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6 Insights from Negotiation Documents Released by Tewksbury School Committee

The Tewksbury Teachers Association (TTA) and Tewksbury School Committee (TSC) have been in contractual talks since Feb. 15, 2021. The TSC recently made public all email communications between the two parties, and the Carnation has reviewed the documents and consolidated some highlights.

Note that we did not report every exchange, so we encourage interested residents to view the documents in full here. We will address salary negotiations separately. In addition, note that the district’s responses are from Rosann DiPietro of Long & DiPietro, the district’s labor council.

For reference, the TTA’s current contract can be found here.

1. Article VI: Evaluation and Teacher Rights

On Feb. 15, the TTA asked to add a section to Article VI with the goal of making district initiatives and professional development more collaborative. They asked to create a committee of three TTA members and three administrator designees; any district initiatives and professional development programs would be approved by this committee.

On March 3, the TSC countered with an offer to hold monthly meetings to discuss district initiatives and professional development. On May 4, the TTA asked to add language that a speaker may be invited to speak on any topic discussed, and that any TTA member may come to the meeting as an observer.

The final TSC offer removes the speakers and opportunity for TTA members to attend.

2. Article XIX: Textbooks

This section outlines the process of adopting new textbooks. On March 3, the TSC added “digital resources” in addition to “textbooks” and updated “Director of Curriculum” to “Assistant Superintendent or designee.” 

Under the proposed language, the Assistant Superintendent or designee will make the final recommendation for what to adopt, purchase or implement, and the TSC will have the final purchasing decision. By a five to four vote the TTA added the word “district” to resources and initiatives and requested that the Assistant Superintendent or designee include a rationale in their recommendations. The TTA also wants all teachers participating in a committee to be compensated at their hourly rates.

The last TSC proposal removes the word “district,” which the TTA added, and removes the clause that the Assistant Superintendent or designee will include a rationale in their recommendations.

3. Article VIII: Professional Responsibilities

On Feb. 15, the TTA asked for adjustments to PLCs.

Author’s note: PLCs are Professional Learning Communities, groups of educators who meet regularly to improve both teaching skills and students’ academic performance. PLCs are involved with a learning cycle that helps teachers try new processes to find what works and what does not.

The main point of contention was the amount of time that PLCs need to meet weekly. The TTA asked to change the meeting times from 30 minutes two times a week or 60 minutes one time a week, to 15 minutes two times a week or one time 30 minutes a week. They also asked that PLC time be scheduled in the morning or afternoon, when non-instructional duties are usually scheduled. The TTA notes that this was agreed upon in a previous arbitration settlement.

The TSC countered on March 3 by adding a section that the professional work day will be increased by 15 minutes to accommodate the current PLC time. They changed the title “teacher” to “unit leader” and eliminated the team leader position found in Appendix B, but added in four lead teachers for grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 and agreed to timing of PLC duties. 

The TTA on May 4 agreed to change “teacher” to “unit leader” but otherwise holds to the original proposal. The TSC again countered on May 4 with grades 5-12 meeting 30 minutes two times a week or 60 minutes one time a week, and Pre-K through fourth grade meeting 15 minutes three times a week, 22.5 minutes two times a week or 45 minutes once a week.

The final TSC proposal adds back in the language that eliminated the team leader position found in Appendix B but added in four lead teachers for grades 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The TTA, in their initial proposal, requested an additional section to this article, stating that special education teachers will not be responsible for more than five special education evaluation tests per year, with this number to include any alternate MCAS portfolios.

Author’s note: Per the department of education, a small number of students with significant disabilities are unable to take the standard MCAS. These students will participate in the MCAS Alternate Assessment, which is comprised of a portfolio of materials that may include work samples, instructional data, videotapes and other supporting information.

On March 3, the TSC countered with a minor change to the language to say when it is reasonably possible, evaluations will be distributed on an equitable basis. The TTA came back with a new proposal, that the Tewksbury Public School Department create two special education evaluators for testing all special education students. There would be one position for pre-K though grade 4 and one for grades 5-12. These evaluators would not be responsible for teaching or direct student services. 

The final TSC offer says that educators will be compensated at the teacher’s hourly rate for any testing that occurs out of contractual work hours if it could not be scheduled within the school day.  

4. Article VIII Section 4 (A), Article VIII Section 5 (B) and Article VIII Section 5 (C)

In the TSC’s original proposal, on March 3, they changed the language in all these articles, striking all statements about staff lunch and changing the language such that preschool through grade 4 unit members have a 25-minute duty-free lunch and will be assigned student lunch and recess duties on an equitable basis. On April 12, the TSC also struck the language that pre-school, K and elementary teachers shall be relieved of lunch/recess duties but added in that employees shall not be assigned to both morning bus and lunch/recess duties in the same day.

On May 4, the TTA rejected that proposal but said they would look at it again if the district provides a schedule that includes morning, lunch/recess and afternoon duty. TSC countered on May 18 that elementary school teachers shall receive no more than one lunch duty a week. On May 19 the TTA sent over an informational chart with a breakdown of planning times per school to illustrate the inequity and offered to host a “day in the life” of an elementary school teacher for any school committee member.

The TTA comes back on Sept. 16 and says that as long as pre-school through fourth grade teachers have to cover lunch/recess, they will need 30 extra minutes per workday for extra help and conferences; they are currently allotted 15 minutes.  

5. Article XXII: Temporary Leaves of Absence with Pay (Section 1-Personal Leave)

Currently, teachers have two personal days and can use a sick day to take a third personal day, as long as its not used in conjunction with another personal day. On Feb. 15, the TTA asked to change that to five personal days and eliminate the use of a sick day as a third personal day. They also ask to remove the language that personal days can’t be used to extend a vacation week.

The TSC countered, on March 3 and changed the number of personal days to three, added back in the language about extending vacations, and also added that personal days can’t be used on government and state mandated testing days. 

On March 4, the TTA agreed to the change if the language about testing days was removed. The TSC final offer states that teachers should make all reasonable efforts to not schedule personal days on dates which MCAS or other mandated testing occurs.

6. Article X Section 3: Teacher Assignments

The section currently states that “To the extent that it is possible, changes in grade assignments in the elementary schools and in subject assignment in the secondary schools will be voluntary.” On March 3, the TSC removed “voluntary’ and changed the wording to state that the principal will discuss with the unit member and take those opinions into consideration.  On May 4, the TTA rejected that proposal.

Additional Notes:

  • June 15: The TSC sends its final offer to the TTA.
  • June 23: The TTA cancels meetings scheduled for June 24, citing the need to make a decision about the final TSC offer. They agree to find new dates that work. District council encourages that negotiating team to take the proposal to membership for a vote and offers July 20 and 22 as new meeting dates.
  • July 6: TTA says dates do not work, requests a date in August.
  • The TSC counters with July 27, 28 and August 10, 11, 12, 25, 26 and 31. The TTA schedules August 25 and August 31.
  • August 23: TTA sends letters of solidarity from the teachers of each school.
  • An email from the labor council states that it is the district’s understanding that the June 24 proposal had not been brought to membership for a vote. The TSC asks the TTA to either take the proposal to membership for a vote or to join in mediation.
  • Oct. 27: TTA asks to continue negotiations, saying it is confident an agreement can be reached.
  • Nov. 1: TSC reiterates its request for a vote by membership or a request for mediation. TSC moves ahead with request for mediation.
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