Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MTA takes Level 5 fight to court ... By Laura Barrett

Pc0160100The MTA has filed complaints in Middlesex Superior Court contending that the state’s takeover plans for the two Level 5 schools represented by the association unlawfully cut members’ pay and undermine teachers’ rights while also failing to demonstrate how the changes set forth will improve student achievement.

The first lawsuit, challenging the plan for the Parker Elementary School, was filed on July 18 on behalf of the New Bedford Educators Association.

The second, challenging the plan for the Morgan Full Service Community School, was filed on July 23 on behalf of the Holyoke Teachers Association.

“I’m thrilled that the MTA has filed these lawsuits,” said Lou St. John, president of the NBEA. “The commissioner of education has acted like a rogue and is doing whatever he wants. I don’t think he is following the intent of the law. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education basically rubber-stamped whatever the commissioner wanted. I feel that a court will be more likely to make a decision based on the facts.”

The lawsuits also contend that Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester failed to follow legally required procedures in establishing the turnaround plans and that the BESE erred when it refused to require him to send revised plans back to the stakeholder groups for further review.

“State law creates a highly collaborative process for turning around underperforming schools that requires the input of numerous stakeholders, including teachers and their unions,” said Sandra Quinn, the MTA attorney who prepared and filed the Morgan complaint on behalf of the HTA. “The commissioner flouted legislative intent by creating a punitive process that will discourage the recruitment and retention of teachers.”

Chester designated the schools in New Bedford and Holyoke, along with two in Boston, as Level 5 — or “chronically underperforming” — under the Achievement Gap Act of 2010. The law entitles the commissioner to develop turnaround plans and name a receiver for each Level 5 school.

In Holyoke, Texas-based Project GRAD USA was named the receiver of Morgan. In New Bedford, School Superintendent Pia Durkin was named the receiver for Parker.

In both schools, all teachers were required to reapply for their jobs. Most chose not to reapply, citing working conditions in the schools and their frustration that many of their ideas about how to help their high-need students were not heeded.

The law also requires the commissioner to develop the turnaround plans with input from local stakeholder groups.
Despite differences in local conditions and recommendations from the stakeholders, all of the Level 5 plans were very similar, reflecting Chester’s support for a longer day for students and teachers even if there are not enough funds available to provide pay commensurate with the time required.

As a result, teachers at Morgan have to work 395 more hours each year — or 30 percent more time — for about 5 percent more pay. At Parker, they have to work 392 hours more for about 7 percent more pay.
The lawsuits state that these changes amount to an unlawful salary cut because they reduce a teacher’s rate of pay.

In addition, both plans abolish collectively bargained salary schedules and replace them with performance-based pay systems, under which teachers move up to the next level based on their evaluations, not on their years of service. Chester has been vocal in his support of moving the state to a more performance-based pay system.
The plans also eliminate the normal grievance procedures and arbitration before a neutral third party and instead give “substantial deference” to the receiver and final say to the commissioner in disputes with management.
The Morgan complaint contends that these changes “bear no rational relationship to the central statutory purpose of maximizing rapid student achievement.”

“We are at the initial stages of litigation and look forward to receiving a response to the complaint from the board and the commissioner,” said MTA attorney Laurie Houle, who prepared and filed the Parker complaint on behalf of the NBEA. “Our hope is that this process will result in an improved turnaround plan that will better lead to the rapid academic achievement of students in these schools.”  

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your continued dedication to our members, Lou. There is something "fishy" with the relationship between Durkin and Chester. They both have too much power and are only accountable to each other.

Anonymous said...

Thirty one teachers resigned in August. Add three School Psychologists to that list. Why weren't these added to the August 25th agenda? Sad that this district has lost so many talented, dedicated and experienced people. And Dr. Durkin is upset that school districts aren't notifying her when our people get hired? Really? Other districts don't even respect her.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Parker. The teachers are so dedicated, they already work extreme hours with no pay! The principal should be replaced because she is part of the problem. She does not back up her teachers and is afraid of the parents.

Anonymous said...

She is afraid of durkin, just like everyone. Durkin has created a climate of fear. Who would want to teach in this system?
Mayor Mitchell has sold his soul to chester and dunkin. Keep up the great work lou

Divine Ms. M said...

Congratulations, Lou, for helping to get the MTA involved in the fight for New Bedford teachers. Isn't it a conflict of interest for the BESE to name Durkin as the receiver for Parker? I think it's called hiring the fox to watch the henhouse.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank the parents who have formed the NBPS parents on Facebook! Thank you for your support and realization of the problems we all face under this administration.

Anonymous said...

NBHS update: some teachers have no idea where they will be teaching on Tuesday. No one has keys, no class lists, no schedules, nothing in IPASS yet. I'm looking forward to my new school year! Please pray for us!

Anonymous said...

We are trying to build support where we feel we agree--- which seems to be a lot ! Find us on Facebook at NBParents4schools. We cannot build unless we turn this page into 1,000 friends not just 300.

Anonymous said...

So... we go back tomorrow! At the high school, no teachers have keys to the teacher's bathrooms or their classrooms (guess we should wear our depends)! Due to the fact that the common areas for teachers are now classrooms (without a blackboard or whiteboard), teachers will all have to eat in 4 rooms instead of 12. There's only 2 lunches now with roughly 20 teachers per room and only 10-12 chairs (get there early for a seat and a shot at eating). Class lists are still not available. We were supposed to have our schedules (per our contract) 15 days before the last day of school but that never happened. The union decided to let that go so that the new administrative dream team could learn the program and do right by us (for once). Teachers discovered their room numbers two weeks ago tomorrow and almost every teacher had to move their classrooms. With the help of the incredible and dedicated custodial staff, it was done to the best of our abilities. Some classrooms were clean, some were stocked with supplies from the 1970s (that's when the school was built). Teachers were not informed of policies that were changing because, according to Dawson, the changes had not yet been approved by the school committee. So teachers are going in front of students tomorrow and have to wing it because we will be getting the paperwork that we should've gotten last week, tomorrow! Teachers are expected to have a course syllabus and paperwork for parents ready to go tomorrow. That makes perfect sense! Teachers have to be ready for the kids but administration doesn't have to be ready for the teachers. Dawson claims that they did the schedules by hand then input them into the scheduling system. Yeah that makes perfect sense! So because they didn't know the system and didn't bother to learn the system, they did scheduling twice. Great job dream team! The 2014-2015 school year should be a hoot!

Anonymous said...

That can't be true! Wasn't the dream team hired last spring to give them time to prepare for tomorrow? Why were we paying 2 teams of administrators for NBHS last spring? Shouldn't they have spent some of that paid time learning how to schedule students and teachers and becoming familiar with the teacher contract?

Anonymous said...

That would make too much sense!!

Here We Go Again! said...

At Roosevelt the principal has already been telling the staff that, even though we are a Level 3 school per MCAS scores, "Mitchell Chester is this close to labeling our school a Level 4 (picture her indicating this with her fingers), and we all know what that means." I for one am tired of threats such as these being perpetuated toward staff members, making us feel like second-class citizens at our place of employment, and trying to instill guilt in all of us, as if we are fully to blame for the disastrous position that this entire district has been in for some years now. Every teacher I know is giving their all, only to be chastised again and again. The people at the top need to be held accountable for what's going on in the schools, as it is their policies, their lack of providing resources, and their bullying that is creating our current situation.

Anonymous said...

We have yet to vote for FAC or union reps at the high school. We have shifting schedules and kids having no idea what their schedule is telling them to do, if they have one. Kids tell staff they aren't going to class, period. This situation is insane! Why isn't someone looking into this mess.

Anonymous said...

Every administrator should be in one classroom per week teaching that classroom for at least 2hours...so they won't forget where they came from or that they have become better than their teachers even though half of them sucked as teachers...

Anonymous said...

These high school students are not putting up with it! http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/09/09/roxbury-madison-park-high-school-students-protest-lack-class-schedules/qI2rH4ZvkUd9XCa5Q5td7H/story.html