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LETTER: Administration Foot-Dragging; Teachers 'Losing Faith'

Teachers Association: "We are also considering more drastic measures including a “work-to-rule” action. This means that many of us, who enthusiastically take part in extra-curricular activities in our community, will be sitting on the sideline

We, the 1,000 teachers and education professionals of the Framingham Teachers Association, recently began picketing outside of our schools.

We have taken this step to call attention to our current contract struggle. We view these negotiations as an opportunity to work jointly to make improvements to our schools – including reducing class sizes – that will truly benefit our students.

While we maintain hope that the superintendent and Framingham School Committee will join with us in this important endeavor, we are losing faith.

While the administration wants the public to believe that class size reduction does not have an impact on student achievement, that premise is just plain false.

The information that the administration has put on their website leads to a summary, done by CCSSO, an organization of state board of education directors who are often appointed by the state’s governor. If you read the information from the site closely, you will see that the report states it is not “a full, formal review of the literature on class size.” Additionally, the article goes on to state that “all other things being equal, smaller class sizes tend to facilitate a number of desirable outcomes, including higher levels of student learning.”

To truly look at the synthesis of research done on the topic of class size, I would point to an article that appeared in Education Week, one of the nation’s top publications in education (http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/class-size/). Additionally, the teachers are asking to have the current policy placed into the contract. If the Administration follows their policy, this should not be a problem.

We are educators. We joined the teaching profession because we want to make a difference in the lives of young people. We want to give them the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and be contributing citizens, yet we are faced with a school committee that is more concerned about a political win than the best interests of our students.

Despite our best efforts, we believe there has been an unreasonable amount of foot-dragging and stalling on the part of the school committee since negotiations began almost an entire year ago in February 2012.

These delay tactics have left us no choice but to turn up the heat.

To date, we’ve rallied at two school committee meetings, conducted an email campaign, and are now staging regular pickets.

We have ceased all voluntary administrative committees and meetings that occur outside of the understood contractual day.

We have stopped providing extra help to students outside of the understood contractual day.

We are also considering more drastic measures including a “work-to-rule” action. This means that many of us, who enthusiastically take part in extra-curricular activities in our community, will be sitting on the sidelines.

We engage in these activities not because we have to, but because we want to contribute. A full “work-to-rule” action would impact many of these activities and it would impact many staff members and students.

It’s our hope that the members of the Framingham School Committee will take the necessary steps, put in a true effort to meet more frequently and to join with us to make improvements that will benefit our students and our schools.

Sam Miskin

President Framingham Teachers Association

Brad Evans January 30, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Isnt work to rule already what they are asking for when they ask for their hours to be defined and specified in the contract. Also, Mr. Miskin please suggest how you would fund the teachers that are needed to reduce class size and where you believe there is space for additional classrooms. Mr. Miskin, are you willing to make the class size condition non grievable (like all other contracts with a class size statement) and are you willing to include clauses like all other teacher contracts that state "where financially possible and subject to the constraints of the district", essentially making the clause meaningless and unenforceable. Again, I think the SC is in favor of reducing class where possible but right now, given the space constraints of the district, I dont think its achievable. Rather than holding the children hostage with your work to rule threat, why dont you come out and say how you think the district can actually reduce class size - be specific - we all want to know
Stacy January 30, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Can we all take a minute here and think? The School Committee is a VOLUNTEER position in this town and the members run for that position BECAUSE they want the FPS to be the best. Does Sam Miskin or any FTA member in this town honestly believe that the SC members spend hours of their free time trying to make the schools great because they have nothing better to do? I don’t think so. Most of them have children in Framingham attending these same schools. I honestly believe they would do anything possible to make the FPS the best they can be. I am disgusted that Sam Miskin or any other FTA member would use these children in this way. Every parent who is remotely involved in their child’s education knows that there is a space issue when it comes to the schools. We are lacking SPACE Sam. Asking for smaller class size means we need more space. Are you going to explain how we accomplish this with the resources we have available to us at this moment? The SC has been working on this issue for years knowing that with enrollment up in the K groups to 800 students it is only going to get worse not better. You are asking for something that is not physically possible right now. So Please stop threatening the parents and students of Framingham and go back to work because if you remember from my statements above the School Committee works very long hours past the actual meeting times with no paycheck and I believe you are all still getting paid even without your contract.
Derek from Framingham January 30, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Ah the almost daily letter now almost begging for outside support... I've said it like 10 times, I'll say it an 11th. Administration - skip the contract. Leave things exactly how they are at the moment. In these fiscal times - raises are unwarranted and the rest of these side issues are a distraction. Teachers - many of you will still get some type of raise due to the steps - be happy that you're getting that.
Susan Petroni (Editor) January 30, 2013 at 03:27 PM
@Derek - raises are not the issue stalling the contract according to the Superintendent. See yesterday's Framingham Patch report: http://framingham.patch.com/articles/superintendent-cola-is-not-holding-up-teachers-contract
Brad Evans January 30, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Susan - thats what the Superintendent wants you to believe... I bet if you ask Mr. Miskin what is holding things up, its the money.. Its always about the money - even class size reduction and a defined work day are all about the money.
Herb Chasan January 30, 2013 at 06:24 PM
I wrote this letter Nov. 25, 2012 to the School Committee: Please settle this contract. It needs to be addressed. I feel that it is not fair to the kids, or to the parents or to the Superintendent Dr. Scott. He has so much on his plate without this hot potato which was tossed to him when he arrived here just a few months ago. Obviously, we are counting on the teachers to do an excellent job. Today, it’s a different world than 30 years ago when I taught school. There is much more stress, more pressure, and the MCAS. No one needs the extra stress of the conflict about a teachers' contract. So again, there seems to be no need to drag contract negotiations out any longer than necessary… Fix it, Please. There needs to be negotiation sessions every week to settle this. Why can't this happen?
KKM January 30, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Brad and others, what folks need to understand it WHY teachers want hours to be defined; There is much talk about extending school days with good reason! The increasingly heavy curriculum means that if that language is not placed in the contract, teachers can asked to work several extra hours per day with no increase in pay. As for class size; teachers are merely asking that the current class size recommendations stay the same. In an ever changing world where teachers are called upon to be not only educators, but in essence, parents in absentia, the needs of the students have changed dramatically. Yes, I am a teacher and I love to be with the kids. What I don't love is the teacher bashing and the misunderstandings about what is being asked by us. Money? Sure, everybody would like a raise with rising costs everywhere. We are not blind to the fact that the private sector is in trouble as well, believe me! Is it wrong to ask? I think not, but we have accepted 0% in the past and like the private sector, have had to make adjustments. That is not the utmost on our requests however. When I see your comment about being about money, I must agree, but for different reasons. I feel completely passionate about my kids but believe that those making the financial decisions are not making them with the kids in mind. It's not about me, the tax payer, or the administration; It's about the kids! Look up Sir Ken Robinson. If our system reflected current society, we could make it work smoothly!
Brad Evans January 30, 2013 at 06:46 PM
KKM - As a working professional - I am often asked to work several extra hours, carry a pager. etc with no increase in pay. My job has requirements and I need to fulfill those requirements to earn my salary. If I refused to work a few extra hours unless I got paid, I'd quickly be out of a job. My workload at my job has increased drastically after a round of layoffs at my company so I have to do more work for the same pay. Its part of the job. You can't be salaried and then ask for hourly pay. Basically what you are saying is that once the hours are defined, anything above that the teachers should get paid more money. As far "accepting 0%", I beg to differ. Teachers get automatic increases as they move up steps and change lanes. I doubt that any teacher in Framingham didn't get an increase in pay even though they accepted a 0% cost of living increase. There are built in salary increases in the pay scale. Please note that I am not bashing the teachers - I think they do a great job with the limited resources Framingham has. I'd love to provide a COLA to them and smaller class sizes and even pay them overtime if they work more than a certain number of hours - but its just not mathematically possible (or physically given our buildings). I think that the current actions of the FTA are not being made with the kids in mind - withholding help from those who need it is flat out wrong and shows that it is about the teachers and not the kids.
Stacy January 30, 2013 at 06:47 PM
KKM-with all due respect the teachers (including yourself) get paid well in Framingham. The also have an incredible amount of parents that help on a daily basis. Granted not all parents are there but the ones that are give above and beyond daily without pay and not only to help their children but to help countless others. There is no teacher bashing going on here. The FTA brought this to the public and the public is speaking so please don't use teacher bashing again. Yes, everything is changing but ones pay is not reflecting the every growing changes. Why should that be different for teachers? How many other types of employees are working longer, harder with less pay? To fight for something at the expense of the kids is plain wrong. Work to rule only hurts those kids that need the extra help and after school activities which is usually also the parents that are giving the most back to the schools. Salary employees are just that salary. They work long hard hours to get the job done 12 months out of the year with about 2 weeks vacation if they are lucky. The teachers in town get much more than that and please don't forget all the appreciation the parents hand back to those same teachers. I've help with many lunches and more in my years. And one last thing, not all finacial decisions can be made with JUST the kids in mind. Framingham is a big place with a lot more issues than just the schools. If you lived in town you might agree.
Derek from Framingham January 30, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Herb - why does it have to happen? Currently right now the teachers are being paid to work. Nothing is stopping that. As for having to work some more hours - I'd say ask most salaried private sector workers and you will hear over and over again how many more hours they are working for nothing more or in many cases for less! If class size increases a little, again ask most salaried private sector workers and you will hear how much their work load has increased. This is not saying I'd wish the extra hours or the extra workload on the teachers - hopefully its minimal for them. But to ask for guarantees and more money in these economic times is essentially biting the hand that feeds them.
Herb Chasan January 31, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Why it is that we seem to be racing to the bottom when it comes to wages and benefits for workers? The argument that teacher pay and benefits are far too generous in comparison to private sector employee pay and benefits, so we should bring the teachers down to our level, seems to me to be an argument in favor of bringing private sector pay and benefits UP through organizing those workers rather than trying to bring teacher wages and benefits down. Let’s stop the race to the bottom where all teacher and private sector pay and benefits are getting worse and worse and worse.
KKM January 31, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Brad and Stacey,I will not argue about my salary any more than anyone else out there who is working harder for less or without any cola. I can say that I personally haven't made a penny more in many years as I am as far as I can go without going back to school for more credits which I can't afford to do right now, (it's my children's turn). I absolutely hate the whole work to rule that's being tossed around and it does affect the high school kids tremendously. I think that it's a matter of taking a stand. If there's no money, there's no money. But with the costs that are being shelled out for things that are not for kids, I find it hard to believe. I guess we could argue this all day and night. I'd just like to feel like I'm a valued part of Framingham...I used to live here, but my husband's job forced us to move. I loved Framingham and will stay until I retire. I love my kids, the parents, and the community. This isn't fun.
Brad Evans January 31, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Actually herb I think what is being said is that public sector employees should be treated the same and face the same compensation issues as those in the private sector. I don't hear anyone saying the teachers shouldn't get a raise. What is being said is that the town can't afford it and the concept that teachers aren't getting salary increases is erroneous. They get them every year sometimes more than once a year. Why should teachers be treated differently than any other salaried professional. I don't know of any salaried professional that gets to say these are the hours I am going to work and if I work more I get paid more. The earlier post by KKM seemed to sum it up quite nicely. The teachers are concerned they will have to work extra hours without pay. Well my friends that is they way it is in the real world. You have a job description and performance requirements and your employer expects you to get the job done. It would be great if everyone could get a raise (which the teachers are already getting) and low benefit costs but sadly we don't live in an economy that can afford it. Everyone needs to recognize the financial position of the world we live in.
flyermom January 31, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Susan, Coming directly from a teacher to m 14 yr old daughter. It is all about the money and how they don't make enough. The music teacher is making the same amount she made 3 yrs ago and she can't make it today on the same pay. It really isn't about class size or anything else. It's money. Why wouldn't it be, life is all about money. They need to stop acting like this, people are sick and tired of hearing them cry and act like babies. Things will work out in time when they can, the SC will take the right steps at the right time. Enough is enough because they are losing parents support, student support and more.
Brad Evans January 31, 2013 at 11:52 AM
KKM - perhaps you should specify what costs are being shelled out for things that aren't for the kids and before you go and quote the "administrative" positions mentioned in an earlier letter, are you aware that the FTA actively lobbied for those positions. I agree that their is money to be saved and freed up, but not exactly sure what the funds should be used for. The biggest problem is the continued use of the administration of one time money to fund additional positions and the ever increasing cost of benefits - which is not part of the school budget but a part of the town operating costs. Perhaps the teachers union would consider rescinding coalition bargaining for health care so that true progress can be made on both sides.
Stacy January 31, 2013 at 04:28 PM
KKM-I don't recall seeing you at any Town Meeting so how can you say all the money that is being tossed around that is not be used for the kids? The FTA wants money...simply put that is not for the kids either. Smaller class size is impossible with the population growing as fast as it is. Plans are in the works to fix buildings, move kids from school to school but that all takes time and money by the way. Set work day is just plain crazy because the teachers are salary and nobody puts set hours on a salary employee. That will just make more problems down the road and everyone knows it. I will finish with this...why is it the tax payers job to make you feel good about yourself and valued? Don't you think that the parents and those children that you have helped make something of themselves do just that. The parents of this town contiue to let every teacher know how much they mean to them and how thankful they are for all they do. I really think it is sad when the teachers claim nobody cares. This isn't about nobody caring this is about money.
KKM January 31, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Stacy that is such a one sided misinterpretation. I don't NEED the taxpayers to make me feel good...the kids and what I do for them are great for that. But neither do I need to be called selfish or read that teachers are acting like babies or any of the other negative comments that are coming out. I knew what I was getting into when I became a teacher except that I was naive. I never thought I would have to consistantly defend my profession to the public or be criticized by people who don't know that this IS a full time vital job. I full understand that this economy is brutal on EVERYBODY. But if teachers, firefighters, or police officers ask for a fair contract, we are skewered and spoken about like we are bottom feeders demanding exhorbitance. And the money? Doesn't everyone need a COLA once in a while? Oh, and Brad, only some get step raises....it's "erroneous" to claim that we all do. I haven't had one in many many years.
KKM January 31, 2013 at 07:42 PM
One more thing, Brad....to answer your question about where money shouldn't be spent; I won't speak for others, but believe me, it becomes a hot topic every time a "new and improved" program is purchased for us to use in the classroom. I can't even count how many new ways to teach reading, writing, or math have come through my door in the 22+ years I've been here in Framingham, only to be replaced by others. All of this at great cost to the tax payers. There are also federal and state mandates in place that are not paid for by the feds or the state. I'm not sure what you are referring to when you cite things the FTA demanded and is now complaining about.
Derek from Framingham January 31, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Herb you are completely missing the concept of the economics of the situation. Let's face it the schools are an expense - directly they don't produce income. Yes you can call it an investment in the community, but you could easily call the new wells an investment in the community, heck a oil rig in front of the town hall could be considered an investment in the community. The private sector is the income producer - it is what pays for the expense of the schools. Eventually, the economy will flip again and private sector employees will start to regain what they have lost - so all that is basically being asked is for the public sector (teachers) to wait until that has happened. The expense side asking for more from the income producing side, while the income side is receiving less is biting the hand that feeds it.
Susan Petroni (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 09:30 PM
I completely understand that class size and defined work day will eventually mean added money to the school budget; I was just pointing out that of the 3 points the Association says they are focused on the COLA issue has already been settled at Town Meeting back in October. Town Meeting agreed to give the teachers roughly the same COLA as they gave the other unions in town. I think most people know this but I will state the obvious --- if there are 25 kids in a class and 100 fourth graders at an elementary school and class sizes are reduced to say 20 students in a class -- then the Framingham Public Schools would need 5 teachers for fourth grade as opposed to 4 teachers, and a new teacher would need to be hired - thus more money added to the school budget.
Stacy January 31, 2013 at 10:42 PM
KKM- when the FTA continues to publicly announce that they are not being treated fairly what do you expect the parents to feel and say? Any comments that are coming out are at the end of letters to the editor from the FTA..the parents and other taxpayers are being asked over and over again to take the side of the FTA and all I can say is that after all the information that has come out I will not take the teachers side. The teachers get paid well in Framingham. Yes, they are asked to stay late or come in early. I will not agree that they always have to defend their profession. They do have to defend the way the act when always wanting a raise or when they are asking for things that are completely out of the realm of possibility because of circumstances beyond anyone's control. And yes it is a full time vital job so do what other full time salary employees do and work. Stop this crazy work to rule because all this proves is that this is a stance the teachers are willing to take at the expense of the kids. Also, why do you think your contract isn't fair? Asking for smaller class size when there isn't any space available or asking for a defined workday when we all know salary employees don't have a defined workday is just plain ridiculous. Sometimes people have to use common sense and this is one of those times.
KKM February 01, 2013 at 10:20 PM
I swore I was done with this post, but Stacy, you ave misinformation. We are NOT asking for smaller class sizes but we ARE asking thathe current guidelines as recommended by the school committee be put in our contract simply because there is a tendency to put more children in classrooms that are already full. Would you want your kindergarten child in a class of 25 with only a part time aide? I wouldn't! It's also more than a little likely that several to quite a few have difficulties that take away from the other students. We are not working to rule yet. I will speak only for myself when I say I get to school before or by 7:30 for an 8:15 start and am often there until 3:30 or later....and I do bring work home. Not a complaint at all!I choose to do this because it IS what the kids need. When I get to school, the parking lot is already half full and when I leave it's the same. IF the members vote to go to work to rule, I will HAVE to come in at the school committee's guideline of 7:55 and leave by 2:45. The only difference for those of us who work longer hours is that we will bring home more work.I'm in elementary school so my students will only suffer the fact that I might have an increase in my stress level and maybe I will take longer to get work back to them. As for high school and middle school teachers...you might not believe this, but their hearts break over this. Yes, common sense is needed, but folks need the true facts before taking a stand.
Rich February 04, 2013 at 06:42 PM
IF the members vote to go to work to rule, I will HAVE to come in at the school committee's guideline of 7:55 and leave by 2:45. your choice to follow.
Mary Gonzales February 05, 2013 at 03:47 AM
Am I missing something? what is the magic numberteachers are looking for? 10 students per class?15? 20? Most communities have a policy for 20-25 students. I don't understand why they are picketing before school and refusing to help students after school who need help yet at the same time saying without a class size restriction the students will suffer? Aren't the students suffering now by teachers refusing to help just before mid-terms? So when my son gets a C he can tell the college, it should have an asterisk as he wanted to learn but the teachers refused to give him help. Take some responsibility. I didn't see the Framingham firefighters picketing or refusing to go to house fires and medical calls for a year, while they were negotiating their contract. They were without one longer than the teachers!!
KKM February 07, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Mary, the "magic number" is exactly what the school committee asked for which differs from grade to grade....we just want those numbers as their guidelines state, put in the contract. Why won't they? Because they've already exceeded those numbers in so many classrooms already that they can't without complying with their own words. I'm sorry about your son's mid-terms but not being a middle school teacher I can't comment on that....we are not working to rule now so I don't know why he couldn't get help. And I will not comment about any other town employee either....it's not my place. Rich, I feel the same way....I will HAVE to adhere to those hours.

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