December 10, 2021
Dear Families, School Committee, and Central Administration:
Because of the School Committee’s unwillingness to settle a fair contract and declaring impasse, the members of the Brookline Educators’ Union will stop participating in voluntary services beginning Dec. 13. We find it necessary to begin this work-to-rule action because we have concluded that the school committee and administration of Brookline Public Schools simply do not understand our working conditions or the demands on Brookline educators.
We have brought proposals to the bargaining table that we know are desperately needed and that our students deserve, among them: staffing improvements that lessen crushing teaching assignments and caseloads (including the unacceptable exploitation of K-8 World Language teachers); improved job security for staff of color who tend to be more vulnerable to staff cuts; added prep time for educators without loss of learning time for students; and cost of living increases that keep pace with inflation and reflect the value of our work.
However, the message that educators continually hear from the school committee is, “Do more with less.” This is insulting to educators who have never worked harder and a disservice to our students who have never needed more support.
Even prior to the Covid pandemic, we communicated to the school committee at the bargaining table that the contracts need to be updated to reflect growing demands on educators and our schools.
While Brookline’s enrollment ballooned by 35%, cost-of-living adjustments flatlined and hiring and retention did not keep pace, particularly when it came to hiring and retaining our colleagues of color and those of non-U.S. national origin.
The district’s administrators have increased the daily demands on all of us, and educators’ jobs are becoming unsustainable. The district’s approach is hurting our ability to deliver to our students the quality of education that we want them to receive. While superintendents, senior administrators, and principals have been in a chaotic flux, the rank and file have kept the Public Schools of Brookline afloat.
Unwilling to put real solutions in writing, the school committee then added proposals that extend the K-8 school day with no added pay, weaken grievance rights, and diminish the exercise of professional judgment. Having done that, the school committee will now not speak with us at the table at all. The committee’s lawyer reports that the school committee members decided unilaterally that we are at an impasse. The disrespect continues as the district tries to turn its responsibility to negotiate with union members over to a state mediator despite themselves having only recently introduced the major proposals above.
Our existing, expired contract remains in effect, and we have decided that we must work firmly within its boundaries until such time that the administration is willing to treat us as professionals and with respect. Educators have willingly given their time above and beyond the obligations set out in our contracts, and we happily do so to create the learning environment that we want for our students. But we have arrived at the point where it is clear that the School Committee is shamefully taking advantage of us.
We are united in our resolve to settle a contract that strengthens our schools and our profession. We can no longer stand by as the school committee approach slowly erodes the quality and reputation of Brookline’s schools.
Below is the list of work that educators perform above and beyond our contractual obligations and that extends our day far too long under current staffing arrangements. We continue to urge the school committee to return to the bargaining table in a way that respects BEU educators as true partners in the effort to strengthen our schools.
WORK ACTIVITY THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN:
- Brookline educators will be refraining from responding to emails outside of contractual work hours.
- All Brookline educators are contractually guaranteed a duty-free lunch period. Seldom, if ever, do we have a period of time that is truly duty free. We will be observing the language of our (expired) contract and maintaining duty free lunch time.
- Educators are also guaranteed a duty-free prep period. We will refrain from attending meetings during this time. This time is essential (and presently insufficient) to prepare lessons, grade, and conduct other essential work duties.
- Brookline educators will be leaving schools within 60 minutes of the end of the contractual workday, except in cases where educators are performing paid or stipended duties.
- Brookline educators will not be grading student work outside of contractual work hours. Since there is not enough time in the contractual workday, let alone the 24-hour work day, to grade, Brookline educators will be using creative alternatives to assess student learning.
- Progress reports at the Middle and High School levels will be streamlined.
- High school teachers use pre-written comments for struggling students, and “making sufficient progress” for students who are not in danger.
- Middle school teachers write SAT/UNSAT
We ask for your consideration and support as we continue to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that our students receive an extraordinary education in the Public Schools of Brookline.
The Educators of the BEU
The Brookline Educators Union is fighting for a fair contract because educators know that collective bargaining is the best way to secure working conditions and compensation that value our professionalism and create learning conditions that we want for our students.
Why is it so hard to get contracts in Brookline? The answer to the question now is simple: The school committee is moving in the wrong direction. The school committee has been unwilling to agree to contractual changes necessary to meet the challenges of an ever-changing educational landscape.
We have proposed:
- Fair cost of living adjustments.
- Measures to address structural racism.
- Additional time for planning that is properly staffed to ensure no loss of student learning time.
In response, suddenly the school committee has introduced new “asks”:
- Create a longer school day with no additional pay.
- Reduce educators’ union rights to address unjust treatment.
- Eliminate language that protects educators’ ability to exercise professional judgement.
Does this look like the school committee wants an agreement?
The school committee repeatedly has been unwilling to commit contractually to learning conditions that our students need. In the absence of a forward-looking contract, Brookline educators have seen work piled on individuals. This top-down approach impedes educators’ ability to teach, demonstrates a disregard for educators’ professionalism, and ultimately produces frustrating conditions for students and educators alike.
The members of the BEU have had enough from the school committee: Enough disrespect. Enough empty talk that continually fails to consider the impact of one-sided decisions that affect the students we teach. Enough dodging and ducking the responsibility of making a commitment to the public schools Brookline deserves.
Our contract is as much of a value statement as it is a document of working conditions. The BEU is bargaining for schools that meet the academic, social and emotional needs of students. We are bargaining for schools where social, racial and economic justice are central to the public education mission. Our hard work to negotiate fair contracts is driven by the desire to have a school district where there is transparency in the decision-making and a contract that is a just and responsive, living document.
A contract is a commitment to resources and provides predictability and norms for our students and their families. We are no longer going to tolerate protracted periods of working without contracts. Our educators deserve better. Our students deserve better. Our community deserves better.
Here are some more specifics about the goals that we are now prioritizing:
- A Just Wage: Increase educators’ salaries by an average of 3% per year during the 3-year contract term (retroactive to 2020-2021).
- Fair Workload for Specialists and K-8 World Language Teachers: Reduce the untenable workload of the district’s Specialist and K-8 World Language teachers, who are required to teach more classes across multiple grade levels and lack opportunities to participate in their school communities.
- Common Planning Time: Create additional common planning time for educators to facilitate collaboration across grade levels, academic departments, and schools.
- Adequate Staffing: Hire additional personnel, recruiting from Brookline neighborhoods facing the highest unemployment rates to increase the diversity of our staff, cover all of the building-based duties, and open up common planning time for educators.
- Retaining a Diverse Workforce: Grant BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) educators Professional Teacher Status (PTS) as early as allowed by law and adopt regular meetings between them and the superintendent
Educators extend our gratitude to the parents, guardians, and caregivers, and other members of the Brookline community, who have been reaching out to us with words of support and sincere questions about what issues are on the bargaining table and what is prompting collective action in the schools.
For some time, we have asked the School Committee to open up negotiations to the public so that members of the community can hear our concerns, see how we work as a union, and judge for themselves whether our proposals are good for our students and schools. We hope you will encourage the School Committee to finally open up the sessions.
Educators do not take the decision to engage in collective action lightly. Unfortunately, every other effort we have made to see serious problems addressed by the district has not worked, leaving us with no other choice. Conditions we are addressing have for too long been degrading educators’ ability to do their best work and to sustain a career commitment to the Public Schools of Brookline. This prolonged, grinding situation is already hurting children much more than our efforts to get to an agreement with the school committee quickly. The conditions we are addressing are definitely not as visible and dramatic as a work action is, but they are ultimately more disruptive of quality educational services and our ability to translate our love of our students into substantive supports that we want to deliver.
Here are our current bargaining priorities of our three year contract:
- A Just Wage: Increase educators’ salaries an average of 3% per year during the 3-year contract term (retroactive to 2020-2021)
- Fair Workload for K-8 World Language Teachers and teachers of “specials”: Reduce the untenable workload of the district’s K-8 World Language and other teachers who are required to teach more classes across multiple grade levels without opportunities to participate in their school communities
- Common Planning Time: Create additional common planning time for educators to facilitate collaboration across grade levels, academic departments, and schools
- Adequate Staffing: Hire additional personnel from Brookline neighborhoods facing the highest unemployment rates to increase the diversity of our staff, cover building-based duties, and open up common planning time for educators
- Retaining a Diverse Workforce: Grant BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) educators Professional Teacher States (PTS) as early as allowed by law and regular meeting with the superintendent
We encouraged members of the community to challenge claims that the town “simply has no money.” This is just not just not true, and if it is “the case”, then it is by choice. In 2019, Brookline placed 29th lowest (or 322nd highest) in tax rates while being in the top 10% in income (even higher in income by some accounts). If Proposition 2 ½ is in the way, it is past time to make means of funding of public services as great a priority as austerity talk. Furthermore, community stake-holders, including the educators of Brookline, are supposed to be part of decisions about how to use $40 million in stimulus funds. We hope you will stand with us.
Please contact the School Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org and insist that this bargaining process becomes transparent and happens in public–right away.