The meeting had some technical difficulties, but once it got started there were important developments. School committee member John Stadtman was not in attendance.
1. Committee chairperson Keith Sullivan addressed the ongoing negotiations with the TTA. Here are some key points from his statement:
- Both the Tewksbury School Committee and the Tewksbury Teachers Association (TTA) agreed to open up negotiations.
- Teachers are not working without a contract because the previous contract is in force per the collective bargaining agreement.
- The district bargaining team has not walked away from the table; negotiations have been ongoing since January 2021. There were eight bargaining sessions through June 15. The next date the TTA was available to meet was August 25, and there have been two meetings since that one.
- The TTA asked for $1.3 million in new spending. The School Committee bargaining team asked them to come back with less spending, yet they came back with a higher number. The School Committee bargaining team countered with an offer of $300,000 of additional spending on October 15, their best and final offer. Negotiations broke down at this point.
- The offer of 2.25% raises per year for three years is in line with all other town bargaining groups. The $300,000 is in addition to that.
- The School Committee then asked the TTA to join them in requesting meditation. The TTA declined. On Nov. 1, the School Committee moved ahead with requesting mediation.
- The two bargaining teams are about to have their third meeting with a mediator.
- Tewksbury teacher salaries are comparable to nearby towns.
- School Committee’s final ask is that one K-4 teacher be present at lunch, to support the lunch monitors, who are not professional educators.
- The full documentation of the negotiations will be available online by the end of this week.
Editor’s note: The Mass. Department of Education publishes statewide teacher salary averages. Tewksbury ranked at 189 among 313 districts for the 2019-2020 school year, with an average salary of $79,769 for 261 FTE teachers. Wilmington teachers average $84,590 with 272 FTEs , while Andover’s 479 educators average $91,896. Billerica led in 19/20 among neighboring towns at $92,504 with 370 FTEs. Salary averages are affected by seniority; towns that retain teachers and have many in top pay bands skew higher.
In addition, residents can review the town’s FY22 budget in depth here. All town employee salaries, including teachers, are public record and available in the town’s annual report; the most recent 2020 report lists school department employee salaries beginning on Page 281.
2. The High School drama program is on track to present a winter show, Forbidden Broadway. The spring musical will be Mama Mia.
3. During the Citizen’s Forum, first grade Heath Brook teacher Emily Niles spoke for the TTA. Niles stated that there is currently only 20 minutes of team planning time while students are at lunch and recess. Teachers have a 45 minute block, 25 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes team planning time. They must also bring kids to the cafeteria and recess in this time period. If they must do lunch duty, they’ll lose the only team planning time they have.
Teachers have less than 45 minutes of individual prep time while students are with their specialists, she said, and lunch monitors are integral members of the school community.
Editor’s note: Lunch monitors will still be in place per the School Committee offer.
To see the TTA’s full slide show about the negotiations, click here.
4. Outgoing superintendent Chris Malone’s update included thanks to all staff, especially school nurses, who are are working nights and weekends and all through their vacations doing contact tracing.
New DESE guidelines lower isolation after a positive COVID test from 10 to five days. And testing pools are now smaller, so fewer students need to have a rapid test in the case of a positive pool. The District handed out 225 COVID home tests the last Sunday of vacation, and 75 more that Monday. They also distributed KN95 masks to buildings for staff.
DESE extended the mask requirement through Feb. 28.
5. Assistant superintendent Brenda Regan’s update stated that the COVID Dashboard has both the chart with TPS Current Active Cases and links to current guidelines. The Dashboard can be found here.
Some departments have started moving out of the Center School and into the TMHS; all departments need to be moved by April 1. Offices that don’t move to TMHS will move to the Center Fire Station, which will be empty once the new fire station is completed.
6. New School Update
- The school is well along in the construction phase and still projected to be completed Oct. 28, 2022.
7. Superintendent Search
- Assistant superintendent Regan was appointed interim superintendent through the end of the school year as Malone will retire at the end of February. She may be interested in the position permanently and will assist in the search but says she will focus on the job at hand through the end of this year. That job includes hiring a new TMHS principal.
- Dave Libby will work with the town manager to create an RFP (request for proposal) to find a consulting firm to help with the superintendent search.
8. Election 2022
- School Committee member Shannon Demos announced that she will not seek re-election in April. See who is running to fill that seat.