SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 28, 2013

No agreement yet on longer day

Salem teachers union president: Not opposed to working extra time, but 'there needs to be more planning'

SALEM — When September rolls around, it does not appear that Salem teachers will be working a longer school day.

Although adding roughly an hour to the teachers’ schedule was one of the goals of the current contract negotiations, which dragged on for nearly two years before going to mediation, the city and Salem Teachers Union have not been able to reach an agreement on the subject of time.

“While we have interest in both an expanded day and providing teachers with more time to address multiple initiatives, we really haven’t met with much success at the negotiating table on those two topics,” Superintendent Stephen Russell said.

Contract negotiations between the city and union have just about wrapped up, with a vote expected in a few weeks.

Extending the school day was one of the top priorities of Mayor Kim Driscoll and a move that had strong backing from the state, which has put pressure on Salem to turn around an “underperforming” school system.

One of the stumbling blocks, of course, is money. If teachers are going to be asked to work a longer school day, they want to be paid.

Joyce Harrington, president of the union, said teachers aren’t opposed to working a longer day. The bigger issue for the union, she said, was the plan, or lack of one.

“We didn’t reach agreement because we felt there needs to be more planning ...” Harrington said. “We understand the need for additional time for staff and students but want to make sure it is a solid plan that will achieve success with student achievement.

“That’s our goal,” she said, “to get kids to achieve, and we’re all in that together, but we want it to be well-crafted, well-planned, and properly and effectively implemented.”

Of course, Salem already has two schools operating on longer school days: Saltonstall, a K-8 school with an extended day and year, and Bentley Elementary School, which added an hour this school year after being given Level 4 status by the state based on low scores in the state MCAS exams.

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