No deal: Teachers, school district miles apart on new contract
"Let's get something signed," Anchorage Education Association team bargaining spokesperson Brian Nelson said. "Remember how good that felt?"
Nelson was referring to Tuesday nights negotiations with between the Anchorage Education Association and Anchorage School District when both sides signed off on three of the remaining nine articles in contract negotiations.
"I remember," ASD Chief of Human Resources Todd Hess said. "I really enjoyed it."
Wednesday night did not see negotiations move forward with the swipe of a pen. Instead, talks between the two sides stalled on article 402 which deals with teacher academic freedom.
"Let me have my freedom to teach," one teacher told ASD. "It doesn't appear the structure is meeting the goals or expectations. If the curriculum doesn't align with standards, then give us academic freedom to do the jobs we were hired to do."
Teachers voiced concerns with ASD's curriculum implementation saying it doesn't allow them the time to do their jobs correctly.
"What the teachers are saying is they are sailing the boat while trying to put it together," ASD senior director Glen Nielsen said. "I've been there and know what it's like."
"If we didn't get our teachers the information on time that's on us," Hess said. "We need to do better to achieve high continuity across our district for 50,000 students from various backgrounds. We have a high truancy rate that works against us as well."
Teachers are pushing for more thoughtful implementation of curriculum practices and time to make it work. Currently, some say it's a high-stress situation that causes chaos and strife.
"The art of teaching will always be there," ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said. "In K-12 schools we have what is called standards. There has to be some responsibility and accountability for what kids are supposed to learn. That has certainly been outlined by our state and many times at the federal level according to what we need to do. The art of teaching is the how and we hope that our folks bring themselves to the table every day and share their love of learning with the kids. We want them to add their own spark because that is highly important."
For the third time in three years, teachers in the Anchorage School District will start the school year without a new contract and operate under the old one which expired on June 30.
"Progress is always made every night whether its slow or fast that's just how the process moves," AEA committee chair Corey Aist said. "We traded, we talked about students with disabilities, we talked about academic freedom. We didn't come to any decisions but we've had some good discussions and we're going to move it forward."
Negotiations will continue at the bargaining table as both sides set a tentative date of August 30 or September 6 to resume talks and hopefully inch their way closer to a long-term deal that satisfies everyone involved.
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