Reporter's Notebook: Councillors weigh in on teachers’ contract stalemate

Eleven city councillors fired off a letter to Superintendent Carol Johnson and the head of Boston Teachers Union Tuesday that expressed their disappointment in the two sides’ inability to reach an agreement on a new teachers’ contract and called for a “swift” resolution. The two councillors who did not sign were Charles Yancey (District 4) and Rob Consalvo (District 5).

The letter comes as state mediation efforts get underway, and if the clash between city officials and the firefighters’ union is a guide, the fight will be nasty, brutish, and not at all short.

“We are encouraged that you have agreed to engage a mediator to help resolve issues that are delaying agreement on a new contract,” the councillors wrote. “This is a positive step, but after 22 months of negotiations, we expect both parties to make a concerted effort to build on agreements already reached and to work with the mediator to come to final resolution of a reformed contract in a reasonable time.”

The letter calls for a number of reforms, including “timely and effective” teacher evaluations, more flexibility in teacher hiring, and an extended school day. “A determined, sustained effort should be made to come to agreement in a reasonable time on other areas under discussion, such as peer assistance review, compensation incentives, tenure, graduate credits, extended time, and salary increases,” the letter says.

The letter is signed by City Council President Stephen Murphy and City Councillors At-Large Ayanna Pressley, John Connolly and Felix Arroyo. Connolly is a frequent critic of Boston Public Schools administrators, while Arroyo is a staunch union supporter. Dorchester Councillors Frank Baker and Tito Jackson also signed on.

Connolly, the education chair, is heading up a 3 p.m. hearing at City Hall today (June 7) that will focus on the lack of a contract. The impasse between the two sides has already cost the school district $9 million in federal funds.

Pressley taps Taubner for chief of staff post
Councillor Pressley is promoting a top staffer and former campaign manager to chief of staff. Jessica Taubner, who has worked as Pressley’s policy director, is moving up after the former chief of staff, James Chisholm, left last month for a consulting firm.

Taubner took a leave last year to manage Pressley’s reelection campaign and helped her boss top the ticket in the November election. The Jamaica Plain resident also worked on Deval Patrick’s 2006 and 2010 campaigns for governor as well as for former City Councillor Sam Yoon’s mayoral run in 2009.

Day after convention rout, Warren makes Dot Day debut
US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren made her debut at the Dorchester Day parade on Sunday, 24 hours after winning the Democratic Party’s endorsement to take on incumbent Scott Brown in November. Brown, clad in a Red Sox jacket, also marched in the parade, which stretched for 3.2 miles down Dorchester Avenue. Both candidates know their way around the neighborhood, which has been featured in television ads. Recent polls show the race is statistically tied, with a small number of undecided voters likely to make the difference at the polls.

Nearly all of the members of the Dorchester delegation at City Hall and the State House marched together behind a single banner reading “Happy Dorchester Day.” Councillor Pressley marched with the Big Sister Association, which has 100 Big Sisters and 500 Little Sisters in Dorchester.

Quote of Note: Rev. Eugene Rivers III
Rev. Eugene Rivers III said this week he plans to ask Sen. Brown and Warren to meet with members of the black community. “The support she receives should be earned,” he told the Boston Globe.

The problem with that statement? Warren has been meeting with communities of color for months, including local folks like Shirley Shillingford, Clarence Cooper, and the NAACP’s Michael Curry.

In January, she attended the Martin Luther King breakfast in Boston (which Brown has attended as well). She also attended a house party in Springfield held by longtime Democrat Ray Jordan, who is black.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren had her over to meet with African American leaders at his home in March. And Mothers for Justice and Equality met with Warren in Dorchester in March. Later, they met with Brown. Warren has met with African American and Caribbean American organizers, and attended a Charles St. AME Church service.

Warren rang in the Cambodian New Year in Lynn and in Lowell, and held a meet-and-greet in Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall during the month of April. At the Democratic convention in Springfield, where Warren picked up the nomination by a wide margin, she attended a minority caucus breakfast.

How much time the candidate should spend genuflecting to a minister is a decision up to the Warren campaign. But with various surveys showing church membership in a continuous decline and polls indicating more people breaking from church orthodoxy on issues like gay marriage, the answer for future candidates running in an America that is becoming more and more secular would seem to be clear: Not much.

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