BEA President debunks board chair’s characterization of failed talks
BURLINGTON – The president of the city’s teachers’ union today pushed back strongly against the school board chairman’s characterization of yesterday’s bargaining session.
“The assertion that we were ever in agreement on economic issues is absurd on its face,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as president of the Burlington Education Association. Referring to Burlington School Board Chairman Mark Porter, she added, “He knows that we had been inching closer to an agreement, even before the board decided to impose employment terms.”
Noting that the association continued to compromise on health insurance and salary, Brock said the real issue was and continues to be the board’s refusal to work with teachers to address the achievement gap. She noted that the board and union negotiators did reach a tentative agreement for high school teachers. However, “the board just refuses to listen to us when it comes to the elementary schools,” she said. “While we did reach an agreement for the high school, we would never shortchange our elementary students and teachers.”
She said that the board and the administration have failed for years to work with teachers to ensure the city’s students get the one-on-one attention they all deserve. “We work every day to address the achievement gap,” Brock said. “We can’t stem that gap unless the administration actually listens to the professionals in the classroom.”
One other point Brock wanted to clarify was Porter’s statement last night that teachers were offered an 8 percent raise. “As to that mythical 8 percent raise, do you really think we would turn that down?”
The city’s teachers began their strike this morning. For regular updates, please go towww.beaworks.com. The BEA also has a strike headquarters at 294 N. Winooski Ave., Suite 125in Burlington’s Old North End.
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.
Contrary to information disseminated by district, the Burlington Education Association agreed to attend mediated bargaining session Wednesday
BURLINGTON – The leaders of the Burlington Education Association today agreed, at the request of a mediator, to meet with the board tomorrow at 11 a.m. and postpone any possible strike until Thursday.
“This meeting was called by mediator Ira Lobel – who invited the mayor – and we will arrive ready to negotiate a contract that at least covers this year and ensures that we can attract and retain the very best for Burlington’s children,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School teacher who serves as the BEA president.
Despite information released by the district, there was never an agreement to meet this evening. “We responded to an invitation from Ira Lobel, and we accepted that this morning,” Brock said.
If no contract agreement is reached tomorrow, the city’s teachers will begin their strike Thursday morning.
Last week, the members of the association voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in response to the board’s decision to impose employment terms minutes after the previous contract expired. The strike was scheduled to begin tomorrow, Sept. 13.
Dear Parents and Community Members,
On Thursday afternoon the teachers’ union overwhelmingly voted to strike next Wednesday, September 13, if a contract is not reached prior to that date. This vote is the direct result of the Board’s imposition of teachers’ 2017-2018 contract, the second time in two years this has occurred. An imposition is not a negotiated contract. It is terms unilaterally laid out by the Board for teachers working in the district. If the Board is not willing to rescind its imposition the teachers can either accept all terms outlined or strike.
The Burlington Education Association is fighting for well resourced schools that meet students’ needs, affordable health care for teachers and all Vermonters, transparency in decision making by the district and the professional dignity to do our work through adequate preparation time and workloads. We must recognize the impact of high-quality professionals leaving our district in high numbers, budget cuts that directly impact classroom instruction and constant changes in school leadership over the last 2-3 years. Are these the schools our children deserve?
The Board and the media would like you to believe that this imposition and strike is simply about money. This conflict has almost nothing to do with money. It is about power and respect for the professionals working in our schools. The Board discounts teachers’ voices and expertise and unilaterally makes decisions that directly impact the education and well being of our children. This type of unilateral decision-making is not what we as taxpayers want and is not what our children deserve.
Plus, please know, the Board enjoys direct, one-click access to all of the city’s Front Porch Forum (FPF) lists, school communication systems with parents, and a dedicated communications staff person to issue immediate press releases. Teachers are teaching during the day and not available to the media. We were denied the ability to have full access to all the FPF lists and also are prohibited from using any school communication system to communicate directly with parents. We teach during the day and must build a grassroots system on our own to reach parents and the community outside what the media chooses to publish.
Here are a few things you can do to support our teachers and encourage the Board to negotiate and settle a fair contract before next Wednesday’s strike:
The district will announce whether it plans to keep schools open without the teachers in the coming days. In case there was a strike this fall, the BEA proactively reached out to local service organizations several days ago to explore emergency plans with local service organizations and the Director of Food Service to help parents with child care and food needs. We have connected with the Boys and Girls club, King Street Youth Center, Parks and Rec, or Sara Holbrook. Please consider utilizing the Food Shelf for immediate food needs. Please also consider supporting fellow parents with creative child care as needed. The district will communicate any details regarding food offered at schools for children during a strike. Please call Central Office for further information. We do not wish to negatively impact students or our families and thus took extra steps we could to support the most vulnerable families in our community.
Lastly, please consider visiting http://www.beaworks.com for additional information on negotiations, to view the neutral fact finding report, and for lots of other helpful and pertinent information.
Teachers thank you for your support.
Burlington Education Association members urge board to return to table to avert disruption to school year
BURLINGTON – The members of the Burlington Education Association today overwhelmingly voted to strike beginning Wednesday if the city’s school board fails to return to the bargaining table and reach a contract settlement.
“Moments ago, my fellow members and I voted to authorize a strike beginning on September 13 if the board fails to come back to the table and stay there until we reach an agreement for a contract covering this school year,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as BEA president.
“We are done standing by while more than 100 of our colleagues have left the district over the last three years. We are done standing by while the board seeks to DECREASE the amount of time and attention we can devote to individual students,” she said. “We are done standing by while a shrinking percentage of the district’s budgets goes to student instruction. And we are done standing by while this board prefers condescension over collaboration.”
The Burlington Board of School Commissioners and the Burlington Education Association Thursday made some progress in their negotiation of a new contract. The two sides moved a bit closer regarding compensation and working conditions for a proposed two-year contract. A mediation session is set for August 31.
Board members and BEA negotiators conferred directly about changing the assigned and unassigned time for high school teachers. “The discussion gave us a chance to explain why teachers need their preparation time, which was useful,” BEA President Fran Brock said.
The teams were able to agree on a number of contract issues, but are still significantly apart on salary, healthcare insurance and working conditions.
“We made progress,” Brock said, “although we still have some thorny matters to sort out.”
Teachers continue to be concerned that some of the Board’s proposals dealing with working conditions ignore the expertise and professionalism teachers bring to the schools. “Proposals that would take away unassigned time from teachers will curtail the ability of teachers to work with individual students; to collaborate on student-directed programming; and develop, implement and assess student-directed curriculum,” Brock said.
Special School Board Meeting:
Thursday, August 31, 8 PM
Edmunds Middle School Library,
275 Main Street
The Burlington School Board of Commissioners this week failed to reach a contract agreement with the women and men who teach the city’s children despite the recommendations of a mediator.
“We are disappointed that once again the board failed to truly negotiate with an aim toward reaching a settlement that allows Burlington to attract and retain the best for the city’s children,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as president of the Burlington Education Association. “We thought the mediator’s report gave us a framework for a settlement. Instead, the board’s negotiating team clearly was not interested in using the report to forge a deal.”
The report – which can now be shared with the public – made recommendations on salary increases, health insurance cost-sharing, and, changes to teachers’ workdays that would increase the amount of time they can devote to improving student performance. Interestingly, Superintendent Yaw Obeng is opposed to teachers’ using their unassigned time to prepare for lessons, provide learning interventions, and otherwise meet student needs.
According to the report, Obeng “readily confirmed that teachers used their unassigned time to attend to professional matters (and in his) view, that did not necessarily further the district’s educational goals and policies.” In other words, said Brock, “the Superintendent seems to be saying that having prepared, professional teachers somehow is contrary to the district’s goals.”
Brock said the fact-finding report issued by mediator Michael C. Ryan offers a path toward settlement that the board this week chose not to take. And while the association takes issue with some of the report’s recommendations – especially around health insurance – Brock said differences could be resolved.
The teachers’ contract expires August 31. A copy of the report can be found at www.beaworks.com
The Burlington Free Press recently ran an article highlighting our very own Shannon Walters, the Teacher-Librarian at BHS! Find out how librarians are becoming even more important in the 21st Century.
Thank you to all of the Teacher Librarians in Burlington who work every day to teach digital literacy, coding, and equip our students and teacher to navigate the 21st Century!