Teachers: Just follow the contract

Red for Ed moves into RSU 71
By Carolyn Zachary | May 14, 2019
Photo by: Carolyn Zachary Sign-bearing teachers and staff, wearing Red for Ed T-shirts, line the corridor at Troy Howard Middle School before an RSU 71 Board of Director's meeting May 13.

Belfast — Almost two dozen teachers and support staff wearing Red for Ed T-shirts carried red signs into the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors meeting Monday night and rimmed the room as a silent reminder.

Their signs read: "Support Your Teachers" and "Follow the Contract," alluding, they explained, to a lack of adherence to certain processes negotiated in teacher and support staff contracts.

Red for Ed is a campaign that has been spreading state by state across the country, promoted by the National Education Association as “raising our voices together for our students, for our schools and for ourselves as educators.”

Locally, Sonya Verney, president of the RSU 71 Education Association, said, “Basically, we just want our contracts followed.”

According to Verney, speaking with The Journal before and after the May 13 meeting, contracted processes were not followed with some involuntary elementary teacher transfers this spring and, most recently, with an attempt to fill an open elementary position without first advertising it internally so that all interested candidates would have an opportunity to apply.

The latter situation came to light April 26, Verney said, and association officers and teachers asked to meet with Superintendent Mary Alice McLean and Curriculum Coordinator Laura Miller. “We said, let’s back up, meet and consult, and then move forward,” Verney said.

"There's a process," she said. "Let's follow the process; let's do it the right way."

McLean took the transfer off the board’s April 29 meeting agenda and posted the job internally, according to Verney. Some 40 RSU 71 teachers and staff attended that meeting to underscore their point.

As it turned out, no one else applied for the open position. With a nod to the matter “of concern to association members,” McLean told the board at its May 13 meeting that the fourth-grade teaching position at Nickerson School in Swanville had been posted and that third-grade teacher Kate Chapin was the sole applicant. Chapin will transfer to the new position for the 2019-20 school year.

Phyllis Hunter of the Maine Education Association office in Augusta, who also attended the May 13 board meeting, pointed out that if Chapin had been given the job without its first being posted, and another potential candidate had been shut out as a result, it might well have resulted in a grievance being filed.

That would have delayed the hiring process, she and Verney agreed, and would have been costly. “It’s time and money,” Verney said.

The issue boils down to procedures spelled out in their contract, and a “meet and consult” negotiation process prescribed in the event of deviation. “If you want to do something different, you should meet and consult with us to work out our differences,” Verney said. “(McLean) didn’t do that.”

McLean did not respond to a request for comment before The Republican Journal press deadline.

New transportation director

In other business, Superintendent McLean recognized and thanked Christine Stevens and Scott Packard for “stepping up to help” with transportation issues during a transitional period in that department, and introduced Jacob J. “Jake” Gurney, new director of Maintenance and Transportation.

Gurney, in his third week on the job, returns to head responsibilities he shouldered for seven years in Regional School Units 20 and 71 where he was a school bus driver, did building construction and maintenance, and served for nine months as maintenance director.

A resident of Appleton and a graduate of Belfast Area High School, Gurney most recently worked as a maintenance technician at Waldo County General Hospital, where he gained experience with HVAC systems, plumbing, and commercial construction. Earlier, he owned and operated a landscaping business and served as a part-time Belfast police officer.

McLean also recognized 2019 Waldo County Teacher of the Year Ashley Reynolds of Capt. Albert Stevens School, and congratulated RSU 71 Technology Director Dave Fournier, who just earned a doctorate degree.

Early release days

After a number of parents and teachers commented in favor of monthly early release days on Friday afternoons for teacher development, and McLean presented survey results endorsing the same, the board voted to approve them for a period of one year.

Rooftop solar

Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis introduced BAHS senior Rowan Walsh, junior Harmony Dawson, and Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro. Inspired by Mount Desert Island High School and Portland school rooftop solar array projects, the two students proposed that “Belfast should be next.”

Walsh said Sundog Solar of Searsport, contractor for 1,350 panels at MDI High School, estimates that a power purchase agreement with the installation of 1,282 panels atop BAHS would save the district roughly $1 million over 30 years. Sundog owner Chuck Piper needs the last year’s electric bills to firm up that estimate.

Maxmin reported that Solarize Portland is raising money now toward the goal of putting panels on every school in that city.

Curriculum

Laura Miller presented detailed curriculum plans, which the board unanimously approved.

Immunization

Board Chairwoman Caitlin Hills and McLean reviewed the potential impact of the current immunization bill before the Legislature. If passed and signed as written, it would remove from local schools about 95 students who are not immunized.

Broken down by percentages of student populations, the bill would affect 4.3% of Ames students, 0.8% at BAHS, 12% at CASS, 2.7% at East Belfast, 6.7% at Nickerson, 6.7% at Troy Howard Middle School, and 1% at Weymouth.

Personnel

The board approved Jamie Davis as a half-time Title I teacher at Weymouth School and Chapin's transfer at Nickerson.

McLean announced the resignations of Erin Ireland, fifth-grade teacher at East Belfast, and William Meier, third-grade teacher at CASS. Ireland will become principal of Easton Elementary School in Aroostook County, near her husband’s family’s farm in Presque Isle. Meier has accepted a position in a school closer to his home, McLean said.

Jake Gurney, during his introduction by Superintendent Mary Alice McLean May 13 as new maintenance and transportation director for RSU 71. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Ashley Reynolds, while being recognized by Superintendent Mary Alice McLean May 13 as Waldo County 2019 Teacher of the Year. Reynolds teaches third grade at Capt. Albert Stevens School in Belfast. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Belfast Area High School students Rowan Walsh and Harmony Dawson, from left, with Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, right, wait while Mayor Samantha Paradis (not pictured) introduces them during the RSU 71 board meeting May 13. The students propose installing a solar array on the high school roof. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Teachers and staff, bearing signs and wearing Red for Ed, rim the room at Troy Howard Middle School during the RSU 71 Board of Directors meeting May 13. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
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