Contract Update January 2012

January 21, 2012

From N. Berish, Chief Negotiator:

We are currently working with our Uniserv Director in regards to the TA (tentative agreement) we voted on and signed in late November. The school board approved this TA at their Nov. 28th meeting. The very next week, Matt brought bargainers to the table again to present us with a brand new contract. This contract takes out all subjects that are no longer “acceptable topics of bargaining”. Your building reps do have copies for you to see — nine pages of language removed. We have always agreed to discuss the language changes that may need to occur because of new laws. This has not happened. Your bargaining team have been pleading to keep items in the contract, and if they do have to come out, we want board policy to replace them so that all members are being treated fairly.

The following email exchange is our last contact with Matt:

> Matt,
> As you know, the bargaining team has not been comfortable with the idea of “taking out” language from the contract since we saw the proposed version. We do understand that it is no longer bargain able, however, we still feel strongly about simply not signing away language that can have dire effects on our members in the future.
> The members have voted on the TA in regards to financials. Regardless of where we are with language discussions, this should be honored (as it was approved by the school board Nov 28th). Our feelings on this is that members should be receiving election forms for PD day/ $100 bonus as well as actual contracts to sign. The language issue is separate as it was presented to us AFTER vote occurred.
> We do prefer to continue having conversations with you and our team on the matter of language. We would like to work towards areas of compromise as even stated in the MASB newsletters we have read. A possibility could be to explore creating board policies to speak to all items the board feels “need” to come out of the contract language. Our concern is having these items addressed in policy so that all members and situations that arise will be handled the same way and fairly.
> We would like to meet with your bargaining team at your earliest opening. We have asked Ana to attend this meeting also, so if you would like to invite Mr. Champion, we understand and look forward to working on this together.
> Now comes the hard part… times..? The bargaining team would prefer to stay in our classrooms as much as possible, if that is possible.

Matt’s response was as follows:

That is very disappointing to hear Nicole. We can meet throughout the rest of the year and the language is staying out. It is the new reality handed to us from Lansing. We will not move forward with the TA until we have a signed contract. Please work with Shauna to set up a time to meet.

As you can see, he and their bargaining team is not interested in working with us on resolving this matter.

What does this mean to you? Wish I had all the answers. Our Uniserv Director does feel we have and Unfair Labor Practice. We will meet with Matt at the earliest possibility of their entire team and ours. If he still feels that they will not honor the TA we signed and the board voted, we will file that day for an ULP. Until then, we are not saying time for full crisis mode. We are waiting for guidance from our UD and MEA legal.

I do think it is important to keep doing what you are doing. I know this is a difficult time for everyone and not having a TA, like we thought we did, is beyond describable. As we have said before, things in this bargaining cycle are things we have never really seen happen and never thought would.

I will send a copy of the MASB Newsletter to everyone also. You will be able to see that they are clearly following that playbook and want to show us their power.

I do advise people to make sure they follow the contract… in this time of tension I do anticipate Matt advising principals to make our lives difficult. This could come in all forms, so although you do not feel like you are treated professionally, take the high road and prove we are the better group, the stronger group and keep doing the great job you do DAILY!

As soon as we know something, we will get back to you.


Our 2011 Challenge

January 1, 2012

As we look forward to the rest of the current school year, there are several unresolved issues all of us should be aware of. Please read through the list and check the external links to be fully informed on your current status and the future in Michigan.

  • We have an approved contract for this year, and in March some of you will see pay increases.
  • The administration wants to remove everything in our current contract that is now (by law) made “prohibited subjects of bargaining” — including evaluation language, layoff/recall language, and transfer language, just to name a few. Some of the language they plan to remove is not prohibited and/or simply restates the current tenure law. We feel that keeping some language (that conforms to law) brings clarity to a new situation that is confusing.
  • We are still waiting for the administration to get on the same page regarding evaluations. What you have been told is critical (in their observations of your work and in your final rating) is different, depending on which principal you work for. If you teach in more than one building, you probably already have seen this.
  • The PEA needs your involvement, more critically than ever before. The top four elected officers of the association also form its bargaining team. This “doubling up” creates a great deal of stress on these individuals, which leads to burn out. We need members to step up and take on leadership roles (from President on down) or join the bargaining team. The more of us involved, the stronger an association we’ll have.
  • Negotiating next year’s contract will be the highest priority of the association. Step increases and “lane changes” (for earning advanced degrees) are no longer automatic. These have to be negotiated. And who knows what MESSA will have in store? Unless bargained otherwise, the contract spells out the maximum our district will pay towards our insurance. The state caps their contribution at 80%. If rates go up (and they always do) we’ll have to take a hard look at what we can afford and (perhaps) what other insurance providers can do for us.
  • November could be very interesting for two reasons: we may not have a contract in place (like this year) and there is an election. PEA member involvement will make a difference in both areas. (There is no way to know for sure, but our red shirt fiasco came right before the school board made some concessions to their entrenched position. Coincidence? Perhaps. Pressure? Maybe.)

For now, your best approach in the classroom is to continue doing your best. Add one more thing to that: documentation. Keep a log of your parent contacts (e-mail or phone). Keep copies of pre-tests, formative assessments and final (summative) assessments (keep the actual tests and the test data, to prove that there is student growth happening). Keep a record of any additional training you have taken. Keep copies of lesson plans used to differentiate instruction. No matter how you are observed and rated, have the “proof” needed to show that you are focused on your goals and on student learning.

To get an interesting perspective on what has happened (and will continue to happen) in this state, check out the articles below.

Cyber School Failure (from the NY Times)

Overview of Michigan’s education “reforms” (from Mother Jones)