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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 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, .

Tom Paterson January 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM
A Contract w/out year one steps, regardless of 11/22 'whoreallycarespennyante' issues resolved, is unratifiable by the general membership. Welcome to Westford; the new Billerica!
Vincent DiRico January 23, 2012 at 12:44 PM
"begin wearing black on future mediation days" talk about "'whoreallycarespennyante' issues" I see this: "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" AND KNOW: - there is no $ - the private sector has given and given and given over these difficult times (tax bills always go up, we pay more for less health coverage, our salary increases were hit, ...) Maybe just maybe the WEA needs to grow-up just a little bit!
Dan D. January 23, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I hope the school administration will reach out to the public for volunteers to fill in the gaps left by the teacher's "work to rule" actions. I bet chaperones, club advisors, etc can be found in the town. Still waiting to find out what the teacher/student ratios have been for the past few years. I keep hearing rumors that the schools are overstaffed, but want to see actual numbers. Patch, can you find out??
Derek January 23, 2012 at 05:42 PM
So I'm curious....the teachers are going to work to the terms spelled out in their contracts, now expired......and that's a reduction in services actually provided. Okay, well the simpleton in me says that if the town/school board feels a need for the other things that teachers do, then it should be written into the contract and factored into service pay formulas. Anything else is just free labor, which is fine, if the individual teacher wants to do it, and there is no administrative retribution ("you only volunteered for 1 extracurricular activity, so we're going to rate you lower on your annual assessment") for not doing it. I'd be willing to be that all those volunteer hours the teachers put in aren't deductible on taxes, either. Since it's tax season and all. Anyway, that's just me. In my mind, what you contract and pay for is what you get. Everything else is gravy.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 23, 2012 at 06:14 PM
We'll do our best! We've got a few school related articles we're working on, so I'll add that to my list of questions for Superintendent Olsen.
Whodini January 23, 2012 at 08:38 PM
This is the same Vincent DiRico who back in Sept posted: ""extensive study of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which found that lifting the ban on gay and lesbian soldiers serving openly in our armed forces would not adversely affect military preparedness or strain unit cohesion" really, where do they sleep/shower/..., in a DADT dorm?" So Vinny doesnt like Gays serving openly in our armed forces and HE is the one telling WEA go 'grow up a little bit' Like so many far rightie red republicans you are all about your fiscal bottom line while equality for minorities doesnt even register on the list of of significant political issues Mr Private Sector. There is no $$??? Guess Westford is ready to default on those bonds then? Hear that sound? Thats the Westford Bubble Bursting!
Laura Lamarre Anderson January 23, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I'm with you, Derek. I agree that many of these "extras" should be written in to the contract and recognized as valued work.
Dan D. January 23, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Or, instead of asking and pressuring teachers to do "volunteer" work, how about asking for parent/citizen volunteers? There are probably enough highly educated retirees or work at home types in town that would be glad to volunteer and would bring a lot to those tasks. If teachers are doing their jobs, assigning and correcting homework and preparing for the day's classes, they are probably working their butts off anyhow. They should not be pressured into doing "volunteer" work. If they want to, fine, but don't bail out of the volunteering because of contract issues.
Vincent DiRico January 24, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Whodummy, you sure have been stewing over the Sept post for some time, are glad you got it off your chest? Where do they sleep/shower/...? do you know what it means to be gay? Please come back with something that makes folks think (at least a little) on this subject.
AB January 24, 2012 at 07:14 AM
Way back when I worked in the tech sector, the HR director covered the phones during the admin's absences. It wasn't an extra or "volunteer" activity which allowed them to demand more money, it was just sort of an unstated part of the job even though it wasn't technically a departmental function r in their job description. Having recess/lunchroom duty or something similar shouldn't be considered an "extra" or called volunteering so I sure hope it's not. Keeping an eye on the kids is your JOB, be it while they are in the halls, on the playground, in the gym, or inside your classroom.
Vincent DiRico January 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
AB February 05, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Oh, we're having fun discussing this further over here, ladies and gentlemen: http://westford.patch.com/articles/letter-update-on-mediation-from-school-committee-chair#comments_list


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