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Teachers Rally at Stony Brook as Contraction Negotiations Continue

With speakers from Westford and beyond on hand to give words of encouragement, Westford Education Association vice president Mary McCusker provided assembled teachers an update on the current status of negotiations and what might be needed of a resolution

The Westford Education Association returned to the negotiating table with the Westford School Committee on Wednesday night, shortly after a rally letting assembled teachers know that there may be an escalation of Work-to-Rule activities later this year.

WEA leaders joined with allies and spokespeople from Westford and beyond to let assembled teachers know that while negotiations for a new contract came very close to an amicable conclusion a week earlier, action may be needed to ensure that the union receives what it considers to be a fair deal.

Nine-time Concord-Carlisle Teachers’ Association president Andrei Joseph shared experiences with the crowd from a similar situation his union faced several years ago.

“Anxious members came to me, as I was the president, and asked ‘how will this be resolved?’,” said Joseph. “My response was, ‘you will get the contract you are willing to fight for.’”

Following the speeches from Joseph, WEA Action Team co-chairs Jeff Haight and Kyle McDonald, and Massachusetts Teachers’ Association president Paul Toner, who spoke on the importance of schools to the overall economic health of a town.

“I know that things are tough, but this town has gotten a lot from its teachers and its public schools, and the value of (Westford’s) homes are based on the value of education,” said Toner.

WEA vice president and spokesperson Mary McCusker concluded the presentation by telling crowd that the current level of work-to-rule actions would escalate in the fall if a contract was not reached, and that “all bets would be off” in regards to what the action could possibly entail.

“I really think it will it will be a different ballgame in September,” said McCusker.

McCusker told the crowd that the union’s negotiating team had reached an agreement with the School Committee on a three year step system where the first year would be dropped in exchange to a return to steps in a second year and a “make-up” step coupled with a normal step in a third year.

However, there were still concerns over time commitments such as mandatory faculty meeting days and the amount of work days per year.

In the end, McCusker went back to the example set by Joseph where other nearby towns had found the money for contracts acceptable to local teachers’ unions.

“Other towns like Groton and Acton, towns around us, can find the money,” said McCusker. “So how can they do it and Westford not, what needs to be looked at?”

The event also provided an introduction for recently elected WEA president Jason Humphrey and new co-treasurers Colleen Tessier and Carrie Dumas, who all officially enter their roles on July 1, but will take part in negotiations immediately.

CORRECTION: 6/7/12, 8:18 p.m. - "Work-to-Rule", not "Right-to-Rule".

Martin Luther June 13, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Where else can you live in NH and other MA towns and have your kids attend the Westford Public schools tuition free? There are at least 24 teacher kids that have this privilege. Please note that the rest of the school staff and municipal staff do not have this benefit. Where else do you gat a sabbatical every years for professional development with full salary and benefits for 6 months or 1/2 salary plus full benefits for a year with no future commitment. The day you return, you can resign. Where else can you get, a year of unpaid leave to discover yourself and have your job back when you decide that the grass is not greener on the other side? Where else except at WA can you limit your number of classes and pack the kids in like sardines, so you can have more time off to grade papers or post on the WPatch?
Alex Finnegan June 14, 2012 at 03:40 AM
"Thank for identifying yourself as a MTA professional staffer." I didn't. I'm self employed over 10 years. Haven't worked with/in/for a union since 2001. Why is this coming up so often? Either a person's argument has merit or it doesn't, trying to skirt the debate by questioning character is a copout. " Unfortunately you do not understand Prop 2 1/2" Very clear on prop 2 1/2. That's 2 assumptions you got wrong. "A court can order a settlement that must be paid. This will trigger off other contract clauses in the municipal side." It's not a definite that it will reopen the other contracts. That's part of why the town is in trouble IMO. They are implying parity where there is none. If there is no parity, renegotiating the other contracts isn't automatic. "In the end there will be n amount that must be raised by real estate taxes. The Westford Town Meeting is the only political body that can raise taxes." Again wrong, who says it has to be raised by property tax increases? There is a $90m budget they have to work with. That's a lot of capital. If you look deeply through the budgets there are places to trim fat. You know where there is none according to the two independent studies on the town site? The school systems.
Alex Finnegan June 14, 2012 at 03:40 AM
"If the total amount of real estate taxes exceeds the Prop 2 1/2 limits, the question must be presented to the voters. If the voters fail to approve a Prop 2 1/2 override then the Westford Town Meeting reconvenes a reduces the school budget & other budgets to pay for the court ordered amount." First of all, whose fault would that be? You going to try to put that on the teachers again? The court may not award anything even if the WEA wins. They could force retroactive pay plus interest, or they might not make them pay anything. I've seen it go both ways. Is my knowledge of this what makes you think I work for the MTA? I worked for a Union & left in 2001. "Under current law, seniority prevails so if he impact of the court ruling is $1,500,000 (2011/12 steps + 2012/13 steps for WAE) + municipal contract adjustments. At $42,000, the school portion of would be at least 20 teachers and could go has high as 35." If you mean the WEA the number is 1.1 million. There are many places the money could & would come from. You think they could get rid of 35 teachers? C'mon, your smarter than this. "Westford is facing a $6.5 million deficit for FY14 which would result in another 40 to 60 teachers hitting the bricks." Show me the $6.5m deficit. I just posted in the voices section how I don't see any deficit. So up to 95 teachers lad off? What would the results of that be and you think the town would let it happen?
Alex Finnegan June 14, 2012 at 03:42 AM
"There is a bill in front of the Legislature and backed by the MTA that would allow seniority to be superseded by other factors. Just consider all the incompetents and high paid teachers that will have to face the Brave New World." You think there is a lot of that in Westford? And face what brave new world, where they can get hired to do less work for more pay, sounds awful. "Are the WA members aware that the MTa has agreed to support a bill being considered by the legislature to strip seniority from layoff considerations?" Link to the bill please? I'd like to read it but in the meantime, what is your point?
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 03:56 AM
WEA members and you should try working for a living then you could apply the lessons learned to recover from the delusional state that you occupy.
Alex Finnegan June 14, 2012 at 04:06 AM
"I didn't know there was a contract in place. Mr. Olsen is a smart man, I don't think he would violate an existing contract that is in effect." Smart men are capable of doing dumb things Thanks, Andrew. I've been following it, but it sounds like some folks think there is a contract in effect now, hence some of the comments that he is in contract violation. There is a de facto contract being applied by the town. Teachers are still required to show up for staff and curriculum meetings, the endless assessments, get permission from Mr. Olsen for a personal day. They threatened a law suit over unlawful work stoppage so they obviously believe there is a de facto contract in place. They are going to get killed in court on that as they are demanding one side fulfill it's obligations while they are not fulfilling their own. And if it's proven that the town was using/operating under or otherwise adhering to a defacto contract for their own benefit (which is easily proven imo) they can be forced to uphold there end.
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Please attend the 20 June 2012 meeting at Kimballs at which the TM will present the official numbers. I suggest that you also encourage WEA members to attend so they can get their information first hand. Believe it or not over 60% of the homeowners do not have children in the schools and are tired of paying exorbitant salaries to incompetent and unqualified workers. Mass. teacher union OKs deal on ballot question, 7 June 2012 Boston. Globe. Goodbye seniority. Hello, merit pay. I have to congratulate Deval in the screwing he is giving municipal unions. Almost has good as the screwing POTUS Obama has given the federal workers unions- No pay raises for 3 years.
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 04:22 AM
"Again wrong, who says it has to be raised by property tax increases? There is a $90m budget they have to work with. That's a lot of capital. If you look deeply through the budgets there are places to trim fat." The police and fire union members will be glad to hear that their members will have to fund the WEA members salaries and benefits. " You know where there is none according to the two independent studies on the town site? The school systems." The school system is the biggest repository of lard in town. K-12, the staff is 15 ro 20% overstaffed with respect to very generous staffing guidelines of the school committee. Add in $90K+ athletic directors, counselors K-5, etc... and you wind up with a potential of cuts of $10 million or about 160 teachers. The $10 million saved would stabilize the town's finances for next 10 years. BTW I your search of the town's financial documents have you come across an item labeled OPEB in the amount of $67 million? OPEB represents the unfunded liability of employee retirement benefits excluding pensions. The BoS have been kicking this can down the road for the last two years. BTW $67 million represents 122% of the FY 13 tax levy. On a 5 year basis, it would represent a 26% increase in real estate taxes for homeowners.
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Town officials should take POTUS Reagan's position with respect to the Air Traffic controllers and apply it to the WEA. It will give the incompetents of the WEA either a well deserved lesson in humility or a one way ticket to the real world.
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 04:31 AM
You want Mr. Joseph to lead the WEA? Is this the same Mr. Joseph that has agreed to do support a bill that does away with seniority in union contracts? Check the Globe's 7 June issue. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/06/07/mass_teacher_union_oks_deal_on_ballot_question/?camp=obinsite
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 04:33 AM
A personal day for union activities? Only in the delusional minds of WEA members.
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Notwithstanding Andrew's position as Editor of the Westford Patch, the verification of the status of the WEA contract is an area that is beyond his capibility to decide the he said, she said question. For instance, I have been trying for a year to have someone in authority to identify the "Work Rules for the WEA". The WEA believes that they determine work rules. Town officials believe that management determines work rules including work hours.
Alex Finnegan June 14, 2012 at 04:52 AM
"Please attend the 20 June 2012 meeting at Kimballs at which the TM will present the official numbers. I suggest that you also encourage WEA members to attend so they can get their information first hand." I won't be in town. do you mean to tell me you can't explain it? Hearing someone tell it to you means nothing, you need to verify what they tell you. Sounds like you are just taking someone's word for it. "Believe it or not over 60% of the homeowners do not have children in the schools and are tired of paying exorbitant salaries to incompetent and unqualified workers." Can you show me where you got that figure? What town are you going to move to that gives you a discount for being childless? "Mass. teacher union OKs deal on ballot question, 7 June 2012 Boston. Globe. Goodbye seniority. Hello, merit pay. I have to congratulate Deval in the screwing he is giving municipal unions. Almost has good as the screwing POTUS Obama has given the federal workers unions- No pay raises for 3 years." Is this my answer to the bill question? I mean a bill number so I can read the actual bill. Then I can make a true, informed decision about it. Have you read the bill & do you have the number?
Science guy June 14, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Westford teachers wish to vote NO and continue to push for the fair contract they deserve rather than be intimated into taking this deal, so much bluster
Science guy June 14, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Take a page from Reagan? So I guess the national guard would come in to replace here as well and teach 2 nd grade and AP Physyis alike? Keep on dreaming!
Martin Luther June 14, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Your 4 previous postings confirm my suspicions that you are in a delusional state. If you doubt the numbers that I posted look them up on Tow of Westford website. You can use your superb research skills to find the bill doing away with seniority on the MA state website. I hear that the town is going to cancel health insurance coverage for the teachers effective 1 July 2012.
Alex Finnegan June 15, 2012 at 12:58 AM
"Your 4 previous postings confirm my suspicions that you are in a delusional state. If you doubt the numbers that I posted look them up on Tow of Westford website. You can use your superb research skills to find the bill doing away with seniority on the MA state website. So far all your suspicions have been wrong. Why is it so hard to show me where you got that 60% figure? I have looked up the figure, but mine is close to 50% ergo I was inquiring where you got your figure from. We are having a discussion mate this isn't the octagon. Breathe. "I hear that the town is going to cancel health insurance coverage for the teachers effective 1 July 2012." I doubt it, unless they want to expedite another whipsaw charge. I also read that law and you are misinterpreting what it is for. It would allow what you said but basically they can factor performance into it. There are some bad schools with bad teachers who are "untouchable" because of seniority. The MTA is all for getting rid of teachers giving them a bad name. You would be hard pressed to find any of those teachers in Westford, look at their performance scores. Did you read the law in its current form?
Alex Finnegan June 15, 2012 at 01:42 AM
"The police and fire union members will be glad to hear that their members will have to fund the WEA members salaries and benefits." $90M budget, cuts can come from other places. Why would you start with the most important services? The school system is the biggest repository of lard in town. K-12, the staff is 15 ro 20% overstaffed with respect to very generous staffing guidelines of the school committee. Add in $90K+ athletic directors, counselors K-5, etc... and you wind up with a potential of cuts of $10 million or about 160 teachers. The $10 million saved would stabilize the town's finances for next 10 years. 2007 http://www.westford-ma.gov/pages/government/towndepartments/boardsandcommittees/WestfordMA_financecomm/Documents/LRFPCFinalReport.pdf 2004 http://www.westfordma.gov/pages/government/towndepartments/westfordma_townmanager/documents/CETG_Jun04_Final_Report_r5.pdf $67M in OPEB is actually small compared to other towns. But Westford won't be the only one paying that bill, it will partially be taken from future hire benefits, the state and also federal. I surely think it's something to factor into the budget and start planning for it asap, but it doesn't function in the box you think it does.
Martin Luther June 15, 2012 at 03:57 AM
' "The police and fire union members will be glad to hear that their members will have to fund the WEA members salaries and benefits." $90M budget, cuts can come from other places. Why would you start with the most important services?"' You believe that the schools taking over $46 million from the town budget should be spared and the other departments/expenditures taking $50 million should be reduced. 1. Of the $50 million there is an amount of ~$9 million to pay off bonds. 2. Of the remaining $41 million there are amounts totaling ~12 million for employee benefits which leaves $29 million. 3. Then there is insurance and FICA and Medicare taxes ~ $ 7 million NB The town budget reflects both employee and employer contribution.- The available funds are now down to $22 million. 4. The town budget has several revolving funds such as water ~4 million and ~ recreation ~ 3 million which brings us down to $15 million to trim. Should we close the Fletcher Library? Should we reduce the highway department? Should we shut down the Senior Center? Should we shut down/reduce computer, telephone, electrical, heaing and cooling, and water utilities? "$67M in OPEB is actually small compared to other towns. But Westford won't be the only one paying that bill, it will partially be taken from future hire benefits, the state and also federal." The $67 million OPEB is Westford's share and the time clock started in 2007. The private world is a cruel world.
Martin Luther June 15, 2012 at 04:10 AM
You could always seek employment in towns that have higher salaries. You may even shoot for the moon and try the private sector.
Martin Luther June 15, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Since the scenario that you describe will require a layoff of 70 plus teachers, I hope that you have enough seniority within your bumping group.
Michigan Bill June 15, 2012 at 04:22 AM
I hear the town is going to find the long lost Westford knight to run for office and start offering organic lunches effective 1 July 2012. Do we all believe everything outlandish we hear on the patch?
Alex Finnegan June 15, 2012 at 08:27 PM
"You believe the schools taking over $46 million from the town budget should be spared and other departments/expenditures taking $50 million should be reduced" Because I've done it my whole life I believe you trim the least important things, not necessarily the ones taking the most money. The school has the highest number of employees, services the most amount of people, has the most buildings, the highest educated staff. It stands to reason it would have the highest part of the budget. I always try to answer your questions but you tend to avoid mine. Why are you so intent that the funds must come from schools and not other places? The schools already run very efficiently in money spent per child. You seem to automatically cross every other department off the list...why? "1. Of the $50 million there is an amount of ~$9 million to pay off bonds." - When do they have to be paid? :2. Of the remaining $41 million there are amounts totaling ~12 million for employee benefits which leaves $29 million." - That includes all town employees, admin, fire, police, engineers, secretaries etc. "3. Then there is insurance and FICA and Medicare taxes ~ $ 7 million NB The town budget reflects both employee and employer contribution.- The available funds are now down to $22 million. " Insurance and medicare taxes are the same no matter what. Teachers do not pay FIca so the town does not have to match it. What unions are paying Fica and getting a pension?
Alex Finnegan June 15, 2012 at 08:54 PM
"4. The town budget has several revolving funds such as water 4 million & recreation 3 million which brings us down to $15 million to trim. Should we close the Fletcher Library, reduce the highway department, shut down the Senior Center, shut down/reduce computer, telephone, electrical, heaing & cooling, & water utilities?" You don't understand budgets at all. You keep presenting options that make it appear impossible to cut anything & not close the town. Drop two professional development days & trash/recycling pickup. Thats 2 million I believe right there. "The $67 million OPEB is Westford's share & the time clock started in 2007." Show me where you see that, & still waiting on the 60% homeowners w/no kids. "The private world is a cruel world." The private sector is compensates master's degree's better than public. http://www.massbudget.org/report_window.php?loc=Compensation_3_11.html You think tax dollars aren't being funneled into the SS sinkhole? You think pensions are a burden, SS is far bigger system & larger funding gaps. I work in the private world. I've done construction, electrical, telecommunications, customer service. I've worked for unions, I've negotiated for unions, been on strike, been laid of because of seniority, made & managed budgets, hiring/firing, I've managed 50 employees, started my own business w/my money. I get hammered on taxes & insurance. But you couldn't pay me enough to do the schooling and work a teacher does.
Martin Luther June 15, 2012 at 08:55 PM
You are definitely delusional. Why don;t you get a hold of the 2012 Finance Committee's recommendations for the FY2013 Westford budget. The income and outflows are listed in plain enough manner that even you can understand it.
Martin Luther June 15, 2012 at 09:03 PM
You obviously have made a wise choice by to going the wonderful world of the private market place. It does amaze me that a clueless individual like yourself claims so much knowledge and monetary success. One thing that I will keep in mind is not to enter any buildings that you were involved in construction. BTW The MS degrees in the private world are in STEM and business not in underwater basket weaving like education. BTW Gates, Jobs and Wozniak will go down in history has the creators of the 21st century technology world. None of the 3 finished college.
Alex Finnegan June 15, 2012 at 09:05 PM
"It appears that you are well educated and know the definition of delusional. The problem is that you and the WEA are unwilling to recognize the state of delusion in which you are in. I believe that makes you and WEA psychotic delusional. The other possibility is the use of mind altering substances. A strong possibility." You keep saying that but you fail to show me how I'm being delusional? I can tell that you have no idea what it's like to be a teacher, or read a budget. My guess is you do not have a master's degree and do not know what it's like to manage people. Yet you offer such simple slice and dice solutions yet you don't understand any of the aspects involved. Most of your solutions are specious at best.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) June 15, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Okay, that's it. I'm closing auto-approved comments to this post. I've deleted two comments here, one from Alex, one from Jessie. I may have to read again and delete more.
Alex Finnegan June 16, 2012 at 04:43 AM
The other thing I noticed is almost $8 million i debt service, yet the capital planning committee has $35,000,000 in new plans for the next 5 years for which they will borrow. Dumb dumb dumb.
Dick June 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I agree. Enough is enough of this.

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