Extended Day Hits the NY Times
The NY Times has a short piece
on the efforts of other communities, including some in Massachusetts, experimenting with an extended school day. This is the same program that caused so much grief here in North Adams last year.
Anybody who actually followed my commentary on the subject knows that I supported the concept (and still do) and was quoted saying so in the Hill Country Observer
during the spring of 2006. In that same article the Chair of the School Committee (a.k.a. Mayor Barrett) was quoted as saying that he was unsure of the program and was reserving judgement. Funny that.
Just a few months later, all hell broke loose when the North Adams Teacher's Association flatly rejected the notion of opening supplemental negotiations to extend their day by a vote of 96 - 5.
Remember those numbers every time someone tries to convince you that the teachers were meaningfully included in the planning of North Adams' proposal. The colossal failure of the proposal was that it was driven from the top and the finished product, while extraordinarily well written, had little to do with the supposed year long meetings on the subject. It was a document based on wishful thinking rather than collaboration.
96 - 5.
The mayor, school committee, city councilors, editorial pages, etc... all excoriated the teachers, in particular the NATA Executive Board, for betraying the children of North Adams by refusing to consider that particular version of the extended day scheme. These attacks were unfair and misleading since the teachers had been trying for months to get the district to scale back the proposal to some sort of pilot program. Time and time again, in my conversations with various teachers from around the district, I heard that teachers were being told that the plan was "all or nothing" by Superintendent Montepare.
96 - 5.
Strangely, as soon as the deadlines for the grant had past and the bare-knuckles-hardball-political scapegoating of the teachers had begun, the powers that be claimed that "everything was on the table" and that pilot programs were being considered.
Given the weight of the evidence, those claims sound like hogwash.
The best evidence of this is a memo sent out by Supt. Montepare which bluntly states that teachers might be laid off if the extended day proposal was not approved. Considering that the funding for extended day was supposed to be above and beyond the existing budget, that led the teachers to two conclusions:
- 1) The district was more interested in the 7-figure grant that would accompany a district-wide extended day program than in the actual program itself.
- 2) The district was overtly threatening them if they did not play ball.
96 - 5
Pay was another major sticking point. Mass 2020's guidelines suggested a hefty pay raise in the neighborhood of 30% for teachers. The North Adams district was offering what they claimed was 14%. (A figure that many teachers who did the math say is inflated.)
Several people went on the record calling the teachers greedy and accusing them of misrepresenting the Mass 2020 pay figures. There were officials involved in the planning claiming that the teachers were completely making-up the 30% figure. So I was a little surprised to find this nugget
in the NY Time piece.
In Massachusetts, schools in that state’s pilot program, teachers have received a 30 percent raise for their extra work.
So to all of those in positions of influence who publicly called the various teachers "liars", "criminal", "retard", etc.... you might want to try a more subtle approach when you bring the subject up next time.
96 - 5.
There is still a lot of acrimony in the air about the way that this was handled. While the bully pulpit is an effective place to take on entities such as Time Warner Cable, developers and slumlords, it tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth when the same tactics are used on a group of people who are generally respected members of the community - teachers.
I hope that all involved learned something from this episode.