December 7 Newsletter

Special Message from Heather about Elementary Report Cards and Paychecks:

Wow…what a terrible couple of weeks this has been for some people. I want you all to know that you are all being heard regarding how frustrated, upset, neglected, overworked, and many other emotions all the teachers are feeling. I wish there was a way I could make it all better and actually do something that makes everyone feel better about the report cards and the paychecks, but now that the damage is done, we need to figure out what will improve the situations for everyone. I hope the words that I type will have the positive impact I am hoping for, but I know that I will not be able to please everyone even though that is my goal. As an elementary teacher, I have been bombarded with teachers as well, crying, angry, etc. so I know what it feels like. Apparently here at Cove the issues have been the worst so I am seeing and hearing first hand what teachers are going through and it is making me feel awful for teachers and furious for what what is happening. I do know that at Cove the principal has been sensitive to this and has made adjustments even offering subs which we all know can actually be more work. I hope the other principals have been as responsive to all of you and your teachers.

Having said all of that, I had a long conversation with Sue Charochak really trying to convey the following:
Teachers worked hard over their Thanksgiving break losing time with family and utilizing their own time to complete reports – this made the fact that some teachers lost grades even more upsetting.
Some teachers got report cards done before the vacation because they had other commitments and could not work on them this week so the incidents that happened put teachers in an unacceptable position.
Teachers who had to write in their grades should be able to do that all year and not have to do double the work inputting them again especially since we still can’t be guaranteed it is working.
The program needs to be fixed or not used and there should be many tests before teachers are expected to use it again.
Why aren’t we using something else?
We need to find out how many had issues and what they were.
What are the plans for the future?
I will say that I have been communicating with Sue, Maddy, principals and teachers to find out the issues and work out some solutions. Maddy was very responsive and even went out to a couple of the schools to see what was happening, sit with people, and try to provide fixes.
Sue has told me that both she and Steve have met with the president of MMS and have expressed that this is ridiculous and unacceptable and that they need to guarantee the program is fixed. Because they are still working on this, we are still meeting with them to plan for the next trimester and get some agreements in place so that none of this will happen again and so that we do not make more work for teachers.
I have asked that we work on some type of a survey, agree that teachers can have the option of writing out the grades all this year, and consider other programs. I also asked for her to write something to the teachers regarding the district acknowledging teachers, the work, they did, and the district’s plans for the future.
At this point, Sue told me she wanted to wait until after report cards went out to commit to anything. We have a meeting with them Wednesday to pursue this further.
I know that Sue and Maddy have answered many emails and Maddy has worked hard to help the situation. For the record, she has nothing to do with the program, she is trying to help.
Sue told me they are not saying yet whether or not they will consider other vendors, but that others have their own issues, and if they changed vendors, it would affect everyone in the district. For example, all the HS and middle school scheduling, attendance, report cards at all levels, all the reporting Maddy does, plus so much more. Again, they haven’t said either way what they will consider.
It is a huge issue and we will keep you informed as to what we are doing to ensure this does not happen again and that there is a true fix and plan in place.
As far as the paychecks, Jean put out an email explaining what has happened. We will dig deeper on Wednesday when we meet to find out what will be put into place. In the meantime, you should be reimbursed for any fees. Should there be further issues, contact Jean personally, and if you do not get the response you feel is appropriate, let us know.
Just to clarify, a grievance is filed when the district violates the contract. When the district makes mistakes, we will work hard to make sure teachers are compensated in the way that they need. If you have suggestions, we are always open to that. Please know we fight with everything we can, but there may be times when you, the union, need to take action as well. If we find that to be the case, we will work together to decide what that action may be. We, as the union will work together and make the decisions together that make the conditions better for teachers and therefore students.
I hope in some way this has helped, but I am sure some people will feel it will never be enough. All I can ask is that you share ideas and suggestions, frustrations and issues. We will try to work together to make things better.
In addition, Sue sent out a letter asking principals to make parents aware of some of the issues and why some were printed or hand – written as Maeve asked me to ask for.
I understand there may be an additional issue with the growth grades and administration is looking into it. If you or your teachers see any issues, please continue to let principals and Sue know.
I hope that the next few weeks are much better.
With empathy and in solidarity,

New BTA Website

In your spare time (!), please check out the new BTA website at

Pages so far include:  contracts, meeting minutes and budget, and contact information.  There is also a place for comments; let me know what else you’d like to see on the website either by replying to this email or by commenting on the site itself.

Keep It on Your Calendar:
MTA Retirement Seminar
January 14, 3:30, BHS Library

Mary Parry, the MTA’s retirement guru, will be holding a special seminar for BPS teachers at the BHS library on Thursday, January 14 at 3:30.  This seminar is useful for anyone who is thinking in any way about retirement, whether you are 1 year away or 10 years away.  Topics covered will include pensions, health insurance, and Social Security.

I will send out a special message in early January asking whether you plan to attend; if you know this already, just reply to this email and I will reserve a spot for you now.

Paraprofessionals’ Contract Negotiations

Contract negotiations are continuing.The next meeting date is December 17.  As you know, we can’t discuss details yet but will let you know as soon as we can.

Mutual Concerns

Heather, Karen and I met with Dr Hiersche and Ms. Charochak on November 18. Topics discussed included:

MMS and elementary report cards:  see above.

Use of personal devices to access the Internet from school buildings:  at some elementary schools, teachers and paraprofessionals had been told that they could no longer use their personal devices (phones, ipads, etc) to access the Internet because they were slowing down the entire district’s system.  Dr. Hiersche seemed unaware of this and was going to talk to the tech department about this.  The issue may have already gone away as the district was scheduled to implement a substantial bandwidth increase very soon.

Teacher access to 504/IEP information:  the district is working on developing a uniform system for disseminating information about student IEPs and 504 plans.  It is our position that teachers should not be asked to hunt around esped for required accommodations for each student.  We hope to be hearing more about their revised system soon.

Reading and Math Coaches:  some teachers have had questions about the role of reading and math coaches.  We discussed whether math and reading coaches are evaluating teachers in any way.  The administration insists that this is not happening.  We requested and were promptly given coaches’ job descriptions; I have sent these to the elementary building representatives so that they are available in each building. If teachers are concerned that coaches seem to have input into any part of the evaluation process, they should monitor carefully any write ups that they receive of administrators’ walk through visits.  We will continue to look at this issue.

Next Mutual Concerns Meeting:
Wednesday, December 10 4 p.m.

IPDP (Individual Professional Development Plan) Folders

Your building representative may have put one in your mailbox already.  If you still need one, ask your building rep.

Governing Board Meeting

The Governing Board of the BTA will meet this Monday, December 14 at 3:30 in the BTA Office at 78 Water Street.  All members are welcome.  Agenda items include:

Approval of minutes
Treasurer’s report
Keeping track of added work
Latest on the elementary report cards
and more

If you can’t join us on Monday, you can ask your building rep for more information after the meeting.  We’ll also publish the meeting minutes on the website after they are accepted by the Board at our December meeting.

November Newsletter

November 17, 2015

If you are a BTA member who is not currently receiving our newsletter, click on the link to the right to subscribe.

What Happened Recently

A summary of what’s been happening with your union lately:

Mark Your Calendar: MTA Retirement Seminar January 14, 3:30,
BHS Library

Mary Parry, the MTA’s retirement guru, will be holding a special seminar for BPS teachers at the BHS library on Thursday, January 14 at 3:30.  This seminar is useful for anyone who is thinking in any way about retirement, whether you are 1 year away or 10 years away.  Topics covered will include pensions, health insurance, and Social Security.  I will send out a survey in early January to find out how many people plan to attend.  This is a great opportunity, because Mary Parry has a reputation as “the man”(!) when it comes to retirement. Mark your calendar now!
P.S. I’m working on scheduling a separate retirement workshop for paraprofessionals.  I’ll keep you posted.

Paraprofessionals’ Contract Negotiations:

Contract negotiations have begun.  As you know, we can’t discuss details yet but will let you know as soon as we can.

Mutual Concerns
Karen and Julia met with Sue Charochak on October 20. Items discussed included:

“Homework” for meetings:
Staff are not  required to read articles, chapters, etc in preparation for after-school meetings. If discussion of a reading is planned for a meeting, staff should be given time at the beginning of the meeting to read.  We are welcome to read ahead of time but not required to do so.
Twitter/Class Websites:
Staff at the elementary levels are being encouraged by their principals to “Tweet” about activities in their classrooms, but they are not required to do so.  Increased use of Twitter as a form of family and community engagement is one of the goals agreed upon by the administration as a way of bringing BPS “into the 21st century.”   Staff are also not expected to use their personal phones, etc. for “Tweeting.”  Nor are staff required to create and maintain websites for their classrooms.  The goal is communication with families, so the only requirement from central office is that teachers communicate regularly with parents in a manner that falls within the expectations of the school community.
Added Work:
We have been hearing many reports of teachers’ being asked, encouraged, or “voluntold” to do additional work:  data reporting, locating and downloading 504s, websites, tutoring, additional smaller meetings, etc.  Our position is that if a task is added to a teacher’s workload, then another task must be taken away.  We discussed this concept with the administration but have reached no firm agreement yet.

Next Mutual Concerns Meeting:  Wednesday, November 18
Items on our agenda include report card timing, SEI PD opportunities, laptop insurance, and (again) added work.

IPDP Folders

As of next Tuesday, your representative should have enough “Individual Professional Development Plan” (IPDP) folders for each teacher in your building. Printed and distributed by the MTA, this is an excellent tool for keeping track of the PDPs and credits that we earn towards recertification.  The folder outlines the types of professional development that we must earn in each five-year cycle, including the new requirements for SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) course work and Special Education (15 PDPs).

Several of our super-organized colleagues use the folders as the receptacle into which they slip all transcripts and PD certificates that they earn, thus making it really easy to keep track of what they have earned and what they still need to do. This is much better than a random pile on your desk or, even worse, a cylindrical receptacle :-)

Heads up:  I myself have been audited TWICE by DESE after applying for recertification (once in 2004 and again in 2014), so take it from me that it’s a really good idea to keep all of your documentation in one place.

Building Visits

I have now had the pleasure of meeting staff at all of the elementary schools and plan to visit Briscoe this Thursday 11/19.  Sorry that finding time for and scheduling these visits took longer than I had originally anticipated!  I’m looking forward to meeting as many members of the Briscoe staff as possible on Thursday, and to making another round of school visits sometime in the new year.

Governing Board Meeting

The Governing Board of the BTA will meet this Monday,November 23 at 3:30 in the BTA Office at 78 Water Street.  All members are welcome.  Agenda items include:

Treasurer’s report
Membership update
Distribution of IPDP Forms
Celebration of Excellence: should we change it?
Issue organizing:  shall we try it?

If you can’t join us on Monday, you can ask your building rep for more information after the meeting.  We’ll also publish the meeting minutes on the website after they are accepted by the Board at our December meeting.

Feature Item:  Understanding Your Paycheck (Teachers’ Edition)

It’s a really good idea to study your pay stub every time time you receive it.  Here are a few things to look for:

Top Left:  “Base S”:  This is your base salary.  Multiply that number by 26, and the result should match the number on the salary scale (found in our contract) that you know you should be earning.  If you are getting any extra pay for curriculum work, stipends, etc., those amounts will be listed in that section as well.
Middle Column:  Deductions
“Reg Teachers:”  This is your union dues.  A full time teacher should be paying 46.05 per check.  Union dues are deducted from 19 of our paychecks, for a total of $875 this year.  Contact Julia if you have a question about the union dues that are being deducted from your check.
Bottom Right:  Accumulated illness/family/personal days
Divide the numbers that you see there by 7 (as in hours), and you should get a number that coincides with your understanding of your accumulated days.  Remember that our contract stipulates that professional status teachers contribute one day per year to the sick leave bank.  Also, if you took a sick or personal day recently, the deduction might not appear until your next check.

There’s more to say about paychecks, but this section is too long already!  If you don’t understand any part of your paycheck, start by asking your colleagues. Then ask me or Heather.  Email Debi Tina only if you are pretty sure that there’s an error in your check.


BTA News, October 12

October 12, 2015
Welcome to the third edition of our quick read newsletter.  We hope that all BTA members will subscribe.  Our subscription list is growing, but we’re not there yet!If you know any BTA member who should be receiving the newsletter but isn’t, please forward this email to their NON-SCHOOL email address.  All they have to do is click on the “Subscribe” link at the top to be added to the list.

What Happened Recently

A summary of what’s been happening with your union lately:

Building Representatives:

Congratulations and THANK YOU to the people listed below, who are our BTA building representatives this year. It will not be necessary to conduct elections for building representatives in any of our schools this year, as we still have not reached the threshold required in our by-laws of one representative for every fifteen members in any building.

All of the people listed below are volunteering their time to help make our union strong!

Ayers:               Jody Johnson
Diane Moffett
Ellyn Sudak (Vice President)
BHS:                 Donna Brewster
(Julia Brotherton)
Giuliana DiGenova
Pennie Fraczek
Kevin Keilty
Cheryl Sydorko
Briscoe:            Joy Benosky
Karen Chambers (Vice President)
Robin Gillette
Cindy Kersting (Secretary)
Maureen Remondi
Beth Spoon (Membership)
Centerville:       Jillian Bailey
Cove:                 OPEN
(Heather Colton)
Hannah:             Steve Hewey
Maeve Moore
McKeown:         OPEN
North Beverly:  Joel Belmonte

As you can see, we still have a few openings, especially at COVE and MCKEOWN.  If you are considering joining this great group and would like to know more about what the job entails, talk to your current rep, send me an email, or come to the building representative training conducted by the dynamic and entertaining Charmaine Champagne (MTA field rep) on Monday, October 19 in the BHS library at 4:30.

Paraprofessionals’ Contract Negotiations:

Paraprofessionals have been working without a contract since September of 2014.  The negotiating team has met twice so far this year and is meeting on October 14 to finalize its list of demands. Heather is chairing the negotiating team; additional members are Ellyn Sudak, Pennie Fraczek, Cheryl Sydorko, Heidi Bissel, and Julia.   Charmaine Champagne, our top-notch MTA field representative, is lending her support and experience.  We hope to set dates for negotiations very soon.

If you are a para who works at Briscoe and can join the team, contact Heather:  we could use your input!

Meanwhile, let’s all do what we can to support our paraprofessional colleagues and to thank them for their hard work!
Raise Up Massachusetts Petition
Raise Up Massachusetts is a three-year campaign to amend our state constitution “to invest in quality public schools, affordable higher education, and a transportation system that works by creating an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income above one million dollars.” The first phase of the campaign involves gathering signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot.

October 3 was a cold and windy Saturday morning, but we were thankful that the rain held off.  Karen Chambers, Nancy Schalch, Jan MacDonald, Julia, Charmaine, and two more MTA field reps walked door-to-door in Beverly neighborhoods gathering signatures from BTA members for the Raise Up Massachusetts petition.  We gathered some signatures and had some great conversations along the way.

We still need more signatures!   You don’t have to believe in the idea of the additional tax to sign the petition.  You just need to believe that the citizens of Massachusetts should have the opportunity to vote directly about this issue.  The MTA does support the additional tax (remember: only on those who can afford it — those with annual income above one million dollars), which would bring much-needed revenue to our schools.

Ask your building rep if you’d like to sign the petition to Raise Up Massachusetts.
Building Visits
So far, I have visited the Centerville, Hannah, and North Beverly schools during lunch times.  It has been great to meet so many teachers and paraprofessionals and to learn more about your schools and your concerns.  I’ll be visiting visit Cove, Ayers, Briscoe  and McKeown soon.
Board Meeting

The Governing Board of the BTA will meet this Monday, October 19 at 3:30 in the Beverly High School LibraryAll members are welcome.  Agenda items requiring board action this meeting include:

  • Sept 21 meeting minutes
  • FY 2016 budget
  • and more.

If you can’t join us on Monday, you can ask your building rep for more information after the meeting.  We’ll also publish the meeting minutes. (On our new website we hope!)

Know Your Contract

Every now and then, we will feature a particular segment of our contracts that you ought to know.  Here is what the Unit A (teachers’) contract says about meeting times:

ARTICLE VIII:  Work Day and Work Year, Section 1G (page 10):

“Members shall not be required to attend more than twenty three hours per year outside the contractual work day to be used at the discretion of the principal and faculty through the collaborative decision making process. In the absence of an agreement, the Association President and the Superintendent will determine the schedule.  There will be a maximum of three evening events per year not to exceed two hours per function.”

We’d be curious to know if you’ve had any experience with “the collaborative decision making process” around meeting times in your building.

Message from a “Sister” Union:

Teachers and staff at the North Shore Education Consortium (NSEC), which is right up the street from Beverly High, are in the midst of a struggle for a fair contract and are asking for our support. The NSEC provides a variety of special education services to children from Beverly and many surrounding communities   Members received no raise in 2015 and a .75% the year before that, while the school’s director received a 3.5% raise last year.  The NSEC union is asking that we join them outside of their next negotiations session to show our support: October 26th (Monday)
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
112 Sohier Rd (on Reservoir Rd)
Beverly, Massachusetts

They will supply signs and stickers.  (Suggested parking is on Reservoir Rd, or at the partially vacant parking at the vacant Ice/Roller Skating Rink on Sohier Rd.   This parking lot is a few hundred yards down the road to the right of 112 Sohier Rd, as you face the building from the front.)

Thanks for reading this third edition of the BTA newsletter!  Stay tuned for the next issue; don’t forget to send us your news and questions, and to forward this email to interested members (PERSONAL emails only, please).