Presented to the School Committee during Open Comment, May 31, 2018
Good evening. My name is Jeremy Bloch. I am a teacher at the Coolidge Corner School. I serve on the Executive Board of the Brookline Educators Union, and I am a BEU member of the Workload Oversight Committee. I am speaking tonight on behalf of the Executive Board.
In his May 25th update, Superintendent Bott announced a plan to implement Instructional Leadership Teams throughout the school district this fall.
The BEU’s very first opportunity to pose even initial questions about the plan came just an hour or two before his announcement. We met with Mr. Lummis and shared questions and concerns. We did not expect answers on the spot — and we did not get them — and we reserved judgment as to whether this initiative is ready for prime time.
Shortly after this meeting, we received the Superintendent’s newsletter, and were surprised; first, by the announcement that the program would be implemented this fall; and, second, by the implication that the BEU was on board.
We consider a response to our questions and a serious dialogue to be prerequisite to scheduling any district-wide initiative. This major initiative has been developed and announced without consultation or collaboration with union representatives, or for that matter, with any of our members, as far as we know.
Educators who do the day-to-day work with students have expertise, insight, and ideas which are vital to the formulation of good district policy and organizational planning. Quality programming depends on collaboration before making a commitment to an initiative. Good intentions and assurances from administrators are not a substitute for real collaboration. Real collaboration is challenging, and it takes time.
It might seem odd, or perhaps misguided, for the union to raise concerns about a program whose stated goals are to improve teaching and learning and to promote shared leadership. Of course, the union supports these general goals. But the devil is in the details.
The proposal for this initiative represents a major commitment of time and resources. It calls for building level committees of 8-10 people each, which will meet for 90 minutes, at least twice monthly. How will the work of these committees fit with all of the other demands on our time that educators already contend with?
High quality instruction is not a new idea, nor is the idea of educators discussing it together. Such discussions are always a central focus of our work. We think, talk, and collaborate regularly with the aim of improving our instruction. In grade level meetings. With math specialists and coaches. With literacy specialist and coaches. In weekly Special Education consultations. In building level Faculty Meetings. In Department Meetings. In supervision and evaluation. In independent professional development. On Child Study Teams, and Race and Equity teams, and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support Teams. With Guidance, with ELL, with Speech & Language, with BCBAs, with Social Workers, and with Psychologists.
There are many important questions for staff to discuss and clarify, before we can decide what version of this initiative, if any, can be both practical and effective.
Do we have a good understanding of what the creation of these committees will provide that we are not already getting in all of these other forums? WIll educators see these committees and the charge to lead work with the rest of the staff as a real opportunity to address the pressing challenges that we face in our day to day work? When would members of the leadership team and other educators find the time to meet? Would these meetings be required? What meetings would they replace? What other work would not get done as well, or not get done at all, while these meetings are happening?
This initiative is invested with the hopes of improving staff satisfaction and student learning; however, its concept, timing, and roll out appear, at this point, to be another example of top down programming that swallows up time that is in short supply, without consideration of how and whether this will work well.
Its concept, timing, and roll out appear, at this point, to be another example of top down programming that swallows up time that is in short supply, without consideration of how and whether this will work well. The BEU Executive Committee is making this statement today, to the School Committee, to central administration, and to our members, to communicate our position clearly, that the district has much work to do to thoughtfully consider this program, and the union’s endorsement should not be assumed.