December 10, 2021
Dear Families, School Committee, and Central Administration:
Because of the School Committee’s unwillingness to settle a fair contract and declaring impasse, the members of the Brookline Educators’ Union will stop participating in voluntary services beginning Dec. 13. We find it necessary to begin this work-to-rule action because we have concluded that the school committee and administration of Brookline Public Schools simply do not understand our working conditions or the demands on Brookline educators.
We have brought proposals to the bargaining table that we know are desperately needed and that our students deserve, among them: staffing improvements that lessen crushing teaching assignments and caseloads (including the unacceptable exploitation of K-8 World Language teachers); improved job security for staff of color who tend to be more vulnerable to staff cuts; added prep time for educators without loss of learning time for students; and cost of living increases that keep pace with inflation and reflect the value of our work.
However, the message that educators continually hear from the school committee is, “Do more with less.” This is insulting to educators who have never worked harder and a disservice to our students who have never needed more support.
Even prior to the Covid pandemic, we communicated to the school committee at the bargaining table that the contracts need to be updated to reflect growing demands on educators and our schools.
While Brookline’s enrollment ballooned by 35%, cost-of-living adjustments flatlined and hiring and retention did not keep pace, particularly when it came to hiring and retaining our colleagues of color and those of non-U.S. national origin.
The district’s administrators have increased the daily demands on all of us, and educators’ jobs are becoming unsustainable. The district’s approach is hurting our ability to deliver to our students the quality of education that we want them to receive. While superintendents, senior administrators, and principals have been in a chaotic flux, the rank and file have kept the Public Schools of Brookline afloat.
Unwilling to put real solutions in writing, the school committee then added proposals that extend the K-8 school day with no added pay, weaken grievance rights, and diminish the exercise of professional judgment. Having done that, the school committee will now not speak with us at the table at all. The committee’s lawyer reports that the school committee members decided unilaterally that we are at an impasse. The disrespect continues as the district tries to turn its responsibility to negotiate with union members over to a state mediator despite themselves having only recently introduced the major proposals above.
Our existing, expired contract remains in effect, and we have decided that we must work firmly within its boundaries until such time that the administration is willing to treat us as professionals and with respect. Educators have willingly given their time above and beyond the obligations set out in our contracts, and we happily do so to create the learning environment that we want for our students. But we have arrived at the point where it is clear that the School Committee is shamefully taking advantage of us.
We are united in our resolve to settle a contract that strengthens our schools and our profession. We can no longer stand by as the school committee approach slowly erodes the quality and reputation of Brookline’s schools.
Below is the list of work that educators perform above and beyond our contractual obligations and that extends our day far too long under current staffing arrangements. We continue to urge the school committee to return to the bargaining table in a way that respects BEU educators as true partners in the effort to strengthen our schools.
WORK ACTIVITY THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN:
- Brookline educators will be refraining from responding to emails outside of contractual work hours.
- All Brookline educators are contractually guaranteed a duty-free lunch period. Seldom, if ever, do we have a period of time that is truly duty free. We will be observing the language of our (expired) contract and maintaining duty free lunch time.
- Educators are also guaranteed a duty-free prep period. We will refrain from attending meetings during this time. This time is essential (and presently insufficient) to prepare lessons, grade, and conduct other essential work duties.
- Brookline educators will be leaving schools within 60 minutes of the end of the contractual workday, except in cases where educators are performing paid or stipended duties.
- Brookline educators will not be grading student work outside of contractual work hours. Since there is not enough time in the contractual workday, let alone the 24-hour work day, to grade, Brookline educators will be using creative alternatives to assess student learning.
- Progress reports at the Middle and High School levels will be streamlined.
- High school teachers use pre-written comments for struggling students, and “making sufficient progress” for students who are not in danger.
- Middle school teachers write SAT/UNSAT
We ask for your consideration and support as we continue to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that our students receive an extraordinary education in the Public Schools of Brookline.
The Educators of the BEU