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UPDATED: Superintendent: Mediator's Illness Cancels Contract Negotiation Meeting

Parents are reporting that some teachers will not advise clubs at Hemenway Elementary and starting Thursday some high school clubs, according to students and parents, will not meet, due to a lack of a contract.

UPDATED at 6:55 p.m. with comments from School Committee Chair.

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UPDATED at 4:22 p.m. with comments from Framingham Teachers Association President.

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Contract negotiations with the Framingham Teachers Association have been tense the past couple of months.

Teachers have expressed a frustration with the process and attended a School Committee meeting in December by the hundreds.

Teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 31. And the situation got even more tense on Monday, when a scheduled meeting betwen the two sides was cancelled.

Tuesday night at the Framingham School Committee meeting, Framingham Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott said "We had two meetings scheduled in January where we were working with a mediator to continue the mediation process. This week’s meeting, unfortunately, was cancelled. Our mediator was ill and asked us to cancel the meeting. We had a very productive session in December—an eight hour meeting. Our sessions have been increasingly productive, so (we were) naturally disappointed at this interruption in the process. But, given the critical role of the mediator, it seemed obvious and wise (and with the advice of Counsel) that we should wait for the next session to continue to move our discussion forward."

Framingham Teachers Association President Sam Miskin told Framingham Patch Wednesday afternoon "We understand the mediator is sick, but there is lots of work that still needs to be done. We offered to meet without the mediator and they said no. We really feel like there is a lot to do. There are so many  unsettled items. We feel like we are losing time."

Scott in a written statement said "Hopefully, we are moving to the closing elements of our conversation and mediation. As we are getting into the final, very sensitive issues and concerns, the facilitation of the mediator is all the more vital."

Miskin said today "one of the major issues is class size. We submitted a proposal for class size. We are still waiting for a proposal on class size from the School Committee since last February. Losing another day of mediation is not what was needed. We could have met and discussed this important issue. We would have been glad to just meet with the other side to exchange proposals on the issue."

Miskin said every community adjacent to Framingham, except Marlborough, and every community the state considers comparable to Framingham, except one, has language in their contract about maximum class size on class size numbers. Framingham has no language and no proposal from the School Committee, said Miskin.

School Committee Chair David Miles said the School Committee has a class size policy.

In the mean time, several teachers have stopped assisting students after school and a few have opted to cancel clubs and organizations instead of staying afterschool to advise students. The reason - they write in letters to parents - is a lack of a contract. (see attached).

Parents from Hemeneway Elementary School were sent home a letter about the "work to rule" message from teachers in regards to Math Club just before the holiday break. (see attached).

Several high school parents this week have also contacted Framingham Patch to say starting tomorrow, Jan. 10 some after school clubs will not meet.

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On Dec. 11, the

Miskin said following the cancellation of Monday's meeting, the Association felt it had no choice but to institute the "work to rule."

This means teachers can opt not to volunteer to work with students before or after school with homework help or as an adviser to a club or organization.

"Based on what happened Monday, we felt we were back to where we were a year ago. We feel the School Committee is playing games with us," said Miskin.

"After Monday, we decided to put more pressure on the School Committee. It's a crucial time - 90 days into the school year - unfortunately, they left us with no other choice. We regret the fact that this action is hurting students. But we feel we have been disrespected by the School Committee for more than a calendar year. ... We are frustrated that we haven't settled this and worked on it for a year, without much ground being made."

"This is ludicrous. It truly is not true," said Miles.

Miles said negotiating a contract is the School Committee's top priority. The next scheduled meeting is Jan. 24.

Miles said he was notified yesterday of Monday's cancelled meeting. He said the School Committee does not attend the negotiations or the mediation sessions. They do have a representative assigned to them - School Committee member Carol Phalen.

Miles said the School Committee was given an update on negotiations in a closed session meeting before Tuesday's public School Committee meeting. He said the School Committee has left the negotiations in the hands of its legal counsel and the superintendent.

"We look forward to moving forward in the process," said Scott Tuesday night.

The School Committee made no public statement at its meeting Tuesday night.

"We have a scheduled meeting at the end of the month and, hopefully, that will bring us to conclusion. I know there is lots of concern about our ability to bring the process to closure. Of course, we are eager to do so. We will keep you up to date on the progress we are able to make," said Scott Tuesday night and again in a statement issued Wednesday.

Gina Fishman January 09, 2013 at 08:32 PM
These contract negotiations need to be finalized as soon as possible. It is the children that will suffer.
Andrea Dunne Adrian January 09, 2013 at 08:56 PM
I agree with you Gina, but why are the children made to suffer? No need.
Gina Fishman January 09, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Do we know when the next scheduled meeting is? I sincerely hope the moderator feels better soon. We know that all students benefit from the extra effort our teachers put in .... IMO, this lack of support can only make us, as a district, weaker. I will use the line I used at the SC meeting in December. "Do what we need to do, then what we want to do".
Patty Ames January 09, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Gina, next negotiation mtg is planned for Jan 24th (as far as I know)...I agree with you 100%. I have huge support for the teachers as well. We need to get this done and move on to other matters.
Gina Fishman January 09, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Thanks Patty. So, a District goes 2+ weeks w/o support, assuming this "work to rule" goes into play tomorrow? Has anyone suggested that this missed meeting be rescheudled at the earliest convenience for all parties?
Andrea Dunne Adrian January 09, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Has anyone suggested making kids suffer for adults is not the right choice?
Carrie Miller January 10, 2013 at 12:02 AM
It's a bummer for the kids, especially with high school midyear exams coming up, but I support my teachers 100%. They had to act.
RSzustley January 10, 2013 at 12:25 AM
This is unacceptable. The Committee should meet to resolve these issues immediately, and frequently, rather than dragging the process out for months and months. It is not fair to the teachers or the students, and everyone is suffering in the short term and long term.
Laura Buck January 10, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I think "bummer" is an understatement in referencing the damage this can do to students, especially the high school students with midterms coming up, and the 2nd quarter closing. Their grades count for higher education..the end of any help sessions for kids who need it at this level can really screw them up long term. For all the teachers that will choose to continue after school help for the sake of the kids, thank you. I truly hope negotiations continue and finish up (quickly) in a positive way for all so that the school committee and teachers union can get back to their jobs of focusing on the quality education of students in this town.
Patty Ames January 10, 2013 at 03:26 AM
They are looking to try and have a meeting prior to the 24th...I haven't heard anything yet about that happening....fingers crossed!!!
Sandy smith January 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM
This proproganda by the teachers should not be tolerated. They have been wearing their red T-shirts and preaching to the kids every week. Now they will jeopordize the kids future by not assisting those students in need of help. I do not support this work to rule - definite changes need to be made in future contracts to ensure 8 hours in the building each day.
Heidi McIndoo January 10, 2013 at 12:41 PM
This just has to be settled, I can see both sides of this, and agree it's a tough situation, but that's what the word "compromise" is all about. And having discussions in which we slam one side or the other is of no help. I don't see how wearing red t-shirts is propaganda (disseminating misleading information), it's simply a visual way our teachers show that they are working together towards a goal. And, I've not heard of any preaching to the kids. My kids have no idea what is going on and what the red shirts mean.
Herb Chasan January 10, 2013 at 09:45 PM
I have been urging the school committee to fix this problem. It's not good for the students, the parents, or the whole town. The way to do it seems simple - both sides sit down and work it out. No waiting weeks for follow up sessions.Have marathon sessions one right after another. No mediator. Just the school committee and the teachers.
Susin Carlson January 11, 2013 at 02:59 AM
My kids know, they were told by their teachers. Not sure how I feel about that. I'd rather have heard from the Principal or School Committee. The stress level is high enough in High School without them taking on this too. Clearly the adults need to get it together and get the job done with respect to all the issues.

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