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To understand the current negotiating crisis we need to take a historic look at what now is arguably the most successful urban school system in the state. In 2001, Education Commissioner David Driscoll announced the state's MCAS scores in Brockton because we were "the most improved school system in the state". In 2002, Brockton High was designated as a prestigious Compass School by the Mass. Dept. of Education. In 2003 Brockton High was one of only 30 schools nationally to be designated as a Model School. In 2004, Governor Romney, in person, gave out Abigail & John Adams full tuition Scholarships to 199 seniors in the BHS little theater. In the spring of 2005 Sports Illustrated Magazine recognized Brockton Public Schools as having the best athletic program in the state for the last 10 years. In the summer and fall BHS was again designated a Model School and our football team was a repeat winner of the Super Bowl! In addition, 172 of this year's seniors will receive Adam's Scholarships, and the awards that our students have earned for the arts, drama, music and academic competition are too numerous to mention!
Negotiations for a successor contract began in September of 2004 when all BEA members were asked to submit proposals and justifications to the Negotiations Committee. After the proposals were presented to the Committee by their authors, a Bargaining Team of 7 was elected and our first negotiation session with the School Committee was February 10th 2005.
Over the last 11 months there have been 21 meetings, 6 with a mediator and we are still far apart at the table.
The BEA just filed our second Unfair Labor practice in a year and a half. The first was for adding a new layer of administrators by pink slipping 8 BEA members (Instructional Resource Specialists) and at the same time encouraging them to apply for 5 newly created non-unit positions, then rehiring the ones who didn't in similar positions. The second was for not negotiating in good faith when after we had narrowed and reduced our package for 11 months the School Committee added two additional workdays to their proposals. (The equivalent of setting up for a field goal, and before you kick, having the goal posts moved back 20 yards.) Last week we amended our charge to include insisting to the point of impasse on increasing the % contribution of members health insurance indemnity plan which under the present circumstances, could not be implemented as a matter of law during the three year maximum period of time for which the Law permits collective bargaining agreements to be negotiated! We also added a charge for dealing directly with 1400 BEA members by sending the 4 page letter dated February 10, 2006 by both inter-school mail and E-mail.
Looking at City and School Dept. finances, the City now has $9 million in free cash, $8 Million in stability, and just saved $24 Million by refinancing pension funds. (No savings for first 5 yrs.) The school dept. did not take the same 10% budget hit that other systems did because we had received $11 Million for emergency replacement of ventilation at BHS and boilers / repairs at SJH and stadium work. So we were basically level funded while others were cut. In addition, 200 veteran teachers retired over the last three years and at least 100 will retire over the life of this contract. The difference in pay for a veteran leaving at the top of the scale and replacements coming in at a lower salary adds multiple $Millions without costing taxpayers a cent! Governor Romney's budget includes at least a five million-dollar increase for Brockton Public Schools for next year. There is more than enough money in the city to settle a fair contract without layoffs and destabilizing the schools or city!
Thank you to the over 900 BEA members who attended our February 15, 2006 General Meeting and unanimously rejected the School Committee's current proposal. Special thanks to the many speakers whose powerful words helped us build the unity that will carry us forward…together.
"The Strength of Each of Us Lies in the Strength of All of Us."