AUBURN — The Auburn Education Association, which represents more than 300 teachers plus educational technicians and other school workers, has launched an online petition drive asking signers to show support for teachers.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 249 people had signed the petition at the website, change.org. Many posted comments. The petition drive was launched less than a week ago.

School Committee members are receiving updates on the petition, teachers union President Carl Bucciantini said.

“Our plan is to present members with copies of the petition as well as the comments,” he said.

Teachers signing the petition are union and nonunion members, Bucciantini said. Former teachers, retired teachers and parents are also signing. 

The effort was undertaken after the April 6 School Committee meeting, in which teachers said they’re not respected or heard, School Department initiatives aren’t working, and healing between administration and teachers could start with a new labor contract.

Teachers have been working without a contract since last year and talks on a new three-year agreement for 2015-2018 have stalled.

School Committee Chairman Tom Kendall reacted April 7, saying committee members have asked union representatives to return to the bargaining table but teacher representatives have refused. And when it comes to new initiatives — teacher evaluations and customized learning —  teachers have the wrong information, he said.

Kendall’s comments galvanized union teachers and others in the community, leading to the petition drive, Bucciantini said.

Kendall said the committee is aware of the petition, that it “attempts to mischaracterize the School Committee as anti-teacher, when in fact we are extremely supportive of the hard work teachers do in the classroom.”

Teachers “are the district’s most critical asset in achieving success for all our students,” Kendall said.

After the April 6 meeting and after the union gave the committee a recent survey showing high rates of teacher dissatisfaction, “there has been no outreach or communication from the administration,” Bucciantini said.

College student Connor Dumont wrote that he graduated from Edward Little in 2012 and aspires to become a math teacher, thinking about returning to Auburn to teach. Knowing so many teachers have expressed concerns and the School Committee seems to regard teachers’ opinions as not valid “is very concerning to me,” Dumont wrote.

Veteran teacher Cathy Adamson wrote on the petition that she’s been happy teaching in Auburn until about five years ago when staff was told  “to do what they were told or ‘get off the bus.’ Since then, working conditions have deteriorated, the expectations for teachers have increased tenfold.” She said she loves her students but has decided to retire “because of the pressure that has been put on us to do things that have no value in the classroom.”

Kendall again disagreed that teachers have not been involved in decision-making.

In every step the department has taken, teachers’ voices have been heard and valued, that teachers worked with administration to draft and adopt the department’s “Vision 20/20,” which outlines core values and creates programs that are integrated, flexible and personalized to maximize every student’s growth.”

One state mandate is the implementation of the proficiency-based diploma, Kendall said. Teachers have invested untold hours structuring the department’s path to meet this law while administration has met with union leadership monthly.

Within the constraints of the school budget, which is approved by taxpayers, Auburn administration works hard to provide teachers with leadership, tools and training needed to move the system forward, he said.

The administration continues to be involved in negotiating a new teacher contract, Kendall said. The school board “has the interest of all teachers in mind, and sincerely desires to settle a legal contract that supports the hard work that teachers are being asked to perform.”

The School Committee is scheduled to meet May 4.


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