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School Committee: Teachers' Union 'Adversarial'

The two sides have been trying to reach a deal on a new contract.

The Acton School Committee. File photo.
The Acton School Committee. File photo.

The local School Committee said recent actions by the teachers' union are making contract negotiations "adversarial and difficult."

The Acton Education Association, which held a protest Thursday demanding a new contract, wants more than a 1 percent pay raise and some early release days reinstated.

Association President Marc Lewis released a statement saying teachers want a "fair and just" contract. Their most recent contract expired last year.

The School Committee released the following statement Friday:

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At the School Committee meeting on March 6th, 2014, members of the Acton Education Association (AEA) addressed the School Committee (SC) regarding the ongoing teacher contract negotiations. Up to that point, both the AEA and the School Committee had respected their mutual agreement that the contract negotiations would be done in executive session and that the nature of these discussions about employee compensation and benefits would remain confidential. 
 
The AEA stated that they have been working without a contract since September 2013. The most recent contract did expire on June 30, 2013. However, under state law, the terms of that contract remain in effect until a new contract is agreed upon. In fact, teachers continue to receive step and lane salary increases, as well as longevity despite the fact that the contract has expired. With respect to the negotiations, three members of the SC and the 14 AEA representatives began negotiating the new contract for the current school year in October 2012. It was our hope that we would have a contract signed by July 1, 2013.

Unfortunately after more than 25 meetings, including mediation and small sub groups, we still remain far apart on key issues. It should be noted that the SC was able to settle contracts with the other two unions in the district within 4-5 meetings.
 
We value the positive working relationships that exist between teachers, administrators, and the School Committee. We have supported the teachers in coordinated efforts before. We respectfully stood with the AEA and worked with the Acton Board of Selectmen to create a framework for Health Care Plan redesign in lieu of invoking chapter 69, which would have forced changes to the teachers’ Health Care without negotiations. We took votes and sent letters to our elected representatives and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in an effort to curtail unfunded, untested educational mandates that are forced upon our district by the State and Federal Government. School Committee members have been respectful throughout this contract negotiation process. Unfortunately, wearing buttons in classrooms, marching, and picketing are only serving to make this process more adversarial and difficult. We now ask that the union work with us, instead of against us, to bring a speedy and successful conclusion to these negotiations. 
 
SC members have a total of 21 children in the Acton Boxborough school system, ranging from early elementary to seniors in High School. We respect our teachers and all that they do for the children in this district. We all have wonderful personal experiences with teachers at many levels and have a vested interest in bringing these negotiations to a favorable conclusion, for both sides, as soon as possible.
Michael Fleming March 25, 2014 at 07:14 PM
Teachers wearing buttons in class, promoting a political cause nor way or the other. Don't you think those buttons are intended for the eyes of the kids that they stand in front of and teach all day? Then those kids can go home and exert pressure on the moms and dads who may be opposed to the unions position. Would a child be able to wear a tee shirt to school promoting aborting or gun ownership? No. The idea is that the teachers ought to let the parents instill whatever political values onto their kids. Not use class time and teachers influence to propagandize a captive audience.
Jill Maxwell March 25, 2014 at 09:23 PM
I remember standing outside of my high school with my teachers, who were holding signs for their contract negotiation. It was an interesting life experience.
Michael Fleming March 25, 2014 at 10:39 PM
Yes Jill, when looked at properly, most things are interesting life experiences. But that doesn't justify what they were doing. Let's say your parents were against unionization. Let's say they didn't like unions because they always donate money to left wing politicians. Should the teachers usurp the parents prerogative in teaching that child their values and what their morals are? The teachers have a right to whatever politics they choose, be it right or left,but they should NOT involve our children in their political battles. Children should be left to learn about politics, morals, values from their parents, or their church. Teachers are there to teach reading, math, writing, etc. What if a teacher was against abortion, and decided to teach her students it was murder, and involved the kids in a protest march at a Planned Parenthood clinic, but you, as a parent were pro choice. How would you feel about that teacher influencing your child in that manner? Would you let her? Would you say that it would be an "interesting life experience"? Teachers should be politics neutral. And that includes involving their students in labor disputes and wearing buttons that influence children one way or the other!
Marc Lewis March 27, 2014 at 06:59 AM
Several references have been made in this thread to the ground rules that were agreed to between the School Committee and the AEA at the start of negotiations, and inaccurate assertions have made that the AEA violated those ground rules by sharing details of those negotiations with the public. We certainly have shared information about the negotiations and encourage the public dialogue, but the ground rules were not violated in the process. The ground rules we agreed to stipulated that once we entered mediation, either side could share the substance of negotiations as long as the other party was notified. We provided such notification prior to our attending the School Committee meeting on March 6 when we first made a public statement. I appreciate the opportunity to correct this inaccuracy. Marc Lewis, Acton Education Association President
Allen Nitschelm March 27, 2014 at 07:46 AM
Your statement seems to be at odds with the statement released by the schools on this matter: "At the School Committee meeting on March 6th, 2014, members of the Acton Education Association (AEA) addressed the School Committee (SC) regarding the ongoing teacher contract negotiations. Up to that point, both the AEA and the School Committee had respected their mutual agreement that the contract negotiations would be done in executive session and that the nature of these discussions about employee compensation and benefits would remain confidential."

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