WBUR

Some Boston Public Schools May Shift To Longer Day

BOSTON — For more than two years, Boston Public School teachers and Superintendent Carol Johnson have been fighting over how much teachers should be paid if the school day is lengthened, and how much longer the day should be. That’s been a major hurdle in contract negotiations. But now there may be a resolution.

The result would be a school day that’s two hours longer at a select number of yet-to-be-specified schools, plus possibly three hours on Saturday, and teachers would be paid the contractual hourly rate for the extra time they work. The change has come about suddenly as the result of a policy that Johnson says she’ll impose, as she has the right to do under a provision in the union’s current contract.

“It was created in 1986, and it allows the superintendent to designate schools and extend the day by two hours,” Johnson told WBUR All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer. “It also creates flexibility in staffing at these schools, and we think that this is a way for us to at least begin to address the issue of time. It’s not ideal, because we certainly had hoped that we would reach an agreement that would impact lots more students.”

Johnson had wanted all the schools in the district to have lengthened days. But the current contract lets her designate certain struggling schools as “Project Promise” schools and then lengthen the days there. Teachers who want to remain at those schools would basically have to apply for those jobs and be accepted. If they’re not accepted or don’t want to work the extended day, they may transfer — or be involuntarily transferred — to another school.

“She absolutely has the right to impose this provision, and that’s fine,” said Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman. He said the union is generally agreeable to Johnson’s new plan but doesn’t understand how it came about. During negotiations over the last two days, according to Stutman, the union proposed extending the day not by two hours at a smaller number of schools, but by one hour at twice as many schools.

“We don’t care one way or another whether she does it on our end,” Stutman said. “We think it makes more sense, however, to spread the wealth and involve twice as many students. We not only think our idea is better, we think she agrees with us. That’s why we are perplexed by her sudden shift, which unfortunately is no different than her other sudden shifts.”

According to Stutman, Johnson decided in June to reduce the extended day at two schools — Mario Umana Middle School Academy and James Timilty Middle School — from two hours to one. Johnson said she did that because the state stopped funding the longer day, but that by imposing the Project Promise plan at some schools the lengthier extended day will return.

“We will be reinstating the two hours at those two schools,” Johnson said. “I think that what we’ve learned is that just having the two hours isn’t enough. They have to be strategically used, and they have to be used in ways that focus on academic achievement for students.”

Johnson also said that, despite the union’s claim that extending the day for half as much time at twice as many schools would cost the same amount as her idea, it would actually cost more because the union wants more money under that proposal.

The district hasn’t yet determined how many schools might become “Project Promise” schools with a day extended by two hours. But it would take until at least the 2013-2014 school year to make the necessary staffing and transportation changes to roll out the program.

Read Johnson’s letter to the union here.

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  • Dave Seaman

    I started teachinb in 1982. I switched to a public school in 1989 and during a faculty metting as discussion of “not enough time” was going on  I said, “The naswer is to lengthen the school day.” the Principal laughed, as though I were a fool and sa8ied, “Oh, to be young.”
    But out of the mouths of babes, say I. And it’;s become more and more cler as each year opasses that our public schools need to become a bigger part of our culture. Not only is there ample materiual to keep students an additional ten to fifteen hours a week, but creating programs that reach out to the whole family is a clear soluytion to a lot of other problems. The staff of these scho9ols need to be paid, of course. If our law3 makes are making a fortune, if our doctorsw and lawyers are making a fortune then a teacher with five years and a masterws degree should be well into the six figures by now, particularly given how many hours outside of contact time it takes to create curiculum, collect materials, plan disscussions and then assess students and communicate with the kids and their families. The contractual hourly rate is a fine start, but perhapos after a year of testing it’s time for All Americans to standd up and make more demands for our children.
    Evenings of classes designed tyo teach “teaching for parents at home” would be a great addition. A community chorus or band can’t be added to the curriculum. Medical and psychological classes can be very helpful.
    punishment should be about education and not revenge. Suspension is the opposite of what we wish to teach.
    Sending a student to the office should be done only for the safety of the students who remain behind.
    Every classroom needs it;’s own library and calm spot for students who need a few minutes to calm.
    We teach kids first and our subjects second. I taiught music and found that music was an excellent resource for reaching out to both kids and families. If a teacher is the conversation at a family dinner table- for those families who can eat together- then things are on the right track.
    If we wish to teach students to be rspoectful then we must demonstrate respect. I’ve seen far too many teachers dehgrade students in my 22 year career. If I were an administrator I’d fire these people.
    Teaching is an inate gift and every school has Master Teachers on staff. New teachers and old teachers need to engage in collegiality. teachers need to spend time outside of class with the students: Lunch duty when the teacher sits with the students; bus duty when the teacher huddles in social clutches with the kids; surprise visits to other clasrooms; taking over someone else’s class when they’re out instead of hiring a sunstitute. Boinding time is as critical as lecgture and discussion time.
    No work should be doine in school that can be done at home. This busy work- often essential (how else can one memorize the notres on the scale)– shouldn’t be done when class discussion could be done. If homeowrk isn;t getting done this is an indication that there’s a problem at home.
    We must never forget that we’re teaching people who walk into our classes with a lot of baggage; having sensitivity to this can make a huge difference.
    I could write a whole book, and may well do it, but I congratulate the Boston Schools for tyhis brave aned pioneering move forward.

    • Mindyrobin55

      Mr. Seaman,
      You do the teachers of the Boston Public Schools a disservice by posting your comment. The number of misspelled words, incomplete sentences, and examples of poor grammar are too numerous to count. You may have other talents and skills as a teacher, but if you can’t even write a coherent comment it makes me doubt you and a system that supports you as an educator of children. There are many teachers in BPS who are brilliant educators and teachers; the children and families of Boston are blessed that they have made decisions to stick with a dysfunctional system and teach here. Please remember that when you post in a public forum in such a way, you are representing a system and demean the profession by your inability to write articulately.

      • http://twitter.com/Meanom Meanom

         Hi, not to take a side, but some fonts create strange spelling sometimes. Just a thought.

  • DottieHigh

    The superintendent seems to be floundering around.    As Mr. Stutman said “That’s why we are perplexed by her sudden shift, which unfortunately is no different than her other sudden shifts.”

    Why is it now ok to pay 1/2 the teachers for 2 hours at full contract rates, rather than all of the teachers for 1 hour or less at contract rates?

    Its time for Doctor Johnson and the negotiating team to “talk to teachers” not talk at them by issuing sudden initiatives.    She owes it to the students and parents.

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