The issue of an extended day has loomed large in contract negotiations with the school department in the closing months of 2011. The Superintendent has increasingly used the media to further her position. At issue are a few particulars:
- who will work the extended day?
- how long will the extension be?
- what will be the plan for the additional time?
- who will decide how the extension is allotted and into what activities?
- what shall be the compensation?
Superintendent: BTU Members Have Short Day, Good Pay; No Need for Additional Compensation
BTU: Many Students Need a Longer Day; Let's Figure Out How to Do It
The Superintendent feels that teachers deserve no compensation for additional time spent in instruction. She has publicly stated that we earn a salary that is among the highest in Massachusetts and that we have a work day that is among the shortest. Therefore, she argues, we ought to be willing to work an extended day of one hour without additional compensation.
We dispute her characterizations of our work day as 'short' or our salary as overly generous, but that's beside the point. Here's what we think about the school day and how it ought to be extended.
- The student school day ought to be extended so that is matches up more evenly with the typical parent work day. Students who need additional help, academics or enrichments, ought to find school the appropriate place to obtain these services.
- The additional time need not be staffed by teachers exclusively. Rather, a combination of service providers — teachers, Citizen Schools, community organizations, colleges, cultural non-profits, museums, the YMCA, and so on — ought to be asked or contracted to provide this service. Why not encourage our colleges and universities to provide systematic tutoring as part of their PILOT contribution?
- Whoever provides the service, the extended time ought to include a variety of activities both academic and non-academic to give all students the wealth of opportunities they deserve
- Any of the aforementioned providers will require compensation. Our trained professionals are no different.
Are There Additional Resources Buried Somewhere?
So that leads us to the question: Does the district have additional revenues to extend the student day? Of course it does. It's just a matter of priorities. Under the Superintendent's watch, there has been a steady hiring of non-classroom administrators. Sure, some schools lack adequate administrative support, but others have too many.
And then there's the plethora of outside contracts. Some are unnecessary and often extravagant. Last year the district outsourced $84 million on unadvertised contracts. Now, that's a big nugget to chew on.
According to a study by Commonwealth Magazine, the school department spend more than $84 million last year on 257 unadvertised contracts worth $10,000 or more. The Police Department with only 35 such contracts had the next highest amount. Does anyone believe that somewhere hidden in those $84 million there just might be a little cash laying around, let's say, for some more important items, like paying for an extended day?
An Unadvertised & Exorbitant $30,000 Contract Is Offered to a Consultant, Then Withdrawn
Here's an example of one such unadvertised contract the Superintendent tried to deliver — until an expose on Fox 25 forced the Superintendent to retreat: This past fall the Superintendent attempted to hire former Boston Deputy Superintendent Rudy Crew at $1500 per day for 20 days as a consultant. When Fox 25 broke the story of the unadvertised $30,000 contract, the superintendent withdrew the offer, The bottom line: There are funds for the extended day that the department has proposed.
Let's Collaborate and Get This Done
The Superintendent's efforts to settle our contract have been MIA. For one thing, she has not attended a single minute of negotiations. For another, her comments to the media have only served to inflame our members.
In mid November, we polled our members while calling to remind all of our November 18 demonstrations. Over 9600 phone calls were made, and thousands answered a series of poll questions. One question was key: Is the district working collaboratively with our members? Our members, by a nearly 10 to 1 vote, answered 'no.'
We'd like to settle the contract. Having the Superintendent taking a new collaborative approach would help. Admitting that there are hidden resources to settle our contract, including the extended day, would be a good first step.