Good evening. Normally we write this ebulletin for release on Tuesday mornings, but given the snow days, we have had to adjust our schedule. And given all the talk about the school calendar and the newly-announced superintendent candidates and scheduled forums, we have decided to send out this information tonight in anticipation of school discussions tomorrow. Our regular schedule will resume next week.
Please see an important announcement below on Math Rocks. Our new and final deadline is this Wednesday, February 25.
Superintendent Search Process Moves Ahead
Take a look at the four finalists for the BPS superintendency, and find out information about this week’s four upcoming community meetings. Each day from 4-6 PM, there will be a student/teacher panel with three representatives of each group asking questions of the candidates. (Because of these newly-scheduled forums, the BTU has canceled the Professional Issue Town Hall and the ELL Committee meeting scheduled for this week.)
Snow Days Confusion: An Explanation
What is the last day of school as of today?
The last day of school as of now is June 30. We have used up our allotment of surplus snow days built into the calendar.
Have we made any changes in the school calendar?
Only one. The membership voted at the last membership meeting to have school on March 17. The vote had one dissenting member.
Why did we take that vote?
The state requires 180 days of school, and BESE regulations further require that any time “lost” before March 31 of a given school year must be made up in full days before the end of the school year.
Why does the school year have to end on or before June 30?
It is a contractual requirement, agreed to by both the school department and the union.
Why did we vote in February to work on March 17?
We needed to give parents and others advance notice. We could have waited until the next membership meeting on March 11, but we decided that that would be insufficient notice to parents, teachers, and other members of the school community
Was the membership vote required?
Any general change in school calendar requires a membership vote.
Were there negotiations leading up to the decision to changeMarch 17?
There were many informal conversations between the School Department and the union as the bank of surplus days dwindled from +5 to a -2. We have these discussions routinely every year when it appears that the number of cancellation days may exceed the number of days built into the school calendar, which typically has five days set aside. Another discussion between the parties has been set up and will take place soon.
What process did the union follow to cancel March 17?
We surveyed our leadership during the course of these discussions, and it was virtually unanimous that the first two days for us to use to make up days were June 17 and March 17, generally in that order.
I read that we had already voted to cancel June 17. Is that true?
If we owed only one day, why didn’t we vote to convert June 17first?
We wanted to, but we were worried that if we did — given the chance of another lost day between February 11 and March 11 (our next membership meeting) — we would have then been in the position of having to take a second vote, on March 11, to go to work onMarch 17. That would have provided insufficient notice to all. If we do need a second vote, we want to give as much notice as we can.
If there are no more cancellations, there’s no need to do anything. If there is another day lost, we will propose canceling June 17. If there is a reason to look at rescheduling two or more days, we will poll the membership via our building reps.
If we do need to reschedule two or more days, what are the options?
Again, the next day to be proposed will be June 17. After that we have limited choices: April 3, Saturday(s), and/or April vacation. Or perhaps the state will make an adjustment in its regulation. In any case, before we get to approving Saturday(s) or April vacation, we will poll our membership, school by school. The School Department will also have its say in the new schedule, as it will have to be negotiated.
How will the BTU approach the decision to reschedule school days?
We will consider rescheduling days as we need them. We will not schedule days in anticipation of something that may never happen, except that we will have to consider the notice needs of parents and members of the school community, as well as the requirements of our contract. Let me explain:
The School Department informally asked us in early February to vote to cancel March 17, June 17, April 3, and April vacation, and to keep to this new schedule whether there were any more snow days or not. We rejected that concept out of hand. We will consider changes if and when we need them. If the School Department is intent on a new schedule, we will consider it in the next round of negotiations when our contract expires.
Can the school department unilaterally determine how it wants to reconfigure the school calendar?
If –IF – the April vacation is cancelled because of something totally unusual (e.g. seven more days of school cancellations), will I have to cancel any non-refundable trip I may have planned?
No. We will work it out as we have in the past when there is a crisis. Keep your plans as they are.
What if the plan is to have school on Good Friday? Will I be able to take time for religious observance?
Yes. We will work it out, as we have in the past when there are individual circumstances. You will be able to practice your religious observance.
Can the school department unilaterally change the schedule so we start the next school year before Labor Day?
No. It would have to be negotiated. The post-Labor Day start schedule is part of the current collective bargaining contract, which ends on August 31, 2016.
Have we ever started school before Labor Day?
Yes, about 30 years ago the School Department proposed starting school early, and we negotiated an early start. The experiment lasted a few years. The School Department then proposed going back to the post-Labor Day start schedule, which is where it has remained to the present.
Is there any discussion statewide on revamping the school calendar either this year or going forward?
Yes. The state commissioner has weighed in. See the State House News Service report. Incidentally there is no truth to the rumor that Commissioner Chester wishes to cancel the Thanksgiving holiday for low performing districts.
What about the School Department’s poll on gauging interest on what days to reschedule?
The School Department’s poll is irrelevant. We have filed a charge at the Labor Relations Commission that the department is trying to circumvent the collective bargaining process.
That said, it is curious how and when the school department polls folks. We have a few polls to suggest if the department is truly looking to gauge our members’ interest and feelings: Is there too much testing? Do our students get enough time for movement and in the arts? Do our schools have enough resources? Is the professional development offered of a high quality? Does the school district do a good job of shoveling out our schools?
We hope this answers your questions about the school calendar. Depending on the weather, we will perhaps need to make more announcements as to the direction we wish to take. We will, as mentioned above, poll our building representatives before we do anything beyond looking at the possible cancellation of June 17.
On the Issue of Involuntary Excessing…
If you are a permanent teacher who has received an excessing letter from the School Department that suggests you have been excessed because you have failed to meet a specific licensing approval or criteria and/or progress towards your SEI endorsement, you most likely have excessed in violation of our contract. See a sample excessing letter. If you have received this or if you are at all uncertain as to the veracity of the letter, please contact BTU Vice President Patrick Connolly as soon as you can. The BTU is in the process of filing for expedited arbitration on this.
Final Call to Register for Math Rocks
Some of you may have been unable to register as the registration mistakenly went offline. It is now corrected. The hard deadline is thisWednesday, February 25.
Math Rocks will be held at the BTU on Thursday, April 2. This is a
citywide mathematics competition for all schools that house either grades 4-5 and/or 6-8. See school registration information. All BPS schools are eligible to participate. Please email RichardStutman with questions.