With the assistance of a new mediator, the parties signed a tentative agreement on March 9th which reflected resolution on all open issues except the work schedule for teachers at Andover High School. This tentative agreement was contingent on reaching agreement on a schedule for teachers and students at the high school.
For many years, teachers at Andover High School have had a daily 82-minute block to prepare, taught two 82-minute classes, and have been assigned to one 82-minute duty such as parking lot or hallway monitoring during one semester. During the other semester, teachers have had a daily 82-minute block to prepare and have taught three classes instead of being assigned to a duty. This schedule is referred to as the "3 and 2 schedule" because teachers teach three classes in one semester and two classes in the other semester. There is no other high school in Massachusetts that deploys its teachers this way.
During negotiations, the School Committee wanted to be able to replace the non-teaching duty assignments, such as parking lot and hallway monitoring, with another class, thereby increasing our teachers' instructional time with students. This schedule is referred to as a "3 and 3 schedule" because teachers would teach 3 classes each semester, like the other school districts in Massachusetts that have a semesterized four-block high school schedule like ours.
Last summer, with no agreement on changing to a 3 and 3 schedule, the School Committee offered to consider different kinds of high school schedules. The School Committee’s willingness to do so was based in part on addressing some of the academic shortfalls of our current schedule as well as moving to a schedule that was more fiscally sustainable. In January, the two parties formed a joint committee of teachers and administrators to visit and study the schedules of comparable school districts, and agreed to work together to come to agreement on a different kind of schedule for teachers at Andover High. To be able to implement a new schedule for September 2012, we agreed on a deadline of March 23rd.
Yesterday, we learned that the AEA representatives on the schedule committee proposed maintaining the current 3 and 2 schedule with some extra time added for student-teacher advisory. The School Committee has been clear since the parties started negotiations in 2010 that teachers at Andover High School are teaching fewer students and spending less time teaching in the classroom than their peers in all other high-performing school districts, and that the cost of maintaining the high school schedule as currently deployed is affecting our ability to make other needed investments at all levels of our school system. Keeping our current block schedule at Andover High School, but having teachers teach 3 classes each semester, would lead to a reduction of approximately 11 positions--some, if not most of which would be accomplished through regular attrition including retirements, resignations, and non-renewals. In addition, it is the goal of the School Committee that implementation of a new schedule would result in a reduction in class size. However, since last summer the School Committee has been open to adopting other kinds of schedules, and teachers serving on the schedule committee were given release time to visit other high schools to review these options, all of which would have meant increasing instructional time for teachers, leading--depending on the schedule--to a reduction in positions, but no more than what would be required under the 3 x 3. The schedule committee has reviewed and considered the schedules of Brookline, Masconomet, Natick, Needham, and Winchester High Schools, but the AEA representatives on the committee maintained their position of not changing the 3 x 2 teaching schedule for teachers.
With resources tighter than ever, the School Committee has a responsibility to consider alternatives for delivering the superior education our students deserve. Unfortunately, the union's representatives on the high school schedule committee have insisted on preserving the 3 and 2 schedule. As there is no agreement on a new schedule for high school teachers, the tentative agreement is at risk and it is likely that the School Committee will now be required to go through a fact finding process with the Department of Labor Relations.
Andover School Committee