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Educationby Ian Round4:10 pmJun 24, 20200

Baltimore Teachers Union files grievance over days they say members worked in March

Officials refuse to pay for teachers’ activities immediately after schools were closed due to the pandemic

Above: Diamonté Brown, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, which has filed a grievance against the school system over work hours. (Rebecca Yenawine)

The Baltimore Teachers Union filed a class-action grievance today against City Schools, following a disagreement over whether four days in March counted as work.

When schools closed in March due to the coronavirus, teachers had to set up online classrooms, make work packets and lesson plans, call their students’ families and otherwise make the transition to remote learning during a pandemic as easy as possible.

BTU believes those four days, March 16-19, should count toward the 190-day maximum allowed by contract. City Schools does not and added four days of professional development, meaning the last day of the school year for teachers was yesterday.

“Anything beyond June 17 is unpaid labor,” Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown told The Brew. “Even our own school district leaders acknowledge that we were working.”

School or spring break?

By BTU’s count, teachers (as well as paraprofessionals and other school personnel) worked 194 days, four of which were unpaid.

But City Schools maintains those days were part of spring break. During that week, the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners moved spring break earlier, and it officially began March 20.

“Our position remains and has been from the beginning that there was a spring break,” City Schools spokeswoman Gwendolyn Chambers told The Brew. “We honored the contractual obligation.”

“They’re exploiting people’s labor and devaluing the teaching profession altogether”  – BTU President Diamonté Brown.

In a statement, Chambers said City Schools “respect[s] the hard work of BTU members and understand the sacrifice they – and all City Schools employees – made this spring and through the end of the school year.”

“Given that and the considerable challenges faced this spring by staff delivering education in a virtual environment, the use of those days for professional development at the end of this school year was the best option as we plan for our education recovery efforts in the fall,” Chambers wrote.

Brown said schools CEO Sonja Santelises’s administration viewed that week the way it views after-school lesson plans, grading and communicating with families:

“All those things that people don’t realize we also aren’t paid for.”

“They’re exerting their power, exploiting people’s labor and devaluing the teaching profession altogether,” Brown said.

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