Salem Teachers, School Committee Spar Over Shop Class Sizes

SALEM, MA — The Salem Teachers Union expressed disappointment over what it said was the School Committee’s rejection of its proposal for “reasonable limits” on the number of students in CTE shops as part of the latest round of negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

STU Bargaining Team member and carpentry teacher Kenneth Lafrancois said in a statement after Tuesday’s negotiations that the union had proposed caps of 15 to 20 students be codified as part of the new agreement. The language would essentially force the hiring of additional CTE teachers as the number of Salem High students taking shop classes increases in the coming years.

“Currently the student-teacher ratio is mostly adequate in CTE classrooms and shops,” Lafrancois said. “But without language with class caps in the contract that could change and create a physically unsafe environment — especially shops with heavy machinery.

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“Right now CTE is being encouraged to grow with increasing interest in these programs. Without the language in the contract, we might have too many students in the classroom or shop — making it unsafe. That’s what we hoped to address in today’s session.”

The School Committee posted a statement on its school social media account saying that it “understands the importance of student-teacher ratio when it comes to CTE classes” and that it continues to adhere closely to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines when it comes to class sizes.

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“We remain fully committed to safe workspaces for students and educators and to broadening — not limiting — the opportunity for every student to access CTE safely,” the School Committee post said.

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The union said it is looking forward to “big upcoming bargaining sessions” on July 24 and July 29 “where we expect to hear from management (on) huge priorities like paid parental leave, prep time, and a multi-year wage proposal.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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