Contract talks are underway between representatives of the Bedford School Committee and the educators’ union.
Existing agreements with teachers and teaching and educational assistants expire on June 30.
Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang and the Bedford Education Association each issued statements this week confirming the negotiations, in general and hopeful language.
Chuang’s acknowledgement was only two sentences. He said that the two sides have a “shared goal of successor contracts,” and added that the School Committee “values our longstanding collaborative relationship with the BEA and plans to negotiate with the best interests of the community we serve in mind.”
The statement issued by the association was longer and more specific.
Jim Sunderland, BEA president, said that after two “positive” sessions on the teachers’ agreement, “we are feeling optimistic about the process so far.” He added that talks on a contract renewal for educational and teaching assistant are scheduled to begin on Feb. 12.
“We expect the School Committee to provide us with competitive salary and wage increases,” the union statement said. Sunderland cited factors that the teachers feel provide a context for the direction of the talks:
- “The financial sacrifices Bedford educators have made in the last four years,” specifically foregoing a cost-of-living increase at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The subsequent inflationary environment results in a “decrease in our real wages.”
- The union contended that there is a “significant salary discrepancy between educators in Bedford and those in surrounding communities.” Since 2020, the statement said, there has been a turnover of 114 professional staff, more than 25 percent, as well as 102 paraprofessionals.
The union also attached a “bargaining platform,” approved in November, that “clearly outlines our values as an association.”
Among them are recruitment and retention of educators, “time for teaching and learning,” “appropriate staffing levels,” and “an appropriate level of influence over decision-making in their schools and within the district.”
School Committee members Sarah Scoville and Sarah McGinley comprise a negotiations subcommittee. Patricia Flaherty-Dawson, a second grade teacher at Davis School, is the BEA’s negotiations chairperson for the teachers’ and the paraprofessionals’ bargaining teams.
Teachers and assistants have been public about the contract talks, many wearing special T-shirts that say, “Support Educators to Support Students,” with the BEA logo on an apple and the Massachusetts Teachers Association logo in the background. There are also campaign buttons that read, “Your Children Are Worth It.”