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?
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.