After a fairly bruising year for the membership and the leadership both, I am sure we are all looking forward to the summer to recharge our batteries. Next year is bound to be better than this one but we will still need all our collective energy to address ongoing challenges.
The Fight for a Fair Contract: The year was dominated by the protracted contract negotiations that spilled over from last year. The Negotiating Team dug in its heels against an array of School Committee proposals that sought to diminish our financial capabilities and contractual rights. But led by the Action Team, the membership rallied and showed its support for a fair contract. Together with parental support, our union commitment proved effective in finally bringing the matter to a political resolution and a new agreement was struck.
The Document Itself: The M.T.A. takes the lead in developing a new document to reflect the changes to the language of the contract. They have promised to get the new financial schedules reflecting the negotiated raises as quickly as possible. But the overall contract will not be available until the summer. It has to be written up and then reviewed and approved by the leadership and the administration before it can be published. In the meanwhile, use the Memorandum of Understanding and the old contract as to contract details.
Professional Development Credit Changes: The contract changed the “west to east” process for acquiring credits to boost one’s salary. After this current year, you can no longer get credit for professional development embedded in the school year. You can now only get three credits out of the five summer offerings (the other two act as P.D.P.s). You still can pick and choose which days to attend of the five that are offered. Getting compensation for summer professional development when you are at the top of the salary scale remains unchanged. Getting credit for academic courses also remains unchanged.
Future Committee Work: The Contract created a number of committees to address issues that were not fully resolved in the negotiations. A group will meet next year on the salary step schedule issue with a view to look at how other districts structure their approach. Another group will review teacher freedom of speech issues in the context of social media. Still another group will seek to secure consistent daily free time for elementary teachers. We will need member volunteers for all of these committees.
D.D.M. Concerns: One of the other committees created by the new contract is already meeting with the administration. The state has proposed alternative pathways to address the requirement to have two measures of teacher impact on student growth as part of the evaluation system. The standard format is to use two common assessments (MCAS if applicable, otherwise D.D.M.s) to fulfill this requirement. The alternative (supported by the administration) is to have one measure be based on a D.D.M. (or MCAS) and the other on the yearly student-learning goal. M.T.A. has put its support behind the traditional model and we are considering the options. If you have any views on the matter feel free to contact me.
Evaluation Concerns: We have an ongoing joint labor/management committee to review the status of the evaluation process. In the past we have been able to effectuate changes in the district’s approach. The regulations on this matter are flexible, but the process has to be practical and fair. Seeking consistency in the evaluator’s approach is a major concern. The binder requirements of the summative evaluation need to be greatly reduced. Please consider being part of this committee.
The Election: We have newly minted officers: Chris Hopkins and Eric Dugan return as president and vice president, Jody Sheehan is the new secretary and Kathy Lindquist is the new treasurer. The election for vice president was, of course, not without controversy. A mistake was made in terms of one school’s participation on the actual election day and the officers scrambled to fix the problem. Ultimately the E Board in special session reviewed the facts of the situation and the arguments of the competing sides. After this due diligence, the Board voted to support the election results despite the disjointed process. The Board will look to improve and standardize our election procedures for the future.
Plans for the Future: Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done to support our rights and effectively advocate for our interests. Over the last year, we had a lot of positive energy in collectively supporting our views, but we also had a critical undercurrent as to “how things got done”. Bottom line: if we are to be successful as a union we need more people involved in leadership positions. The E Board has multiple openings available for people to represent their school’s (and the membership’s) interests. We have multiple committees that need staffing. Let’s take the positive energy and put it to good use. Let’s turn criticism into constructive efforts. Please consider taking an active role in the union for the coming school year. Join a committee. Join E Board. Step up and make it happen for all of us.