Westford Education Association Enters Right-to-Rule Situation
Following a lack of movement during negotiations between Westford's teachers and School Committee, the Westford Education Association is asking all teachers to work only to the minimum of the formerly lapsed contract.
After the latest mediation meeting between the Westford Education Association and the Westford School Committee on Wednesday night ended in an impasse, the teachers of Westford's public schools have begun what is known as a "right-to-rule" action.
The decision by the union requests all teachers in Westford Public Schools to immediately end all voluntary committments associated with their job and possibly not aiding in unpaid extra curricular activities, such as chaperoning dances.
Teachers will also begin wearing black on future mediation days to mourn the fact that a compromise has not yet been reached.
According to Westford Education Association president Ruth Freeman, teachers will do what they can to minimize the impact of the continuing labor dispute on classrooms.
"Whatever we do, whether it's professional development or committees, will impact children," said Freeman. "But we're seeking to minimize any impact our current situation may have on our committment to provide a quality education to our students."
Freeman declined to go into specifics regarding where negotiations snagged between the two sides.
School Committee chairwoman Angela Harkness cited her disappointment that an agreement could not be reached, telling Westford Patch that 11 of the 22 issues presented during the process have been agreed upon by both sides, with compensation providing the largest remaining issue on the table.
"Unfortunately, difficult fiscal times leave us with only so much to offer in this area," said Harkness. "We have presented several different options which give teachers some choices in terms of how this remaining issue might be resolved. None of those choices have been acceptable to the teachers' negotiating team to date."
The impasse began in the summer following the expiration of the previous teachers' contract, and continued into a mediation phase in September.
Publically, the WEA has indicated the main purpose for their stance comes from the fact that Westford's schools teach at less cost per pupil than comparable schools elsewhere in the state while continuing to provide lauded educational value, such as last year's praise by Boston Magazine.
Meanwhile, town officials have noted at various points that other departments, such as the Police and Fire Departments, have continually sacrificed in recent years while the School Department did not have to provide a proposed level funded budget, which school officials feared would provide a cut in services due to rising fuel costs and the end of federal stimulus assistance.