The Bellevue School District administrators and teachers remain apart on several contract issues, less than two weeks before the start of the school year.
The remaining differences are on whether the Early Release Wednesdays will be used for for class preparation or for district-directed training, and how quickly the teachers will be required to update assignments and grades in the gradebook, which is accessible all year to families.
Superintendent Amalia Cudeiro has called for a fact-finder, after more than a week of mediation with a mediator from the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).
The Bellevue School District said that administrators and teachers remain apart on what to do with Early Release Wednesdays and the timing of the grade book. Cudeiro called for a fact-finder from PERC, who the district said in its letter would identify a "potential compromise."
Bellevue Education Association president Michele Miller said that the teacher's union was bargaining in good faith, and had expected to return on Monday to resume mediation.
"We expected we would be able to continue negotiations ourselves," she said. "I am disappointed that they are needing to push into another step of a process."
Cudeiro in her letter said that the district is proposing an eight to 13 day deadline for updating the gradebook, and to use the Early Release Wednesday time for school and district collaboration and training. That time could also be used on days other than Wednesday.
The tighter gradebook deadlines is useful to parents, Cudeiro said.
"Students, parents and some staff report frustration over delays in the completion and posting of grades online," Cudeiro wrote. "This impacts student learning and a parent’s ability to monitor and support their child’s learning and success."
However, Miller said that the administration sends a mixed message with that proposal, which would eliminate the weekly dedicated time that teachers use for grading, meeting with parents, and preparing for lessons for their students. She said the teachers are able to maintain the quality of education in the district and have been able to individualize lessons for their classes' needs because of the Early Release Wednesday periods, which have been in place for about a decade.
At the same time, Miller said, the district wants a tighter timeline for updating assignments and filling out the gradebook. The proposals are at cross purposes because the teachers would have less time to grade papers and to file the grades, she said.
"That’s 38 hours that teachers currently fill to meet and assess what their individual students need in the classroom," she said.
The teachers propose a 10- to 15-school day period of updating the grade book and maintaining the Early Release Wednesdays for their current purpose.
"Bellevue schools are very very strong. Part of the reason we get awards and get our names in magazines, is that teachers have worked over the years to get that time to teach students effectively," Miller said.
Both sides said they will continue to work toward a contract.
"We plan to meet with district and mediator on Monday," and continue mediation, Miller said.
"We continue to be optimistic that we can achieve a contract and we continue to be very very hopeful," district administration spokeswoman Jacqueline Coe said. "The issues in the letter are important issues for student achievement. And our teachers care about learning, so we’re confident that we’ll be able to get a contract."
Differences between BEA and the BSD propsoals
Bellevue School District Bellevue Education Association Early Release Days District and schools would direct the use of 38 hours of professional development, which will be for collaboration and training. Teachers use the 38 hours for grading, parent conferences and preparation, and can choose to use the time for training and collaboration. Gradebook Timeline of 8 -13 school days for updating students' gradebooks. Timeline of 10-15 school days for updating students' gradebooks.
Superintendent Amalia Cudeiro's open letter
August 26, 2011
An Open Letter to the Families, Staff, and Community Members of the Bellevue School District,
I would like to personally thank you for your support as the District and the Bellevue Education Association (BEA) work to negotiate a new teachers’ contract. You are receiving this communication to update you on negotiations.
The District and the BEA have been in bargaining since April 13 and have reached tentative agreement on more than 30 issues, which is very positive. One of those issues of tentative agreement is a commitment to ongoing collaboration on a new teacher evaluation model and together, the District and BEA plan to apply for a regional consortium grant to further this work.
The District and BEA have been working with a mediator from the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) since August 10. Despite long daily sessions, we remain apart on several issues. Because school is only 12 days away, the District has requested the process go to the next phase of bargaining which is fact-finding. In this process, both sides utilize a PERC fact-finder, an individual who analyzes the facts of the unresolved issues in question and seeks to identify a potential compromise. The District and the BEA are not bound by the recommendations of the fact-finder, but the recommendations may help bring a resolution.
Two key issues which remain unresolved are the timely entering of grades by teachers into the online Gradebook, and the use of time on Early Release Wednesdays. It’s important that parents, staff and community members have a clear understanding of what is being discussed and how these issues impact students.
Gradebook—Both the District and the BEA agree that the timely reporting of student grades in the online Gradebook is a best practice. What we disagree upon is the definition of ‘timely’ which is not defined in the current contract and varies by teacher. Students, parents and some staff report frustration over delays in the completion and posting of grades online. This impacts student learning and a parent’s ability to monitor and support their child’s learning and success. As a former teacher, I am cognizant of busy work schedules teachers face and feel it’s important to achieve a timeframe that provides flexibility for teachers, yet ultimately benefits students. This is why we have offered a number of ways to support teachers in achieving this best practice e.g. enhancement to current technology tools and professional development, along with additional resources. The District has proposed that grades be updated every eight school days, but in no event more than thirteen school days after the assignment or test is submitted. BEA has rejected this proposal and has proposed longer timeframes.
Professional Development and Early Release Wednesdays—Both the District and the BEA agree the Early Release Wednesday time is an important resource for teachers and administrators to use in planning and collaborating on activities that improve student learning. Annually, the District is proposing that certificated staff participate in a minimum of 38 hours of professional development and collaboration. These 38 hours would be a combination of school-directed time (28 hours) and district-directed time (10 hours).The school-directed hours may occur on any day of the week, as determined by the principal and school staff. BEA has rejected this proposal.
We are facing very difficult economic times when many people are losing their jobs or suffering significant pay cuts. Some districts will not be reinstating the 1.9% state salary cuts for their teachers. The Bellevue School District is willing to reinstate the 1.9% state salary cut and add one paid professional development day in each of the two years of the agreement. We do so, because we value our teachers. This will cost the District nearly two million dollars in each year, but the District is asking to see movement on the issues stated above.
As a District, we remain committed to starting school on time and support dialogue that is respectful, professional and models collaboration. I encourage parents and community members to continue to visit the District web site and review the proposals. The most recent proposals, including those presented during the ‘quiet period,’ will be posted by early next week. Our goal is for a new teachers’ contract that supports the instructional needs of all children.
Bellevue Education Association Message To Members
Time is flying by, at an excruciating pace for your BEA bargaining team, and quickly for the rest of us. Your team has spent 44.5 hours at the table over the last four days, the start of school is rapidly approaching, and the District bargaining team doesn't appear to be operating with any urgency to reach a settlement. Today, we found out they want to impose fact-finding, another process that takes a great deal of time and has the potential to increase the acrimony between the parties.
We have reached the conclusion that the District team may not have the authority to make decisions at the table in order to reach an agreement. Why?
On various occasions, both the BEA and BSD teams have agreed to work toward acceptable compromise using subcommittees. Frequently, after we return to our full teams to check in, ideas that were acceptable to the subcommittees suddenly become unacceptable. We believe the Superintendent is blocking her team, refusing to compromise, and preventing us from reaching agreement.
What does the district want?
Short, rigid, arbitrary timelines for grading and updating posted grades online:
* BSD has proposed that secondary teachers be required to update grades every EIGHT days, and within THIRTEEN days for some larger projects.
* Impact: Teachers would be forced to navigate and comply with a constant, erratic churn of timelines, to make sure grades were posted every eight days, or thirteen days.
What has BEA proposed?
A reasonable, logical schedule for grading and updating posted grades online:
* BEA's most recent proposal would require grades to be updated every ten days (two weeks), with fifteen days allowed for some larger projects.
* Impact: BEA members understand parent communication is a key to students' success, and are willing to commit to increased communication. Our proposal is rational, simple, makes sense, and would assure predictable, frequent communication.
What does the district want?
* The district has asserted that teachers simply need to "work smarter", with less time. They continue to seek excessive control of early release Wednesday time, ignoring the history of how Wednesday release time was achieved. (BEA members agreed to increase student contact time on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to create the capacity to create the current schedule.)
* Impact: The time teachers currently spend on authentic collaboration, lesson design, grading, and preparation, would be eliminated. BEA members would be forced to participate in top-down, district-driven work during the time they currently spend focused on student learning.
What has BEA proposed?
* We are willing to compromise on the use of some of the Wednesday time, but cannot agree to the District's proposal as it currently stands.
* Impact: Our proposal recognizes the current level of collaboration and professional work that occurs during early release time. We believe our members rely on that time, yet understand the District's desire to deliver consistent professional development to staff. To reach agreement on this topic, compromise will be necessary.