The following is a Letter to the Editor:
We want to respond to comments by the president of the BEA printed in the Burlington Union on Feb. 3, 2022. The School Committee perceives different sticking points in our negotiations than the Union does. We agree with the union that there has recently been good movement on some issues.
The School Committee and the BEA have a shared interest in what is best for the teachers and the students. The School Committee wants to preserve instructional time for students and time for professional development for teachers and staff. We have listened to the BEA proposals and asked questions. They have listened to our proposals and have asked questions. Despite public comments from some union members, we have been negotiating in good faith.
At the beginning of negotiations, the School Committee proposed numerous ideas aimed at increasing instructional time for students. Our goal was to engage the Union in conversations to find what would be most appealing to the teachers. Once the BEA made clear that they were not in favor of most of these proposals, we stopped focusing on those proposals very early in the negotiations process.
We did continue to make a flex time proposal at the elementary school level, but last month the School District removed that proposal from the packages we offered to the Union. Our current offer is not seeking any substantive changes to the teachers’ working conditions and still offers a pay increase that will allow teachers to remain among the top paid teachers in Massachusetts over the next contract period, It will also continue to outpace what teachers in many local Districts are receiving during the initial pandemic year and this 3 year contract period.
Yes, our school year is longer than most other districts. Our school day is also shorter than many other districts. As the BEA has acknowledged, our teachers are some of the top paid teachers in Massachusetts.
Note that since 2020, we have also spent hours negotiating two Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) to safeguard the health and safety of our teachers, staff, and students. We also addressed many changes in instructional methods during the COVID pandemic. This long process understandably adds to all of our frustration about not having settled the contract yet.
We know how great our teachers have been and how hard it is to teach through a pandemic.
We believe that teachers are essential. We wish we had the power to end the pandemic, but we don’t. We hope to settle a fair contract with the BEA soon.
Martha Simon and Christine Monaco
School Committee members of the district negotiating team