Photo: Kristen Bell speaking before the School Committee and her colleagues.
Approximately 125 teachers and educators jammed into the Community Room at the Chenery Middle School Tuesday night, Sept 26, to demonstrate its support of its union – the Belmont Education Association – before the Belmont School Committee as the two sides attempt to hammer out a multi-year contract in the next month.
“As educators and union members … we stand with our negotiators in support of our vision of the schools our students deserve,” said Kristen Bell, a first-grade teacher at the Wellington, Belmont resident and an official with the union, who spoke before a sea of colleagues in red T-shirts and school committee members during its scheduled meeting.
The past contract between teachers and the town ended on Aug. 31, just days before the school year began.
The BEA and the school committee have two remaining agreed-to negoitating sessions to resolve salary and benefit differences and craft a contract for the 500 union members, of which 330 are teachers in Belmont’s six public schools.
Bell said the union is seeking to:
- Ensure curriculum-based learning is free from distractions and excessive mandates.
- Allow time for educators to think, plan and collaborate in meaningful ways.
- Provide educators the appropriate level of influence over decisions with their schools.
- Maintain consistent and qualified instructional coverage for students, and
- Ensure the town continues to attract and maintain “exemplary educators.”
While neither side would reveal how far apart they remain on wages and benefits, the union and school committee have only encouraging words about the talks. School committee members and teachers greeted each other with smiles and the amenity of friends.
“We have faith and hope [the school committee] will reach agreement before the end of October,” said Bell.
In a statement from the School Committee, Chair Lisa Fiore said she was glad to hear that the BEA supports the work on both sides.
“As with all union negotiations, the balance we always try to strike is supporting our educators and being accountable to our taxpayers,” she said.