As you are likely aware, there have been changes related to Parent/Teacher Conferences as a result of our most recent contract with the District.
During bargaining, we spent significant time talking about issues related to conferences. We discussed the fact that growing class sizes made it nearly impossible to conduct conferences the way we had been for several years. We also talked about the changes in the way information is shared with parents — that as a result of technology, parents had access to information about their student at their fingertips on an almost constant basis.
Further, we recognized that conference time might be more beneficial for everyone involved if it could be more focused and targeted — if members could use that time to attempt to meet with parents they really needed additional time with, parents they had not already been in regular communication with, and parents of students who were not underperforming.
Collectively, we agreed to try a new approach to conferences that was responsive to the changes we have all been experiencing in class size and workload, reflecting changes in the way we communicate with parents, and resulted in the opportunity to focus the time in ways it could be most effective.
The new contract language reads as follows:
6.1.3 Parent/Teacher Conferences
If parent-teacher conferences are scheduled by the Board at times other than a period of eight (8) consecutive hours or less between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., the date will be determined by the Association.
The Board and Association recognize that most parents have regular access to student information. Bargaining unit members are expected to initiate communication regularly with parents regarding individual student performance and progress, especially parents of students who are underperforming. Bargaining unit members are also expected to be regularly available to meet with parents. Therefore, it is not expected that a conference is necessarily held for every student on the designated parent/teacher conference days or that each conference occur for a certain length of time. However, the bargaining unit member shall attempt to hold a conference on parent/teacher conference days for each underperforming student or when requested by a parent. Parent/teacher conference days are intended to support the continued communication efforts that should occur throughout the year. The parties will continue to work collaboratively to explore the most effective avenues for parent/teacher conferences and communication.
Essentially, bargaining unit members have the discretion to schedule conferences as needed, provided conferences are held over the course of at least two days, and that the total hours worked outside of the contractual time is 6 hours.
During those 6 hours during the week of conferences, bargaining unit members must be present in the building, but might not be meeting with parents the entire time. Conferencing may be face-to-face, by phone, or via email based upon what is best for both the bargaining unit members and parent(s).
Members should attempt to schedule conferences during those 6 hours with the parents they need to meet with most, first. For example, if you just had a good phone conversation with a parent the week before conferences, there may not be a need to schedule a conference with them during those 6 hours. However, it could be that a student has not been performing the way they’re expected to and you’ve been unsuccessful in arranging a meeting or conversation with the parents. Those 6 hours provide and opportunity to schedule such a conference.
Please understand that it is possible that conference schedules will no be generated from the main office and that not every schedule will look the same. Individual bargaining unit members have some flexibility for when they schedule those 6 hours outside of the contractual day during their conference week.
It is our understanding that District administration has communicated a similar message to parents to help them understand the changes. This will hopefully keep everyone on the same page regarding this change. Bargaining unit members are encouraged to reach out to the parents that you most want to meet with as soon as possible. Parents have likely been encouraged to wait to reach out to individual teachers and staff members.
This is fairly new and we expect there to be some hiccups along the way. Please let your building rep or me know how things go, any questions or concerns you have, or any ideas you have about how to improve the process moving forward!
It’s also recently come to our attention that there was some confusion about how “black out days” would work with the new changes to Parent/Teacher Conferences. Our contract read that “Personal leave days may not be taken the first five (5) or last five (5) days of the school year, the day before or after an extended break (Thanksgiving, Winter and Spring), or on parent/teacher conference days. “
We addressed this issue with District administration during our regular labor-management meeting and the following joint message was sent to members. I wanted to include it here in case you had not seen it.
Recently during bargaining the way that we do PTC shifted from a one day model to a more flexible model. Previously all (most) conferences were completed during one workday Parent Teacher Conference Day. Now, members have flexibility to meet with parents over a series of days outside of the work day and have the day before Thanksgiving break off in exchange.
The contractual language for blackout days precludes members from taking a personal day on the day of PTCs and was bargained when we had only one day of PTCs. Since our PTCs are taking place outside of the traditional workday, the need for a blackout day is moot.
Members should complete their 6 hours of PTCs the week scheduled for PTCs. If they need to take a personal day that week, it is ok, but they still need to complete all 6 hours outside of the traditional work day.
Karl Goeke and Dr. Harden
Thanks for all you do. Our union is strong because of you. Our schools work because of you. Our students are better because of you.