Burlington Education Association, School District to Mediate Wednesday in Hopes of Avoiding Strike

Strike was planned for Wednesday Sept. 13, is now postponed by one day

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Tuesday afternoon, Burlington teachers voiced concern as their contract negotiations continue.

Dozens lined up along North Avenue with signs asking to support them.

At the request of Mayor Miro Weinberger, one last mediation will take place Wednesday, postponing a possible strike by one day.

"A strike would be a very disruptive, unfortunate event in the community, and I understand the pressure that both sides are under. There are good people on both sides of this debate and who are trying to find a way through and I'm glad they're going to give it another chance," said Weinberger.

The city is not a party, but Weinberger was invited to attend the session. He says he'll attend at least a portion of the meeting, and it's the first time doing so.

"I do my best always to pay attention and I appreciate the school district works to keep me informed as things are happening in the negotiations. Certainly as things have intensified over the past few weeks, I've been getting frequent updates from them for what's been going on," said Weinberger.

The superintendent previously said in the event of a strike, there would be no school and all school activities will be cancelled, though meals would still be available to students.

Both sides say a big contract issue continues to be the academic achievement gap, on the high school level.

Teachers feel some students are not achieving the same levels of success as their peers, but teachers say the programming to help those students needs to be better scheduled.

"We're not being included, we're not being respected to be part of solutions, And yet we're the ones with professional expertise to present solutions," said Fran Brock, President of the Burlington Education Association.

Stephanie Seguino chairs the negotiations committee for the Burlington School Board.

"Institutions do need to coordinate to reach specific goals. So in response to the BEA's concerns, we proposed a teacher's committee called an achievement gap committee that would work with the principal in order to make decision about how to use that additional seven percent of assignable time," said Seguino.

In elementary school, it's also about assignable time, but more for using free time more productively, to plan ahead.

"They need to be relieved of things like non-teaching responsibilities like recess, lunch duty and things, so that they can in fact work on programming and services directed at students," said Brock.

Seguino says principals and parents have told the board not having teachers on the playground or in the lunchroom "is a serious problem."

Seguino says because of potential bullying or behavioral issues, "it's really important to have the teachers that know the children in those areas outside the classroom to help manage behavior."

Wednesday's mediation session is closed to the public.

This story is developing. Local 22 & Local 44 News will provide you with more details as they become available.


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