Frequently Asked Questions


How can I contact the CEA?

At least one building representative can be found in each building, or you may email any member of the Board of Directors, directly:


How many paychecks do I get?

We receive 21 paychecks within a school year.

How does a grievance work?

A grievance is a claim based upon an event or condition which involves the interpretation, meaning or application of any of the provisions of any of the Unit A, B, D or E contracts.  The purpose of this procedure is to secure at the lowest appropriate administrative level, equitable solutions to the problems which may from time to time arise affecting the welfare or working conditions of teachers.  Both parties agree that these proceedings will be kept as informal and confidential as may be appropriate at any level of the procedure.  A detailed description of the procedure and its 3 levels can be found on pages 3-9 of the Unit A contract.  If you feel you have a grievance, read the contract, first, then check with your building representative who will connect you with Michele Foley, CEA Grievance Chairperson.

Why can’t I get 26 paychecks or paychecks year round?

Due to the software used at Chicopee City Hall, we are unable to have the choice between 21 vs. 26 paychecks.

What am I supposed to do about RETELL?

The Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL) initiative and the SEI Endorsement courses began in selected districts in the spring of 2013. Teachers and administrators in additional districts will begin trainings this school year. There have been considerable questions about this initiative. To address questions and concerns, the MTA has created a series of advisories to explain the requirements for teachers and districts.

Information will be updated as it becomes available on the MTA website ( If you have additional questions, please contact Cynthia M-H. Schonagel, Assistant for English Language Learners and Teacher Support, Beth Shevlin or the RETELL team at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education  Keep all received communications for documentation.

If I take sick leave to care for my child do they always need a doctor’s note?

According to Article XVIII  A 8-p 30 of Unit A’s contract, “ Five days for illness or accident of spouse, child, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and others residing in the household of the teacher with substantiation in the form of a doctor’s certificate and such leave to be deducted from sick leave.” So, the answer should be yes.

If I take personal leave a day before a vacation or weekend do I have to tell them why?

Taking personal leave before/after a vacation or long weekend requires special permission, including an explanation.  Personal leave requests taking place before/after a non-holiday weekend does not require an explanation.

Does it matter which side of the family I’m requesting bereavement for?

No, simple state how you are related (i.e. aunt, mother, grandmother, sister, etc.)

How much time do I get for bereavement?

Up to 3 days when it is a death of a relative not residing in the household and up to 5 days when they do.

How do I qualify for the Elms College deduction?

If the partnership with Elms College continues to exist past September 2014, contact Donna Martineau at Human Resources, 413-594-3511.


How do I find out about teacher retirement benefits and programs in Massachusetts?

Check the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System Web site at: The MTRS is located at One Charles Park, Cambridge, Mass. 02142-1206. Call 617-679-MTRS (6877).



How do I write a SMART goal?

Guidelines for writing a SMART goal can be found on our website under “Members” and then “Performance Evaluation,” at:

How much evidence do I need?

DESE suggests “a good rule of thumb is 2-3 artifacts or examples per indicator, with a more intensive focus on 3-5 high-priority indicators.”   At the end of the evaluation cycle educators should submit their best 2-3 artifacts per indicator (16 Indicators x 3 = 40 artifacts/examples.  Educators and evaluators should discuss and come to an agreement on the best format in which these artifacts should be submitted (i.e. 3-ring binder, folder, Teachpoint, combination, etc.).

When are things due?

Each year an updated timeline of guidelines is posted on the Human Resource page on the CPS website:


Why do we need unions?

Labor unions have been an important part of this country’s history.  Many teachers and education employees have sacrificed for the rights we now enjoy.  These early pioneers, perhaps one of your parents or grandparents, knew that only within the Union could they achieve on-the-job dignity and be better assured of decent wages, health benefits, reasonable working conditions, and job security—all foundations of Union representation.  Employers are organized.  They form organizations such as local Chambers of Commerce and state business and manufacturers’ associations.  These organizations advance employer interests with the state legislature, in the courts and at the bargaining table.  The only way employees can provide a check and balance to this power is to organize into unions.  Our union also advances your interests within the state legislature, state government departments (i.e. the Department of Public Instruction, State OSHA, Department of Workforce Development, etc.).  Having a voice to represent our interests is just good common sense.

What does the CEA do?

The CEA represents your employment-related interests with your employer and with the State and Federal governments, along with the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association (MTA) and the National Education Association (NEA).  The NEA is the largest union in America representing 2.7 million members from the education community in all 50 states.  To find out more about MTA  visit, and NEA, visit

What does the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) do?

MTA together with CEA, your local Union, negotiates contracts, represents you in grievances and during disciplinary proceedings, works with you on legislative and political actions to advocate for the issues that affect you and your family, provides opportunities for education, informs our members about their union and workplace rights, offers scholarships for members and their families, and much more.

How do I join CEA and MTA?

Our Membership Secretary, Barbara Itkin, can be contacted at, plus she is present at the New Teacher Orientation.

What is a contract?

A contract spells out agreements between you and your employer including, but not limited to wages, benefits, holidays/sick/personal days, retirement benefits and any scheduling agreements.

Why is a contract so important?

There are several reasons:  It is a legal agreement between you and the your employer.  You have a voice in deciding your demands before contract negotiations begin.  A contract protects workers before contract negotiations even begin.  Without one you have little power in the workplace.  It requires a grievance system for resolving problems in the workplace.

How do I get a copy of my contract?

A current copy of the Unit A, B, D & E contracts can be found on the CEA website:

If I have a specific question about my right or the contract who do I contact?

Contact your building representative with questions or any member of the Executive Board:

How do I get involved?

We realize it is difficult to attend the board meetings each month, so here are other ways that you can get involved:

When I’m asked to cover do I have to? What if I don’t want to?

All Unit A members have by contract agreement, one (1) preparation period per day. This is a duty-free period. If you are asked to work or cover a class during your prep and you:

  1. Volunteer to do so: You are paid $25.00 covering pay.
  2. Don’t want to but are ordered to do so: You are paid your per diem rate.

If your principal/school secretary asks you to work/cover during your prep, you are free to volunteer to do so.

But if you don’t want to, then you must say:

“ I will work or cover during my prep only if you are ordering me to do so, and if I am paid per diem.”

If your principal orders you to work, you must do so; but you should be paid your per diem rate. Please notify whoever does payroll in your building to pay you your per diem rate. Keep a record and check your paystub.

What exactly is the dress code?

There is none other than “reasonable and appropriate”.