Boston schools offer counterproposal in teacher talks

In an effort to wrap up contentious teacher contract talks, the Boston School Department announced today it has accepted several union proposals — including a possible compromise on a new teacher-evaluation system — but rejected other union measures.

By agreeing to the union’s compromise on evaluations, the School Department is showing its willingness to push beyond the biggest stumbling blocks in the talks in hopes of settling the contract soon without state intervention.

“We worked throughout the weekend to come up with a thorough and well-thought-out plan that addresses the major issues that remain here,’’ said Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman.


The School Department made its announcement several hours ahead of a deadline today set by the union to accept or reject a plan it pitched last Thursday to resolve negotiations that have dragged on for more than two years.

The union had wanted the School Department to accept its entire plan, which called for the union to agree to the city’s wage-increase offer, a compromise on teacher evaluations, and several other items. It is unclear how the union will react to the School Department hand-picking a few items, while also adding some of its own requests.

Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, said today that union officials will look at the School Department’s proposal this evening and “will respond appropriately.’’

The union compromise on teacher evaluations involves implementing a system developed by the state that both the union and the School Department had vigorously criticized for a variety of contradictory reasons.

The union believed the state model system made it too easy for school officials to dismiss ineffective teachers without first providing them enough help to improve. School officials, on the other hand, argued the state model was too cumbersome because they contended it included too many deadlines and other procedures.


Boston, like all districts statewide, must comply with changes last year in state regulations that call for making student test scores a central part of judging an educator’s effectiveness.

Boston agreed to put that new system in place for this school year, in exchange for receiving millions of dollars in federal funds to overhaul public schools.

Beyond the teacher-evaluation issue, the School Department’s proposal also accepts the union’s request last Thursday to hire six additional nurses and eight social workers.

But the department rejected two other requests the union made as a condition of going through with its concessions on pay and evaluations — reducing maximum class sizes in the sixth and ninth grades by one student and hiring substitutes for absent classroom aides who work with special education students.

The School Department’s proposal also addresses long unresolved issues on other aspects of the contract, such as awarding pay raises to new teachers based on performance rather than the current practice of giving out automatic annual increases.

The exchange of the proposals between the two sides is a last-ditch attempt to avoid having the contract settled by the state Department of Labor Relations. That agency announced last week that it was honoring Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s request to select a fact-finder to investigate the contract stalemate and recommend a resolution.


Menino requested the intervention one month after the School Department gave up a proposal to extend the day at most schools by 45 minutes in an effort to bring a quick end to the contract talks that ultimately never materialized.


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