Burlington Education Association

VPR: Contract Bridge

VPR commentator Rich Nadworny discusses the imposition crisis in Burlington. 

Burlington Progressive Party Supports Teachers in Contract Negotiations

This is a press release from the Burlington Vermont Progressive Steering Committee. 

BURLINGTON – A statement from the Burlington Progressive Steering Committee was released today, recognizing the difficult work of the school board but ultimately disagreeing with their decision to impose a contract on Burlington School District Teachers.

“We understand that BSD school board, made up of citizen volunteers, has a hard and often thankless job doing what they believe is best for the city, particularly due to the loss of federal, state, and local funds. However, the Burlington Progressive Party supports the rights of workers to unionize and bargain collectively. We support Burlington teachers and the BEA’s right to have a voice in the decisions that impact their working conditions, whether those conditions regard salary or continuing education, so that teachers can serve as excellent models for students in terms of lifelong learning, curiosity, and critical thinking.

Public sector unions have been the bulwark against government austerity measures. We urge the school board to return to the bargaining table, and we support our teachers if they ultimately choose to strike. We will continue to fight for a more equitable tax system at the state level, while in the meantime rejecting austerity measures that pit families against workers. We support a fair contract for teachers, and a bargaining process that treats them respectfully and equitably. “

Burlington Teachers Formally Reject Imposed Working Conditions

As the union’s members decide next steps, the Burlington Education Association urges the board to drop imposition and return to the table and settle

BURLINGTON – The men and women who teach Burlington’s children today unanimously voted to reject last week’s imposition of working conditions, saying the board’s action will cause nothing but disruption.

“By imposing working conditions on the Burlington Education Association, the Burlington School Board signaled it would rather fight with teachers than reach a settlement,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the union’s president. “There is only one way to come back from the brink, and that is for the board to rescind the imposition and reach an agreement with us.”

At the time the board voted 10-1 (with one abstention) to slam the door on continued negotiations, the teachers had offered to accept all of the recommendations made by a neutral fact-finder (you can read his report here). Board members said they didn’t want to impose – some even cried in explaining their votes – but they did so anyway. Mark Porter, the board chairman, pointed his finger at the room packed full of teachers and parents and said his vote to impose should not be taken as a slight at teachers, but at “the union.”

“I have – we have – a message for Mr. Porter and others on the board who think they can separate our union from our members: we are all the BEA,” Brock said. “It’s a classic move by people who want to break unions, but we won’t be swayed.”

Burlington School Board Chooses Chaos Over Settlement

Board’s decision to impose working conditions instead of reaching a settlement throws decades of collaboration with district’s teachers aside

BURLINGTON – The Burlington School Board’s decision to end bargaining and move to impose working conditions means they have chosen division, chaos and confrontation above collaborating with the men and women who teach the city’s children, according to the Burlington Education Association.

“As teachers, our first and most important commitment is to our students,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the union’s president. “It’s why we’ve been bargaining for a contract that continues to allow us to serve the city’s children well. Unfortunately, what the board did today will do nothing for Burlington’s schools, residents and students.”

The union has tried to settle a one-year contract for over a year now. Throughout that year, teachers have signaled their willingness to settle, and have made significant compromises along the way, including an offer yesterday to fully accept the recommendations of a neutral fact-finder. Instead of compromising in a way that could lead to an agreement, the board’s negotiating team routinely floated proposals that would make it harder for the district to recruit and retain excellent teachers; that would upend decades of collaboration; and that would substantially eviscerate contract terms that have been worked out together.

“Whether it’s the insulting notion that earning advanced degrees amounts to nothing or the ludicrous salary proposal that would have many mid-career teachers see their compensation slip even further behind nearby districts, this board clearly wants a fight,” Brock said. “There’s still time to do the right thing and reach a settlement, but, sadly, the actions and words from the board chairman and other leaders doesn’t give us much hope for a change in direction.”

The board claims that paying teachers a salary that lands them in the middle of Chittenden County pay levels would force the district to cut programs for children. That claim, however, has yet to be substantiated with any detail. “We know that the taxpayers of Burlington are generous, because they routinely invest heavily in their students,” Brock said. “But when it comes to how that money is spent, the board treats all of us – parents, students, teachers and residents the same. They won’t level with us where all of the money is going.”

At the conclusion of yesterday’s negotiating session, the teachers filed a formal grievance over the board’s failure to live up to terms in the expired contract that require teacher compensation to be “in the middle-of-the-middle” for Chittenden County districts. Both sides were to be abiding by the terms of the expired contract.

Watch President Fran Brock and Chief Negotiator Bob Church the Course to a Contract

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.

You may view the video by clicking here.

BEA President Fran Brock’s Statement to the Burlington School Board

Good evening.

I am Fran Brock, a history teacher at Burlington High School and president of the Burlington Education Association. 

We have been trying to settle a one-year contract for this year for more than a year. This process started in July 2015. We will need to begin negotiating again in a couple of months for next year when all districts throughout the state will need to reach new agreements that take into consideration critical changes in response to changing health care costs.The one-year contract that is currently under negotiation needs to be settled. We have made offers of compromise; the Board’s team has instead chosen a path of disruption with their talk of imposition and strikes. The board’s team has not supported their claim of insufficient funds with clear and detailed expenditure balance sheets. 

The teachers continue to believe that Burlington residents have been generous with the funding; it is a question of how those funds have been allocated, especially in light of cuts to direct student services. We believe Burlington residents are generous because they believe in investing in all of the city’s children. They – and we – deserve to know just how that money is spent. 

Sadly, the failure to come to an agreement has only increased the uncertainties and instability that are plaguing this district. 

We did not reach an agreement last night after nearly 8 hours of talks. And while we have made clear that the fact-finding report gives us a clear path to settlement, the board’s team last night flouted the report, and instead made offers that would eviscerate the current contract.

The board’s most recent salary proposal may look fair on paper – but just delve into the details. It leaves a whole swath of mid-career teachers falling further behind their peers in neighboring districts – districts to which many of my fellow teachers – respected educators whose students love them – are now going. That is why the board’s last offer, fully 30 percent less than salary increases in neighboring districts, is unacceptable. 

​It is really unfortunate that we are at this point. But the board has had a choice for more than a year: where they could have sided with continuity and peace, they instead chose disruption and rancor. Now is not the time for disruption. Now is not the time for chaos, especially when our superintendent has to be out of the country for 16 days. 

The community supports its schools and its teachers. The community wants what’s best for all of our city’s children. What they don’t want is disruption and chaos. What they don’t want is to be told that while they approve budgets that increase funding for schools, programs still have to be cut. What they want is what we want: great schools that strive to give each and every student a great chance of success. 

Thank you

Message to Members

As you should know from our emails, your 10-minute meetings, and your regular visits to the Burlington Education Association web page, the negotiating teams will sit down on Monday afternoon for another session with a mediator. I have encouraged our negotiators to use the fact-finding report as a path forward.  

​Regardless of how the mediation session goes the contract will not be resolved tomorrow.  Therefore, we need to continue to show the community that we are a team. I ask each of you to stand with your fellow Burlington teachers on Tuesday night at 6:00 in Contois Auditorium.  Let us stand together to support our students, families and each other.  Teachers from all levels of education will speak for our students and for us.  And wear your BEA green!  

Burlington School Board Meeting
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 13
Time: 6 p.m. – this is a change.  
Place: Contois Auditorium
Use this Action Network Link to R.S.V.P.!

Wear your green t-shirt. Come stand to show the strength of our union. We are 400 strong: let’s show it.
See you there in SOLIDARITY!

Wear your buttons until we settle our contract:

Every Wednesday is BEA T-shirt day:

BEA Offers Course to Contract (Updated 9/14/16)

​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.

Welcome to District Faculty and Staff

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 Teachers Decry Board’s Path of Disruption

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. 

Click here to download the fact finding report.

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.

Click here to download a copy of the fact finding report.