Brookline Educators Union postpones Back to School Night

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The Brookline Educators Union (BEU) postponed the high school’s Back to School Night in light of failed contract negotiations and lack of transparency with the Brookline School Committee (BSC).

On Sept. 24, the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) released a statement postponing Back to School Night. The BEU cited the repeated negligence by the Brookline School Committee (BSC) in listening to union members and the lack of a contractual agreement.

The 2021-2022 school year marks the third consecutive year in which educators and paraprofessionals have not received a contract from the BSC. This followed demonstrations last summer by BEU members and supporters throughout the community protesting reduction-in-force notices (RIFs) by the BSC and financial authorities.

BEU President Jessica Wender-Shubow said starting the new school year without any signs of a contract has been challenging for educators.

“We need more clarity about what sort of expectations families, students and educators can have about this year,” Wender-Shubow said. “Contracts are our agreements between the people who are responsible for figuring out how schools are going to run, what those conditions are and what the terms are. It is very disconcerting to start a year without a contract that’s up to date.”

Wender-Shubow said it is important to recognize that diversity in district-wide staff is crucial to making students of color feel represented.

“We would like to see hiring out of Brookline communities that are underrepresented in our buildings and that are facing higher unemployment rates. It is really important that the moms, dads, cousins, friends and siblings of our students of color see people who are like them and accurately represent their perspectives in our district,” Wender-Shubow said.

Spanish teacher Alisa Conner said having a contract would show that teachers are valued by the BSC and general town school administration.

“We are investing so much of ourselves and our lives in this work, and we need to feel valued. We also have to have the financial stability that we can be dedicating ourselves to,” Conner said.

Conner said the idea of having open bargaining for contract negotiations between the BEU and the BSC would help transparency and honesty between the two respective parties and greater community.

“Having community members actually at the bargaining table means the community can see and really understand how the process works and how both sides are approaching each other’s proposals,” Conner said. “We are totally excited about the idea of transparency, and bargaining sessions last year have been real eye-opening about the challenges of that process. Hopefully it will push both parties to really step up to negotiations in that spirit of collaboration and compromise rather than one side being not willing to entertain any proposals.”

Guidance counselor and contract negotiator for the BEU, Eric Schiff, said the BSC has been consistent in their statements and remains negligent to any proposals.

“ has been pretty consistent in terms of what they’re saying and what they’re doing. Whether I agree with what they are saying or not is not as relevant, and I don’t think they would care, but you know, there not, it has not been any big surprises in terms of any new statements or anything like that,” Schiff said.

Wender-Shubow said collective actions and demonstrations are not the first choice for the BEU, but one of the few options left.

“ is attacking the union for having a collective action. You will see in our statement, we said if everything else we tried had worked, we wouldn’t need collective action,” Wender-Shubow said. “Who wants it? It takes a lot of work. We do not do it unless we have no other option left and for the past couple of years, there have not been many other options.”