Milton teachers, district reach tentative agreement on prep issue

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Stacy Vogel
October 22, 2009
— The Milton teachers union and district administration hope they have found a solution to the unionís first grievance against the district in at least 17 years.

Union and administration officials met Tuesday to try to resolve a dispute about teacher prep time. Both Shelly Kress, president of the Milton Education Association, and Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said they hope they have reached a resolution, though it isnít yet official.

The union filed the grievance after learning the district planned to count the time before class starts as prep time for four teachers this year.

Teachers are entitled in their contracts to a certain amount of prep time, depending on what age group they teach. They are required to be at school 45 minutes before the school day starts, but the contract doesnít specify if that time can count as prep time.

The district has not counted it as prep time in the past, but in August it informed the union it would count that time as prep time for four teachers. Two of the teachers donít have prep time during the instructional day twice a week, Kress said.

The district made the switch to use staff more efficiently, Nikolay said. It had several teachers who werenít spending as much time with students as they could even while part-time teachers taught some classes, he said. The switch allowed the district to reduce the need for part-time teachers.

The union believes the change could reduce the quality of education, Kress said.

ďOur concern is that teachers cannot be prepared for their lessons if they donít have that (prep) time during the day,Ē she said.

The district canít change past practice in the middle of a contract, so the teachers with less prep time are being compensated for additional time, Nikolay said. But the district intended to stop the extra compensation once the union and district agree on a new contract.

The union could take its grievance to the state level if itís not satisfied with the districtís response.

That doesnít look like it will happen now that the two sides have reached a tentative agreement. Kress said they discussed two options, one that reinstates prep time for the teachers and one that compensates them for the loss of time.

Nikolay said the most promising option ďwill involve better defining what exactly is face-to-face or contact time with students and what is prep time.Ē

The district should have a formal proposal available for the union next week, Kress said. The unionís grievance committee will vote on the proposal.

ďI think both sides were very happy,Ē Kress said. ďThe MEA was definitely appreciative of Bernie working with us and coming to a resolution for the staff members.Ēí

The union and district continue to negotiate a new contract after the previous one expired in July. The two sides will hold a mediation session this afternoon.

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