Brookline teachers to strike Monday after weekend talks with school board failed

“There simply won’t be the staff capacity to run all the schools safely, and neither can PSB. [Public Schools of Brookline] provide the structured education required by the state for the day to legally count as a school day,” Guillory said. “I also understand that this stage of the negotiations is difficult and frustrating for everyone, and that the closure of schools on Monday will be extremely difficult for students, carers, staff and our community.”

In a statement released early Sunday morning, the union said “it has significantly reduced its list of original proposals to the bare essentials”, but little progress has been made during negotiations.

“Brookline educators can no longer tolerate the school board’s dismissive attitude toward educators or its desire to dismantle the quality of our schools,” the union said in the statement. “We remain open to negotiating with the school committee throughout Sunday and beyond, to resolve a fair contract that preserves the working and learning conditions that our students and educators deserve.”

The BEU, an affiliate of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, represents more than 1,000 educators in Brookline and the district serves approximately 7,000 students.

Union president Jessica Wender-Shubow said her members voted to strike last Thursday after what she described as three years of BEU concessions and “gross disrespect for teachers” from from the school committee. On Saturday, BEU members rallied outside Brookline Town Hall, drawing more than 100 supporters, including several local politicians and election candidates.

The union plans to picket the district’s high school and each of its eight elementary schools at 8 a.m. Monday, and members are preparing for the possibility of a long-term strike, Wender-Shubow said.

“Do you think we want to do this? Of course we don’t want to,” Wender-Shubow said. “It’s scary. It’s exhausting. But at this point they’ve rejected everything we’ve come up with and put us in a bind. It feels like you have no choice.”

At the center of the dispute is the issue of so-called “tax-free prep time,” a 40-minute period that would allow teachers time to do preparatory work outside of class without any obligation to comply. Wender-Shubow said the union offered several alternatives in negotiations, all of which were rejected by the school board.

In a statement on Sunday morning, the committee said that allocating such a period to each teacher would have “substantial logistical and financial implications”, and countered by offering teachers who do not have a preparation period “the opportunity to address their concerns with their supervisor and, if necessary, to appeal to the Superintendent.

Wender-Shubow said the school committee would not consider several alternative proposals that would allocate adjusted increases over a six-year period, although the committee argued that the union’s demands raised budget concerns.

And she said the committee rejected the union’s request for a report on retention rates for educators and students of color.

David Permanent, the chairman of the school committee, said another round of negotiations is scheduled for Monday.

Brookline has always been proud of its schools and its teachers,” Pearlman said in an email. “The school committee recognizes their service, but we must also recognize the financial situation of the city. We are responsible for the balance between the two. I remain hopeful that we will soon reach a resolution. A strike will hurt students who have already suffered a lot in recent years. »

Last week the school board petitioned the state labor board and on Friday a Norfolk Superior Court judge issued an injunction against the BEU, ordering them not to strike. In the ruling, the judge agreed that a strike would mean “serious and irreparable harm to the city, the students and their caretakers, and the public welfare.”

Under Massachusetts law, strikes by public employees are illegal, although some state lawmakers have criticized the policy.

The tension in the school district has spilled over into the community, sparking fierce debate among parents who are struggling to balance their support for teachers with the consequences of a school closure.

Danielle da Silva, a single mother of two young children who both attend Edith C. Baker School, said she was a “strong” supporter of teachers in the district, but a strike would have her scrambling to find daycare. DaSilva, who is a member of Town Meeting, said she believes both sides need to take a new approach to negotiations.

“I don’t know what I will do if there is a strike,” she said in a telephone interview. “It feels like the people being punished are the ones who really need the public school system and depend on it as an essential part of life in this city, and it’s usually the people in the city who aren’t most privileged.”

Chris Drake, father of two Florida Ruffin Ridley School students, struck a similar tone.

“A strike must be avoided at all costs,” said Drake, who was with his children in the playground behind Ridley School on Sunday afternoon. “At the same time, I’m surprised that both sides haven’t been able to come up with something reasonable. It suggests bad faith.

“I want [the teachers] to get what they need within reason,” he said.

The impending strike comes as teachers’ unions across the state negotiate new contracts amid the financial devastation caused by the pandemic.

At least three school districts, including Brookline, exercised brief work stoppages in 2020 due to pandemic-related safety concerns, the Globe reported.

The last public district in Massachusetts to experience a strike before the pandemic was Dedham, where teachers picketed in 2019 over health care coverage, salary adjustments and policies covering sexual harassment and use mobile phone by students. It was the first strike by public teachers in 12 years and was resolved within days. In 2007, the Quincy teachers’ union faced significant fines and leaders received cease and desist letters with the threat of arrest during a six-day strike.

Andrew Brinker can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker. Charlie McKenna can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.