The ball is back in the Boston Teachers Union court after the School Department said that is will accept some of the proposals contained in the union’s latest contract offer, but not all of them.
The BTU said it would review the counter-proposal by the School Department tonight and present it to members to for their feedback.
The two sides reached a compromise on the issue of creating a new teacher evaluation system, agreeing to use one based on the Massachusetts system. But the School Department rejected two other proposals proposed by the union, one aimed at cutting sixth and ninth grade class sizes by one student and allowing the hiring of substitute classroom aides for special education students.
The compromise on teacher evaluations might be the biggest sign that the years-long contract talks may be nearing an end. That issue had been a major roadblock to an agreement and one of the main reasons the state had threatened to intervene.
Originally, the BTU opposed the Massachusetts model for teacher evaluations because they believed it made it easier for the School District to fire “ineffective” teachers without making an effort to provide them with the tools to improve first. Meanwhile, the School District felt the state model was overly complicated.
The School Department agreed to hired eight social workers and six nurses (to supplement the already existing staff) as requested by the BTU. Those hirings were part of a larger request made by the teacher’s union in exchange for accepting a lower salary. The full union request asked the School Department to hire the nurses and social workers, as well as hire eight substitute paraprofessionals for special education classes and reduce class size in exchange the salary reduction.
There maybe a sense of urgency on both sides to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The City of Boston made a deal to implement a new teacher evaluation system for this school year as a condition of receiving millions of dollars from the Federal Government to help revamp public school. The city also is under the gun to comply with new state-mandated teacher evaluation standards that make student test scores a key part of the process.
Even while submitting their latest proposal to the School District, the CTU took a few swipes at the district, alleging that Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson has been a “no-show” during contract negotiations, and that Deputy Superintendent Michael Goar has been a “virtual no-show” after allegedly being absent from the past three weeks of negotiations.
They also charged that the School Department negotiating team had failed to meet with union representatives since August 13.
Goar told the Boston Herald that the two sides have agreed to meet Saturday if the union presents its list of counter-counter-proposals by tomorrow (Thursday)
If the union rejects the School District’s counter-proposal, the state Department of Labor Relations may have to step in, at the request of Mayor Thomas Menino.
In other school news, students at the new Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School in Roxbury received a warm welcome from members of the community during a special ceremony on Wednesday morning.
The 132 pre-kindergarten through first grade students are the first class of students at the school, located at 6 Shirley Street. The school was developed through a partnership with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston Partners in Education (BPE) and the Boston Public Schools. The charter school was created as a response from community members’ demand for a neighborhood school that placed students on a path to college and careers.
BPS Superintendent Johnson and Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester were slated to attend the opening ceremony.
New Dudley Principal Christine Landry said the school’s first goal is achieving proficiency in reading and math by every student by the third grade.
“We know that to reach our goal…, we need to do things differently,” Landry said.
The school will use the innovative approach of having faculty member work in teams, rather than assigning students to teachers. In addition, each teacher at Dudley will hold multiple certifications in teaching English as a second language and special education.