The Globe ran a story Sunday about the upcoming change in status of both English High School and the Elihu Greenwood Elementary School, both Turnaround Schools presently, but about to come under the wing of Blueprint Schools Network, an Education Management Organization. At the urging of the state, the city contracted with Blueprint to avoid a (hypothetical) state takeover of the schools.
The three-year BPS contract with Blueprint came about without any input from parents, staff, and the community, and provides essentially two key services: 1) Blueprint will essentially take over each school’s operation; and 2) Blueprint will hire, under the authority of the BPS, 21 math tutors to service both schools.
Blueprint also has a contract with the Fall River Public Schools and Denver Public Schools. Speaking of Denver, we received the following memo from a Blueprint-hired teacher-tutor in the Denver Program. The memo is verbatim, though a minor change has been made to protect her identity.
I recently read an article the Boston Globe about the BTU wanting to represent Math Tutors. I have been a Math Tutor for two years with Denver Public Schools and wanted to share some information which might be relevant:
Our salary was $21,000 per year plus the opportunity for bonus.
DPS offered us approximately $300 per month for our benefit allowance to purchase health, dental, and eye insurance.
For the first two years, we had the choice to either select a DPS health plan or purchase our own health insurance. Whatever we didn’t use from the benefit allowance, we were allowed to keep.
Given that most of the tutors were in their 20’s, most chose not to use one of the District plans and purchased their own plan or stayed on their parents’ plan.
Starting next year,tutors are no longer allowed to opt-out and choose their own insurance. As a result, most tutors who are returning for a second (or third) year are subject to a significant pay cut. This does not apply to teachers within the district.
Blueprint also provided a performance bonus based on state testing data. However, Blueprint decided the criteria for the bonus behind closed doors without any representation for the tutors. Requests to Blueprint questioning their methodology for this performance bonus went unanswered.
I think your statement in the paper that tutors are being shortchanged is certainly accurate and I think they deserve representation.
Best of luck,
The Globe report focused on a BTU grievance that alleges that the school department’s hiring of 21 teacher-tutors into the school department’s management unit–not the BTU–violates the collective bargaining agreement. While significant, this grievance is but one part of the issue. So why did we file the grievance? For a few reasons:
The professional teacher-tutors hired deserve a living wage and benefit package commensurate with their required credentials. To exploit 24- and 25-year olds looking for a real teaching position is not ethical. It may be the way Blueprint does business and it does have the imprimatur of the state DESE, but that doesn’t make it right. Judge for yourself how fair this is. Here are the Blueprint requirements for one of these $21,000 teaching-tutor positions:
- Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution required
- Major/minor in specific teaching content area preferred
- Massachusetts teaching licensure required
- Experience in urban, high-poverty, and/or turnaround schools preferred
- Dual certification in SPED and/or ELL preferred
And all this for a teaching-tutoring position designed to last an extended day. That’s why we filed the grievance. Our profession deserves more than to be cut to shreds by the likes of those who wish to privatize our schools.
Just as important to our members is that the management of both schools has been ceded to a third party without any input from the chief stakeholders.
Notwithstanding the issues cited above, the BTU is not quarreling with the hiring of math tutors (or ELA tutors, or targeted reading specialists or the like) per se. We believe, however, that the staffs at both schools ought to have had significant input into the decision. At more than $35,000 per tutor (for salary and health insurance) over 3 years, the 21 tutors will cost in excess of $2 million. What’s more, Blueprint will obtain a management fee of close to $800,000. Who’s to say that this is the best course of action for the two schools? Or that this is the best use of close to $3 million? The bottom line is, the no-bid, no-thought contract with Blueprint is just one more instance where the school district has failed to respect the work we do.