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Boston Teachers Union offers major concessions toward contract deal

The Boston Teachers Union proposed a deal this afternoon to break deadlocked negotiations over a new contract that includes major concessions on wages and on creating a new teacher evaluation system that would speed up the dismissal of ineffective teachers.

“We need to break the stalemate,” Richard Stutman, the union president, said in an interview, noting that on Sept. 1 teachers will begin a third school year without a contract. “This is an opportune time to start the school year with a clean slate, a fresh start.”

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Stutman said the union would accept the city’s offer for pay raises over the six-year span of the contract that calls for no increase the first year, a 1 percent increase the second year, a 2 percent increase the third year, and a 3 percent increase for each of the final three years of the contract.

The union and the School Department’s wage proposals differed only in the first two years of the contract, but neither side has really been budging. The union has pushed for a 1 percent increase in the first year and a 2 percent increase in the second year.

Stutman said the union would only agree to the wage concession if the School Department adopted a prototype teacher-evaluation system developed by the state and accepted other proposals pushed by the union that the School Department has previously rejected.

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The other proposals include hiring six “floating” nurses, who would fill in for absent colleagues; creating eight social workers who would be deployed to schools in greatest need; finding substitutes to cover for classroom aides who are out for more than one day; and reducing class sizes by 1 student in grade 6 to a total of 27 students and grade 9 to a total of 30 students.

“The cost of those items is far less than the salary increase we would be giving up,” said Stutman, referring the union’s wage proposal concession. “And none of this puts money in our members’ pockets. Adding social workers and nurses help schools and students. We chose items that contribute to a better school environment.”

The union gave the School Department until the close of business on Sept. 4 to accept the proposal or it would be rescinded.

The announcement came three days after the state Department of Labor Relations decided, at the request of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, to appoint a “fact-finder” to investigate the stalemate and recommend a resolution.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been over the creation of a teacher-evaluation system to comply with changes to state regulations last year that make student test scores a central component of judging a teacher’s performance and speeds up the deadline for dismissing unsatisfactory teachers.

In revising the regulations, the state developed a prototype system that school districts could adopt wholesale or modify. The Boston School Department was attempting to streamline the state’s process, while the union was trying to insert more deadlines and also lengthen some timelines.

Other issues in the increasingly talks remain unresolved, and Stutman proposed having the two sides return to the table for face-to-face negotiations – monitored by the state – that would last for no more than 30 days.

The School Department’s negotiating team is expected to meet later today to discuss the union announcement.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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