Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Support Locked-Out ATI Workers

The United Steelworkers Union stood with New Bedford Educators when we needed their support. Please support them on Tuesday, September 1 at 5:00 p.m. 

ATI Flat Rolled Products
1357 E. Rodney French Blvd.
New Bedford

Let's Jump-Start Our Organizing


The summer is winding down, and students are returning soon if they aren't already back in school. For educators, the fall is often a time of renewal as we again take up our work. I find myself reflecting on the ideals that brought me to public education and then to union leadership. Due to the madness of the accountability regime and the efforts of corporatists, these ideals are harder to achieve, but organizing to fight for them builds union power and will allow us to reclaim our schools. Here are some things we can do now to put the public back in public education.

Raise Up Massachusetts
We are gearing up for a petition drive for a constitutional amendment that will raise taxes on annual income over $1 million, with revenues dedicated to public schools, public higher education and transportation. Please join me for a telephone town hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3, to talk about why we need more resources, how the funds will support public education, and what we can do to make it happen. Mark your calendar now.

Help Put Educators on the BESE and Support Other Measures
Three MTA bills will be heard by the Joint Committee on Education at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9 in Room A-2 of the State House. The timing is not good for educators, but if you can testify or want to send testimony to the MTA to deliver to the committee, contact MTA lobbyist Julie Johnson by e-mailing jjohnson@massteacher.org.
  • Educators on the BESE (H. 375/S. 269) - Did you know there are no seats for educator representatives on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education? This bill would add two, with one member nominated by the MTA and the other by AFT Massachusetts. Please click here to sign a petition in favor of this bill and support giving educators a voice on the most important education policy board in the state. The petition will be submitted to the committee at the hearing.
  • Fingerprinting Fees (H. 494) - This bill would eliminate the background check fee and reimburse those who have already paid it.
  • Just Cause Restoration (S. 350) - This bill would restore "just cause" procedures for dismissals. Given recent court decisions, we need to let legislators know how critical this bill is to our membership.
Public Higher Ed Funding
Are people you know not convinced we need the Raise Up money? Remind them that funding for public higher education is down nearly 50 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from the peak year of 2001. Most of that loss is being recouped through sharply higher fees. We can and must provide the resources for public higher education that is affordable (better yet, free!) with fairly compensated faculty and staff. Fight student debt! Support higher ed funding!

The Struggle Continues: Fighting for the Right to Engage in Union Activity
The state Department of Labor Relations has found probable cause for a complaint that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association President Gus Morales - for a second time - because of his activism as a union leader. He's fighting the dismissal - again - with help from the MTA. Read more about it here.

How Are We Going to Do All of This? We Are Jump-Starting Our Union
There is a lot coming at us, and we all have a lot to learn about how to organize and fight for the schools our students deserve and the working conditions required for those schools. Part inspiration, part analysis and part how-to, the book "How to Jump-Start Your Union" can help you and your local make plans for action. Free copies are available if you plan to read and discuss it with a group of fellow educators. Contact Ari Mercado in the MTA Division of Governance and Administration by e-mailing amercado@massteacher.org for a copy. For those who read and discussed the book over the summer, we want to hear what you learned. Please contact me with your stories.

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,

Barbara

Support Locked-Out ATI Workers


Saturday, August 22, 2015

A dangerous mind

Give educators a voice on the BESE

Please take immediate action to support a bill giving educators a voice on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education!

 

Click here to sign a petition in favor of this proposal. 

 

The petition will be submitted to the Joint Committee on Education, which will hold a hearing on this MTA priority bill in early September.

 

Here’s some background.

 

Many people are shocked to learn thatcurrent law forbids public school educators from serving as members of the BESE — the board that governs our profession. Most educators are not even able to attend board meetings because those meetings are almost always held during school hours.  As things stand, individuals who stand to profit from decisions made by the BESE are welcome to seats on the board, but no place is designated for professional educators. 

 

There is a high school student on the board, and one labor representative, but there is not one active teacher or paraprofessional. It’s time for the BESE to include the experts in the field the board governs.

 

H. 375/S. 269 are House and Senate versions of a bill that would add two educator representatives to the BESE, one nominated by the MTA and the other by AFT Massachusetts. These will be among the bills heard at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Room A-2 of the State House.

 

Please see the attached document for details about hearing dates on other MTA priority bills. In a subsequent message, we will send you more information about the charter school legislation being heard on Oct. 13. More information on all MTA priority bills can be found here.


Don’t forget to sign the petition on the BESE bill by clicking here!

 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charter Schools fail the "smell test" .... By Bruce Ditata

Character attacks directed against teachers unions are not new, but when the sucker punch is delivered by a candidate for president of the United States, it merits what retired "Daily Show" anchor Jon Stewart called the “smell test.”

Republican Chris Christie, in a potential ploy to inflate his flagging poll numbers, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that teachers’ unions are “ the single most destructive force in public education (and deserving of) a punch in the face.”

Christie’s likely reasoning in his defamation of teachers’ unions is two-fold. First, it’s outrageous enough to potentially wean the news pundits away, at least temporarily, from leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, who has recently made similarly crude remarks against Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and Mexican immigrants.

Second, Christie’s union-bashing is most likely a fundraising strategy to pique the interest of the bloated wallet fraternity — Sam Walton; Bill / Melinda Gates; Eli Broad; the Koch Brothers and their ilk — all of whom would like nothing better than to stash more public education money in their portfolios.

Already, private companies like Pearson, which produce the online courses, textbooks, high stakes testing materials, and Microsoft, which supply schools with computers and technology, are profiting from billions of public education dollars nationwide.

Now, the Billionaire Boys Club has set its sights upon the schools themselves via attempts to privatize, set up corporations to manage “failing schools” and orchestrate legislative battles that pit charters versus traditional schools.

This is where Stewart’s “smell test” applies. When Stewart departed his groundbreaking 16-year run as comedian/political satirist, he left with a warning to viewers about being discriminating and questioning about comments like Christie’s.

In Massachusetts, while the tenor of conversation lacks the rudeness of Gov. Christie, the intent of charter school proponents is similar.

In Sephira Shuttlesworth’s Guest View (“Charter schools represent opportunity," Nov. 10), she stated that failure to lift the cap on charters was because “of entrenched resistance from teachers’ unions and the education establishment.”

And in their diatribe against supporters of traditional public schools, the Pioneer Institute’s Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass in their Guest View (“Vote on charter caps was just wrong,” July 24, 2014) stated that the charter school smackdown by Massachusetts senators were merely “to appease the monied interests of the education establishment” (read: teachers unions).

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service reported that the battle of charters versus public schools still rages, as he wrote in early August, “A group of charter school, business and education advocates on Wednesday filed a petition with the Attorney General's Office to allow the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to authorize up to 12 new public charter schools or existing school expansions each year.”

Murphy further reported, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ( the former Executive Director of the Pioneer Institute) “voiced support on Wednesday for (this) ballot initiative to expand access to charter schools across Massachusetts.”

Massachusetts Teacher Association President, Barbara Madeloni’s rebuttal stated that the charter ballot initiative would, “effectively obliterate any meaningful caps on charter schools and undermine our public schools … (and) as the NAACP has said, charters are creating ‘separate and unequal’ school systems by using selective enrollment practices to keep out English language learners and special education students and push out those who don’t meet restrictive academic and behavior requirements.”

"Allowing unlimited charters at the expense of truly public schools would be a terrible retreat in a state that has the oldest continuously operating public school in the country and many of the best public schools in the world,” she added.

Chris Anderson, a signer of the charter school petition, said, "The enactment of additional and lasting reforms expanding student access to charter schools is an urgent moral and economic imperative."

What is noteworthy in Anderson’s statement is there was little attempt by proponents to extol the charter school genre. They know that to do so would be to invite the “smell test,” one the charter movement always fails.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

MTA president: Charter initiative would undermine public schools and communities

Proposal bypasses cap and “blows the lid off of any meaningful restrictions”

 

MTA President Barbara Madeloni says that a charter ballot initiative filed on Aug. 5 would “effectively obliterate any meaningful caps on charter schools and undermine our public schools and our communities.”


“This proposal is a strike against democracy, against teacher and parent input into the education of students, and against the principle that all students are entitled to a high-quality public education,” Madeloni said.


The MTA is part of a coalition of students, parents, educators and other concerned community members that will fight the ballot question and any legislative proposals to lift the cap. The coalition seeks to protect and improve public education for all students, including the high-need students that most charters fail to serve; to maintain the mission of public education as foundational to democracy; and to preserve local control of public education.


The initiative petition, intended for the November 2016 ballot, purports to keep a cap on the number of charter schools, but in fact it creates a second pathway for opening new charters that “bypasses that cap and blows the lid off of any meaningful restrictions,” Madeloni noted.


“If this passes, then over time public schools in any given district — currently governed democratically by a local school committee — could be wiped out and turned over to private charter school operators,” Madeloni said. “This could be done based on votes by an appointed pro-charter Board of Elementary and Secondary Education over the strenuous objections of local residents and elected officials.


“This isn’t just a theoretical concern,” she continued. “We see charter schools being approved despite strong local opposition all the time, albeit on a smaller scale because of the current caps.

“This ballot initiative would destroy the very concept of public education as the great equalizer in our country,” she continued. “As the NAACP has said, charters are creating ‘separate and unequal’ school systems by using selective enrollment practices to keep out English language learners and special education students and push out those who don’t meet restrictive academic and behavior requirements. Allowing unlimited charters at the expense of truly public schools would be a terrible retreat in a state that has the oldest continuously operating public school in the country and many of the best public schools in the world.”


Under current law, the number of Commonwealth charter schools is capped at 72. An additional 48 Horace Mann charters are allowed, but they are not at issue because they are, for the most part, approved by the school committees and local associations of the districts that have to pay for them.

Current law, which includes a partial cap lift adopted in 2010, limits how much of a district’s net school spending can be drained into the coffers of Commonwealth charter schools. That funding loss ranges from 9 percent to 18 percent, depending on a number of factors. 


Both the spending cap and the cap on the number of new charter schools that could be approved would be effectively eliminated by the initiative, since it creates a second, much easier pathway for opening new charters.


It would allow the state to approve up to 12 new Commonwealth charter schools — or expand existing charter schools — each and every year, forever. In theory, this expansion could continue until no district public schools were left. 


“The only restrictions would affect the pace at which our public schools could be privatized,” Madeloni said. “The pathway would be wide open for undoing public education in Massachusetts.”

Those 12 schools collectively could serve about 9,500 new students each year — 1 percent of total school enrollment — or about 190,000 students over 20 years. This could cost public school districts billions of dollars.


“Contrary to the way it is being portrayed, this is no modest tweak to the existing system,” Madeloni said. “If this initiative is passed, then over time there would be no total cap on the number of schools, no total cap on the number of students who could be enrolled and no limit to how much funding could be siphoned from the public schools to private charter school operators.


“What’s already happening to public education in Massachusetts would be greatly accelerated,” she added. “The public schools, which gladly embrace all students, would inevitably have fewer resources to serve a disproportionately high share of the highest-need students.”


Madeloni said the initiative is an attack on democracy, as well as on public schools.

“If this initiative is passed, then over time there would be no need for elected school committees in districts that are fully charterized,” she said. “Instead, the schools would be authorized by a small number of appointed members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and overseen by bureaucrats working at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.


“This should anger parents and other voters who want to have some say over how the public schools in their districts are operated, as they do now through local elections and other means,” Madeloni concluded.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SEI Endorsement and RETELL Advisory No. 12


 MTA Logo

Fall 2015 Course Registration  

  For more information, go to www.massteacher.org/ell


 Fall 2015 SEI Endorsement Course Registration

This is the final year that no-cost SEI Endorsement courses will be offered by the DESE.


Course registration begins Aug. 3. 

 The site will not go live until then.

All educators eligible for a no-cost SEI Endorsement course are advised to register for a fall course or add their names to a waiting list promptly after registration opens.

Adding your name to the waiting list provides an authentic count of how many educators still need to take the course.  The registration system will have additional details about the waiting list.

Link to the registration site:  http://www.doe.mass.edu/retell/

 

Enrollment in SEI Endorsement courses will be on a first-come, first-served basis.  

 

Before you enroll:

  • Have your personal/professional calendar at hand.
  • Update your ELAR account.
  • Confirm your Massachusetts Educator Professional Identification (MEPID) number.  Click here to find your MEPID Number.
  • Write it down and keep it handy.
  • If you do not have an ELAR account or a MEPID number, you will need one to register.  Instructions are provided on the course registration site. 
  • Click here for RETELL Customer Support.

Canceled Courses:

 

If you are enrolled in a course that does not have an assigned instructor (i.e., "Facilitator TBD") and that course (or any other course) is ultimately canceled, you should attempt to register for another course or place yourself on a waiting list.  

 

If you are unable to find an open seat in a fall 2015 course and place yourself on a course waiting list but you are not accommodated in that course, you will have an opportunity to find a course in spring 2016. Those on fall 2015 waiting lists will have priority in registering for spring 2016 courses.

 Who Must Obtain the SEI Endorsement?

Educators required to obtain the SEI Endorsement include:

  • Core academic teachers who have, had or will have one or more English language learners (ELLs) in their classroom during their district's cohort training window.
  • A principal/assistant principal or supervisor/director who supervised, is supervising, will supervise or will evaluate one or more core academic teachers of ELLs during their district's cohort training window.

Core Academic Teachers:

  • Teachers of students with moderate disabilities.
  • Teachers of students with severe disabilities.
  • Subject-area teachers in English, reading or language arts; mathematics, science; civics and government, economics, history, and geography; and early childhood and elementary teachers who teach these content areas.

Pending Initial License:


If you have a pending Initial License application and you are missing ONLY the SEI Endorsement, you may apply for a Commissioner's Determination to extend the validity period of your Preliminary License.  Click here for the Commissioner's Determination Guidelines and Application.

What Happens If I Do Not Enroll or Earn the SEI Endorsement?

If you are eligible and do not enroll in a course during the 2015-2016 school year, you will forfeit your no-cost opportunity to earn the SEI Endorsement.

 

If you are eligible to enroll in a course and do not enroll before Jan. 2, 2016, the department will assign you to the 2015-16 cohort year. If you do not earn the endorsement by other means before Aug. 31, 2016, you will not be eligible to renew, advance or extend your core academic license(s) until you earn the SEI Endorsement. The lack of an endorsement may affect your employability.

 Who is Not Eligible to Enroll in a No-Cost SEI Endorsement Course?

You are not eligible to enroll in a no-cost SEI Endorsement course if you:

  • Are not a core academic teacher who has, had, or will have one or more English Language Learners (ELLs) in your classroom during your district's cohort training window.
  • Already took the department course and failed it.
  • Previously registered for the course and canceled your registration after the deadline without an approved reason.
  • Registered for a course, but did not either attend or cancel registration for an approved reason. 
  • Have not been granted a hardship exception.
Core academic teachers who were never assigned an ELL student during their district's cohort training window are NOT required to earn the endorsement.  After July 1, 2016, any non-endorsed core academic teacher who is assigned an ELL student will have one year from the time of that assignment to earn the endorsement.
 Other Routes to the SEI Endorsement
  • Endorsement is included within an approved educator preparation program.
  • Pass the SEI MTEL at a cost of $185. 
  • Possess a valid ESL/ELL license.
  • Possess a bachelor's degree in a DESE-approved major, or a DESE review of prior graduate level training/coursework.
  • For-cost endorsement course provided by an approved vendor.

For-cost SEI Endorsement courses can be found at

http://www.doe.mass.edu/retell/For-Cost.html.


You must still apply for the SEI Teacher Endorsement through ELAR. For application instructions see How to apply for the SEI Endorsement.

If you believe you may qualify for the endorsement, you may submit materials to the Office of Educator Licensure for a no-cost transcript review (see link to instructions, above)
You Must Still Apply for the SEI Endorsement

All educators who qualify for the SEI Endorsement must apply for the Endorsement via ELAR no matter which route they follow. Applying is free and only takes a minute. Complete your SEI Endorsement application online by logging in at 

https://gateway.edu.state.ma.us/elar/.
Hardship Exception
 If you are unable to participate in or complete the SEI Endorsement course, you may apply for a hardship exception.  You must be able to demonstrate hardship consisting of "serious illness or injury, or other circumstances that are beyond your control." Click here for the hardship application.  Because this is the final year of the no-cost training, however, the DESE will not be able to provide you with a no-cost opportunity to take the course if you are granted a hardship exception.
What Happens after July 1, 2016, for All Educators? New PDP Requirements

PROFESSIONAL LICENSE RENEWAL for ALL EDUCATORS:  

If your professional license renewal date is on or after July 1, 2016, the following PDP requirements will be in effect, even if you choose to renew before your renewal date.

 

150 Total PDPs

Minimum 60 PDPs in content

Maximum 30 PDPs in pedagogy or content

Minimum 15 PDPs in ESL/SEI

Minimum 15 PDPs in SPED

Maximum 30 Elective PDPs

 

PDPs earned from the DESE SEI Endorsement courses or trainings:

1.  May be counted as "content," SEI or elective PDPs.

2.  May roll over into the next license renewal cycle if you already hold the 150 PDPS outlined above.

 

The SEI MTEL does not count for PDPs.
Massachusetts Teachers Association |(617) 878-8362| ggilardi@massteacher.org
For more information visit www.massteacher.org/ell



Saturday, July 18, 2015

A bittersweet victory on accountability

MTA President Barbara Madeloni issued the following statement on July 17 about the Every Child Achieves Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate on July 16.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate approved passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. There were supporters and detractors on all sides of this complex bill. The vote was 81-17.

It is a bittersweet victory to applaud the power of school accountability going back to the states, should this bill become law.

The bill continues yearly testing in grades three through eight and once in high school, but leaves it to states to determine how to use those tests for school accountability. It removes the authority of the federal government to demand that teacher evaluations be connected to student test scores and gives more authority to states to determine specific standards and curriculum. 

In giving more authority to states, the bill loosens constraints on how funds will be spent, though fortunately the Senate rejected a voucher amendment. The Senate measure now goes to a conference committee, where senators and members of the House will mesh their bills and develop a final piece of legislation. If approved, that bill will have to be signed or vetoed by President Barack Obama. If Obama vetoes it, Congress would have to override the veto for the bill to become law.

It is a bittersweet victory to applaud the power of school accountability going back to the states, should this bill become law. While it would allow us to organize locally and make the demands we want for our students and our schools, others have noted that it would mean we have 50 battles to fight instead of one – and that some states are especially weak in their readiness to fight. As Diane Ravitch notes in this post, the bill continues to ignore the real problems of racial and economic injustice that plague our schools and communities. 

The debate on the ECAA exposed some critical information about elected officials and about the work we need to do. 

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren co-sponsored an amendment that 41 Democrats supported to essentially continue the most punitive aspects of No Child Left Behind, as the current version of the ESEA is known. The amendment proposed a change in what student test scores are used for accountability, from all students to subgroups, but retained the use of test scores as a basis for labeling and punishing schools. In my conversation with Warren, her concern for traditionally underserved students, which is noble, was distorted by a seeming unwillingness to accept what so many teachers and parents are saying: that the use of testing for accountability is narrow-minded, undermines meaningful teaching and learning, and shifts the focus from the real issues our students and communities face.

The amendment failed and was not included in the final bill, but Senator Warren's vote against the final bill was based in large measure on her concerns for what assurances there would be that funds would go where they are most needed. Fellow Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey joined Warren in supporting the amendment, but voted in favor of the final bill. In the end, Warren was one of only three Democrats to vote against the ECAA.

Now that the Senate has passed the ECAA, we need to talk about resources and about the larger issues of race and class. But we need to acknowledge that our efforts must focus on Democrats as well as Republicans. Indeed, some of the worst excesses of corporate “reform” have been supported by elected officials who call themselves our allies.

We need to start now and be relentless in getting our stories to Senators Warren and Markey about how testing hurts students and learning.

At the state level, we have an opportunity to use the full power of our union and our alliances to take back control of our public schools and stop the testing madness. Let’s double down on our efforts to pass H. 340, calling for a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes use of testing.

And at all levels, let’s pick up the new business item passed at the NEA RA and the ones we passed at our Annual Meeting in which we develop our knowledge and activism around the effects of racism and poverty on our students and our communities. Let’s take control through supporting the opt-out movement, and let’s work with parents, students and communities to demand the schools every child deserves.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Westport School Committee member opted her child out of MCAS

School Committee needs to cooperate with the City Council .... By Chris Cotter

I am writing this in response to the School Committee member Joaquim “Jack” Livramento's recent op-ed (“Your View: School Committee, superintendent not beholden to council," June 24). He stated that he witnessed a verbal attack by New Bedford City Councilor Linda Morad at a meeting on June 18 against New Bedford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin. 

His issue was with Councilor Morad stating that Dr. Durkin had not appeared at the request of the City Council at a previous council meeting. She was asked to attend to answer questions that Ms. Morad or other councilors may have had. I remember the time that Dr. Durkin was “requested” to attend because councilors did have questions about the previously allocated funds as well as new funds being requested by the public schools.

So Mr. Livramento interprets the council request to attend by the city council as a “demand.” Right or wrong, Ms. Morad left the meeting on June 18 in anger at the lack of response by Dr. Durkin, as well as the School Committee. I’m not going to defend or criticize Ms. Morad's response, but I certainly understand her frustration. Not only as an individual who follows the NBPS but also that of a taxpayer in New Bedford.

Here are some of my responses to Mr. Livramento's “points of clarification”:

1. He is correct that Dr. Durkin was hired by the School Committee. Was this just at the recommendation of the School Committee, or with a strong recommendation by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Mitchell Chester? Dr. Durkin attends City Council meetings if she is instructed to do so by the School Committee. Why would they not have instructed her to attend these meetings? 

2. Mr. Livramento mentions the School Committee is responsible to the public, the citizens of New Bedford, the students, and the teachers, staff, and administrators who run the schools. Then why is it that the committee doesn’t listen to everyone? If their job is to run the schools, then why aren’t they listening to those who are working in these schools? He stated that the School Committee members are elected, not appointed. So they should always remember they were elected. They are responsible to all those persons who elected them. 

3. When city councilors have questions relating to procedures in the public schools, Mr. Livramento wrote, questions should be referred to the School Committee, and the “responsible person” will address the question. For those who don’t know, any question or issue that a citizen of New Bedford has can be addressed in front of the School Committee. The problem is that the committee does not have to respond to a constituent's question or issue. They get three minutes and then get no response. His comparison of a snow removal or pothole question does not relate in comparison to each other. This analogy is concerning a city service that needs to be addressed for either not being done or needing to be done. 

The responsible person who would respond on behalf of the public schools would be the spokesperson for Dr. Durkin. These responses would all be preset. It’s the difficult questions that people don’t want to answer when there are no prepared responses. 

Mr. Livramento stated that he wants respect. My mother had always taught me to treat others the way I would expect to be treated and I have always tried to live by this rule. We are all human and can never say that we are perfect. People respond with behaviors out of frustration and I am sure that not only Ms. Morad but the entire City Council is frustrated by Dr. Durkin’s lack of attendance, which by mr. Livramento's own admission was at the request of the School Committee. Why would the committee not want Dr. Durkin to attend? Is there something that we, the voting public, don’t want to know or the committee doesn’t want the citizens to know? If he believes in what he ended his op-ed with, why is it that the committee, outside of money at budget times, doesn’t want to speak with or address the City Council when they have questions?

To me, this is what I would call a “working relationship” between two city entities.

Funding for education, arts, human services coming to SouthCoast

Fight Workplace Bullying!

While there are laws to protect students from being bullied - and there should be - there are no laws to protect public employees from being bullied by their employers. That needs to be fixed. The MTA is backing House 1728, which has been filed by Representative Peter Kocot (D-Northampton) and co-sponsored by 36 other legislators to protect public employees from abusive bosses. H. 1728 would: 1) Establish legal remedies for public employees forced to work in an abusive work environment; and, 2) Require the employer to take actions to address complaints of bullying. MTA members are urged to testify on H. 1728 or submit written testimony. The State House hearing will be at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, in Room A-2. For more information, contact MTA lobbyist Julie Johnson at jjohnson@massteacher.org.

Urge the U.S. Senate to Reduce Testing

Act now! The U.S. Senate is voting this week on a new federal education law to replace No Child Left Behind. The bill before the Senate would end federally mandated high stakes for schools and teachers. That's progress, but the proposal maintains annual testing in grades three through eight. The MTA supports Montana Senator Jon Tester's amendment, which would require testing in just one grade each in elementary, middle and high school. Click here to send a letter to Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey urging them to support the Tester amendment and other provisions that would reduce testing in our public schools.

Vote on Autism Endorsement regulations postponed until September

In 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill making an Autism Endorsement available to special education teachers who work with autistic children.

Draft regulations were released for public comment in April. The MTA, along with 31 other groups and individuals, provided public comment and suggestions. In particular, the MTA and others strongly opposed the expansion of the availability of the endorsement to elementary and core academic subject teachers. The MTA also proposed language clarifying that the endorsement is not a requirement for those who work with autistic children.

 

However, the final regulations proposed by the DESE and distributed the day before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting did not incorporate any of the MTA’s extensive comments. Only two minor changes proposed by other groups were included.

 

On June 23, the BESE was scheduled to vote on the regulations. MTA Vice President Janet Anderson presented public comment at the meeting, and BESE member Ed Doherty offered a motion that would have added the MTA’s proposals to the final regulations.  

 

After some discussion, the vote on the proposed regulations was tabled until September and Ed Doherty requested that the commissioner meet with MTA representatives to discuss the proposals.

 

The MTA looks forward to having another opportunity to revise these regulations.

Friday, June 26, 2015

School Committee, superintendent not beholden to City Council .... By Jack Livramento

  • I attended the budget meeting of June 18 at the City Council chambers. The meeting was called to go over the school budget for 2015-16 and to address any questions that members of the council may have had on the budget. I also witnessed a verbal attack by a member of the City Council, Councilor at large Linda Morad, on schools Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin.
    To begin the meeting, Ms. Morad asked, or rather, demanded, that School Committee members attend City Council meetings on a regular basis and not just at budget approval time. She proceeded to lash out at Dr. Durkin for not showing up at a previous council meeting when she was asked to attend to answer questions Ms. Morad or other council members may have had.
    So I guess the request to attend a council meeting by a council member is not a “request,” it is a “demand.” After verbally abusing Dr. Durkin, Ms. Morad picked up her belongings and stormed out of the meeting without even asking a single question about the budget.
    Here are just a few points of clarification.
    1. Dr. Durkin is hired by the School Committee. She is evaluated by the School Committee and she attends City Council meetings if the School Committee instructs her to attend such meetings.
    2. The School Committee is an elected body responsible to the public, to the citizens of the city of New Bedford, to the students who attend the schools, and to the teachers, staff and administrators who run the schools. Running the schools is our job. We were not appointed by the City Council or any other body in the city.
    3. If City Council members have questions about procedures that are followed in the schools, those questions need to be referred to School Committee members and the questions need to be addressed by the responsible person. If I had a question concerning snow removal or the repair of potholes on my street, would I bring it before a School Committee meeting or would I bring it to a City Council member and ask them to address the situation?
    What I am asking for is respect: respect for a duly elected body in the city of New Bedford and respect for its fellow citizens. This type of behavior is not acceptable. We expect our students to behave in a more civil manner. Shouldn’t we expect more from our elected officials? Elected members of the City Council and elected members of the School Committee need to work together to make sure that every child receives the best education they can get.
    This is my own personal opinion. I was not asked by other members of the School Committee to write this letter. 
    Jack Livramento is a member of the New Bedford School Committee.

More families weigh in on survey about New Bedford Public Schools

More families weigh in on survey about New Bedford Public Schools