Educators working in districts that have collaborative conferencing agreements in place between their local association and the school board have been faring better through the pandemic than those without such agreements.
Seventeen local associations were going through the petition process in October to establish collaborative conferencing agreements under the Tennessee PECCA law, while more than 60% of locals already have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in place.
“Locals with safety provisions in their MOU language are faring better than those without,” said Harry Farthing, TEA UniServ Coordinator serving district 1 in East Tennessee. “Safety considerations have always been there, but they rarely had to be used until the pandemic hit.”
Carter County Education Association is one of those currently pursuing a collaborative conferencing agreement with the local school board.
“Instead of using the COVID environment as an excuse and giving up, Carter County educators are moving forward stronger than ever,” Farthing said.
Metro Nashville Education Association has been successful
in reaching a strong agreement that guarantees PPE such as masks compliant with Centers for Disease Control requirements.
The agreement also calls on MNPS to create and publish a clearinghouse page on its website indicating whom to contact for specific concerns related to health and safety, noncompliance with official district COVID-19 prevention protocols, and/or unsafe working conditions.
“MNEA has banded together to protect teachers,” said Shannon Bain, TEA UniServ Coordinator in the district. “Making sure that PPE is guaranteed for every educator and their students and ensuring
that special ed teachers would get more advanced equipment if their students are unable to comply with the PPE policy in place is a big deal.”
Many of the local associations whose PECCA agreements came up for renewal used online petitions to ensure everyone’s safety and moved the collaborative conferencing process forward despite the pandemic.
“Teachers want to engage in future negotiations about their safety conditions,” Bain said. “As an educator in Tennessee, you have the right to conference working conditions and salary, and we are using this right to improve our working conditions and students’ learning conditions.”
Contact your UniServ Coordinator to see if your local association has an MOU in place or how to get the process started.