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As contract talks around a proposal to add 45 minutes at all elementary and middle schools in Boston continue to falter, Boston Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson has decided to add two hours to class time at as many as 10 of the city's lowest performing schools.
Johnson has the power to add the time using an existing contract provision that allows her to extend teaching time at troubled schools.
"It was created in 1986, and it allows the superintendent to designate schools and extend the day by two hours," Johnson said. "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 an ideal, because we certainly had hoped that we would reach an agreement that would impact lots more students."
Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman agrees that the superintendent had the "right to impose this provision."
Stutman adds that over the past few days of contract talks the union proposed extending the school day not by two hours at a small 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."
It is unclear whether this move will end the long contract dispute between the union and the district. If Johnson goes with the so-called "Project Promise," it would take at least a year to roll out the program.
In the meantime, we're sampling reaction outside of the negotiating room. Kim Janey, the senior project director for the Boston School Reform Initiative at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, joined WBUR's Morning Edition to talk about the the plans proposed by both sides.
This program aired on July 26, 2012.
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