Boston Teachers Union brings contract dispute to JP

March 16, 2012
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SUMNER HILL—Representatives from the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) held a meeting at the Jamaica Plain Branch Library to discuss the 20-month-long ongoing contract negotiation process between themselves and the Boston Public Schools (BPS) on Feb. 16.

The meeting was part of a series of meetings held all over the city to explain the BTU’s position on the negotiation. About 20 people attended, including some parents, grandparents and teachers.

Erik Berg, a BTU board member and JP resident, explained the major points of contention—possibly increasing the length of BPS’s school day and corresponding pay increases, as well as teacher evaluations.

BPS has proposed extending the school day anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, with no additional pay for teachers, Berg said.

“We believe it’s not the role of teachers to subsidize a longer school day,” Berg said at the meeting.

“We are interested in a longer school day. We are interested in compensating teachers for that. We’re interested in keeping this affordable for the city, fair to our members and good for the children,” BTU President Richard Stutman said at the meeting.

According to a BPS flyer handed out at the meeting, BPS projects a cost increase of $41 million for the longer school day. BTU states that that number would likely be closer to $11 million.

“We have been sending staff to each of the meetings to ensure that there is a resource available to the audience in the event they have questions about the Boston Public Schools proposals,” BPS spokesperson Matthew Wilder told the Gazette. “In some instances, we’ve had to correct inaccurate information provided by the BTU.”

The BPS representative present at the meeting did not question Berg’s and Stutman’s quick arithmetic that came up with the $11 million figure.

Berg screened a five-minute video about an average teacher’s day and how it would be impacted by the new contract and fielded questions from the audience, most of which asked for clarification on various points of the negotiation.

Berg also said a draft teacher evaluation system was in the works.

Wilder did not say whether BPS plans to start a similar series of meetings, though he noted BPS and BTU have been participating in events sponsored by the Boston United For Students coalition.

“We and the BTU have both participated in these forums and believe it’s a good way to make sure parents and students can take the lead in the conversation because really, it’s ultimately about them,” Wilder said.

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