please stand: Of course your purpose is crucial, too. You continue guiding students through the cataracts and rapids of adolescence. And you continue the work started in kindergarten, fanning those flames of wonder and query. But you also work with students as they prepare for the so-called “real world.” You are the final gate where young adults demonstrate that they have figured out how to learn what they don’t know; how to think through problems they will confront as they move out and into the community.
Everyone who works in the schools with the students should be standing, including guidance counselors, school nurses, other school-based specialists and of course, our librarians!
Now is everyone standing? Good.
Look around and realize that we are a team. We are in this together. We all are dedicated to teaching children to be independent, critical and creative thinkers. And know that we can depend on each other when we need help, when we have ideas and strategies worth sharing, and even when we might need to come undone. Okay. Give your neighbor a high five, and take your seat.
What is important for us all to remember is that we know what we are doing and we all share that common goal of teaching our young people to think. It is as the philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell once said:
“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”
That’s what we do and we do it very well. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. As we open our classrooms this week, we will look out on young people all of whom can and will learn to think! And we will be ready to guide, nudge, prod and humor our students through the sometime arduous challenge of learning to read, write and problem solve.
I ask that you ignore those who claim that public education is dead. As public school educators, we are committed to providing all students the opportunity to get a challenging and rich education. The greatness of public schools is the ability to educate all students so all students are prepared to pursue their dreams and to participate fully in our community. Those who suggest that public schools are dead are wrong.
And those who suggest that they have quick fixes for our teaching that will educate students faster and more efficiently should be greeted with a healthy dose of doubt. Learning takes time and focus. Current research shows that learning takes perseverance and grit. Curiously, Horace Mann noted in the late 19th century:
“Teachers teach because they care. Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience, and care.”
So as we start this new year, don’t let anyone rush you. Work with students at a pace that will insure that your teaching enables students to sincerely and deeply learn those skills of reading, writing and problem-solving.
Teachers — you are well-trained, well-educated and well-equipped to play your role in the education of each student. As a faculty, we have and will continue to light and fan that flame that empowers each student to learn how to think. Consider the words of that courageous young Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Stay focused on what you all do best: teach!
Okay! Let’s do this!
Burlington Education Association says Report of Neutral Fact-Finder Paves Path Toward Settlement
BURLINGTON – The city’s teachers condemned the chair and vice-chair of the Burlington School Board for seeming to choose disruption instead of negotiation with their public threats of impositions and strikes.
“It is disheartening to see the board throw around terms like ‘imposition’ and ‘strike’ when the report of a neutral fact-finder gives both sides a very clear path to a contract agreement,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the president of the Burlington Education Association. “At a time when our top priority as educators is giving the city’s students the best education we can, it’s distressing to see the board prefer discord to compromise.”
The report was given to the board and the association ten days ago. A mediation session last week saw the teachers’ make many compromises, while the board, unfortunately, preferred to walk away without reaching a settlement.
“With its divisive public rhetoric – coupled with budgeting decisions this year that hurt our city’s students – the board seems intent on disrupting over four decades of collective bargaining that has served the city’s students, parents and residents well,” Brock said. “We implore the board to work with us rather than try and gain points in the media. It’s time for them to get back to the table, and reach a settlement.”
The current three-year contract expires Wednesday. Below is a more detailed statement from Brock.
Since I was elected president of the Burlington Education Association last spring, and members of the School Board have taken their contract demands to the public, I have been asked to respond. I have not responded because, on behalf of the district’s 400-plus teachers, I believe in the collective bargaining process, and wanted to maintain the integrity of the process. Our Negotiation Team, composed of excellent, thoughtful and caring teachers, have been negotiating in good faith. Unfortunately, we are now at a point when the School Board is refusing to negotiate, and the community deserves to know that we have made significant compromises in order to reach a settlement.
Three years ago, the School Board and teachers with the support of the community crafted and adopted a provision into the then negotiated contract designed to lessen the focus on and the frustrations of negotiating salaries in future contracts. Teachers agreed to simply insure that Burlington’s professional teaching salaries would keep the city ranked in the middle of the county’s salaries, which would keep Burlington comparable and competitive.
Unfortunately, members of the current School Board — some of whom signed off on the agreement — not only disagree with the principle that the city’s schools should rank above the bottom third tier, but have argued that they are not required to honor the contractual provision.
In the interest of negotiating a fair and respectful contract, the BEA has agreed to accept the recommendations of a neutral fact-finder, and suspend what has become controversial language. However, we continue to support the principle that Burlington salaries must stay competitive with salaries of the neighboring districts. The fact-finder’s report concurred that Burlington should at least rank 5th in the field of 9 districts.
Teachers are acutely aware of the district’s financial situation. Three years of school-based budget cuts and administrative instability have led many in the community to wonder just where the leaders of our schools want to take us. It is a mess long in the making, but we still don’t have the details on how it’s being fixed. We do know that despite cries that teacher salaries make up the largest chunk of expenditures, teacher salaries actually have been accounting for a smaller percentage of the District’s total budget for the past several years. Salaries accounted for 35.04% of the district’s 2016 budget, and the BEA salary proposal for 2017, which would enable Burlington Schools to rank in the middle of county teacher salaries, would be 34.87% of the district’s current budget. What we do know is that this board’s budget priorities reflect a choice to slash programs for kids instead of leveling with parents and taxpayers.
The BEA has offered to reduce from 4 to 3 the number of personal days for each teacher. The BEA has offered to increase the teachers’ contributions to health insurance from 15% to 16% even though 6 of the 9 area districts pay 15%, and all school districts need to review health insurance costs for next year when the state system changes. In fact, the BEA agreed to negotiate only a one-year contract in order to remain responsible when the state system changes.
We have tried to maintain the integrity of the collective bargaining process by offering compromise. Unfortunately, the board Chair and Vice Chair in particular publically have threatened imposition of a contract from the outset. The Board has prepared press releases before negotiation sessions have ended. The Board has continued to show that they have no intention of meeting us with the spirit of compromise. And the Board has raised the specter of a strike instead of preventing one by negotiating a fair settlement.
The BEA shares the community’s frustration with the School Board’s failure to compromise. Burlington residents have always graciously demonstrated support of our public schools. We appreciate that support.
Teachers are prepared to settle this one-year contract. We know we need to start up negotiations again this coming winter. The Board however wants to flex muscle and show power. And in doing so, the board wants to disrupt four-decades of collective bargaining that have served the students, educators and community well.
The BEA will not be deterred from our top priority: teaching Burlington’s children. We invite the board to join us and reach a settlement now. No more media games. No more grandstanding.
Because when the board finally takes bargaining seriously, we can reach a settlement quickly. And get on with devoting our energies to making our schools the best they can be.
It is unfortunate that the school board and its negotiating team prefer to issue press releases rather than stay at the bargaining table to reach a settlement. Instead of trying to score points in the media, Board Chairman Mark Porter and his team should be trying to reach a settlement with the men and women who actually work in our city’s schools.
We will not negotiate in the press, because contract agreements are rarely made that way. Instead, we remain focused on doing right by our students, our schools and our wonderful city. All along, we have stressed the need for the board to negotiate with us fairly, and to honor its contractual agreements. We have also stressed the need for the board to be honest and transparent with the city’s taxpayers, educators, students and parents.
A fact-finding report, issued by a neutral third-party, has been released to the board and to the association. By law, only the parties can review the report in the first 10 days of its release. We chose to honor that 10-day cooling-off period in the hopes that the board and we could reach a settlement before our contract expires on Aug. 31.
Sadly, the board is more interested in making noise in the press than it is in reaching an agreement with us. There is still time, and we implore the board to negotiate with us at the table, and not through press release.