School board, city teachers remain at contract impasse

October 20, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

A professional development day produced an unexpected closed-door meeting yesterday between city schools officials and representatives from the Baltimore Teachers Union, but the parties failed to agree on a contract and remain at an impasse over planning time.

Schools CEO Andres Alonso, school board Chairman Brian Morris, union President Marietta English and others met for 90 minutes at Polytechnic Institute while hundreds of city teachers attended training workshops.

Alonso wants principals to have the authority to require teachers to spend one planning period a week -- or about 45 minutes -- collaborating with colleagues. The union opposes the proposed change, which it considers a loss of planning time used by teachers to draft lessons and meet with students.

Yesterday morning, before teachers headed off to workshops, union representatives announced that negotiations would take place. The announcement suggested that a solution to the impasse might be at hand, but several hours later, English said an agreement had not been reached. The union and school officials plan to meet again Monday, she said.

The dispute over planning time has become a sticking point in contract negotiations, and teachers have been working without a contract since July 1.

"We're now talking, so that's a step there," English said. "I feel more confident now that we might be able to reach an agreement."

Efforts to reach Alonso yesterday were unsuccessful. He has argued that cities that have successfully turned around low-performing schools have required teachers to plan their lessons together.

City teachers are not legally permitted to strike, but since the start of the school year, the union has asked them to "work to rule," or not do anything beyond what the expired contract required.

This month, about 150 teachers and supporters showed up at a school board meeting and demanded the ouster of Alonso, who has been in office about three months.

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