The Burlington School Board of Commissioners and the Burlington Education Association moved slightly closer on key issues for a contract to replace the FY17 contract that expired August 31. The two sides met for more than 6 hours on Thursday with mediator Ira Lobel.
The BEA, which represents 400-plus teachers, is seeking working conditions that enable teachers at the elementary and high school to have planning time that is not encumbered with non-teaching responsibilities. The BEA offered to establish a collaborative study to identify ways to better close the achievement gap and serve the academic needs of high school students through possible changes to teaching and non-teaching assignments. But BEA President Fran Brock said “the teachers will not accept immediate schedule and assignment changes at the high school that would limit and control working time. It would only further erode student-directed services and programs.”
The schools have lost more than 100 teachers and seen heavy cuts to programs over the past three years. “The Board is getting bad advice from Administrative leadership, who do not seem to understand the best practices of teaching and learning.”
The Board’s proposal stymies full implementation of an elementary school scheduling plan that would give teacher necessary preparation time and reduce their time handling non-teaching duties. Administrators and teachers have spent the past three years designing and piloting the schedule, and the factfinder recommended it be implemented.
The teachers and board are less than 1% different on new money for salaries. Shared costs for healthcare insurance also is still unsettled. “We are concerned that again the School Board has been dismissive of the fact-finder’s recommendations,” Brock said.
The Burlington Board of School Commissioners and the Burlington Education Association Thursday made some progress in their negotiation of a new contract. The two sides moved a bit closer regarding compensation and working conditions for a proposed two-year contract. A mediation session is set for August 31.
Board members and BEA negotiators conferred directly about changing the assigned and unassigned time for high school teachers. “The discussion gave us a chance to explain why teachers need their preparation time, which was useful,” BEA President Fran Brock said.
The teams were able to agree on a number of contract issues, but are still significantly apart on salary, healthcare insurance and working conditions.
“We made progress,” Brock said, “although we still have some thorny matters to sort out.”
Teachers continue to be concerned that some of the Board’s proposals dealing with working conditions ignore the expertise and professionalism teachers bring to the schools. “Proposals that would take away unassigned time from teachers will curtail the ability of teachers to work with individual students; to collaborate on student-directed programming; and develop, implement and assess student-directed curriculum,” Brock said.
Special School Board Meeting:
Thursday, August 31, 8 PM
Edmunds Middle School Library,
275 Main Street