Friday, May 21, 2004
CCHS contract frustrations impact student activities
Teachers at Concord-Carlisle High School are turning up the heat on contract negotiations — by boycotting Monday night's student award ceremony, picketing, and in some cases telling students that college recommendations will be delayed. The last teacher's contract expired on June 30, 2003, but a clause stipulated that it will stay in effect until a new contract is signed.
Some Concord-Carlisle High School juniors who have requested written recommendations for college applications are being told by their teachers to wait until the fall. "Yes," confirmed CCHS teacher Andrei Joseph when contacted by phone. The teachers have been without a new contact for over ten months, explained Joseph, who is the head of the Concord-Carlisle Teacher's Association (CCTA). He said the CCTA has not taken an official position on the recommendation issue. "There's no official edict," he said. "I've heard the rumor. I know of one teacher who said to the student 'ask me in the fall.' I wouldn't be surprised if after ten months of no contract there is increasing frustration." He went on to say he had not heard of any teachers who completely refuse to write recommendations, but instead he believes some teachers are telling students to wait. "The seniors graduating this year have already had their recommendations written," he explained. "We do 25-30 recommendations at a time."
Negotiations in mediation
In an e-mail response, Regional School Committee Chair Michael Fitzgerald said, "For the past five months we have, at the insistence of the CCTA, been working through an intermediary, a state mediator, rather than through the more efficient method of direct face to face negotiations. Despite the mediator's best efforts, and despite our commitment to contract proposals which we believe are fair and practical, progress has been slow. Clearly, the School Committee and the CCTA continue to have very different views of what would constitute a fair or reasonable contract."
Contacted later by phone, Fitzgerald explained that due to state budget reductions the number of mediators assigned to municipal contracts had been cut by more than half, and the remaining mediators have a heavy caseload. Generally, the mediator has met with the Regional School Committee (RSC) about once a month. Fitgerald said that, in addition to mediation sessions, the RSC works "constantly" searching for solutions to the contract disagreements. "We will continue to try to find common ground."
Fitsgerald said there are about four teachers serving on their negotiating team, and there are currently five members on the RSC's team: three members of the RSC, their attorney and a member of the high school administration. The late Carlisle Selectman Vivian Chaput had been a sixth team member, but has not been replaced. Fitzgerald explained that for purposes of contract negotiations the Boards of Selectmen from both towns appoint a chief executive officer of the school district to represent the towns' interests. Chaput had filled this role, which has since been given to Concord's Town Manager, Chris Wayland. He is kept informed of events by the RSC, but Fitzgerald said Wayland does not actively participate in negotiations.
Asked why the teachers would be delaying recommendations, Joseph said he thought it made the contract stalemate more visible. "[It will help] if parents come to encourage the school committee to make a fair offer. We're not engaging in any action that would damage the kids," he added. "We continue to do tutorials, to chaperone — its part of our devotion — without any compensation. Why should we do extra, when we receive no respect at the bargaining table?" However, stipends for extra-curricular jobs such as chaperoning and writing recommendations are not being requested by the teachers' union.
"We can understand how teachers might be frustrated with the process," responded Fitzgerald. "The School Committee shares that frustration. But for a teacher to intentionally impose his or her frustration on an innocent student would be surprising and very disturbing. While Mr. Joseph says he is aware that this has occurred, I can only hope that this is an unfounded rumor." Fitzgerald said that writing recommendations was not explicitly mentioned in the current contract, but there is a clause that calls for teachers to "maintain their professional responsibilities," and he felt that writing student recommendations "is a requirement of their job."
Parents have reported seeing teachers carrying signs and handing out leaflets at the recent Junior Prom and Sophomore Semi-formal Dance.
"Lots of people don't know about the issue," Joseph explained. Regarding the Junior Prom, he said, "We're not trying to stop the dance. While the teachers were doing this [handing out leaflets], fifteen were inside chaperoning the dance."
Teachers also picketed at Carlisle's Annual Town Meeting in May.
© 2004 The