Owl Pellet: What’s Going On With Teacher Contracts and Negotiations
The following post is based subjetively on information readily available from School Committee public meetings, as well as communications distributed by the Weston Educational Association teacher’s union on the Weston Community facebook page. The Owl has zero intention of getting into the numbers or the hearsay, and does not use anonymous sources. Given where “we” as the Town of Weston are, it is my personal hope that everyone understands that negotiations are ongoing, difficult, and at this point, very far apart in terms of the two sides. And as everyone knows, all sides are working to make sure our Weston public school students get the best possible education on a daily basis.
If you don’t have a child in the Weston Public School system, you may not know of the drawn-out and continuing negotiations between the School Committee and the Weston teachers union, known as the WEA. Weston teachers have no contract for this year and the following two years (a three-year cycle includes 2022-2025). Until an agreement is in place, the 2019 agreements remain in effect. The reason for the lack of a contract is the inability of the two sides (School Committee and WEA) to agree on several key points which I will summarize as cost of living increases, preparation time, and paid time off.
The following image demonstrates (from the point of view of WEA) the differences in asks and offers. This chart was posted on the Weston Community Facebook page, and generated more than a few comments, none of which are communicated here. You can watch public comment from the WEA President from School Committee on November 29 here at around 15:22. You can also note that the red-shirts in the audience are worn by WEA members.
School Committee has negotiated and signed contracts with all of the other unions in schools for the upcoming three year period. There are six unions total, so five with agreements. Please note that union negotiations are done in executive session and I have no inside scoop here, nor would I communicate it if I did.
At the November 29 School Committee meeting, Chair Ken Newberg presented an update on the 2022-2025 contract negotiations. As linked above, that meeting was recorded by Weston Media Center and can be found here–the Collective Bargaining report starts at 1:34:00 more or less.
Below is a summary slide shared on the Weston School Committee Facebook page (you can find the entire presentation on collective bargaining online here).
We as Town residents have vested interest in the proceedings though most of us are not behind the closed doors. The School Committee is all personally invested with students in the system, and obviously the teachers care about students and their own jobs. Some hard decisions are in front of us–certain fixed costs cannot be changed (utility bills, out-of-district tuition) and some costs fluctuate between years (enrollment is up 3% and that has not been the case in the past). Many folks may know that Wellesley teachers, also contract-less but for different reasons, walked out last week (you can read about it in the sWellesley Report). I hope for the sake of our students it does not come to this kind of drastic action.
What School Committee says, and what I have heard repeatedly on Finance Committee and at Town Meeting, is that the school budget is the biggest percentage of the Town budget at more than 60% and that we are dangerously close to the town budget not passing because the town wants to hold down the growth of the school budget. So if salaries are to increase substantially, then something else is going to have to give. What are we all willing to give up?
Negotiations are tough, folks. Emotions get involved. In a small town, with a union where most of the teachers are known to many of us, negotiations are harder still. It does not mean that one side is against the other, but rather that we are trying to find a way through to a win-win-win (for students too).
Wishing us all the best. Go ‘cats!