February 26th Update on Contract Negotiations
At their second negotiations session, the School Committee and Brookline Educators Union were unable to negotiate due to disagreement over the composition of the BEU negotiating team. It is the BEU’s position that all of their more than 1,000 members should be named to the negotiating team. In response to this demand, School Committee Negotiations Subcommittee Co-Chairs Michael Glover and Julie Schreiner-Oldham release the following statement.
February 26, 2019
As members of the Brookline School Committee, we have tremendous respect for our teachers, educators, paraprofessionals, staff, and administrators – and we hold them in very high regard. Each day our teachers and paraprofessionals open their hearts to our students and use their intellect, experience, and energy to teach them about their gifts, support their struggles, and help prepare them for successes and challenges that lay ahead.
It is not an overstatement to say – not only for the School Committee but for the entire Town as well - that we are indebted to our school professionals for the commitment, expertise, and passion they bring to their jobs day in and day out. So as these contract negotiations get underway, we want to begin the process by saying “Thank you.”
As we negotiate, we want to emphasize that we intend to work collaboratively with the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) negotiating team to address the concerns they have and the priorities we share. We will bring serious proposals to the table and we expect that the BEU will as well. We expect there will be differences, as there always are in negotiations of any kind. But we will listen closely to the BEU’s proposals and consider them seriously and in good faith.
As co-chairs of the School Committee’s Negotiations Subcommittee, we will do our part to avoid divisive rhetoric that portrays parents, educators, administrators, and the school committee as working against one other. We commit that we will seize all opportunities to work together to capitalize on the ideas, commitment, and expertise of the members of both negotiating teams.
We are committed to creating the schools all of our students deserve and continuing to provide working conditions that meet or exceed those of our surrounding communities. And we intend to do so in a way that is fiscally responsible and maintains the promises made to the community during the 2018 operational override.
We also understand that we will face an increasingly difficult financial outlook and need to address the District’s structural deficit, a deficit caused in large part due to our expenses outstripping the town’s revenue generating capacity.
In sum, we will do our best to work with the Brookline Educators Union to create excellent schools that are excellent places to work for our staff, and we will be fiscally responsible in negotiating agreements that do not create unnecessary financial burden for taxpayers.
We are committed to:
- Maintaining a spirit of collaboration while working with the BEU negotiations team
- Completing negotiations and coming to agreement on new contracts for teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals before the current contracts expire on August 31, 2019
- Creating more time for teachers to meet together and plan collaboratively on efforts that move the entire school and all students forward
- Supporting paraprofessionals by further increasing their pay
- Supporting educators new to Brookline by providing more time for training and preparation before the school year starts
Maintaining fiscal discipline by agreeing to compensation increases and abiding by the budget commitments that were made to Brookline taxpayers during the 2018 override
Having said all of that, we find it extremely disheartening that after we have requested to begin negotiations multiple times and proposed multiple meeting dates since October 2018, BEU leadership now insists on starting negotiations with a tactic that is neither serious nor productive. Rather than follow decades of past practice, the BEU leadership is asserting that their entire membership is their negotiating team and is demanding that any and all members can come and go during negotiations as they see fit.
By insisting on an atypically large and inconsistent negotiating team that has no precedent, the BEU leadership will:
- Ensure that negotiations will take longer than necessary
- Hamper honest and open dialogue and the ability to work through difficult issues together
- Make progress difficult due to the fact that as members of the group come and go, priorities will shift and continuity will suffer
Contract negotiations are complex endeavors that require honest and difficult conversations. Our educators, our families, our community members, and our students deserve a good faith effort from the BEU to engage in productive negotiations.
We are simply asking that the BEU leadership abide by the decades-old approach of having consistent and reasonable negotiating teams that can have productive and honest dialogue across a table.
We hope that by our next scheduled session on March 4th, the BEU leadership will name a negotiating team and engage with us in a collaborative and productive process to reach new contracts by August 31, 2019. Until the BEU leadership takes this step, there can be no fruitful negotiations.