Dear Weston School Community,
We are writing to update you on the status of our contract negotiations with the Weston Education Association (WEA). Significant movement was made during our recent sessions on April 7, 13 and 24. Progress on teacher priorities such as preparation time and working hours have been made. We continue to have discussions on creative approaches toward compensation. Outside of these scheduled mediation sessions, the School Committee members continue to work on developing new proposals to ensure progress moves forward. Our next session is on Monday, May 1.
Despite this progress, the WEA chose to implement a “work to contract” strategy, also known as work to rule. This tactic means that some union members are now refusing to perform duties that are not specifically mentioned in their contract, if the duty is not intrinsic to their position, or that have not been performed by members as a group on a consistent basis over time.
As a reminder, teachers in Weston are salaried professionals. Unlike hourly workers, their work obligations do not start or end with the school day. As part of their core duties, teachers are still required to provide the same help to their assigned students during their hours in the building as they have in the past. For reference, elementary teachers are required to be in the building between 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. and secondary teachers must be in the building between 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The committee is aware of confusion around acceptable withholding of work and communications to students to that effect, primarily at the high school. Some teachers have announced that they will substantially limit their availability to help their assigned students during the school day. Refusal to provide this individualized help runs contrary to our mission and prioritizing students—and past practice. It also runs counter to the plain language of the teacher’s contract that acknowledges “… a teacher’s primary responsibility is to teach and that [their] energies should be utilized to this end.” While there is language in the existing contract around “office hours” for high school faculty – those office hours and TEC block provisions require teachers to provide extra help to all students – not just those assigned to them. Past practice is clear that teachers provide additional help during the school day to students enrolled in their courses outside of three “office hour” blocks mentioned in the contract. If there is a dispute, that must be resolved through the orderly grievance process, not by unilateral union declaration.
During times like these, confusion around how to implement complex legal matters into practice is to be expected. That is why the administration is actively working with union leadership to ensure a mutual understanding of the services to be provided to our students.
The School Committee stands prepared to take all necessary action to provide our students with the education they deserve, including all services generously paid by our townspeople.
Please note that this labor unrest may be new to some of us in Weston, but it is neither new nor unique in Massachusetts this year. The media has reported that local unions across Massachusetts, encouraged by the president of their statewide association who opposes a focus on college and career readiness, have taken unprecedented steps to pressure communities into agreeing to their demands. Union teachers in Wellesley and Lexington have also recently implemented such disruptive in-school action to advance their personal interest.
Despite these distractions, the School Committee remains committed, as always, to providing a high-quality education for all of our students. We are steadfast in our resolve to reach a fair and financially sustainable agreement with the union.
Thank you for your continued support. Please reach out to your building principal if you feel that your student is not receiving the support they need to be successful.
The Weston School Committee