LETTER: Teachers Union President: 'For Any Misunderstanding ... I Apologize'

Framingham Teachers Association President: "We have made very little progress."

The recent communication that has become controversial has been blown out of proportion – our focus has been on making connections.

For any misunderstanding about the intent, I apologize.

We are teachers – we put kids first every single day in our classrooms and schools. We are not out to hurt anyone – and we are certainly not going to involve children. EVER. Period.

We have been in lengthy negotiations for a contract and we are looking for ways to ensure the committee, as elected officials, is as invested in and feeling the same levels of urgency that our membership has felt.

The opportunity for members to converse with the school committee outside of the school setting is beneficial to our cause. Finding out if a school committee member is in the same circle as several Framingham teachers allows our members to discuss educational issues with them.

For months now, we have been urging the school committee and the superintendent to sit down with us and work together to make a positive difference for the school system.

While they have sat down with us, we have made very little progress.

We are not asking for unreasonable requests – we are asking for limits on class sizes which have been proven over and over again to benefit students. That’s our main goal.

Once again, we ask the school committee members to work with us to make a positive difference for our students.

Sam Miskin

Framingham Teachers Association President

FramTeacher2013 March 09, 2013 at 03:15 PM
I have also simply told my students, "All teachers wear our red shirts on Friday to show that we are all working together as a team to teach you". That was what the FTA advised us to say if any students asked. Unless those parents told students otherwise the red shirts should not been seen as bullying.
Rich March 09, 2013 at 05:20 PM
So nice of the FTA to think of our children when wearing those" poke the admininstration" in the eye shirts.
Kary March 09, 2013 at 06:35 PM
If Framingham residents supported teachers the way they deserve, this town wouldn't have a horrible school system with almost 30 children in a room and still expected to do well on their tests. Towns with good school systems, have parents supporting their teachers!
Concerned Framingham Parent March 09, 2013 at 06:46 PM
FramTeacher2013, you are right: slinging insults is not productive. THAT GOES BOTH WAYS! Your union leadership has seen fit to insult the School Committee and FPS Administration, question their dedication and integrity, and target the volunteer SC Members and their families for "stress." Along with that, by not answering perfectly reasonable questions about how the longed-for class-size restrictions and well defined school day would work, they are insulting every tax-payer in town. As others have stated, these things do not occur in a vaccuum. By asking for personal information and preparing to "stress" those they consider the opposition, the FTA leadership has, sadly, placed EVERY teacher under the same microscope and alienated the very people it was dependent on for support. Even the suggestion of such a "stress" campaign creates a negative environment. It is all regrettable, and we are STILL waiting for a sincere apology. p.s. - While I appreciate that you may not have told your students anything more about the red union shirts than they are a teacher thing, plenty of your colleagues at the high school and middle schools have.
Mary Gonzales March 09, 2013 at 06:48 PM
I have been reluctant to chime in on this issue as I do have children in the Framingham Schools, but Nancy what you wrote is what many of us are thinking. I do NOT believe that the FTA President is the only one who wrote the email and is the only member of the FTA who thought this 'stress' campaign was a great idea. What they are sorry about is that the Framingham Patch reported on it. I have been a supporter of the teachers. I still am. I think they deserve a fair contract - just like every other union has now received in town. What is not fair is this terrible stress campaign by the FTA president (and the FTA board). I would love to see teachers - using their real names - come out and admit that their president, executive board and union screwed up. You did. Admit it. I think if a majority of the 1,000 teachers who are in the union did that here, you would earn the support of the parents, who were with you up until this 'stress' campaign! FPS teachers -- please prove me right that you disagree with your president and FTA board and they you are sorry for their tactics. Post your opinion here and use your real name just like many of us parents are!!
Concerned Framingham Parent March 09, 2013 at 07:00 PM
@Just Another Greedy Teacher, careful what you assume. What makes you so sure everyone who is posting comments is "in a cubicle"? Some of us are self-employed, some of us unemployed, some of us are stay-at-home, some of us are retired, some of us work nights. And even if people ARE firing off message from cubicles every hour or two, doesn't make them lazy, any more than teachers are lazy. Should I assume, because you say you "get an hour a day to sit at [your] desk....to plan the 5+ hours of curriculum and grade assignments of your 100+ students" that you ONLY use an hour each day to do those things? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Cheryl Temple March 10, 2013 at 11:58 AM
This "apology" is almost as offensive as the original letter: "The recent communication that has become controversial has been blown out of proportion – our focus has been on making connections. For any misunderstanding about the intent, I apologize." So in other words, Miskin is only sorry that it became controversial and people "misunderstood"? This may be the most insulting pseudo-apology I've ever seen, because it assumes that the very people that have largely supported Miskin and the Union are SHEEP who will believe whatever lies of convenience they are told. Here's how that apology SHOULD look: "I apologize for my poor judgment and lapse in decent and ethical behavior. I listened to the wrong advisors and realize that I behaved badly and represented the teachers poorly. The survey was intended exactly as you all read it, and there was no misunderstanding on your part. I'm truly sorry that I tarred all the wonderful Framingham teachers with my brush, and sorry for not only offending the taxpayers with my bad behavior but then also insulting their intelligence with my excuse for an apology. I intend to step down as FTA president so that negotiations can resume without all of the distractions that my negative and reprehensible actions have brought, and will work to ensure that the behavior modeled by the Union represents the morals, ethics and values we work so hard to teach our young students". Try that one, Sam?
robin March 10, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Derek, your comments seem to focus on teacher salaries. You also seem to twist words to fit your own agenda. My argument about the administrative salaries had nothing to do with wanting more money for myself. I'm actually very happy with my salary. The issue that is holding up negotiations is not salaries it is class size. My comment about the $600,000 being paid annually to a combination of just 4 administrators was meant to suggest that perhaps cuts could happen at higher levels and that money be budgeted towards providing more space for the smaller classes. You seem to be the one that is unhappy with your own salary. I'm sorry for you if that is the situation you are in. The issue holding up negotiations before this survey came into play was class size... not salaries. I think you should try to get past that.
Derek from Framingham March 11, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Robin after re-reading your post I did misinterpret your argument. Since you mentioned the administrators pay after talking about the COLA I assumed you were lumping both together. But after rereading you did say to use the money for non salary items - my apologies for essentially putting words in your mouth. The issue in the end though still comes down to money. There are the points of the max class size and of the 'well-defined' work day (sorry just can't keep stop rolling my eyes on that one). But it still comes down to money. Many have asked what does the union want if the class size has to increase or the work falls out of normal ''work hours'? Doesn't it still all come down to money if things fall outside the range of what the union is asking for? You are correct when you say I am unhappy with where my salary is. I'll also say back to you I think I speak for a large portion of the private sector. I constantly hear from friends, relatives, and co-workers how they haven't seen raises for years but have been hit by the stresses of doing more and more work (usually from a co-worker that got laid off). My argument is still the same. I don't believe any public sector employee should have gotten a COLA this year - its just that the teachers are in the limelight at the moment. But after the 'survey scandal' I think the union needs to be taught a lesson and get nothing new this year.
FramTeacher2013 March 11, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Derek, the well defined work day issue came to the surface because teachers are assigned duties before and after school and it came into question what time they should be on campus before or after their duties. Are they allowed to leave after bus duty one day for a doctors appointment, for example. The way it stands now, hour expected hours are 15 minutes before school and 30 minutes after school are required, but it is written in the School Committee Policy NOT in the Teachers Contract. When it is written in the Policy as opposed to the contract it can be changed without a vote or a negotiation. We simply want the same language moved to the official contract rather than having it in the SC Policy. The issue is exactly the same for the class size. It is written in SC Policy, not contract. I believe the FTA is not looking to change anything except move that verbage from one document to another.
Linda Dunbrack March 11, 2013 at 05:28 PM
So, the teachers union is looking for the School Committee to give up authority and discretion that they currently have with respect to class sizes and work day in exchange for...what? Putting those things in the contract makes them subject to grievance procedures and arbitration, so I can see why they would want to stay away from those provisions. It sounds like you have a well-defined work day and class size limits, just not in the contract. When is the last time either of those policies changed substantively?
Violin Solo March 11, 2013 at 05:49 PM
@FramTeacher2013, if the class size limit is transferred over to the contract, what happens if a class is over the limit? Will the teacher(s) stop teaching that class because it is against the contract? I also still do not see a single response stating just how over the limit we are in the 115 classrooms of interest.
Susan Petroni (Editor) March 11, 2013 at 06:02 PM
At Violin: the number of classrooms over 25 students and at which middle schools and an estimate of how many student are in a class can be found at this link: http://framingham.patch.com/articles/115-middle-school-classes-have-more-than-25-students#photo-13505677 At the link there is a chart, that was provided by the Framingham Public Schools administration.
Rich March 11, 2013 at 06:07 PM
As a taxpayer I agree that these "sticking points" should remain in the SC policy, not in a union contract. Too much possible $$ to be lost to grievance or class action by the union. Teacher mentions what if a teacher needs to leave for a Dr's appt. Well, shouldest you speak to the Principal?? Should you be scheduling doctor's appts during the time you are in school?? or cutting close early or later in the day? You do work in an adult setting? This isn't like a union construction job where a laborer picks up a piece of plumbing pipe and then is in trouble with the plumbers.
FramTeacher2013 March 11, 2013 at 06:10 PM
@Violin, I do not know exactly what would happen. But leaving it in the SC Policy makes it pretty easy for people to over enroll classes. Larger class sizes make it increasingly difficult for differentiated instruction and successful learning environments at the K-12 level. Smaller class sizes = more individualized attention = more successful classrooms = higher test scores = desirable community = higher property values. Everyone wins when Framingham has a good school system... not just residents with children.
Violin Solo March 11, 2013 at 06:12 PM
My sister and I attended school in a different country. There were generally 40 or more students per classroom. There were no teacher aides. Our mother taught high school math at the same school for years. We turned out OK. So did all our friends. In addition to planning lessons, teaching, grading test papers. enforcing classroom discipline and setting vacation assignments, our teachers had to participate in sports day events, annual school day events, and help coordinate all kinds of other extra-curricular activities. All without extra pay. There was no contract. I respect teachers for the role they play in society, and the extra-hard work they put in. But I cannot see how contract language can change the ground reality.
Rich March 11, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Teacher says: But leaving it in the SC Policy makes it pretty easy for people to over enroll classes Dont classes with lots of kids get aides? You know if your language goes into a union contract there is no way that money could be budgeted to deal with those items.
Violin Solo March 11, 2013 at 07:07 PM
@Susan, Thank you for the link. In most of the cases, we are talking about only 1-3 children more than the current guideline. The brouhaha suggested to me that we must be way over the recommendation. @FramTeacher2013, I agree with your comments in principle. But 'more' and 'less', 'larger' and 'smaller' are all relative terms. Smaller class sizes are good and desirable. But how large can it get before it starts getting counter-productive? I am sure this is an impossible question to answer, since children and their classroom needs are all different. So, how did the FTA determine that 28 (25 + max) should be the value in the contract? Why not a hard 25, or a 20? Or a 30?
FramTeacher2013 March 11, 2013 at 07:35 PM
20 would certainly be nice... but it just isn't going to happen :) I'll give you an example... I work at an Elementary school where most of our classes are 22-25 students... There have been some in years past of 26 students. There are other Elementary schools in town with regular ed classes at the same grade level with only 15 students. Having it officially in the contract could help ensure that this does not happen, because it holds administration more accountable for evenly distributing students during the kindergarten school-choice lottery.
robin March 11, 2013 at 07:42 PM
I'd like to know what the public thinks we should do to make things better in our schools since teacher opinions don't seem to be correct. Please also try to keep in mind that if scores drop again instead of improving WE tried to get some changes in place that could help. Also, if anyone thinks they could do a better job - please come on in! I'll gladly hand over my class.
Derek from Framingham March 11, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Kary - how do we have such a horrible school system? Everything I hear from the pro-teacher side is how how great the school system is. As was mentioned by a previous poster, years back we had class sizes just as large (or larger) and truthfully I believe the quality of kids (as a whole) that came out of school 30 years was better than it is now. And why? Because parents were more involved with school and kids were afraid of adults. This is where we need to somehow focus our money on and stop expecting teachers to have to wear five different hats including the hat of parent.
Linda Dunbrack March 11, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Actually, I've seen a contract with language (forget which one it is) that holds the SC accountable for ensuring even distribution among classes across schools. Certainly that would solve a chunk of the problem at the middle schools: fix the feeder system.
oldtimer March 11, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Robin: First have the union admit that it keeps bad and lazy teachers in the classroom, just because they have seniority. Second is that Framingham needs to stop teaching Spanish and Portuguese in the classroom and teach English to all students. Third hold parents accountable. If a student is not turning in homework and not passing tests. Fail them. Don't just keep passing them on. Finally, stop trying to be parents and teach discipline in schools. Teach the subjects you were trained to teach - math, science, history, English. If a child is not behaving - send them home. If they keep not behaving expel them. All of this worked when I was in the Framingham schools. It worked when my kids were in the Framingham school and it should work just the same for when my grandkids are in school here in Framingham.
Derek from Framingham March 11, 2013 at 08:11 PM
OK, robin you asked, I'll toss in 2 cents. Note this would not apply to every teacher/teaching environment obviously but I believe should be applied to more than a few. 1. Stop rewarding kids for every mediocre thing they do. This has started way to early in the cycle and now as the kids start to get older expect to be rewarded for every little thing they do no matter how small. 2. Reward high performance. Kids who do work hard and achieve should be recognized, not hidden because it will make the non-performers feel bad about themselves. 3. Stop giving extra chances. Homework/project is due on a date (just like working in the real world) - kids shouldn't get multiple passes without a good excuse. In my day, you didn't hand in your assignment you got a big fat ZERO. And then you pleaded for the the teacher for extra credit to make it up - because you were afraid to show your parents a zero. 4. Any teachers who teach more of one of the same class. Make separate tests! With technology these days its trivial to just even reorder the questions on a test. We need to cut down on the cheating - its going to only hurt the kids later. 5. Get rid of the calculators. Every kid should know their times tables and be able to make change. This seems to be quote the challenge for kids these days. 6. Stop trying to be a kid's friend. Be an authority figure.
Violin Solo March 11, 2013 at 08:30 PM
@FramTeacher2013, that would require contract language targeting uniform allocation, not a fixed (maximum) class size. You cannot force a small(er) class size without knowing the incoming strength and the number of available classrooms. But you can definitely try to spread them uniformly. Two different goals, one feasible within the available resources and one potentially infeasible and hence unjustified in a contract.
Concerned Framingham Parent March 11, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Putting the class size cap in contract language, as well as the "well-defined day" is problematic for the very reasons many have stated. It becomes "grievable" with all that the grievance process entails. And let's be realistic, the urgency in getting such language into the FTA contract is to set a precedent for the MTA to take to other communities during those negotiations.
Concerned Framingham Parent March 11, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Regarding the practicalities of hard-and-fast class size language in in the contract Balancing better during kindergarten school choice can impact kindergarten class sizes. However, that doesn't address new children moving into town during the school year. Does the union propose that new families with children in different grades should have to split them up because one of the siblings may push one class over the cap? Or, does that school open a new class for that one child "extra" child? Adding a class in the middle of the year, should the school or district shuffle all the kids at that grade level to make the classes evenly sized? Wouldn't that be horribly disruptive for the very children we are ALL so interested in protecting from stress so they can learn? Conversely, if several children leave during the year, do we dismiss the "spare" teacher and collapse the classes with the remaining teachers, again stressing the children who should be focused on learning? To say nothing of whether there are enough physical classrooms in the buildings to play this musical chairs game, or will we have to rent modular classrooms?
John Sullivan March 12, 2013 at 01:03 AM
@Linda - Just curious how you would know that the wording of the letter "sound suspiciously like Lisa Zanella in terms of wording and language use." Who is Lisa Zanella?
Linda Dunbrack March 12, 2013 at 01:42 AM
@John: She is previous FTA President (I believe) and is on the FTA executive board and has been involved in the negotiations for many, many years. http://framingham.massteacher.org/Executive%20Board%20&%20Committees.html She has spoken at School Committee meetings and written many editorials over the years. A person's spoken and written communication often has distinct style, cadence, sentence structure and word choice. It's just my impression, based on listening to her and reading editorials, but it "sounds" like her to me.
Brad Evans March 12, 2013 at 03:31 PM
@FramTeacher 2013 - you cant leave it to the Kindergerten process to fix the class size issues.. It only fixes it for that year - at a certain moment in time. Imagine if you will all Middle school classes at 25 students in all schools.. Now, it is October and 3 new families move in to Framingham, one with twin 12 year old boys (7th grade) and one with a 6th grader. As soon as you assign these kids to a MS, you break the class size policy - so what happens? This is what people are trying to understand - what does the FTA want to happen. Student population and class sizes change throughout the year due to normal comings and goings.. Very difficult to put language about class sizes when that happens - and when certain other things come.


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