Parents and students expressed frustration at a City Council hearing Thursday on the impasse in contract negotiations between the Boston public schools and the Boston Teachers Union, saying the deadlock is affecting the quality of education.
“I think I am giving up on BPS,” Dawn Portanova, a parent of four, said at the hearing, which drew about two dozen parents and students.
“I need help and I need support” consistently from teachers and administrators, Portanova said.
Boston educators have been working without a contract for two years, meaning that a new teacher evaluation system has not been implemented. As a result, parents said, families dissatisfied with the quality of educators feel they have little recourse. A more rigorous evaluation system, parents said, would help assure that inept teachers would be replaced or given training to meet standards.
City Councilor John R. Connolly, chairman of the council’s Education Committee, and five other council members heard from parents such as Portanova who said the school district and teachers’ union have already spent too much time and city money and should come to a resolution quickly.
“Both parties are at fault here,” said Annie Spitz, who has children at two Boston public schools. “No one has listened to the stakeholder, and we have lost money and we will continue to lose more money during mediation.”
In April a last-ditch attempt by School Department and union leaders to reach an agreement on a new teachers’ contract collapsed after nearly 16 hours of negotiations.
Among the points of contention are teacher compensation for longer school days and the general pay package for teachers over the life of the five-year deal.
Students also expressed frustration about differences in the quality of their teachers, saying teacher evaluations should include input from students because they interact with educators on a daily basis.
Kimberly Roman, a student at Brighton High School, said that if she could, she would evaluate teachers based on the effort they invest in making sure every student is successful. One of her best teachers, Roman said, has a sense of humor and is creative in how he keeps his students engaged.
“The evaluations should include student voices and look at the qualities of what makes a good teacher,” Roman said. “The teachers should be honest and not have double standards.”
The City Council held Thursday’s meeting because parents and students are not allowed to participate during bargaining sessions. Representatives of the school district and the union were present at the meeting, but were not allowed to speak.
The majority of students and parents who spoke are involved with the Boston United for Students Coalition. Leaders of the coalition also spoke at the meeting, outlining what they believe to be important provisions that should be included in the contract, such as longer school days. The coalition advocates for more parent and student input in schools’ decision-making.
Connolly told the parents that city leaders hear their concerns and hope that Thursday’s hearing will nudge negotiations along.
“Today we heard frustration at a lack of a contract and real knowledge of what goes on in the classroom, frustration with the wide gap between one teacher and the next,” Connolly said. “I can only hope this will bring pressure to both parties.”