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Boston Superintendent Johnson Letter To Union On 'Project Promise' Schools

Boston Superintendent Johnson Letter To Union On 'Project Promise' Schools

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Published by WBUR

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: WBUR on Jul 25, 2012
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05/13/2014

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BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT
July 25, 2012 Chairperson and Members, For more than two years, our efforts to extend the day at many schools by a modest amount – and at an affordable cost – have been rejected time and again by the BTU. I write to inform you that we are now going to pursue an alternate route that would provide a much more substantial amount of extended time in strategically selected schools where we can have the greatest impact. This new strategy is especially important because our ongoing dispute over extending the school day is a primary source of the contract impasse we are now at with the BTU. This dispute has two components:  First, the District needs to get the Union’s agreement to extend the contractually agreed upon length of the school day. The District’s preference would be to extend the school day by an hour or more at all elementary, middle and K-8 schools. Due to fiscal realities, we have reduced our request to 45 additional minutes. The BTU has continually opposed any extension beyond 30 minutes. Second, while the District is willing to offer compensation for this additional time, we have repeatedly attempted to get the BTU to agree to an increase that is less than the Union’s existing contractual hourly rate. The District believed the BTU would eventually agree to this for the following reasons. First, Boston teachers are among the highest paid in the state. Boston’s students have one of the shortest school days in the nation. Second, District schools cannot compare favorably with charter schools until the District addresses the two- to three-hour daily time gap that exists between District schools and charter schools. Third, the Joint Resolution Committee, which came into existence under the 2010 Education Reform Legislation, found that the school day should be extended at Boston’s 11 Turnaround Schools by one hour and that teachers should be paid $4,100 per year (about half of the contractual rate) for this additional time. Fourth, it is not financially sustainable to extend the school day across the system, even by 30 minutes, at the existing hourly rate without negatively impacting many other academic programs and forcing deep cuts and layoffs.

The BTU has remained steadfast in its position on both components of this dispute. The Union will not accept anything less than the existing contractual hourly rate. Even if the District accepts the Union’s position and agrees to pay the existing hourly rate for the extended day, the Union insists on additional compensation and language concessions above and beyond these higher wages.

Given this situation, and the need both to secure our other reforms in the contract and to move ahead with extending the school day, we are recommending that the District utilize language in the current BTU contract that allows the District to create “Project Promise” Schools (language enclosed). This will allow the District to extend the day at selected schools by an additional two hours at the contractual hourly rate. This designation also allows principals to exercise greater discretion over the selection of the teaching staff. We have tried and continue to try many different ways to resolve the collective bargaining issues with the BTU. The Project Promise provisions will allow us to give students more time at some low-performing schools, though we will not be able to extend the day at nearly as many schools as we had originally hoped. We recognize that time, in and of itself, will not produce results; that is why the other reforms we are working to achieve through these negotiations – including evaluation, seniority, and teacher assignment – are just as critical. All of the major reforms we have been pushing for are important and are intrinsically linked. Reform cannot come at the expense of an unsustainable financial agreement that would force us to abandon successful investments for students. That is why we are pursuing the strategy we have proposed. One final note: The reforms we aim to secure in the contract come at a critical moment as we address school choice. I am excited about the opportunity to add two hours of time at schools that most need it. We all agree our District and school leaders need flexibility to make sure the right resources are in the right places, to make change where necessary, and to move forward. That’s what we aim to do. Sincerely,

Carol R. Johnson Superintendent

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