Belmont School Committee, Education Union OKs New Contract; Ratification Vote Tuesday

Photo: The Belmont Education Association has come to an agreement on a four year contract with the Belmont School Committee.

After more than a year of increasingly contentious negotiations and union activism, the Belmont Education Association agreed on Thursday evening, June 10, to new four-year contracts with the Belmont School Committee to three remaining labor units.

The unit representing assistant principals and district directors accepted contract language last week.

“We did it! All four Belmont Education Association contracts are settled because of our collective willingness to strike for the contracts Belmont educators, our students, and our community deserve,” read a statement on the association’s Facebook page Thursday night.

The agreement will be presented to the members for a ratification vote at its membership meeting on Tuesday, June 14. Speaking to several teachers after the announcement, the current sentiment is for a ”yes” vote.

The four units in the BEA include public schools teachers (Unit A); assistant principals and coordinators, (Unit B), secretaries (Unit C), and teacher aides/instructional support staff and campus monitors (Unit D).

The agreement the membership will vote on Tuesday:

  • Compensation for Units A, C, & D:
    • Year 1
      • Ratification Bonus – Unit A: $500, Unit C & D: $750
      • 2.75 percent plus an additional .25 percent on the top step
    • Year 2: 2.5 percent plus an additional .25 percent on the top step
    • Year 3: 2.5 percent
    • Year 4: 2.5 percent
  • Health Insurance: Maintains the 80/20 percent split for all employees.
  • Planning Time: Unit D members will be receiving 30 minutes a week of prep/collaboration time, which adds approximately $500/year to each Unit D member’s base salary more or less depending on the position on the salary scale.

“Standing together and being willing to fight for and win the contracts we deserve cements our power as a union and as educators,” said the BEA statement. “Looking forward, we are in a much better position to continue the fight to make Belmont a better place to work and learn in.” 

Educators Union Continues Push For Contract As First Group Reach Agreement With School Committee

Photo: Belmont teachers rally for new three-year contract

Before a sea of red-clad co-workers last week, Bethany Fitzsimmons put forth what most people are not willing to reveal to the public.

“I’m a 20-year employee,” said Fitzsimmons, a professional aide at Winn Brook Elementary. “And I made $29,000. Twenty years in Belmont. $29,000. OK, I am sorry, that’s embarrassing,” she told more than 100 members of the Belmont Education Association who gathered along Concord Avenue adjacent to the new Belmont High School.

With contract negotiations stalled after nearly a year of negotiations, members of the Belmont Education Association have stepped up public events and direct action to push the Belmont School Committee towards what they believe is a reasonable offer to help fairly compensate members for several years of stagnate wages which assisted the town and school committee in balancing past budgets.

BREAKING: The first group of Belmont educators have reached an agreement during the current negotiations with the School Committee on Monday, June 6. The agreement between members of Unit B – made up of assistant principals and system wide directors – and the committee has yet to be announced although it appears the group has agreed to a 80/20 split to its insurance policy over the next three years. More to come.

Described as one of the “the connective tissue that holds the Beaumont public school system together” by her “comrade in arms” Burbank teacher and Unit A’s Clifford Gallant, Fitzsimmons noted during the current talks to produce the next three year contract, Unit D personnel – which includes aides, paraprofessionals, administrative and classroom assistants – are being offering a 50 cents an hour increase.

Her dedication to the profession requires Fitzsimmons and many of her fellow Unit D colleagues to work multiple part-time jobs to continue to do the work they love.

“We qualify for fuel assistance. We qualify for food stamps. We are insured through the Affordable Care Health Insurance because the insurance the town is offering is too expensive. I am a 50-year-old woman and I live at home with my father because I cannot afford my own [place],” Fitzsimmons said.

“So how is it possible that in a town like Belmont, you have employees that qualify for federal and state assistance? That is embarrassing and that should not be happening,” she said to the cheers of members and residents.

Speaking before the membership, BEA official and Belmont High teacher Marc Lefebvre said time has run out for nothing short of a new contract.

“Why now? Why this time? Don’t we deserve a modest cost of living? Why don’t we deserve to keep our benefits stable? Why don’t we deserve a little more time for professional learning and collaboration? Why does [the school committee] seem more interested in power then smoothing he extraordinarily difficult task of educating the children of this town. I think I can tell you why. Because they believe they’ve got us into a corner and they hope we’ll think we’re out of options.

“But we are here today to say we are done, done with protracted negotiations, done with hoping they’ll respect what we’ve been through these past few years,” said Lefebvre. “We’re sending a very clear message that the time to settle is now, time for them to be responsible is now and it’s time for a fair contract.”

“At a time when educator morale is low, when the hiring season is busier than I had ever seen, and experienced candidates are scarce, we need this contract settled and you need it settled now,” said Elizabeth Baker, a Unit B representative and district director of science, health and tech education.

Supporters of the union cause came out to voice their concerns. Resident, parent of two students and Town Meeting member PJ Looney said fairness transcends political differences as teachers should be treated as the valued members of the community they are.

BHS senior Angus Abercrombie who graduated Saturday pointed to his teachers who taught him not just about facts and data but about the world around him.

“Your job is not just to create the next generation of workers, it is to create the next generation of voters. You taught me about my history, about my country and about the power and responsibility that I have to change it. And knowing that is the real reason I’m here because there is nothing else I can morally be doing on a Wednesday evening than standing here and supporting you,” Abercrombie said.

Teachers Marching From HS To School Admin Offices In Protest Over Contract Negotiations

Photo: The Belmont Education Association logo

Just past 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29, teachers, staff and aides will head for the streets as the membership of the Belmont Education Association is set to march from Belmont High School, down Concord Avenue into Belmont Center and to the School Administration building next to Town Hall on Pleasant Street as the union calls for “fair agreements” in a contract that is currently being negotiated.

After returning almost $6 million to the town over the past two years, the school district is now offering educators annual cost of living adjustments that are, on average, less than 2 percent, even though educators’ real wages are lower now than they were eight years ago. The district is also trying to save a nominal amount of money by shifting greater healthcare costs onto new employees, those who can least afford it,” said a press release from the union.

The BEA release said the union is proposing annual raises of three-to-four percent over the next four years. Currently, the district’s counter offer is:

  • First year: 2 percent increase + $500
  • Second year: 1.5 percent
  • Third year: 1.75 percent
  • Fourth year: 1.5 percent

The BEA is also calling for what they term adequate wages for support professionals, “the district’s lowest paid and most undervalued educators who also happen to be the ones working with our most vulnerable students.”

Commuters should expect delays along Concord Avenue from the high school to Pleasant Street from 3:20 p.m.

Tentative Agreement On Vaccine Mandate For Belmont Teachers/Staff

Photo: Belmont teachers and staff will be required to be vaccinated if a tentative agreement is approved.

In a joint press release issued Friday afternoon, Sept. 3, representatives of the Belmont School Committee and the local teachers’ union, the Belmont Educators Association, tentatively agreed to mandated vaccinations against the Covid-19 virus for educators and staff working in Belmont’s six public schools.

The agreement, passed on Thursday, Sept. 2, will now go before the full BEA membership and the six member School Committee to be voted on and ratified.

The Belmont School District will also begin the school year with a mask mandate for students and staff.

The provisional deal comes as school’s open in Belmont on Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the midst of a significant surge of the virus due to the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant. Elementary and younger middle school students who can not be vaccinated due to their age are seen as susceptible to either catching or carrying the virus.

The press release also announced the second of” two important health mitigation strategies that will support a safe opening of school” as the Belmont Public Schools is partnering with Cambridge Innovation Center to implement a Routine COVID Safety Checks – formerly known as Routine COVID Pooled Testing – and a “Test and Stay” close contact testing protocol.

Routine COVID safety checks is when shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school and put into a single tube. If a group tests positive, individual follow-up testing with a second sample collection occurs at the school with BinaxNOW and/or individual PCR testing, as necessary.

Test and stay protocol is for students and staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19 while in school. Test and Stay allows students and staff who were exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 at school to remain in school as long as they have no symptoms. Instead of missing school, these students and staff will be administered a daily BinaxNOW rapid test at school. They will continue to quarantine outside of the school day. Students and staff participate in Test and Stay for a minimum of five days after they may have been exposed. 

A health bulletin from the school district’s nursing staff with more information on pool testing, test and stay, testing consent forms, etc., with links to the new symptom checker will be sent to you early next week, Sept. 12.

Statement: Belmont Education Association Addresses Its Approach To Teaching In COVID

Photo: The logo of the Belmont Education Association

In the past year as the Belmont School District has been adapting long-standing standards of learning and teaching in response to a once-in-a-century pandemic, one group consciously quiet during that time has been the teachers and staff and their labor representative, the Belmont Education Association.

As the School Committee and district administration has been the face of the ever-changing strategies to mitigate COVID-19 in Belmont’s six schools while keeping learning a priority, teachers have been in the background, only rarely breaking their vow of silence as parents and students began questioning educators and the BEA for being perceived as obstacles to the return of students to the classroom.

But in a response to a series of questions – they can be found at the bottom of the article – from the Belmontonian, the union issued a statement addressed the reasons behind its approach to teaching in a time of pandemic and discussing its view on key issues facing teachers and the union moving forward.

The Belmont Education Association statement:

A year ago, the Belmont Public Schools and the Belmont Education Association entered into a collaborative process to address issues related to instruction during a pandemic. Health & Safety, Social-Emotional Well-being, and Academic Engagement were our shared priorities for remote and then hybrid learning. Belmont’s options were limited as we faced the lean resources of space and personnel to operate safely in person. As educators, lacking statewide guidance, certainty, and evolving recommendations, we worked through interest-based conversations for eight months to effectively make decisions. This changed in November when we entered into formal bargaining. Formal bargaining forced us to work through all the issues in a tight timeframe with little opportunity to understand our myriad and changing interests and priorities and no chance to pilot our ideas.

As a union, our approach has always been to increase transparency and partner with the community to support our students. Our requests for open bargaining (inviting all community members to attend negotiations) are consistently rejected, so we sought other opportunities to connect with parents through PTOs and community forums. Transparency and mutual understanding are important for all constituent groups moving forward. We are committed to an approach that includes all community members in a conversation about what is best for the Belmont Public Schools.  

At times it’s tempting to see the union as one person, but in reality, it is the school employees – union members whom parents see every day – who are the decision-makers. Members actively guide and determine our positions. We have expanded transparency and improved internal conversations by including ever more teachers, administrators, administrative assistants, and professional aides in bargaining. We understand that this has not been the same experience for parents. In retrospect, we should have included members of the Belmont School Committee and parent community in our Joint Labor-Management Committee meetings.

Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize CDC guidance for ventilation, correct use of masks, and physical distancing (at least six feet) as the most important mitigation measures for in-person learning.  Surveillance testing and vaccines are also essential considerations as we expand in-person learning. We remain committed to our students and each other’s Health & Safety, Social-Emotional Well-being, and Academic Engagement. 

Questions submitted to the Belmont Education Association

1. The CDC has stated “K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely.” When will the BEA consider Belmont schools “safe” for full-time in-school learning? Is it when all the measures in the CDC roadmap or some other matrix to reopening schools are met? Why is it taking so long to reach these goals?
2. How important is teachers’ vaccination to meeting the level of a “safe” workplace?
3. Are attempts to reduce the six-foot social distance requirement a “deal-breaker”? 
4. The school district has created a working group – the Return to In-Person Learning Group – to make recommendations and a plan to bring all students back to school full-time. Is this the correct approach to take or would the BEA accept a more direct, faster approach from the superintendent or school committee to open schools?
5. The level of animus with some parents/residents towards the BEA and some teachers have reached a level last seen when teachers called a work action in 1995. “Why does the BEA have so much power”, “The town should follow science and not the union” and “There needs to be a lockout of the teachers union” are just a few comments on a popular Facebook page. Those parents believe the BEA is the chief impediment to full-time, in-school learning in the district, either by slow-walking negotiations or being overly cautious. 1). What misconceptions do these parents have of the union’s position/power in returning students to school full-time? 2. Do you believe it was the right approach to remain silent to the public – not on negotiations with the school committee but on general views of teaching during a pandemic? 3). Do you believe that the BEA will need to reach out to parents/residents to work towards improving the relationship it had pre-pandemic?

Letter To The Editor: Belmont Educators Disagree With Return To In-Person Learning


To the editor:

The members of the Belmont Education Association have spent the past six months balancing the needs of our students- their health and safety needs, their academic needs and their social and emotional needs- against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic

On Oct. 7, the BEA was  made aware of numerous inconsistencies, errors, and omissions in the report completed by BALA, the contractor hired by the school district to assess air exchanges in school buildings.  

Based on the failings of the report, the BEA adamantly disagrees with the district’s decision to enter Phase 2, and educators feel obligated to share our concerns with parents.

BALA’s direct measurements show that most classrooms do not have sufficient air exchange (ACH 5) in line with the Harvard University recommended standard that Belmont would need to meet. Assumptions that open windows and air purifiers could raise classroom air exchange to an acceptable level may, in the end, prove correct. However, BALA’s current report has numerous instances which call into question the validity of the report. For example, multiple interior rooms, which have no windows are listed as having substantial improvements once windows are taken into account. 

Furthermore, there are spaces across the district where no data has been provided at all and are omitted from the report and there are other spaces that are mislabeled. The district is working to rectify this situation, and BALA returned to Belmont this week to reassess spaces to make corrections to their report.

Our community made a commitment not to send students into the buildings until spaces used by students and staff were safe. On Wednesday, the BEA requested that the district delay the start of Phase 2 until the community has  a complete report. The Belmont Public Schools  made the determination that schools were safe and began Phase 2 on Thursday. The short notice and concern for the social-emotional well-being of our students forced us to make a difficult decision to return to our classrooms without assurances that they are safe.

John Sullivan

President, Belmont Education Association

Educators Support Belmont Families And Children

Photo: The logo of the Belmont Education Association

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the Belmont Education Association announced the donation of $2,000 to a pair of organizations supporting families and children in need.

The donation was split evenly between ​The Belmont Food Pantry and ​Massachussetts Child​, a charitable corporation created by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to provide funds to local associations in order to help students in need.

“We recognize the impact that the pandemic has had on the Belmont community and we are happy to contribute what we can,” said John Sullivan, BEA president.

“We are all affected by the harsh reality of this virus,” he said. “We hope our donations can contribute to the well-being and safety of our students and families in the Belmont community.”

Teachers Holding Public Forum Wednesday On What Belmont Wants From Schools

Photo: The Belmont Education Association

Educators to Belmont: What do you want?

The Belmont Education Association – which represents the educators and staff in the Belmont School District – is seeking input from residents on what is important about education in the public schools at a public forum on Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. at the Belmont High School library.

What will be discussed is:

  • What does the community value about Belmont public schools, and
  • What would it like to see changed.

This input will help inform the BEA’s upcoming negotiations for a new three year contract.

To sign up for the meeting, or to respond to the questions online if you cannot attend, go to:

BEA Scholarship Awarded To Student Who Recognizes HS Educator As Inspiration

Photo: Belmont High’s Ciara Lally (left) will major in Elementary Education at Merrimack College this fall.

The Belmont Education Association awarded its annual scholarship to Ciara Lally at Belmont High’s Senior Awards Assembly in May.

The scholarship was created to support a graduating senior who has been inspired to pursue a career in education by one of his or her Belmont Public Schools educators. Donations from BEA members help to sustain the scholarship.

Lally was motivated by Belmont High teacher Erin McCarthy to pursue a career in education.

“I met Ms. McCarthy freshman year of high school; she has been with me for all four years of my high school career. Being a teacher has always been a thought in my head since I was a little kid. I’m very grateful for everyone that has helped me along the years and it has made me want to help kids that are struggling. I want to be able to show them they are capable of,” said Lally who will attend Merrimack College this fall majoring in Elementary Education.

“With her help, I learned to be a determined student and what I was actually capable of. I want to be an elementary school teacher because I love to work with children and I want to help them to be the best they can,” said Lally.

“One day I hope I can help my students to achieve their goals like I have achieved mine.”  

Belmont Education Association Holds Forum On State Ed Funding Reform

Photo: Merrie Najimy, Barbara Barry, and Lindi DeLorio discuss improving education by recalculating the formula to calculate state educational aid.

A major component of the Massachusetts education reform law past in 1993 known as Chapter 70 was the state’s “foundation budget” formula, used to determine the cost of educating students in each district.

But for many, the more than a quarter-century old formula is now badly out of date.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Belmont Education Association held a Fund Our Future Forum at the Chenery Middle School with Cliff Gallant, a teacher at Burbank Elementary, leading a panel discussion on the foundation budget formula. According to a 2015 report by the Foundation Budget Review Commission, the state is underfunding our public schools by more than $1 billion a year. Of that total, Belmont would receive $3,5 million in additional annual funding. 

Butler Elementary teacher Lindi DeLorioChenery parent Barbara Barry, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy and Vice President Max Page discussed the improved opportunities for our students which could be provided with the additional state funds to support class sizes, music, and art programs. Funds could also be used to provide needed staff such as classroom aides, nurses, counselors and librarians.