Letter to Hollis Community

             

                                                                                                                        February 1, 2011

Dear Community members,


Thank you for the opportunity to share some information and background on the state of contract negotiations in Hollis. For many years, Hollis teachers and the School Board have been able to work in partnership to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of Hollis students, community members, and educators. It is an enormous disappointment to Hollis Primary School and Hollis Upper Elementary School teachers to find ourselves at impasse, and we would like to present our rationale for the position that we are in.

 

Last year, the teachers and the School Board were able to negotiate a tentative contract in time for the district meeting. However, for numerous reasons (Evergreen law, lack of specific language available during the town meeting, etc) the contract was voted down at the town meeting and the elementary teachers went without a new contract.  This meant that in the 2010-2011 school year, teachers received no increase in salary.  Going without a cost of living increase in salary has put a terrific strain on many of our families.  The average teacher salary in Hollis is $55,226, and they pay $7,615-$12,213 (36-40%) of their health care plan annually.  Up against the district health insurance cap of $1,140 per month, our teachers on the two-person and family plans are now paying 100% of the Health insurance increase each year.

 

However, despite the disappointment of working without a contract and economic strain that has required many of our teachers to find second jobs, Hollis teachers continue to maintain the high educational standards Hollis schools are known for.  In grade level teams and Professional Learning Communities, our teachers have worked diligently to strengthen and refine district programs and continuously analyze multiple data points to assure individual student growth.  72% of our teachers hold Master’s degrees or beyond, as opposed to 52% of teachers in the state. Hollis teachers actively participate in professional development opportunities to stay on top of the latest educational trends. Our teachers create rich learning experiences for their students though implementing district programs, creating original lessons, participating on Curriculum Development Committees, as well as leading after school activities such as Homework Club, Student Council,  Literacy and Spanish Night, Summer Camps, Strings Program, and countless others. Teachers in Hollis are meeting the challenge of increased accountability and professional responsibilities with energy and enthusiasm.  

 

This year, the School Board went back to the table with HPS/HUES teachers to attempt to negotiate a new contract.  On January 4th, mediation failed. As a result, the Feb 1st deadline to negotiate a contract was not met. 

 

Throughout the Negotiations process, HEA presented modest, cost-sensitive proposals out of consideration for the families in the district during these tough economic times.  Recognizing that many community members also face the rising cost of health insurance, the HEA was willing to accept no additional increase to the district’s health insurance cap with the agreement that the district would work in committee to find more cost effective health care options to offer our teachers.  This compromise would have required Hollis teachers on the family plan to pay 41-44% of the annual health care cost in the first year of the contract. HEA was willing to accept a step raise with no percentage raise and no plan to make-up steps lost last year.  Hollis School Board was not willing to agree to  any proposals without the Hollis Education Association’s acceptance of three broad based, far reaching language changes.

First, the Hollis School Board offered a pay for performance proposal that did not clearly define how it would be implemented. The proposal was based on a teacher review model that is designed to create open and honest discussions to improve, enhance, or commend current instructional practices by teachers.  Charlotte Danielson, the author of the teacher review model that was used in the Hollis School Board proposal was contacted by the Hollis Teachers Association and asked if she felt her plan should be the sole method for pay for performance. She responded that her framework was not designed to be the basis of a pay for performance plan.  In addition, the Hollis Education contract currently has a pay for performance article, 8.2, that allows step to be withheld from a teacher if their performance is not adequate. Hollis teachers are not opposed to a meritorious system that is fair, comprehensive, and rewarding of excellence in teaching.  HEA proposed to create a committee to work together with administration and the Hollis School Board to add language to article 8.2 to incorporate additional pay for performance language.

 

In addition, the changes to the Reduction in Force policy proposed by the Hollis School Board could lead to experienced educators being laid off not based on teaching performance, but rather based on monetary factors.  Teachers proposed to create a committee to work together with administration and the Hollis School Board to make changes to the Reduction in Force policy.  This proposal was rejected, and the School Board refused to accept any proposals without complete acceptance of their proposed RIF language.  

 

Finally, the Hollis School Board proposed strict Management Rights language. The Hollis Teacher Association was open to this language that defined management jurisdiction and authority in exchange for language that would define employee rights. HEA proposed language that was taken directly from our sister school, Brookline School District’s contract. No agreement was reached on this proposal, and it was not discussed during mediation. 

 

We thank you very much for your support.  It is a true honor to be educating the children of Hollis, and we are anxious to come to a quick resolution on this matter.  If you have any questions or need clarification please contact Lisa Stone, HEA President, at CASSEDYL6@COMCAST.NET

Regards,

Hollis Education Association

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