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August 27. 2013 7:41PM

Brendan McCafferty: Manchester's new teacher contract leaves students dangerously unsupervised

AS THE 2013-2014 school year is set to begin, the Manchester School District principals and assistant principals would like to thank you for entrusting your children to our school communities. Thank you to all of you who support the efforts within each school and also to those of you who challenge and question; reflecting and explaining makes us better at what we do! There are always challenges, but it is important to appreciate the accomplishments and growth we have made.

As part of the process of determining this year's school calendar, representatives of the Board of School Committee and Manchester Education Association created and signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU has several conditions, but chief among them is the change to the length of the school day. Teachers will enter school at the same time as the students and remain only five minutes after dismissal at the elementary level and eight minutes at the middle school level. This creates a major concern for the safety of your children.

Although the configuration is different in each building, all schools provide for dismissal to buses, cars and walking. This MOU places the responsibility of dismissing hundreds of students with the building administration.

We are very concerned about the logistics of one or two people trying to assist students to their mode of transportation and to the right person while monitoring the remaining students. The typical dismissal today takes 15 to 25 minutes and involves most to all staff members.

We are attempting through several written communications and face-to-face meetings to come to a resolution that would respect the intent of the district in moving to a minutes-based schedule while most importantly ensuring the safety of your children. At this point in time, there has not been a successful resolution.

This MOU was created by the Board of School Committee's negotiations team, consisting of members John Avard, Chris Stewart, Sarah Ambrogi and attorney Matt Upton. Attorney Upton shared with school administrators on May 2 that, "We realize this isn't feasible." And we agree. We will continue to be available to discuss solutions that may be offered. The Manchester School District principals and assistant principals, however, are focused on the safety of your children and needed to make sure that the Manchester community is aware of our concern. The foundation to the success in all schools is a safe learning environment. It is our goal to continue the district's efforts in providing that environment for all of our students.

Brendan McCafferty is principal of Hillside Middle School and president of the Association of Manchester Principals.


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