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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Back to School: Striking Burlington Teachers Reach Agreement With Board

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 10:17 PM

click to enlarge Strikers picketing on Friday - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Strikers picketing on Friday
Burlington schoolchildren will be back in class Wednesday after the conclusion of the city's second-ever teachers' strike.

The Burlington Education Association and the Burlington School Board reached a tentative agreement Tuesday shortly before 8 p.m., ending a labor dispute that kept 3,600 students out of school for four days.

Many parents sighed with relief that the bitter dispute was over. The details of the agreement will not be public until the board and union ratify the terms. The union is set to vote on it Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the Burlington High School auditorium. The school board had not set a vote time Tuesday evening.

The last teachers' strike in Burlington was in 1978, according to the Vermont-National Education Association.

Joanna Grossman of Burlington's South End cheered the news that an eight-hour mediation session Tuesday resulted in a deal. Her daughter was set to return to her second-grade class at Champlain Elementary School.

"Burlington parents are just ecstatic that the strike is over," Grossman said via instant message, shortly after an agreement was reached. "I have a friend who is literally having a party in the street with other parents right now. I'm grateful that the BEA and the board finally got together. I can't wait to learn the terms of the deal. I really hope it's a strong starting point for the district to turn over a new leaf."

Others were more cautious. Parent Kevin Garrison, who questioned the teachers' decision to strike, said he was waiting to learn the details of the agreement before reacting to the settlement.

Mark Porter, school board chair, issued a statement saying the "board and the district have a tremendous amount of respect for our teachers, students, taxpayers and our community — which is reflected in this contract. We are glad we can move forward as a community and get back to what matters most — educating our youth.”

Fran Brock, president of the BEA, told Seven Days that the strike, though painful, accomplished some important things.

"We didn't want to go on strike, but I think it ended up helping us raise the consciousness of the community; raise the consciousness of the school board of some of the problems that are affecting the teachers and the kids," Brock said. "I'm really hoping that the community stays involved and stays aware of what's going on."

Along with pay and health care, the two sides had disagreed about elementary school teachers having lunch duty and recess duty. Brock said the contract "made inroads" for teachers on that point, but said she would not be more specific until ratification.

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Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh is a Seven Days staff writer.

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