NBEA wins three modifications to Parker plan

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved three modifications to the Parker Elementary School turnaround plan that were sought by the New Bedford Educators Association.

Several other proposed modifications were rejected or not acted on by BESE members at the lengthy hearing on the appeal, which was held at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School on May 19.

The appeal was presented to the BESE by Laurie Houle, the MTA attorney representing the NBEA. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester had asked the board to reject all of the modifications suggested at this stage in the process of developing a plan for the school, which he has designated as Level 5, or “chronically underperforming.”

The three modifications the board accepted were guaranteeing Parker teachers at least 90 minutes a week of dedicated common planning and collaboration time, setting a deadline for the receiver to develop and implement strategies for attracting more Parker neighborhood students to the school’s preK program, and creating and implementing a plan for upgrading technology at the preK-5 school.

The board did not approve several other modifications sought by the NBEA, including changes regarding a new salary system for the school. Under the commissioner’s plan, teachers are required to work 29 percent more time but will not receive a commensurate increase in pay. In addition, the contractual salary schedule will be replaced by a performance-based pay system in which teacher evaluations and student growth measures will be used to help determine whether a teacher moves up on the new career ladder.

Two of the nine board members, labor representative Harneen Chernow and parent representative Ruth Kaplan, were the only members to support that proposed modification. Both also voted with the majority on the three modifications that were approved, the first by a vote of 6-3 and the other two by votes of 5-4.

Houle argued that the drastic changes in working conditions, lack of teacher input into how the Parker School will be run and lack of details in many sections of the commissioner’s plan were key reasons that all but three Parker staff members declined to reapply for their jobs. She argued that experienced, qualified teachers are unlikely to want to work at the school – or stay there if they are hired – and that the turnover will hurt student academic achievement.

The BESE is scheduled to hear appeals on June 9 from the local unions seeking modifications in the turnaround plans for the other three Level 5 schools; two of the schools are in Boston and one is in Holyoke. The MTA will represent the Holyoke Teachers Association in seeking modifications to the plan for the Morgan Full Service Community School.