Brookline educators will tell you that necessary time for educating students is being lost to an increasing number of school district and state mandates and initiatives. Educators are being expected to complete more paperwork, produce and record increasing types of standardized data, meet bureaucratic evaluation requirements, or attend an increasing number of meetings about these matters – and they are being evaluated on this participation. Should we accept this? The answer is no; and this article on the “Professional Culture” standard in our evaluations explains why.
It’s true that laws or regulations (concerning, for instance, evaluation or Special Education, or time on learning) require some of what is being done in our schools. But it’s equally true that the law (Chapter 150E) provides that we can bargain over how school policies are implemented. For example, the rubrics for a rating of proficient—or even exemplary— for all of the standards are subjects of bargaining, and meeting the standard must be possible within the bounds of working conditions laid out in the larger collective bargaining agreement.
The School Committee must not require us to comply with mandates or initiatives until and unless we can be shown how to do the work within the confines of our current Agreement. No one can be expected to work more than the Agreement allows to get a good rating on their evaluation.
Furthermore, insisting on respect for the contract is legally protected activity. Indeed, union work is a valuable contribution to strengthening “the professional culture” of our workplace. Our statewide union, the MTA, reminds us that our union work is evidence of meeting the Professional Culture Standard itself. Professional Culture is strengthened by a fair contract, including the section on evaluation which is being renegotiated at the same time as the contract as a whole.
Our contract states that the Brookline Educators Union “recognizes its professional responsibilities and commitment to education of the highest quality for the children of Brookline.” Look around the district today and you will see how strong this commitment is. We are committed to collaboration. In fact, Collaboration Time was added to the contract on the insistence of union negotiators who went so far as to subsidize such activity by giving 40 minutes of our time. We are also committed to school improvement, and initiatives that help us meet the needs of current students. BEU members themselves developed some of the initiatives.
But we know that if excellence is to be maintained, something’s got to give. Either non-instructional work will have to be lessened, or teachers and caseload specialists will need fewer students so that each child can get the personal time he or she deserves and needs.