The Burlington Education Association and representatives from the Burlington School District met Wednesday with little success in the ongoing effort to secure a contractual agreement for the 2017-18 school year. Since no agreement was reached, the parties now move to the fact-finding process in the next two weeks. Both sides will present evidence to Michael Ryan, who also has served as mediator. He will issue a report which is not binding, but could present a path to a settlement.
The Wednesday meeting was the second mediation session held since the board declared impasse in March.
The BEA negotiating team continued to address the Association’s two main concerns in settling the contract. The teachers seek a contract that will offer a competitive compensation package that will attract and retain the best teachers for the city’s students. The teachers also contend the city’s voters approved a 7.74% increase or in excess of $6 million from FY16- FY18 yet not only has the number of teachers been reduced but the compensation of teachers in comparison to others in the region has gone down. The current Board proposal allocates less than 38 cents of each dollar in revenue to teacher salary and health benefits leaving teachers questioning the Board’s allocation of the revenues.
The BSD proposals want to shift the majority of healthcare costs to employees, and offer salary increases that do not recognize experience. The teachers are also concerned with proposed changes to working conditions that would limit time for direct-student academic services.
As President of the BEA, let me share with you two issues of particular concern to teachers.
As of yesterday, your Board consent agenda included a teacher renewal list that indicates 248 teachers have returned their letters of intent. This leaves 160 teachers; or nearly 40% of Burlington’s teachers have either resigned, retired, asked for an extension or have unresolved contract issues. I understand that a second list will be part of your June consent agenda.
As teachers leave, past practice has been to conduct exit interviews. I hope that interviews are conducted and the Board is apprised of the reasons behind the departures. Honest dialogue about such issues should help inform Board policies and direct the administration.
My second concern is with the NEASC accreditation report, which is now circulating. It is good news to know that the NEASC commission granted accreditation for BHS. It is important, however, to focus on the recommendations made in the report to help guide necessary changes at the high school in order to insure that we are meeting the educational needs of all students.
In addition to the recommendations noted in the District’s press release, let me draw your attention to the following recommendations:
These recommendations are not trivial; meeting student needs on these terms would transform our schools. I encourage each of you to read the full report to better understand what is being done well at BHS, but also what needs to be addressed so our students have access to the high-quality education they deserve.
We are the educators of Burlington, Vermont. We strive daily to build the schools that Burlington's kids deserve.