Burlington Education Association

Comments to School Board, June 13th

Good evening. 

Here we are again. It has been almost a year since the last time we were awaiting a fact-finder’s report. As you know, the findings are not binding. However, after hearing the proposals from both us and you, the fact-finder will strive to offer recommendations that can either be accepted outright or be used as firm ground for reaching agreements. My hope is that this time we will seriously consider the report and work with it; not refuse to accept it and move toward the crisis of last fall. Just as the teachers accepted the fact-finder’s report last fall, I assure you that we again are prepared and ready to work with the report’s findings so a settlement can be reached. 

Let me note that the contracts, bargained in good faith between the School Board and teachers, and the School Board and the paraeducators, sitting as equals at the table, are the last defense that guarantees that the working environments for students are safe, and teachers have the time required to design, execute and assess student-centered educational programming. It is the contract with the paraeducators that ensures students receive the support they need to succeed. The contract, through the compensation package and working condition components, is indisputable proof that the Board wants to retain and attract the best faculty and paraeducators for the city’s students.    

While there are some both locally and nationally who would vilify teachers and belittle education, we are not the enemy. We are the ones who work daily with Burlington’s students to make sure each student is challenged and learns the skills and knowledge needed to become a participatory member of the community. We are proud of our profession; we take pride in the work we do, knowing that we do not produce widgets but rather nurture young adults who have individual needs and dreams that can be realized. We also are your neighbors, friends, family, customers, taxpayers and voters. As teachers and paraeducators we take seriously our role as models for that desired community involvement. 

On behalf of Burlington’s some 400 teachers and paraeducators represented here this evening, I extend congratulations to the graduating class of 2017. Some 250 Burlington students will accept their high school diplomas on Friday, in a commencement ceremony that acknowledges and celebrates the efforts of our students to prepare for the next step in their lives, be it career, military or college. Also on behalf of Burlington’s teachers and paraeducators, we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2030 when they begin Kindergarten and the start of their formal educational odyssey in the fall!

Burlington Teachers Attend the Board of School Commissioners meeting to support a contract that attracts and retains the best educators for Burlington’s students.

Burlington Teachers, BSD Move to Fact-Finder

The Burlington Education Association and representatives from the Burlington School District met Wednesday with little success in the ongoing effort to secure a contractual agreement for the 2017-18 school year. Since no agreement was reached, the parties now move to the fact-finding process in the next two weeks. Both sides will present evidence to Michael Ryan, who also has served as mediator. He will issue a report which is not binding, but could present a path to a settlement. 

The Wednesday meeting was the second mediation session held since the board declared impasse in March. 

The BEA negotiating team continued to address the Association’s two main concerns in settling the contract. The teachers seek a contract that will offer a competitive compensation package that will attract and retain the best teachers for the city’s students. The teachers also contend the city’s voters approved a 7.74% increase or in excess of $6 million from FY16- FY18 yet not only has the number of teachers been reduced but the compensation of teachers in comparison to others in the region has gone down.  The current Board proposal allocates less than 38 cents of each dollar in revenue to teacher salary and health benefits leaving teachers questioning the Board’s allocation of the revenues.

The BSD proposals want to shift the majority of healthcare costs to employees, and offer  salary increases that do not recognize experience. The teachers are also concerned with proposed changes to working conditions that would limit time for direct-student academic services. 


Statement to School Board on May 9, 2017

Good evening,

As President of the BEA, let me share with you two issues of particular concern to teachers. 

As of yesterday, your Board consent agenda included a teacher renewal list that indicates 248 teachers have returned their letters of intent.  This leaves 160 teachers; or nearly 40% of Burlington’s teachers have either resigned, retired, asked for an extension or have unresolved contract issues. I understand that a second list will be part of your June consent agenda.

As teachers leave, past practice has been to conduct exit interviews. I hope that interviews are conducted and the Board is apprised of the reasons behind the departures. Honest dialogue about such issues should help inform Board policies and direct the administration. 

My second concern is with the NEASC accreditation report, which is now circulating. It is good news to know that the NEASC commission granted accreditation for BHS. It is important, however, to focus on the recommendations made in the report to help guide necessary changes at the high school in order to insure that we are meeting the educational needs of all students. 

In addition to the recommendations noted in the District’s press release, let me draw your attention to the following recommendations:

  • Provide a certified, licensed, library/media specialist for the school to ensure that library/media services are integrated into curriculum and instructional practices throughout the school
  • Provide time for teachers, special educators, ELL teachers and student support staff to collaborate regarding student needs and support
  • Provide additional support staff to ensure a full range of services for identified students and to effectively and consistently collaborate with teachers
  • Provide and ensure that meaningful curriculum coordination exists between the middle schools and the high school
  • Ensure resource allocations support the implementation of a proficiency based curricular model
  • Develop and implement a more collaborative and transparent building-wide decision-making process
  • Develop a plan by which administration and teaching staff address professional climate to ensure positive professional discourse between teaching staff and administration
  • Ensure that the school board, superintendent and principal are collaborative, reflective, and constructive in establishing goals for the school with a focus on the school’s 21st century learning expectations

​These recommendations are not trivial; meeting student needs on these terms would transform our schools. I encourage each of you to read the full report to better understand what is being done well at BHS, but also what needs to be addressed so our students have access to the high-quality education they deserve.

Thank you.

BEA Seeks Settlement That Puts Students First

Burlington, VT The Burlington Education Association and Burlington Board of School Commissioners will meet with a mediator on Tuesday, April 11 in an effort to reach a fair and respectful contract. The Board declared impasse on March 17. The BEA’s proposal that will be shared with the third-party mediator reiterates two critical goals. The teachers seek a contract that ensures District resources are allocated to best meet the educational needs of all students; and promotes working conditions that attract and retain the best faculty for the city’s children. 

The School Board’s proposal, which has not changed since the January exchange, fails to meet the educational needs of Burlington’s students, according to BEA leaders. The Board has invoked “goals of achieving ‘operational efficiency’ and ‘fiscal sustainability,’ which are no more than euphemisms for deeper cuts to a system that has been eroding essential services to students over the last three budget cycles,” said BEA President Fran Brock.

Annual Comparison of BSD Expenditures on Direct Student Services

​The BEA is concerned with elements from the Board that violate state regulations and are not in line with best teaching practices. The teachers’ union fears that the Board is ignoring state regulations with its proposed increases in elementary class sizes and the manner used to count English Learners and special education students for mainstream classes. Elementary schools also have lost foreign languages, kindergarten classes have lost paraeducator support, and middle schools have lost advanced math programs.

Teachers also take issue with the elimination of academic supports at the high school, specifically reading and special education services; and student support systems previously provided through the ASPIRE program. Reduction of support staff at Horizons and ONTOP has already critically reduced services for the most at-risk students, and the administrator’s resignation.  “All of these actions contradict best practices in education,” said Brock.

The BEA questions the Board’s effort to give administrators the ability to adjust teacher assignments in the name of creating a more flexible organization. “We are concerned because teachers have spent this year dealing with the aftermath of the building principal shuffle, which created wholesale disorientation of both staff and students,” Brock said. Best practices for effective learning demands consistency and stability for students, she added.  

The BEA appreciates the generosity of Burlington voters, who have approved budgets presented them, but is concerned with the allocation of funds. Over a three-year period the district’s annual revenues rose by 7.74%, with voters approving an additional $6.1 million.  Over that same period, spending on those who actually teach students  has dropped by more than $1 million, from 41.4% of the budget in FY16 to 37.2% as proposed for FY18.  “Direct services to students must be a priority in the district and it is our belief that the community has been more than willing to pay for such services,” Brock said.

The BEA recognizes that teacher compensation is controversial, but teachers fear that Burlington risks further erosion of the educational programming and services for students if the city fails to be competitive with other districts in the region. To achieve regional comparability, the teachers have offered a proposal that would have BSD faculty average fourth out of the eight Chittenden County school districts. The teachers’ proposal calls for a 5.74%  increase for salaries.  “It is a matter of investing in education that benefits students,” Brock said. “The district needs to reallocate funds after many years of deferred investment in the compensation of Burlington’s professional educators.”

Burlington’s diverse student population provides both richness and challenges, said Brock, yet the city’s schools  have been losing excellent teachers to neighboring districts.  “Failure to attract and retain the most gifted professionals who are trained and experienced in working with such a broad spectrum of needs denies students the education they need and deserve,” Brock said.

Health care costs are another controversial issue on the table. The School Board’s proposal follows the statewide agenda issued by the Vermont School Boards Association and seeks to substantially shift the cost of health care to the teachers.  The District will save almost $2 million  annually under the current health care proposal but plans to devote that savings to other district priorities. The BEA  asserts that disproportionately shifting the cost of health care to teachers creates an unnecessary and unwarranted burden on teachers. Current health care benefits are equivalent or less than those offered by other major employers in Burlington. “A plan that denies Burlington’s teachers access to health care on par with the working middle class will not attract and retain the best teachers to the profession or to the District,” Brock said. “Such a plan indicates that the Board is not making excellent education a priority.”

The teachers’ workday is also being negotiated. The Board has proposed a substantial reduction in the time set aside during school hours for teachers to prepare for classes and individual student needs. The Board argues that reduced teacher prep time would provide increased flexibility, but teachers argue that they will actually lose the flexible time needed to serve Vermont’s most diverse student population.  “Student needs are met during teacher prep time,” Brock said. “It is during prep time when teachers can develop and engage in needed learning interventions; collaborate with colleagues; analyze student performance data; and create the flexible pathways for student learning as required by the state.”  

The Board needs to “to work cooperatively and constructively toward a fair and respectful agreement with the professionals who provide direct-student programming and services to the children of Burlington,” Brock said. “We hope the Board avoids taking the same course it navigated last year, imposing a contract that neither meets student needs nor demonstrates collaboration with faculty to solve serious issues facing the district.”

Burlington Teachers Continue to Seek Contract Agreement Despite Board’s Impasse Declaration

Burlington Education Association negotiators press for agreement that attracts and retains the best for the city’s students

BURLINGTON — The Burlington School Board directed its negotiators Thursday night to declare impasse in the contract negotiations with the Burlington Education Association. The Board’s action requires the board and association negotiators to agree upon a mediator or fact-finder and to set a schedule for continuing the collective bargaining process.

Burlington’s teachers are striving to settle a contract that insures the district attracts and retains quality teachers who can provide the city’s students with the quality education they deserve. The teachers hope that a respectful and fair contract can be hammered out without the Board again pushing the parties to the level of crisis experiences this past fall.

Unresolved issues include class size; educational and programming services for Burlington’s diverse student population; language regarding appropriate and equitable elementary school workplace matters; a compensation package that ensures Burlington will attract and retain quality teachers. “A teacher’s working condition is a child’s learning environment,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as BEA president. 

Brock said the BEA is hopeful that the School Board will instruct their negotiators to continue working in good faith to resolve the differences. As of now, the BEA’s negotiation team of teachers has been met only with BSD lawyers – members of the board have not met with the association. “All of Burlington’s children not only deserve a quality education, but a rigorous, high-caliber education,” Brock said. “This is crucial if our students are to be prepared to move into the career or college of their choice.”

BEA President Fran Brock’s Negotiations Update

Greetings on this very snowy afternoon fellow members!

Let me share a few thoughts with you about Monday’s press release from the Burlington School Board about our contract negotiations. For starters, please be assured that despite the tone of the board’s release, our team and the board’s representatives are still at the table bargaining the terms of a contract. We are making progress. We haven’t yet declared impasse.

The board seems intent on picking a public fight over the issue of negotiating in public. Our association has bargained in open session in the past, and we have found from experience that it doesn’t make coming to a contract agreement any easier. In fact, your bargaining team has offered to bargain in public if the entire negotiation process – mediations, fact-finding, etc. – was open to the public. The current school board declined that offer. It is worth noting that the standing board has sent in three different attorneys to do its bargaining, but not a single elected commissioner has participated in negotiations. It is more than a tad ironic that board members want the public to attend negotiation sessions, but not one of the elected board members has yet to attend. 

Rather than focus on this issue, we wish members of the board will commit to doing what it takes to avoid a repeat of our last round of negotiations. We have made it clear that we are working toward a contract that will attract and retain the best teachers for Burlington’s students. 

Throwing unnecessary lobs – even while the parties make progress – does nothing for the students of Burlington. We urge the board to remain focused on reaching a fair settlement that does right by our students, our schools, the city and us, the professional teachers who are on the front lines directly serving the students.

In solidarity,
Frank Brock
​BEA President

Burlington’s Schools Rock!

Burlington’s teachers took to the streets on our first float for Burlington’s Mardi Gras. The message that we shared was the fact that Burlington’s Schools Rock! We hope that everyone enjoyed their shirts. Thank you, Burlington residents, for all of the support that you give your teachers and your schools. Also, thank you to all of our teachers who helped build the float and braved the frigid temperatures to join the parade!

BEA Members Attend Vermont-NEA’s “Lobby Days” at the State House

Members of the Burlington Education Association attended two lobbying sessions at the Vermont State House in Montpelier. Members were able to meet with members of the Vermont State Senate and House of Representatives in order to represent the perspective of Burlington’s teachers. This is an opportunity for our state’s teachers to share about the impacts that policies can have in the classroom.

BEA Co-Sponsors City Council Candidate Forum

The BEA, Rights & Democracy Vermont and the Peace and Justice Center hosted a forum with candidates for Burlington’s City Council. We met with a lot of community members and were excited to be able to help provide this opportunity for Burlington’s residents to learn about their candidates.

BEA Contract Proposal Focuses on Serving City’s Students

The Burlington Education Association and the Burlington School Board today exchanged initial contract proposals. The two negotiating teams will study the other’s proposal and will meet again within the next few weeks when the BEA hopes agreement can be reached on issues that directly affect the quality of education that Burlington citizens expect and deserve for the city’s children.

The BEA has proposed salary increases to help Burlington achieve regional competitiveness after several years of deferred investment to attract and retain the best faculty for Burlington’s children. The proposal sets out a reasonable and shared contribution for a healthcare plan. The teachers’ proposal also includes new language for elementary schools that would insure consistent, equitable distribution of resources according to student needs and best teaching practices. It is important to teachers that the city’s six elementary schools have staffing and scheduling that provide quality and equitable education for the city’s youngest students.

“The teachers’ proposal reflects that which is of highest priority to teachers, attracting and retaining the best teaching staff so our city’s school children get a rigorous, quality education that prepares all of our students for career or college,” said Fran Brock, president of the teachers’ association. “Burlington taxpayers have long been generous with their financial support of the schools,” said Brock, “and our proposal can be funded with appropriate distribution of district funds.”

The current contract states that if no agreement is reached by February 15, 2017, the negotiation teams may declare impasse. The teams currently are planning to meet multiple times between now and February 15. Brock said she hopes efforts to settle the contract will be more civil and constructive in order to avoid the discord experienced with the 2016-17 contract negotiations.