The BEU is the collective voice of educators. Collective bargaining strengthens our schools. We are not volunteering for leadership committees because the committees have not yet been bargained with the BEU.
The school district wants to spend $100,000 from this year’s school budget on school leadership committees of ten educators who will “help lead each school in its ongoing work”. The committees are being advertised as giving educators a voice. But educators already have a voice and have been using it. The problem is that the administration doesn’t like what’s been said: educators have demanded to collectively bargain over the plan for leadership teams, but the district has refused. BEU educators are demanding that the district let educators exercise leadership on their own terms using their right to bargain collectively. Encouraging teachers to break with the union by acting only as individuals, as some administrators have, is a flagrant affront to educators’ right to self-organize and act in solidarity with one another — to act in unity — without interference.
In failing to address educators’ concerns through collective bargaining, the district unfortunately worsens a sense among educators that, for this administration, respecting teacher voice begins with talk and ends with talk, if they respond at all, not with action that respects us. Educators, through the BEU, have proposed to no avail that since there are available funds there should be 1) immediate pay raises for all paraprofessionals so that vacant positions will be easier to fill, and 2) increases for stipends for those already doing extra work.
We already know that until and unless teachers are given fewer instructional periods and lower student loads and caseloads, that we need fewer meetings and building responsibilities, not more. Meetings and other added responsibilities have been increasingly encroaching on teachers’ and related service providers’ face-time with students, duty free lunches, and time to prepare for the day’s classes or sessions. Many paras are filling in without additional pay. However, rather than fix this structural problem, the response of the administration has been to stymie our efforts to solve it.
Unsurprisingly, when educators hear that more will be added to the day, they insist on bargaining over the operation and impact of the new initiative. In response, the administration is trying to intimidate us and to manipulate individual educators into complying with their unilateral plan that further erodes our time to teach and right to negotiate agreements that the administration can be held to.
Here are some of the questions that the BEU will raise when given the opportunity to negotiate over school leadership teams. The questions go to the heart of the union’s commitment to increasing respect for the professional judgement of each and every educator and fighting for staffing and working conditions that create the best learning conditions for students.
1) What is the scope of work and time that will be compensated, and at what rate? Why are paraprofessionals, who will contribute equally, compensated at a lower rate than teachers?
2) How are committee members chosen, and how, when, and why will they qualify as representatives?
3) In seeking to represent others, how will the committee members consult with colleagues in a way that does not displace other important activities or leave colleagues under pressure to give up their preps or lunch?
4) If any activity is displaced by the work of these teams, what will happen to it?
5) What additional work will be expected of the rest of the staff?
6) How will decisions within the teams be made?
7) How will the decisions or recommendations of the team be implemented? Will the district negotiate with the union over these decisions?
Twenty-five year ago, business-sponsored education reform began, calling itself a champion of racial equity and bringing standardized testing, school takeovers and closings, charter schools, top-down accountability measures, loss of recess, and diminished time for science, social studies and electives. Across the country and in Brookline, it has been a failure for students of color. As is inevitable, scores have plateaued and gaps persist between youth of color and their white counterparts. Brookline is now doubling-down on this flawed approach, hiring more administrators to move the needle on metrics. “Restorative Justice” is being discussed, but not yet how it will be fit into the stressful, over-scheduled, metric-driven school days. Administrators say that if psychological racial bias is eliminated and everyone perseveres, students of color can, and will, catch up with their more advantaged peers. But what if the metric-driven definition of success is actually exacerbating racial disadvantage, not diminishing it? There is little opportunity to question whether the prevailing definitions of achievement are getting us the schools our students deserve.
Last winter, four of us, all Brookline educators, visited NYC to meet teachers, students who are working with the community to seize on a principle borrowed from the disability rights movement: “nothing about us without us.” They are using Critical Participatory Action Research. The approach is premised on a belief in all people’s right to research. Together, they are questioning how schools empower students and how they diminish or marginalize them. In the process, they are generating their own goals for their schools and calling out expectations that ignore their voices and dreams. Working cross generationally, they are helping to design schooling that connects classrooms to the school, and school to the neighborhood and larger society. The unionized teachers have collectively bargained school day schedules and their role in designing transformative culture rooted in restorative justice practices. Students have time and space to help teach adults and one another how to respect and partner with one another in creating a just learning community that honors not only different cultures but also different kinds of educational knowledge and practice.
We are now launching our own CPAR project in Brookline with the help of Professor Patricia Krueger-Henney from UMASS Boston. The approach sees people as experts on their own lives, and communities as capable of doing strong, critical analyses of systems. We invite you to learn more about it and join us. This fall, about twenty Brookline community members—parents, students, educators, and others—will join together as “co-researchers” to consider questions such as:
- In an ideal world, what would schools look like?
- What is already working and should be prioritized?
- What issues affecting preK-12+ students are most pressing?
- What practices and priorities are keeping Brookline schools from being places of joy for children and adults alike?
- What changes would make our schools places that continually foster a love of learning for all involved?
- Whose voices are missing when decisions about our schools are being made, and how do we empower those voices to create schools our communities deserve?
Co-researchers will decide collaboratively on the most urgent issues, and then collect data through conversations with people who are most affected.
The findings will be shared with the school committee, the BEU, the administration, students, parents, and others. Young people will be offered the opportunity to express what they have learned through art. The BEU plans to use the research findings to inform the development of proposals for the next round of contract negotiations with the Brookline School Committee.
We envision a school system that belongs to us as community members, students, parents, and educators, and that embraces the knowledge, vision and solutions that come from listening to all voices.
JOIN US FOR AN INFORMATION SESSION TO LEARN MORE!
PICK ONE OF TWO SESSIONS ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17
BOTH AT BIG (BROOKLINE INTERACTIVE GROUP STUDIOS)
Brookline High School Industrial Arts Building, top floor
46 Tappan Street (next to Brookline Hills T)
FOR INFO, OR TO RSVP, EMAIL US HERE. (Nothing.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Michelle Crawford-Cranmore; Remy Fernández-O’Brien; Bob Miller; Jason Murray, Jessica Wender-Shubow