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Teachers union fights six-period BHS day

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Tuesday April 16, 2002

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the Berkeley Unified School District are locked in a battle over the move from a seven- to a six-period day at Berkeley High School, a shift approved by the Board of Education in February and scheduled to take place next year. 

The shift to a six-period day is one of several cuts approved by the board that, according to BFT, will affect the teacher contract. 

Changes in class size, the teacher review process and stipends for high school department chairs will also affect the contract. The district has agreed to negotiate on these other items, but refuses to negotiate on the six-period day. 

Fike said that refusal is unfair, and added that he plans to file a grievance with the district in the coming days. The district is expected to reject the grievance, sending the matter to a third-party mediator. 

“We’re arguing that the existing contract allows us to implement a six-period day,” Lawrence said. “There’s nothing to negotiate, because we’ll be fulfilling the contract. There’s no violation here.” 

Fike disagreed. Currently, he noted, high school teachers instruct for five periods, plan for one period and supervise the hall for one period. 




Under the district’s proposal, teachers would still supervise, but for 15 minutes, not a full, 47-minute class period. Fike said this reduction violates the contract, and that the district is obligated to negotiate a contract change as a result. 

He also argued that the reduction in the supervision period will have a real impact on work conditions, given that many teachers “multi-task” during hall supervision, going through the “gobs and gobs” of paperwork every instructor confronts.  

But Lawrence said contractual language referring to a “supervision period” does not necessarily imply a period of time equal to a full 47-minute class session. She said teachers could supervise for fifteen minutes and still be in accordance with the current contract. She pointed to the middle schools, where teachers supervise for a shorter period of time, as a precedent. 

But Fike said middle schools teachers have a different schedule overall, with different required teaching minutes, making the comparison invalid.  

“It’s apples and oranges,” he said. 

Fike said the union also has concerns that the reduction in teacher supervision will affect student safety. 

“I too recognize the issue of safety,” Lawrence said. “But it makes far more sense to me to put someone that doesn’t have a master’s or doctorate in the hall.” 

Lawrence said she plans to hire additional security officers, while tightening up procedures at the high school next year.