Burlington Education Association negotiators press for agreement that attracts and retains the best for the city’s students
BURLINGTON -- The Burlington School Board directed its negotiators Thursday night to declare impasse in the contract negotiations with the Burlington Education Association. The Board’s action requires the board and association negotiators to agree upon a mediator or fact-finder and to set a schedule for continuing the collective bargaining process.
Burlington’s teachers are striving to settle a contract that insures the district attracts and retains quality teachers who can provide the city’s students with the quality education they deserve. The teachers hope that a respectful and fair contract can be hammered out without the Board again pushing the parties to the level of crisis experiences this past fall.
Unresolved issues include class size; educational and programming services for Burlington’s diverse student population; language regarding appropriate and equitable elementary school workplace matters; a compensation package that ensures Burlington will attract and retain quality teachers. “A teacher’s working condition is a child’s learning environment,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as BEA president.
Brock said the BEA is hopeful that the School Board will instruct their negotiators to continue working in good faith to resolve the differences. As of now, the BEA’s negotiation team of teachers has been met only with BSD lawyers – members of the board have not met with the association. “All of Burlington’s children not only deserve a quality education, but a rigorous, high-caliber education,” Brock said. “This is crucial if our students are to be prepared to move into the career or college of their choice.”
Greetings on this very snowy afternoon fellow members!
Let me share a few thoughts with you about Monday’s press release from the Burlington School Board about our contract negotiations. For starters, please be assured that despite the tone of the board’s release, our team and the board’s representatives are still at the table bargaining the terms of a contract. We are making progress. We haven’t yet declared impasse.
The board seems intent on picking a public fight over the issue of negotiating in public. Our association has bargained in open session in the past, and we have found from experience that it doesn’t make coming to a contract agreement any easier. In fact, your bargaining team has offered to bargain in public if the entire negotiation process – mediations, fact-finding, etc. – was open to the public. The current school board declined that offer. It is worth noting that the standing board has sent in three different attorneys to do its bargaining, but not a single elected commissioner has participated in negotiations. It is more than a tad ironic that board members want the public to attend negotiation sessions, but not one of the elected board members has yet to attend.
Rather than focus on this issue, we wish members of the board will commit to doing what it takes to avoid a repeat of our last round of negotiations. We have made it clear that we are working toward a contract that will attract and retain the best teachers for Burlington’s students.
Throwing unnecessary lobs – even while the parties make progress – does nothing for the students of Burlington. We urge the board to remain focused on reaching a fair settlement that does right by our students, our schools, the city and us, the professional teachers who are on the front lines directly serving the students.
Burlington's teachers took to the streets on our first float for Burlington's Mardi Gras. The message that we shared was the fact that Burlington's Schools Rock! We hope that everyone enjoyed their shirts. Thank you, Burlington residents, for all of the support that you give your teachers and your schools. Also, thank you to all of our teachers who helped build the float and braved the frigid temperatures to join the parade!
Members of the Burlington Education Association attended two lobbying sessions at the Vermont State House in Montpelier. Members were able to meet with members of the Vermont State Senate and House of Representatives in order to represent the perspective of Burlington's teachers. This is an opportunity for our state's teachers to share about the impacts that policies can have in the classroom.
The BEA, Rights & Democracy Vermont and the Peace and Justice Center hosted a forum with candidates for Burlington's City Council. We met with a lot of community members and were excited to be able to help provide this opportunity for Burlington's residents to learn about their candidates.
The Burlington Education Association and the Burlington School Board today exchanged initial contract proposals. The two negotiating teams will study the other’s proposal and will meet again within the next few weeks when the BEA hopes agreement can be reached on issues that directly affect the quality of education that Burlington citizens expect and deserve for the city’s children.
The BEA has proposed salary increases to help Burlington achieve regional competitiveness after several years of deferred investment to attract and retain the best faculty for Burlington’s children. The proposal sets out a reasonable and shared contribution for a healthcare plan. The teachers’ proposal also includes new language for elementary schools that would insure consistent, equitable distribution of resources according to student needs and best teaching practices. It is important to teachers that the city’s six elementary schools have staffing and scheduling that provide quality and equitable education for the city’s youngest students.
“The teachers’ proposal reflects that which is of highest priority to teachers, attracting and retaining the best teaching staff so our city’s school children get a rigorous, quality education that prepares all of our students for career or college,” said Fran Brock, president of the teachers’ association. “Burlington taxpayers have long been generous with their financial support of the schools,” said Brock, “and our proposal can be funded with appropriate distribution of district funds.”
The current contract states that if no agreement is reached by February 15, 2017, the negotiation teams may declare impasse. The teams currently are planning to meet multiple times between now and February 15. Brock said she hopes efforts to settle the contract will be more civil and constructive in order to avoid the discord experienced with the 2016-17 contract negotiations.
Good evening Commissioners:
As you know, I am president of the Burlington Education Association. I’m also a history teacher at BHS and a resident of Ward 5.
On behalf of the Burlington School District’s teachers and paraeducators, I hope that as you work toward the March vote on a proposed budget for 2017-18, problems that plagued the current year’s budget will be avoided. I hope that the strategic planning process underway is being driven by district goals that focus on comprehensive student-centered educational programming and services.The strategic plan needs to be grounded in the goal of providing ample opportunities for student success.
Specifically, I hope that your proposed budget will make clear the district’s educational objectives and will clearly identify through line-item accounting the specific expenditures needed to reach those goals. I also hope that all programs, people, and budget items can be defended as directly serving the educational needs of Burlington’s students.
Out of respect for Burlington taxpayers, it is more crucial than ever that allocations of funds -- proposed and actual spending of tax dollars -- must first and foremost go toward student-directed services.
In that vein, library/media center specialists must be restored at all schools. These teachers are not replaceable. These programs are not expendable. Library/media services provide crucial direct support for students and teachers. Those of us who work directly with students are feeling the hit; we are not able to provide the quality of education our community expects. Library/media centers are the heart and soul of a democratic society. As a district we need to take seriously our goal of providing equitable educational opportunities to all students.
Similarly, as we strive to insure that each and every student has access to educational support and programming that is appropriately challenging, your proposed budget needs to restore faculty and paraprofessionals who provide both remedial services and advance placement programming. We cannot afford to continue slashing programs for any student; to do so will continue to damage the education of all students.
Again, as you work toward developing a proposed budget for the March vote, I hope you will be honest and true to Burlington’s heritage of providing all necessary student-directed educational programs and services, staffed with licensed professionals. The goals that direct the budget must insure that all students have equal access to an education that will make reaching one’s full potential a reality for each student.
I wish you an enjoyable and safe December break and a happy new year.
Vote comes after union, board reached a tentative agreement that averted a strike
BURLINGTON – Burlington’s teachers today agreed to ratify the agreement reached last week with the school board that averted a strike and ensures a contract through August 2017.
“I am so proud of my fellow members,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the president of the Burlington Education Association. “We showed that when we stand together, we can do great things. I am also pleased that we and the school board have reached a settlement that not only averted a strike, but also paved the way for all of us to work together on behalf of the city’s children.”
Details of the agreement – which replaces a set of employment policies imposed by the school board won’t be released until it is also ratified by the Burlington School Board.
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Negotiators for both sides worked hard to reach deal for a one-year pact that will keep schools open
BURLINGTON – Burlington’s teachers will not go on strike tomorrow as they and the city’s school board reached a tentative agreement for a one-year contract.
“I am pleased to tell Burlington students, parents and residents that school will begin on time tomorrow morning,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the president of the Burlington Education Association, the teachers’ union. “I know this has been a hard road, but we’re pleased to have reached an agreement with the school board.”
Details of the agreement won't be released until it is ratified by both parties.
“This is terrific news for Burlington’s students,” Brock said. “In the end, the board shares the same deep devotion to the city’s children as we do, and our teams were able to reach an agreement that will allow us all to devote ourselves to making our schools even better for all of our students.”
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In unfair labor practice charge filed with Vermont Labor Board, teachers assert school board imposed working conditions before legally allowed
MONTPELIER – The Burlington School Board committed six unfair labor practices – including multiple attempts to thwart a settlement – in its rush to walk away from contract talks with the city’s teachers, according to an unfair labor practice charge filed today with the Vermont Labor Relations Board.
The charge, filed by the Burlington Education Association, said that what started out as an attempt to reach a quick, one-year deal for the current school year turned into protracted roadblocks to a settlement that ultimately ended when the board walked away from the table and imposed an employment policy before it was legally allowed to do so.
“From the start, more than 16 months ago, all we wanted was to have a one-year contract in place this year,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the union’s president. “We knew, and the board certainly knew, that the changes in health insurance looming next year means that we have some complicated bargaining ahead of us. It’s too bad the board chose division, delay, and roadblocks this year.”
The filing comes a day after hundreds of the union’s members voted overwhelmingly to strike Oct. 20 if a tentative contract agreement for the current year isn’t reached. The parties are scheduled to meet with a mediator on Oct. 19. The teachers, for their part, are hoping to settle. “I certainly hope the board has the same goal.”
In its filing, the union said the board:
“It’s too bad that the board has chosen the course it has, because instead of starting this school year in chaos and disruption, we could have had a contract in place,” Brock said. “It seems that the more than $50,000 the board’s leadership has spent on an anti-union consultant, a former superintendent and a bargaining adviser has brought them to this place.”
Brock said that she knows members of the board share the teachers’ dedication to the city’s students and she implores them to come to the table Wednesday ready to bargain a mutually acceptable settlement.
The ULP filing may be downloaded here.
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