Bristol Federation of Teachers

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Cafeteria Workers Win Labor Complaint — June 18, 2014

Cafeteria Workers Win Labor Complaint

Below is the story from the Bristol Press. The original article can be read here

BRISTOL — The city’s 53 cafeteria workers will keep their jobs.

A ruling by the state Board of Labor Relations Tuesday said the Board of Education must honor the tentative agreement it negotiated with the union, a deal that the Republican majority on the panel declined to back.

“I’m very, very happy about the cafeteria workers,” said Mike Petosa, president of the Greater Bristol Labor Council. “This was a long struggle they went through.”

School board members could not be reached late Tuesday.

It is not clear what will happen with the contract the schools recently made with a private cafeteria operator that hoped to begin serving city students in the coming academic year.

Chad Lockhart, president of the Local 2267 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, which represents the cafeteria employees who feared losing their jobs, said the union is thrilled with the decision.

“For two years, school cafeteria workers have been kicked around like a political football at the expense of all Bristol taxpayers,” he said, urging the school board “to do the right thing by the food service workers and all Bristol taxpayers.”

“It’s time to stop running up the legal bills and to start respecting the concept of good faith negotiations,” Lockhart said. “We all need to move forward to act in the best interests of our schools and our students.” City Councilor Calvin Brown called the ruling “a great news” and congratulated “the fine ladies and the union that represents them” for winning at the state level.

“Never give up hope when you’re hoping for justice,” Brown said.

The ruling specifically cited Board of Education Chairman Larry Amara’s refusal to back the tentative deal reached by a negotiating committee he served on. It said his opposition to the contract violated labor law.

“The ruling vindicates our legal position that the Board of Education chairman overstepped his boundaries and acted in bad faith by refusing to honor a concession agreement designed to prevent outsourcing in the first place,” said Kevin Murphy, director of collective bargaining for AFSCME’s Council 4.

Steve Collins can be reached at (860) 584-0501, ext. 7254, or atscollins@bristolpress.com.

CONNTEACH 2014 – Great PD Opportunity — June 15, 2014

CONNTEACH 2014 – Great PD Opportunity

CONNTEACH

WHEN
Wednesday August 6, 2014
8:00am—3:00pm

WHERE
Sheraton Hartford South
100 Capital Boulevard, Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Topics Include:

 Bullying
 Share My Lesson
 Rater Principle
 ASPIRE
 Community Schools
 Discipline Strategies

Also:

 Meet the Authors
 Meet children with
Autism
 Raffle

Register by calling:
Phone: 860-257-9782

AFT Connecticut Endorses Malloy for Re-Election — June 13, 2014

AFT Connecticut Endorses Malloy for Re-Election

Rocky Hill – Elected leaders of the 29,000-strong AFT Connecticut last night voted overwhelmingly to support incumbent statewide elected officials with strong records of respecting workers’ rights on the job. The labor federation’s executive committee voted in favor of formal endorsements of candidates for congress and state constitutional offices that will appear on the November 4 General Election ballot.
The candidates include Connecticut’s current delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives; John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Elizabeth Esty. Also endorsed were Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen, Treasurer Denise Nappier, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
“Our executive committee has spoken,” said Melodie Peters, a retired state senator and president of AFT Connecticut. “Last night’s vote is the final step in our democratic process for considering candidates for statewide office. It follows a long-established policy of providing a voice for our diverse, large membership through their local unions,” she said.
Members of the federation’s legislative and political action committee met last week to discuss the incumbents’ records and consider possible endorsements. They forwarded their recommendations to the executive committee, which includes 26 members of AFT Connecticut affiliated unions and reflects a balanced representation of all constituency groups within the federation.
“We have chosen to support candidates who will act to prevent a ‘Wisconsin moment’ here in Connecticut,” said Stephen McKeever, who was a Middletown High School science teacher for 17 years and now serves as AFT Connecticut’s first vice-president. “We need leaders committed to preserving the rights of all workers to collectively bargain and not gutting union members’ benefits to score political points,” he said.
McKeever’s comments refer to remarks that Connecticut Republican Party-endorsed candidate for governor Tom Foley has made to the press. Foley in June, 2013 told The Courant “I keep talking about ‘when is the Wisconsin moment going to come to Connecticut,'” referring to the 2010 takeover of Wisconsin’s statehouse and legislature. That state’s governor and lawmakers in 2011 rammed through legislation stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights and slashed state funding for public education and local services.
“The stakes are too high to make the wrong choice,” said Jean Morningstar, who recently retired after 27 years of service as a public employee at the UConn Health Center in Farmington and is AFT Connecticut’s second vice-president. “We understand that we need a voice at work and a seat at the table with elected officials to advocate for ourselves, our families, and our communities,” she said.

Governor Dan Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman Receive Support of 29,000-Member Union for Respecting Workers’ Rights

 Hartford, CT – Today, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Connecticut announced its endorsement of Governor Dan Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman for re-election.

 “AFT’s support is a testament to the progress we are making together in education, health care and public services,” said Governor Dan Malloy. “I firmly believe that teachers, health care professionals, and all workers should have the right to collectively bargain — for good wages and benefits, due process and a voice at work. From the picket lines to the Capitol, we’ve stood together to protect workers’ rights and that won’t change. We won’t let Connecticut go down the dangerous path that GOP governors are leading states like Wisconsin down. I want to thank AFT for their support and for their hard work, day in and day out, to move Connecticut forward.”

 “I am grateful to be working with AFT as we protect Connecticut’s working families. Honoring and supporting the voice of organized labor is a big part of how we continue to empower our working families, build our economy and provide our children with the best education possible,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “We have more work to do, but we will continue to support our educators, health care professionals, public service employees, and all Connecticut workers as we continue our state’s progress. I am honored and thankful for AFT Connecticut’s endorsement.”

Student Loans for Teachers — June 12, 2014

Student Loans for Teachers

Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on today’s signing by President Barack Obama of an executive order to make student loans more affordable and which several AFT members attended:
“No student should have to face the triple threat of skyrocketing higher education cost, high interest rates and crushing student loan payments. We must reclaim the promise of higher education by making college affordable and accessible to all Americans.
“The president’s new executive order to ease the burden of student loan debt will allow an additional 5 million borrowers — including tens of thousands of AFT members — to finally have a fighting chance at the American dream. This action is just one step in the right direction. Now is the time for lawmakers in Washington to join the president in pushing for more student loan reform, including the passage of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill allowing students to refinance their federal and private loans.
“The AFT stands with students and their families, and we will continue to fight until this mountain of student loan debt is no more.”
Click here for a fact sheet and more information from The White House on the president’s executive order to make student loans more affordable.
Click here for video of an AFT member testifying to the U.S. Senate last week on his student loan burden.
BFT Contract Survey — June 5, 2014

BFT Contract Survey

Below is the link for the survey that will be used to advise the BFT when negotiations for the next contract begin in August. The next contract will be effective July 1, 2015 to June 30 2018. All BFT members are asked to complete the survey before June 20, 2014.

What issues are important to you? Rank them in order of importance and make additional comments. The survey is designed to take 5 to 10 minutes.

Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WMZ52LH

Summer PD Opportunities – Free from CREC and SDE — June 3, 2014
City Budget Passes; Full Day Kindergarten Moves Ahead — May 20, 2014

City Budget Passes; Full Day Kindergarten Moves Ahead

BRISTOL — The city adopted a $185.1 million spending plan Monday that will raise property taxes by 3.3 percent, fund full-day kindergarten and push more money into road repairs.

The budget was passed at a joint meeting of the City Council and Board of Finance by a 14-1 vote, with only City Councilor Henri Martin opposed.

Officials allocated enough money to allow the Board of Education to cover rising expenses without resorting to layoffs, add Sunday hours at the main library during the winter and pick up the pace on the replacement of municipal vehicles.

While some cringed at the tax increase required, most voted for it anyway.

“Is it higher than I’d like to see? Absolutely,” said Mayor Ken Cockayne, who embraced the spending plan as his own.

Martin said he voted no because he thought the school system “jumped the line” in pushing through full-day kindergarten less than a year after raising the idea. He said many other necessary items remain on hold.

Martin, a Republican running for state Senate, said many residents “are upset they have another tax increase during still tough economic times.”

Another city councilor, Democrat Calvin Brown, called Martin’s stand disingenuous. He said good leadership can “foresee the benefits” involved even if some voters don’t understand the issue completely.

“I don’t even think it’s particularly controversial,” Brown said.

The new budget increased the property tax rate from 33.50 to 34.61 mills, up 1.11 mills, or $110 per $100,000 in assessed value.

The median home value in Bristol is about $230,000. Its assessment — based on 70 percent of the value — would come to about $161,000.

The tax bill on that house would rise under the new budget from $5,393 to $5,572, or about $180. About a third of the increase is the direct result of the extended kindergarten slated for implementation in the coming academic year.

NCLB Waivers — May 19, 2014

NCLB Waivers

Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement to extend No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers without teacher evaluations:
“This new guidance suggests the Department of Education has listened to responses from the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and educators and parents across the country concerning high-stakes testing and its impact on virtually every aspect of public education.
“We have long advocated for evaluation systems that provide relevant and timely feedback that help teachers inform and improve their classroom practice, and we believe this letter is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, many evaluation systems have been about sorting and sanctioning educators, not about their support and growth.
“That’s why we are encouraged that the department has seen the effects of testing on the reliability and accuracy of teacher evaluation and is offering the potential of a much-needed midcourse correction on teacher evaluation systems that ensure all educators receive robust, timely and constructive information and support that informs instruction for students. We urge states to take advantage of this chance to fundamentally improve teaching and learning in our classrooms.”
BFT Letter to Editor of Bristol Press — May 13, 2014

BFT Letter to Editor of Bristol Press

You can read it below or at the Bristol Press

To the Editor:

A decade ago the Bristol Public School system was one of the highest performing urban school districts in the state. Its success was a source of pride for residents and made the schools a destination for teachers looking to start a career. Today the district is on the path of decline, something that is common knowledge to those working in the schools. For those who doubt, take a quick perusal of minutes from this year’s Board of Education meetings and examine the mass resignations and retirements. Some of Bristol’s finest teachers and administrators are jumping ship before it completely sinks.

What went wrong? Initially it was the global economic downturn. School unions did their part, with administrators, custodians and cafeteria workers making concessions. Teachers also took pay freezes over the last two contracts. Programs were cut, staff was reduced and many of the gains made before the recession were lost. Momentum carried us for a while, but now we are running on fumes. In April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that private sector jobs had finally made improvements to pre-recession levels, yet the public sector is still lagging behind the recovery. In Bristol, for example, the schools have remained bare bones. This year, the per pupil expenditure for Bristol Public Schools was lower that any of the surrounding towns except for Wolcott, and was dead last of the 15 cities in our District Reference Group. The DRG is the state Department of Education’s method of comparing districts of similar socioeconomic status.

Considering that the school system and property values are linked, helping the schools succeed benefits everyone by keeping property values up and the mill rate down.

If schools continue to falter, property values will plummet and the mill rate will need to be raised in order to recoup the loss. At that point it won’t matter how much it gets raised, as the middle class will flee and the city will fall into intractable decay. Education isn’t an expense; it’s an investment. City leaders would do best to remember this as they consider voting on the school budget May 19.

David Hayes

President

Bristol Federation of Teachers

BOE Meeting Fallout — May 8, 2014

BOE Meeting Fallout

At tonight’s BOE meeting, dominated by the cafeteria outsourcing issue, BFT President David Hayes was prevented from speaking because he is not a Bristol resident. A video of the meeting is here.

Instead, VP John Stavens spoke on behalf of the BFT at the 59 minute mark.

Here is the text of what David Hayes intended to deliver…

Over the past few months BFT leadership have meet with Central Office administrators to address numerous concerns at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. For each grade level, we identified specific problems and offered solutions.
 At times, it has been a productive dialogue, and we hope that it brings real and much needed change to the Bristol Public Schools.
As you know, there has been wholesale change in education nationwide with the adoption of the common core and Smarter Balanced assessment.
In Connecticut, we also had sweeping education reform that was enacted two years ago, which has been in a constant state of revision since.
In Bristol, we are still trying to smooth out the rough edges from the opening of the K8’s and the redistricting that occurred.
We sought out this dialogue because we could see that the enormous change at all levels led to educational programs that were not giving kids the education they deserve, and this is turn has frustrated teachers, who often felt their voices weren’t being heard. Often times the decisions made by the BOE or central office, well intentioned as they may be, simply don’t have the desired results in the classroom. It’s the classic difference between the ivory tower and life in the trenches.
To move this district forward, we all need to be on the same page, and respect each other’s perspectives. The teachers, who see firsthand what works and what doesn’t; administrators, who operate within the parameters you set, and yourselves, the elected members of the BOE, who navigate the difficulties of local politics and byzantine educations laws.
 Additionally, I wanted to congratulate the BOE on pushing for all day Kindergarten, something which many districts currently have and others are soon adopting. But despite the apparent support of the Board of Finance and City Council, Bristol’s per pupil spending is the lowest of the 15 districts in our District Reference Group, and the second lowest of all the adjacent towns. When it comes to next year’s Budget, I hope you’ll work to add the staff and programs needed to restore Bristol to one of the top performing urban districts in the state.