Teachers’ ire soars toward Board of Ed
Published 4:50 pm, Wednesday, June 17, 2015
An angry walkout from a New Milford Board of Education meeting June 9 was just the tip of the iceberg in an increasingly frigid relationship between teachers and the school board.
The rancor results from a number of board rulings related especially to the schools’ transition — minus John Pettibone School — into the 2015-16 school year.
Teachers have launched complaints about the packing and unpacking required by the transition to classrooms in different schools for this fall.
The most recent complaint, filed with the state labor board last week, regards a perceived breach of contract about the number of after-school meetings and parent conferences required of each teacher during the 2015-16 school year.
More than 10 night meetings scheduled would contradict what the union agreed to in arbitration in November, the teachers’ union claims.
Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote addressed the most recent complaint.
The impact of added evening meetings in the 2015-16 calendar, she said, “was reflected in the overall salary increase” teachers had gained in arbitration.
“The arbitration award increased student contact time by 28 hours,” Paddyfote said. “The board provided notice to the (teachers’) association at the outset of negotiations that work previously done on abbreviated days would be done outside of the school day.
“The board’s last best offer on the impact issue was accepted by the arbitration panel.”
Teachers union president Kim Patella disagrees with the superintendent.
“This calendar is an outrage,” said Patella, president of the New Milford Education Association. “This is a repudiation of the contract and bargaining process. ... There is a clear disrespect of teachers in the district.”
Exacerbating the situation has been the aftershock caused by the shutdown of public participation during June 9’s board meeting.
Patella was going to read her comments into the meeting record, but the session was cut short by the board’s chairwoman, Angela Chastain. With a bang of her gavel, she cut off public comment early in response to some clapping.
Patella and other audience members then walked out of the meeting with one angry person shouting, “You haven’t heard the end of this.”
“It’s my obligation to run an orderly meeting,” Chastain said Monday. “I felt the meeting was getting out of hand.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear what people had to say. I didn’t know who the next speaker was going to be. I hadn’t seen the signup sheet.”
Chastain believes the tension between her board and the administration on the teachers’ part is the result of the changes coming with the transition year.
Kindergarten through second grade from Pettibone will move to either Hill and Plain or Northville schools.
“The people are apprehensive about the changes,” Chastain said. “In my opinion, everything will work out just fine.”
Mosey cited a “burden” put on the teaching staff because of a shortage of substitute teachers on call.
Cerra and Fair noted the planned 7.5-hour day for teachers to unpack and set up, and ready their classrooms, before the fall school opening.
“In the past, we were given 7.5 hours to prepare our classrooms,” Cerra said. “Now, we’re being asked to unpack 50-plus boxes, as well as new materials, and prepare in that same 7.5 hours.”
“It’s shortsighted to expect all of this can happen in 7.5 hours,” she said, “and still have a warm and welcoming classroom when our students arrive.”
NMHS teachers were requested, with just days notice, to attend a NEASC conference on a Sunday.