Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back story and request for clarifications

As in most issues there are two sides to the story. Here are my notes from the first School Committee meeting on Tuesday 4/28/09 where they gathered information from the principals in preparation for the teacher unions response to the School Committee counter offer.

If there are any corrections to be made, let's get them out so we all start with the same information.

Note: feedback from the School Committee is marked in GREEN and there is a bold highlight in BLUE to indicate the sentence(s) changed.

On the 27 versus 32 meetings
The teachers are required to attend 27 meetings during the school year plus they "may be required" to attend five meetings for a total of 32 meetings.
The 27 meetings are generally scheduled as three meetings per month (except December and June).
These meetings are generally scheduled on Wednesday's.
The meetings are used differently amongst the elementary, middle, and high school buildings.
One consistently is the principal's meeting for the building.
One generally is a department (i.e. subject) meeting.
One generally is a grade level/team meeting.

The five meetings are generally scheduled other than on Wednesday's.

Due to scheduling mistakes and calendar nuances, not all buildings have 32 meetings scheduled this year although the principals claim to need them to conduct their business appropriately.
For example, the high school had scheduled a meeting that resulted in a conflict with a district wide meeting.
The five meetings originated in the 2001 contract although the need for additional meetings was acknowledged in negotiations prior to this contract.

In the 2001 contract, the elementary school teachers increased from 150 minutes of preparation to 220 minutes in return for the five meetings.

In the 2004 contract, to keep the five meetings, there was an agreement to give up two professional development days.

Contrary to the teacher's claim that there is "no cost" associated with this request, there is. In order to provide the additional prep time, activity monitors were hired by the district to cover for recess, lunch, and other non-instructional periods to provide the teachers the prep time.

While the 2004 contract was agreed to, the parties also agreed to work on a "side letter" to address the time associated with the meetings.

The teachers claim that there has been no progress on the side letter.
The School Committee/District did have at least five meetings with teacher union representatives participating on this matter.
Clearly, the issue has not been resolved, but there was an agreement to schedule the five meetings in advance of the school year to provide the teachers additional time to plan to attend them.

On scheduling meetings before report cards
The teachers are requesting not to have to attend a meeting in the two weeks prior to a report card so that their time can be focused on preparing the accurate and detailed report cards required.
The School Committee proposed that teachers would not be required to attend a meeting in the two weeks prior issuing report cards for the 2009 - 2010 school year (FY10) updated 4/29/09 per School Committee feedback

My two cents:
The real issue tying these two items together is teacher time. There is an instructional time requirement from the state. There are work hours per the contract. Neither of these reflect the actual hours required for teachers to prepare for instructional time and to review and correct student class work/home work.

There is a common misconception that teachers are only "working" during school, that when the school bell rings, the students leave and the teachers are free to do as they please.

This is far from the case. Teachers can spend more hours outside the classroom preparing for instruction (i.e. elementary level) or correcting class work/home work (i.e. middle/high school) than the actual classroom time.

The nature of the instructional time varies from elementary through middle school to high school. Let's get some agreement on the real hours of teacher classroom time, classroom preparation, and classroom post work (i.e correction of papers, preparation of report cards, etc.).

Superintendent Ogden has stated that the 6.5 hour school day is obsolete as well as the current school calendar overall. I agree. Those two items were based in our farming heritage and should be brought to the modern world. Learning should be a life long experience, it has pretty much become that. If you as an adult are not keeping up with changes in your area, you will fall behind and find yourself obsolete.

Based upon what is actually done, let's get an agreement on what is required and should be subject to compensation and what can be considered "over and above" the requirements.

On providing reasons for the "personal" day
Two paid "personal" days are provided to the teachers per the contract.
The days used to be "use it or lose it".
The contract language changed in 2004 to require a reason to be provided for personal days.
The days can be denied if they are for
  • leisure or recreational purposes
  • extending a holiday or vacation period
The Superintendent can make the decision. In order to make the decision, the reason needs to be provided. It is not meant to be a "control" item, it is meant to enable a rational decision.

The teachers have asked for a "permanent" removal of the requirement to provide the reason. The School Committee proposal to the FEA was to remove the requirement to provide a reason for personal days for the 2009 - 2010 school year (FY10)
It should also be noted that as part of the 2004 negotiation any unused personal days are converted to sick days. updated 4/29/09 per School Committee feedback

My two cents:
One possible solution would be to reword the contract such that if the day being requested fell on the calendar before or after a holiday or vacation, to require the reason be provided. If the day requested was not before or after the holiday/vacation day, then allow it to be granted without requiring a reason. Then the request for a "personal" day remains a "personal" day.


The notes from the first meeting can be found here
The notes from the second meeting can be found here

My disclosure statement can be found here

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