We had a tough mediated negotiations session last night. After two years of bargaining, the School Committee has brought a new demand to the table. They already proposed the option of adding two additional workdays, including Saturdays, at half pay. Now they insist on a longer elementary school day, and refuse compensation for it that they have agreed to attach to extra time in the past. Why this sudden change in negotiating strategy? Why rather than addressing workload and trusting teachers, educators’ number one concerns, is the School Committee now trying to force teachers to do even more uncompensated work?
Late in the evening, BEU negotiators asked the School Committee to talk with us face-to-face, not through the mediator. We wanted them to tell us what their rationale is for these proposals. Why are they seeking to tie a longer school day to proposed salary increases that are already lower than most teachers in this region are being given, and lower than the amount that they, themselves have been telling the community that they already set aside for salary increases? We were given no good reason for any of this.
Brookline educators are fully aware that seeking to require elementary teachers to stay in the building longer is nothing but a distraction from the core problem at the heart of these negotiations. The School Committee continues to refuse to agree to any process that will ensure expectations of educators cannot be constantly expanded without limit. The same minutes of the day—be they during school hours or after—cannot be double and triple booked with added data burdens and the expectation of ever more meetings to implement ever more top-down initiatives. Such demands shift teachers’ attention away from building relationships with students who are whole human beings with unique and singular needs.
We have another session on June 29. No sessions are scheduled after that, and given recent developments we are more frustrated than ever. We remain far apart on the Paraprofessional contract as well. We note that when the School Committee recently celebrated that they have been able to cap most elementary classes at 25, they did not bring up that over 100 high school classes have 25 or more students, and close to 150 have at least 24. They have not explained their refusal to preserve currently existing limits on classes per teacher, or their refusal to discuss caseloads with clinicians. We remain committed to ensuring that growing enrollments coupled with unrealistic expectations will not continue to erode quality education in Brookline. Brookline educators know that our schools are at a critical crossroads. When will the School Committee respond to the concerns of those who spend our days in the classroom with students? When will they return to a relationship of trust and respect of teachers?