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The Cambridge Public School District and the Cambridge Education Association reached a tentative contract agreement last week after more than a year of negotiations — though the deal faces obstacles to ratification, including educator skepticism over a proposal to extend the school day.
The tentative agreement contains pay increases, workload monitoring, and a more comprehensive salary scale for educators’ academic credentials. The deal was reached after months of advocacy by the CEA, including rallies outside of school buildings and Cambridge School Committee meetings, a resident letter-writing campaign, and demonstrations involving working only the contractual school day.
Prior to the agreement, educators worked without a contract, though terms of the previous agreement remained in effect — a state of affairs that has lasted more than two months into the fall semester.
Cambridge Public Schools spokesperson Sujata Wycoff announced the tentative agreement on Nov. 9. The deal came just two days after Cambridge voters decided to reelect all four incumbent School Committee members who sought another term.
“The Cambridge School Committee and Superintendent Victoria L. Greer are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the Cambridge Education Association (CEA) on a three-year (2023-2026) teacher contract,” she wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson.
CEA President Dan Monahan said the agreement is “one of the best contracts that I’ve ever negotiated.”
“It has over 17 percent increase in salary for educators — which is broken down into 9 percent for cost of living increases, and a little more than 8 percent for increased length of the school and work day,” he said.
One challenge that remains ahead of the agreement’s approval, however, is convincing educators to agree to an extension of the contractual school day.
Monahan said he recognizes that extending the school day may pose “a huge challenge for many, many of our educators” — though he noted the salary increase that would accompany the schedule shift.
During the contract’s negotiation, educators expressed reluctance at the prospect of extending their work hours.
In a Sept. 19 School Committee meeting, Bill Folman — an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Vassal Lane Upper School — said he does not agree with the prospect of extending the school day.
“Right now, I can tell you five things that would improve learning outcomes in my class,” he said. “Certainly, an extra 30 minutes of the school day would not be on that list.”
The agreement also includes compensation recognition for increased education levels — a stipulation educators pushed for during contract negotiations.
The current teacher salary schedule did not provide increased compensation for individuals who have spent more than 60 semester hours of graduate credit in addition to a master’s degree. According to Monahan, the new agreement adds a new “Master’s plus 75 column” to the salary schedule.
“Now, the higher your education level, the higher your salary can go,” he said.
Monahan said that the contract also includes “a lot of wins around workloads, particularly for special educators.”
“We didn’t get like hard caseload and workload numbers in the contract,” he said. “But what we did get is agreements to actually measure that and to have a report around how equitable those workbooks caseload are around the district.”
According to Monahan, one of the biggest victories of the agreement was a provision not included in the final deal — a measure the district had sought that would have increased the use of student assessment results to evaluate educators. Monahan called the proposal “deeply problematic”.
“The School Committee wanted to increase the use of assessment results in educator evaluation,” he said. “At the last minute, we were able to convince them to withdraw that proposal.”
Monahan said that though he feels “hopeful” the agreement will pass, he believes the CEA has “a lot of work to do” to educate its members before the ratification vote, which is scheduled for Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.
“We wouldn’t have agreed to this tentative agreement if we didn’t think that it would pass,” he said. “But it’s certainly not a slam dunk.”
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