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Elementary school PTO board urges more sessions in Framingham teacher contract talks

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  January 29, 2013 01:35 PM

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As Framingham teachers and town officials negotiate the educators' new union contract, a local elementary school's parent-teacher organization is calling for more meetings so the two groups can reach a speedy conclusion.

The Hemenway Elementary School's PTO is urging all Framingham residents to reach out to both the Framingham Teacher's Association and the Framingham School Committee to request more frequent negotiation meetings, the PTO's board said in a letter.

The letter said that although the current schedule calls for the two parties to meet twice per month - schedule permitting - the amount of time spent negotiating is not enough.

"At this point in the negotiations, with tensions rising, meeting twice a month is unacceptable," the letter states. "We strongly urge both parties to come together on a more frequent basis until a successful resolution is achieved."

The letter comes after dozens of Framingham teachers picketed outside the high school in freezing temperatures last week to demonstrate their exasperation with the lack of a union contract with the town.

The contract between the Framingham Teachers Association, which is the local teachers union, and the town expired on Aug. 31. Educators have been fighting to get a cost of living increase on par with inflation — which they did not receive in the last contract — as well as language in the agreement that clearly defines the teaching workday. The teachers are also hoping to make limited class sizes a priority.

The town and the teachers have been in negotiations for months. Although the contracts between the union and the town usually last three years, the two parties arranged a one-year agreement last year because the down economy and budget woes put the town in a tight financial spot, officials said.

“We decided on a one-year contract because the town was worried about fiscal issues, with both the economy and a loss of tax base,” Christopher Martell, a Framingham Teachers Association member and a history teacher at Framingham High, previously told the Globe. “But we’re really being pinched. We’re not even asking for a raise. We’re not asking for an amazing cost of living adjustment — just something to help pay our bills.”

However, Framingham officials are saying the town might not be able to afford a substantial cost of living adjustment.

“We have the utmost respect for what our teachers do, but we are restricted,” said David Miles, chairman of the Framingham School Committee. “We are a town department. We only have so much money.”

As negotiations have stalled, teachers say they are growing restless for a contract, and town officials are pledging that they will try to reach a timely agreement.

Framingham Superintendent Stacy Scott said last week that “the town is very eager to work out a mutually agreeable contract.”

“We remain optimistic that we will come to an agreement on points, yet there are lots of details we’re still working on,” Scott said.

The Hemenway PTO board urges residents to contact the Framingham School Committee by emailing Anne Greenberg at agreenbe@framingham.k12.ma.us. The board also said Sam Miskin, the teachers union president, can be reached at sammisk@gmail.com.

Residents are encouraged to "cc" the organization in each correspondence at hemenwayPTO@yahoo.com.

"Please do not let our children become the victims of this ongoing dispute," the letter states.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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