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Waltham Teachers, School Committee Quibbled Over Parent Conferences In Contract Talks

More details on the lengthy contract negotiations are coming to light.

More than week after a and Waltham School Committee are revealing more details about their protracted negotiations, including that they were disagreeing on how much time should be devoted to parent-teacher conferences.

According to a statement from Waltham School Committee member Lisa Limonciello, both parties spent the past nine months negotiating early release days.

“The School Committee consistently and unanimously agreed on our desire to relieve families from numerous parent conference early release days and increase the face time of teachers with their students.  I am confident that people would agree that increasing the time teachers spend with their students is valuable,” Limonciello said in a statement.

The disagreement on those conferences was for the elementary schools only, according to a statement from Ryan Hoyt, the vice president of the Waltham Educators Association, the teachers’ union.

“The WEA wanted to preserve the language from our expired contract while the School Committee insisted on reducing parent conferencing time.  The WEA acquiesced with a reduction from 6 parent conference days to 4.  In addition, an evening that had been used for a curriculum night will now be used for parent conferences,” Hoyt wrote in a statement.

The two parties also disagreed on seniority increases for school support staff who had at least eight years of time in Waltham.

“Under our expired contract, [support staff] would see a gradual increase in salary through the first eight years of service in Waltham, but nothing in year nine or ten.  The WEA was looking for parity with the teacher salary scale, where teachers do receive a salary increase in year nine and year ten.  The WSC and WEA finally reached an agreement with this enabling the MOA to be signed,” Hoyt said.

Check out the full statements from both parties below.

Statement from Lisa Limonciello: Recent action by the union leadership warrants a response.  The WSC has done nothing but represent the district and students fairly.  We have never refused to bargain despite what has been portrayed to the public.  We in fact made numerous offers to encourage continued bargaining, which was met by constant opposition and refusal to meet half way.  Bargaining in good faith may look different and perhaps was interpreted differently by the union but we always continued to send representation whenever we were required.  Many times legal representation was more appropriate than individual member participation.

Our professional ethics did not allow us to respond to comments.  We are bound to comply with honoring the confidential nature of negotiations.  

While I agree that 18 months is a long time to negotiate I want people to understand that the last 9 months were spent discussing early release days and dealing with legal issues filed against us.

The School Committee consistently and unanimously agreed on our desire to relieve families from numerous parent conference early release days and increase the face time of teachers with their students.  I am confident that people would agree that increasing the time teachers spend with their students is valuable.

This may have been portrayed as disrespecting teachers and not valuing them. If is far from the truth and the actions taken by union leadership was seemingly intended to gain public support.  We value teachers and the quality of work they do and our desire to get teachers back in front of students and less early release time should be apparent of how we feel about the quality of their work.

I want to thank the citizens of Waltham for their support during these 18 months I am proud to be representing the families of Waltham on the school committee.

Statement from Ryan Hoyt: On Wednesday, April 25, the Waltham School Committee voted to 'ratify what the WEA ratified.'  On April 4, the WEA had ratified with 98% in favor of the terms and conditions outlined in our 2010-2013 collective bargaining agreement.  The signatures of Mayor McCarthy as WSC Chair and WEA President George Viens on the Memorandum of Agreement made it official.

The item that had stalled negotiations for most of the process was the amount of time elementary school teachers would have for parent conferencing. The WEA wanted to preserve the language from our expired contract while the School Committee insisted on reducing parent conferencing time. The WEA acquiesced with a reduction from 6 parent conference days to 4.  In addition, an evening that had been used for a curriculum night will now be used for parent conferences.

The other item that held up the signing of the MOA was a disagreement over when education support professionals (ESP) would be entitled to their salary step increases after working eight years in Waltham.  Under our expired contract, an ESP would see a gradual increase in salary through the first eight years of service in Waltham, but nothing in year nine or ten.  The WEA was looking for parity with the teacher salary scale, where teachers do receive a salary increase in year nine and year ten.  The WSC and WEA finally reached an agreement with this enabling the MOA to be signed.

Members of the WEA are grateful to all the members of our school community--in particular the administrators and parents who were incredibly supportive of the WEA in this process.

 

Ryan Grannan-Doll May 08, 2012 at 05:21 PM
What do people think about fewer parent conferences?
Waltham_35 May 10, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I am glad they are cutting down the number of early release days! It is getting ridiculous the amount of early release days the elementry school has. Since September they have had 12! In October they had early release on Thursday and then the follwoing Tuesday! And they just got back from April vacation and on Tuesday was another early release day! When I was in elementry school back in the late 80's, early 90's we had early release once a month, on a Wednesday. By the time I reached High School, they did away with them. So why are they back?????
linda crowe May 11, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I do not how you think they have had 12 early release days since september when they only have 11 the entire school year. Check the school calendar on the school website. And when you were in elementary school there was an early release day every wed, not once a month. Early release days give teachers the opportunuty to meet with parents and share the progress or concerns.
Ace May 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
This is another area where the policies haven't kept up with changing demographics. Scheduling parent conferences at any time other than between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. causes most parents to have to take time from work. A parent conference day should NEVER be an early release day. Doesn't make sense at all.

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