Dear MEA Member,
You recently received a survey which explained the school board’s proposal on paid time off. We want to thank the overwhelming number of you who responded to the survey and expressed your opinion about this contract change.
The MEA Leadership team continues to OPPOSE the proposed language. Over and over at the bargaining table we have made clear to the board negotiators that we will not agree to this change to the MEA contract. Our refusal to accept this proposal is one of the primary reasons why we have not been able to reach a new contract settlement.
We chose not to use inflammatory language to characterize the school board’s position in the survey. The survey language sent to you conveys the school board’s position on this issue without editorial comment from us. We believed it was important to have a response from members based on more neutral reading of the language as opposed to one which was calculated to portray the paid leave proposal for what it is: very bad policy and a non-starter in negotiations. Our experience has been that our communications get published in local media and we did not want to be accused of inaccurately or inappropriately conveying a biased message to gain a response which did not represent your views.
Your responses to the survey have signaled your overwhelming agreement with our position to OPPOSE the new paid time off proposal from the board. More than 85% could not support the proposed change.
We will use the survey results to show the board that their proposal cannot be included in a new contract. If the survey led anyone to conclude that the MEA Leadership supported the change, then we apologize. Having explained, however, the reason why it was worded as it was, we hope you understand our choice of words.
In closing, we want to thank all of you again for your help. We still need you to become involved in spreading the word to other members, to the school board, board of aldermen, and to the public about the challenges we face as teachers in the Manchester School District.
MEA Leadership Team
April 21, 2019 Letter To MEA Members
We are aware of what the Board will say on Monday night. You should be too.
The Board of School Committee’s Special Committee on Negotiations will present their proposals to the full Board and the public on Monday night. In that session, the committee will present their view of negotiations, and where they believe it had led.
Please remember that this is their one-sided perception and commentary.
The Board has officially declared impasse and can therefore make its proposals public. That is all their presentation should be, but we know it won’t be as cut and dry as that.
The Board’s three-legged proposal to MEA, when dissected, would not have afforded every employee in the bargaining unit an equal opportunity to advance their pay.
Their proposal on health insurance was not rejected by MEA, but was accepted in principle as long as the new salary schedule ensured no educator ended up with less money.
BOSC brought forward a proposal where sick days were credited at the beginning of the year. We agreed with that aspect of their proposal.
The MEA has been willing to collaborate with the BOSC Negotiation Committee and is still willing to meet. We made significant progress from November through January. In our meeting with Mike Ryan, the mediator, he informed us at noon that the mediation was going nowhere and that he didn’t believe there were going to be significant results that day. He suggested we send a one year, salary-only proposal to the Board to see if we could agree to a move forward on salary and still have more time to negotiate the rest of the contract.
MEA agreed to do this and sent a proposal to BOSC. MEA was given a specific amount of money by the Board, with which to develop our proposal, and we stayed within it.
Here is what else was proposed, and why MEA couldn’t agree with it:
PAID TIME OFF
No more sick time. The Board of School Committee wants to take all teacher’s currently earned sick time and “freeze it” as of June 2018. These frozen days cannot be used by the employee even if they fall ill. In fact, these days will most likely never be used by the employee who earned them. The only way this earned time will have value is if that employee works for 20 years or more in the district, then they can cash out up to 90 days at the 2018 pay rate, provided they retire and start collecting retirement from the NH Retirement System.
Out of the 1170 employees on the list, 782 had earned at least 100 days in their sick day account. That is 67% of the educators in Manchester. The BOSC wants to take that all away and thinks that the MEA is being unreasonable in insisting that teachers’ preserve what they’ve earned over many years under their contract.
The BOSC paints MEA as unreasonable when it’s the BOSC that is demanding sweeping cuts to employee benefits.
Unfortunately, the District is convinced that educators are abusing their sick time, and cites a usage report to support their claim. What this report does not do is make distinctions about leave time or the sick time usage further. They simply average it out across all staff at each of the levels (elementary, middle, high). They do not remove disability time for maternity for example, or Family and Medical Leave Act time off for chronic medical conditions. A number of staff have been out with cancer diagnoses, and an individual in that situation could currently use all their accrued time up to 120 days. Staff have also been in catastrophic cars accidents, experienced strokes, broken bones, and suffer from chronic illnesses and all need time to recover. These numbers are all averaged together in the BSOC report. Their numbers are very misleading. For example, if a school has a staff of 50, and two are out on medical leaves for all 120 days, the average sick time use at that school is 4.8 days each, even though 48 did not even take a single sick day.
This is exactly the fuzzy math that the District is using to justify a fundamental change in how educators earn sick time.
BOSC has wrongly insisted that teachers are chronically absent and something must be done. Their answer is to give teachers 11 days of time off for any reason. Want to go to the beach? Yup, that’s allowed. BOSC wanted no restrictions on the use of the time because if the BOSC believes educators are abusing leave, then let take leave for any reason. No questions asked.
This short-sighted proposal is being touted as a money saver by the District, balanced on the backs of the students who already suffer from the lack of available substitute teachers in Manchester, and the educators who have borne this responsibility of saving money all too often.
To be fair, the BOSC team is willing to “buy back” unused time each year, since it does not carry over. The unused time would have a cost to the District. But there is no way to know the value, since the BOSC wants to put $500,000 in a pool to purchase the days, and place the value in HRA (Health Retirement Account), HSA (Health Savings Account), or 401(3)(b) accounts for educators based on the days that remain, which will not be known until the end of the school year. How can BOSC claim it would save money when it doesn’t know the cost? Where does this money come from? What kind of continuity is there? (The answer to that is none – some years your day would be worth $100 some years $40.) You cannot access the cash from this buyback, as it would be tied up in retirement accounts or strictly for your health purchases.
These numbers matter. The PTO proposal is approximately 12,870 days, or at average rates of per diem, $2.9M. And the BOSC is proposing add another $0.5M to buy the unused time back at the end of the year. That amounts to $3,466,499, in our calculations. This proposal also includes a mesmerizing presentation where the Board provides short and long term disability for those who need to be out for more than the 11 days. This proposal provides 60% of the educator’s pay, rather than the 100% sick days and sick bank provide. If you had to be out for 3 months, would you be able to pay your bills and cover your copays and deductibles with 60% of your pay?
The BOSC insists that the tax cap allows for $1.3M for all salary increases in the 2019-2020 school year. To get to that figure, BOSC demands that educators accept a “Site of Service” health insurance overlay (SOS) that limits options for access to certain medical providers. In addition, BOSC insists that educators increase their contributions to the cost of health insurance by 5%. BOSC says that would save the District about $0.3M, dollars which they could add to salary. However, the MEA also had to accept the reduction in days off and the overhaul of sick time.
Based on BOSC proposals, teachers with a family plan for HMO 1500 with the SOS overlay would face a $900 increase, and a family plan with HSA would face a $1200 increase in their insurance costs. Those reductions would be in addition to the sharp reductions in leave time. That leaves teachers behind in terms of wages.
Based on the recommendation of the mediator, Mike Ryan, MEA put together a one-year salary proposal which fell within the $1.3 million cap imposed by the Board of School Committee. This new schedule changed the increments between steps and added an additional step to the salary scale. The first five steps on the salary schedule had a badly needed average increase of $1,700, but pay out $900-1,200 in increased health insurance costs.The other steps on the salary schedule (steps 6-16) averaged only $642. That’s not a lot when measured against four years with no salary increases. But MEA was willing to submit that proposal for a membership vote. BOSC said “no.”
Their original proposal, the one we waited from June to November for, proposed increasing from the 15 steps we have now to 24 steps! It spread the money so thin, no one who lost money over time because of frozen steps would have recovered their due. In many cases, the educator would have ended up on the correct step, but making less money than they do now. This would not cover the increase in health insurance, or the cost of the PTO proposals. And those people would have had frozen money until the step schedule caught up with them. (Remember last year, when the Board wanted a facilitator, and MEA didn’t feel we were at that point? Now we were at that point, needed to have more meetings, and the Board committee purports that a mediator means impasse, so no meetings.)
MEA has been trying to address issues identified in Manchester’s Education Benchmarks: Using data to map a pathway to success, September 2014 by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies (NHCPPS) by fighting for smaller class sizes, which will help the achievement gap facing Manchester minority and poor students. The BOSC rejected and refuses to discuss class size with MEA.
MEA has been fighting for more wrap around services for students suffering from the effects of trauma, poverty and the opioid crisis, MEA proposed that guidance counselors have no more than a total of 325 students and to implement the American Counseling Association standards for school counselor student loads. MEA proposed joint committees to explore and to review special education caseloads and case management responsibilities at all educational levels; to review behavior response strategies and programs, including CPI and Restorative Justice practices; to review the Unified Arts caseloads in grades Pre-12; to review the current number of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, grades Pre-12 and conduct a longitudinal study to determine the potential, long-range needs of children with this disorder. These were all agreed to be important points by the SUperintendent and his team. The Board did not agree.
MEA wants safety for all staff and students. MEA proposed that classrooms be up to date with all fire and safety codes, except in the case of emergencies, that Columbine locks be installed on all classroom doors, that all classroom windows will have shades for their interior doors, and that at least all first-floor exterior windows will have shades, which can be drawn in an emergency. While the District is working on many of these, the Board does not want safety to be considered in the Collective bargaining Agreement.
MEA also knows that the future of education and schools are changing and wanted to be proactive. MEA proposed a committee to review the potential of the inclusion of partial “flexible” scheduling for staff and/or programs with the intent of creating new opportunities for students for academic support, access to learning areas, and social-emotional growth.
MEA proposed looking at exploring programs for the highest standard for teachers to be credentialed by the National Board for Professional Teaching.
MEA also suggested we present the proposals to each other’s group: MEA presents to the full Board, and the Board presents to the MEA members. It would bring about understanding, and guard against one-sided views brought to the groups.
All these proposals were rejected by the Board of School Committee
The board wants to either revert back to the 180 day calendar, which will cost the District additional 300K+ dollars, or they want the educators to work to make up all snow days. They want to eliminate a schedule of hours at schools for educators and instead replace it with “until your professional responsibilities are complete”.
Educators are already working well over 60 hours per week getting the obligations of their jobs done, many work even more than that. Go by any school before school starts or after it has ended for students and the parking lots will be full of cars. These are the educators who are working to get the job done.
No other professional is expected to purchase the supplies needed to get the job done out of their own pocket. From books to posters, to furniture and computers, educators purchase supplies for their classrooms so that they can teach children. These are items the District does not purchase or refuses to purchase. MEA even proposed a committee to study if sufficient textbooks and related materials, including teacher materials and equipment, are in place to ensure that each pupil in a classroom has equal opportunity. The BOSC rejected this.
The BOSC also chooses to ignore class size and educator voice. They want the District to have complete control in micromanaging teacher schedules and the educator’s day without any input from the educators. Additionally they want educators to increase their insurance contribution by 5%, take less than fair salary increases and make it years more for teachers to reach their top salaries, and give up their sick time for them. MEA is not the group being unreasonable. It is the BOSC.
Manchester Education Association
1750 Elm Street Suite 201B
Manchester, NH 03104
The Manchester Education Association is the local unit of the National Education Association and the premier professional educator’s association. MEA works collaboratively with colleagues, the parents, and the community to bring about the schools Manchester students deserve. Our research into class size, equity literacy, and organizing for the common good are the focus to help us achieve the best public schools in New Hampshire. With about 1100 members, the ability of the MEA to lead changes in the city is unparalleled.
We are currently focused on negotiations and achieving a successor contract.
We are currently selling another cash calendar to benefit our political action funds. We had a great social at the Backyard Brewery in April.
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