Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Baltimore City Council Considers Supporting Teachers In Contract Dispute

If I were Andres Alonso, I would be screaming at this latest news in the protracted dispute between the Baltimore Public Schools and the Baltimore teachers union.

For those who are not aware, The Baltimore Teachers Union is staging a work to rule protest (which is only partially effective) because of an impasse with the School Board and Alonso over a 45 minute planning session.
Schools chief Andres Alonso wants principals to have the authority to require teachers to spend one planning period - about 45 minutes a week - collaborating with colleagues. The union says it considers the change a loss of planning time. Protesters at the school board meeting called for Alonso's ouster over the dispute.
Well, now the City Council is getting involved by supporting the teachers union.
A dispute between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the chief of the city school system spilled into the City Council last night with the introduction of a nonbinding resolution supporting the union in the impasse.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, a former teacher and the wife of labor leader Glenard Middleton, introduced the resolution, which was sent to the council's labor committee.

Last week the councilwoman and her husband were among more than 150 protesters who protested a proposed change that could affect the way teachers use planning time.
Try as I might, I just can't seem to wrap my head around this dispute. Collaboration with colleagues is a useful tool and the time could be put to use to for overall planning purposes. Imagine a group of second grade teachers collaboratively designing a lesson for reading or math. Or those same teachers could work together to help improve their skills in presenting information--you know doing things to make themselves better teachers.

For a profession that works largely in a separate environment, I would think that the opportunity to work with ones peers would be a welcome addition to the weekly routine.

For his part, Alonso appears to be standing firm with his demand, as I think he should. I think he should be more public with his reasoning, but I am not handling his press shop. In the end, I think the union comes out looking poorer on this matter. There is room for compromise but that possibility may be at an end now.

Now that the City Council is jumping in, the dynamics are about to shift. I think that Middleton is too beholden to the union and has what to me looks like a clear conflict of interest. Whether the resolution passes or not, the City Council is not making things better for getting involved. With elections coming up for Mayor and for City Council, the matter is now too politicized for any meaningful resolution.

Neither Alonso nor the union itself can really get a settlement without looking like they were pressured into it. Alonso, if he gives in, will look as though he caved to city council pressure, a stance he can't afford to be pushed into. For its part, the union looks like it can't negotiate without government interference and it looks weak. In short, everyone loses.

By everyone, I mean everyone, including the kids in Baltimore schools, who are the ultimate victims here. They are victims of the pettiness of the adults in the education system and their elected leaders. What lesson for them in all of this?


Anonymous said...

I am a BCPSS teacher. As a high school teacher I get 5, 90 minute planning periods a week. I could conceivably give up 45 minutes once a week. BUT elementary school teachers get only 3, 45 minute planning periods a week.

The idea of them losing one of those... is ludicrous.

Their job is already RIDICULOUSLY DIFFICULT. They have to plan for every subject in almost half the time I get to plan for one subject.

As a teacher, I do not have any faith in the school system. I feel as if they would just take the time and waste my time.

It is just one of those top down proclamations that can easily be abused and misused.

AND I already collaboratively plan.

epiphanyinbmore said...

You're having a hard time wrapping your head around the dispute because you're looking at it the wrong way. The issue is not collaboration, at all. All teachers collaborate, and most collaborate all the time.

The issue is about control of time. We teach in a city that regularly abuses the teachers' time with meaningless meetings, horribly-planned "professional development," endless strings of bubble-filling. It's ludicrous. And now we're expected to trust that allowing the principal to dictate even more of our time will be a good thing for our students? It almost certainly won't be.

Alonso has the perfect compromise at his disposal - put "Collaboration" on the annual teacher evaluation. If we're evaluated on how well we collaborate, isn't that doing the same job without risking the taking away of even more of our planning time?