Teachers are negotiating with administrators in the Lawrence school district, working to update this year’s work agreement with eyes toward 2011-12.
The two sides are scheduled to meet again Wednesday evening with a federal mediator, in an attempt to find common ground regarding issues related to schedule changes coming during the next academic year.
“I don’t look at this as a conflict, as a bad thing,” said Valerie Johnson-Powell, a speech pathologist at Lawrence High School and president of the Lawrence Education Association, which represents the district’s more than 900 teachers and licensed personnel. “I think mediation is a good thing. The two teams are working together, and that’s exactly what they need to be doing.”
District administrators already have announced plans to add a seventh period to each school day in both high schools, while changes also are coming to junior highs, which will transform into middle schools with the arrival of next year’s sixth-graders; elementary schedules aren’t likely to change, but will accommodate only grades K-5.
Among items up for discussion during mediation are the amounts of time teachers would receive for planning and professional development, given the expected schedule changes. While class periods would become shorter, for example, some teachers could end up with more students.
The union’s position on negotiations, as outlined in a statement released Tuesday by Johnson-Powell, is that teachers “do not want to be obstructionists,” but also want to ensure that any change be positive.
“Cutting plan time and making decisions without adequate planning, training or creation of curriculum are not the way to accomplish this change,” the union said, in its written position statement. “Our interest is that teachers have adequate plan time. With all these added responsibilities, teachers need time to prepare. And our students deserve the best, not what is expedient.”
Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer and leader of the administration’s negotiating team, declined to discuss specifics of negotiations. But he noted that Wednesday’s session would start at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, beginning with an opportunity for both sides to make opening statements before adjourning to separate rooms for meetings with the mediator.