It has come to our attention that many staff use their personal cell phones to communicate critical information about students and/or job responsibilities and assignments.
This is concerning for several reasons:
The district arguably “owns” all communications about students and personal phones could become part of an investigation, could be retained, and/or could be subject to public disclosure.
The district has not negotiated the use of personal phones with the BEU.
For these reasons, we STRONGLY URGE all members to STOP using personal cell phones for district business by the end of this school year.
We suggest that, with regard to communications with administrators, you inform (either via email or in person) the administrator of the following:
“Due to concerns put forth by the BEU, I will no longer use my personal cell phone for district communication. I plan to stop using my personal cell phone as of June 26, 2018. Please let me know how I should expect to communicate with you beginning in September.”
We suggest that, with regard to communications with colleagues who are not supervisors, you inform them of the following:
“The BEU is recommending that we no longer use our personal cell phones for district communication. That means that we should not be texting one another about students and student needs and for additional support. Please see the bulletin put out by the BEU for more details. I plan to stop using my personal cell phone as of June 26, 2018. Let’s discuss other methods of communication and whether or not we need to reach out to our administrators for an alternative for next school year. We can also talk with the BEU reps and grievance team members for guidance.”
For more detailed information and potential legal ramifications, please read on.
Several examples of personal cell phone use include:
• Administrators using personal cell phones to text paraprofessionals on their personal cell phones about particular assignments and changes in assignment
• Teachers using personal cell phones as emergency contacts when on field trips
• Teachers and paraprofessionals texting administrators on personal cell phones during crises in which they need additional staff support
• Teachers, BCBAs, and paraprofessionals communicating with one another on personal text threads to provide information about student functioning and extra support needs
• Teachers and administrators using personal cell phones to track student attendance from class to class
After several discussions about personal cell phone use during BEU Executive Board, Rep Council and Grievance Team meetings. and consultations with MTA, the BEU finds these concerns:
The use of personal cell phones has not been negotiated with the BEU. It is not fair to expect us to use our phones without proper compensation, especially when others are provided school phones. In addition, without negotiations, no rules have been established for their proper use.
Arguably, the Public Records Law of Massachusetts requires that all school communications must be retained by an official record keeper. Accordingly, it could be argued that text messages concerning school business must be retained, and those communications may be subject to public disclosure in connection with a valid public records request. Do we always script our communications with an eye toward public disclosure?
If the District has a concern about texts (or any other material) on your phone, they may ask to see your cell phone to investigate. While you have a right to refuse to share your cell phone (unless served with a lawfully issued subpoena or warrant), this may put you in a difficult position that may be partially avoided by not using the phone for school business.
The BEU leadership has communicated our concerns to Andrew Bott and Mary Ellen Dunn on numerous occasions. While they have alluded to agreeing with us, they have not yet presented a solution for how staff should manage critical communication during the school day.
WORKLOAD OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE
The Unit A collective bargaining agreement (for the 3-year period 2016-2019) established a committee to review information and make recommendations on issues impacting teaching and learning, which may include but not be limited to: new initiatives, paperwork and workload issues, caseload for non-classroom personnel/specialists, duty free lunch, prep time, and collaboration time. The purpose of this committee is to solve problems of workload intensification, and is governed by Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 150E section 10, as per the Unit A contract. The job of the BEU Workload Oversight Committee members is to communicate with members, identify problems, and work with the administration to finetune their proposed solutions.
The committee consists of four members appointed by the Superintendent and four appointed by the BEU. The four BEU members are: Jeremy Bloch (Devotion Math Teacher), Alisa Conner (BHS Spanish Teacher), Laura Vish (Runkle Speech and Language Pathologist) and Jessica Wender-Shubow (BEU President). The co-chairpersons are Jessica and Nicole Gittens, Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. The committee will meet about 6-8 times per year.
Core Principles and Commitments
As educators face increasing demands on their workload, driven by scheduling, caseload, testing and reporting requirements, curricular change, instructional strategy change, diverse and complex student needs, and other factors, their ability to provide excellent services to students is significantly eroded. Increasingly, overwhelming workload is degrading educators’ capacity to maintain strong face-to-face relationships with students and focus on effective improvements in instructional practice.
Educators work hard and are deeply committed to their students’ learning and well-being. When we address workload issues, we create the conditions for educators to do their best work, and we promote excellence in teaching and learning. To this end, the BEU is guided by the following principles and commitments:
- We honor the rich diversity of excellent teaching and learning that takes place in the Public Schools of Brookline, and we affirm the principle of teacher autonomy. Educators need freedom to exercise judgement and discretion in their work — to adapt curriculum, develop their own pedagogical methods, and determine how class time is used — in order to effectively teach the students in their classrooms.
- We promote and defend individual educators’ right to use unassigned periods and duty-free lunches in accordance with their professional judgement, and we will work with our fellow BEU members to ensure that our members face no penalty, overt or implied, formal or informal, for exercising this right.
- We understand that professional development is most effective when it is educator driven – when educators reflect on their needs and participate in shaping their learning. We support educators’ use of their professional discretion to access the resources that will best help them support their students.
- We appreciate the value of new programs and procedures, especially those that grow out of educator proposals. However, without thorough assessment of the impact of these initiatives, they can contribute to workload intensification that impairs educators’ abilities to serve their students well. School administrators should consult with educators before and during the implementation of new initiatives, to mitigate any negative impact on educator workload.
- We consider it imperative that comprehensive assessments of educator workload must take into account not only caseload and class size, but other significant factors including (but not limited to) the diversity and complexity of students’ needs, required data collection and reporting, and the reality that effective meetings and collaboration require additional time.
- We hope that the School Committee and members of the central administration will work with the union as partners to advocate for the elimination of state and federal mandates that undermine efforts to provide an excellent education for every student.
- We reserve the right of the union to collectively bargain over working conditions such as those described here, during contract negotiations, or at other times if conditions change.
Our challenge as a Union — What you can do
This is an important opportunity to communicate and organize around issues that are critical to our effectiveness as educators and the quality of our worklife. We need everyone to:
- Communicate with one another about challenges we face in our working lives. What are the workload issues in your job, in your building, across the district?
- Organize and/or attend BEU meetings to facilitate this dialogue and actively support organized BEU efforts to end excessive workload.
- Remember that time crunches are a structural problem of excessive work demands and expectations and not the fault of the individual educator. Honor and support your colleagues as they exercise their professional autonomy in choosing how to use their work time.
- Promote collective action and member solidarity in support of efforts by individual educators or groups of educators to limit workload to reasonable levels and maintain high quality services to students.
Send updates, give feedback, and share your thinking about this important work. Write to individual members or contact all BEU members of the Workload Oversight Committee at: email@example.com