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Westford's Teachers Aim To Get Town's Attention Outside Schools

Westford teachers hope that a series of visibility actions outside Westford's public schools before and after the regular school day this week will sway residents to their side.

Following the that ended the current round of mediation between the Westford Education Association and the Westford School Committee, WEA members began taking to the street corners outside schools to once again aim at garnering support at their cause.

The visibility began on Monday, with teachers from the , and outside carrying banners and wearing the bright green t-shirts of the union before and after the school day, with teachers from Westford’s other public schools standing outside on Monday morning.

Monday’s efforts will be duplicated, with the t-shirts and banners shifting on Tuesday to the , and , Wednesday to the and and on Thursday to at times that will not conflict with their obligations in the classroom.

According to WEA officials, the teachers’ early arrival has continued for the safety of their students, despite the union’s “work-to-rule” action, where all voluntary work-related activities are prohibited.

Teachers such as WEA negotiating team leader Mary McCusker say they are aiming to do those voluntary actions, such as writing college recommendations for students, during work hours to avoid shortchanging their students while not violating the work-to-rule decision.

While town officials have noted that the town’s other unions have come to agreements, McCusker believes that such comparisons are unfair.

“Other unions only have five steps, we have 14 steps. It’s apples and oranges, it’s not the same,” she said. “And it’s only a reopening clause, it doesn’t mean that (the town) has to pay the other unions because they have a reopening clause allowing them to renegotiate their contracts.”

Negotiations are set to restart on Wednesday, with WEA members hoping to reach an agreement they can live with while satisfying the needs of negotiators on the other side.

“We’ve always been more than willing to try and work within the financial restraints (the town) says they are working under,” said negotiating team member and Nabnasset special needs teacher Lisa Navarro. “We have yet to get any clarifying statements from them regarding our non-budgetary offers, they simply say they will not discuss, no, no, no. We haven’t heard any reasoning why.”

Currently both sides have come to agreement on 11 of the 22 items currently under negotiation, although neither side has elaborated further over details of what those items are, with McCusker only noting that they are fairly non-controversial topics.

Following a question during Monday night's School Committee meeting, School Committee chairwoman Angela Harkness indicated that mediations ended at the request of the mediator after their belief that no further progress could be made during that mediation.

Harkness also indicated that the main piece of contention was compensation, although no further information could be provided due to an agreement between both sides prior the beginning of the contract process that negotiations would be private.

However, on that note, School Committee member David Keele said he would make a motion to publicize details of negotiations to the public if progress was not made from Wednesday's meeting.

In addition to mediation, Wednesday will also hold a hearing in regard to the union's unfair labor practices claim against the town. If that claim continues, according to Harkness on Monday night, the process could continue until January 2013.

Contact information is available for members of the public wishing to ask questions to those on either side on the Westford Education Association and Westford Public School websites.

Pete Marivich February 16, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I personally cant ever see teachers being as 'giving' with THEIR free time as they were before regardless of work to rule status, a shame because in my opinion this is the fault of the prom king and prom queen SC duo of harkness-Keele and not the teachers here. I think the principals jobs have also gotten much tougher in the future as goodwill has been burned to a crisp, good luck getting staff buy in on any new district imitative in the next few years
Pete Marivich February 16, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Whats happening in Westford is the Town/school committee is violating state law in how it has negotiated with its teachers in withholding Steps. Its just a matter of a week or so before this is 100% clear to all in town when the MA Labor Board rules this to be the case. ILLEGAL actions will be what people remember and this will end up costing the town more.
Molly February 16, 2012 at 11:10 PM
@Randy, Do you even live in Westford??? Do you even know what the median home price is in Westford that we pay taxes on? You have alot of nothing important to say...You must be one of those bitter teachers!!!
Randy Winslow February 16, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Of course I live in Westford(unlike Kathleen Spaeth), they don't tax you on the median home price they tax you on the appraised value of your own home. Chelmsford's rates are as high as Westford and their schools are falling apart. Don't buy a home you can't afford to pay for(including taxes)
Christine Flood February 16, 2012 at 11:39 PM
OK I'll bite... Here's a chart of median house value and per capita school spending. Yet again it shows that Westford spends less on it's school systems than surrounding areas. Education is the most important investment in our future. If we can't afford to adequately fund our schools than perhaps we need to look into a proposition 2 1/2 override? Andover (513,604 median house value, 13,263 per capita spending) Acton (519,611 median house value, 13,110 per capita spending) Littleton (401,072 median house value, 11,881 per capita spending) Westford(451,594 median house value, 10,697 per capita spending) Median house values from http://www.city-data.com/city/Westford-Massachusetts.html. Per Capita school spending from http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/ppx.aspx.
Beverly Danvers February 16, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Our cheapness is finally catching up with us. For the past decade we have more than gotten back what we have put in relatively speaking and now the bill has come due. Although this is a difficult financial time I do understand we have underfunded our school system relevant to what we have received. I am OK with paying a little more but if not the result will be a school more like Chelmsford than Acton or Groton.
Vincent DiRico February 17, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I am sure you got all sorts of complaints from the intended targets, the truth hurts. Now, when can we expect you to act on the bogus name being used? Per your terms of use: "Patch believes in transparency, and we ask that all your registration information be truthful. You may not use any aliases or other means to mask your true identity" thanks Vinny
Bob Nimitz February 17, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Vinny, I guess you can take the boy out of Revere but you cant take the Revere out of the boy, I wish you would get with the Westford Liberals and open up your heart and wallet to change and education! Thanks for listening, Bob
Julie C. February 17, 2012 at 12:53 AM
But Westford spends more (as a percentage of per capita spending on your chart) on classroom & specialist teachers: Andover $5281 Acton $4541 Littleton $4443 Westford $4452 Data is from the Mass DOE website.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Vinny, I got a complaint last week on a similar, but unrelated incident and since then we've been enforcing removing "name calling" posts equally. If you see a name calling comment, let me know, and I will remove it as quickly as possible. However, the part of our terms you referenced discusses registration, not user names. Patch prefers real names, but they are not required.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Bob, This is a heated discussion. Please discuss the issue and not other users. Thanks.
Dan D. February 17, 2012 at 02:54 AM
The town has done a great job, especially compared to other school systems in the state. For decades, we have had one of the lowest expenditure per student (admittedly, I still do not know what is NOT included in the figures) while having one of the best school systems anywhere. Keep up the good work! How to you come to the conclusion that the schools are underfunded? Don't we have a lower teacher/student ratio that our goal? Don't we have hundreds of empty seats in the buildings? Hasn't the schools budget increased much more than the budgets of the other town departments over the past few years??
Vincent DiRico February 17, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Andrew, you really bought that name? You don't see the pattern here (multiple late night posts by a new name many nights)? I suggest you go take a look at the posts by "Bob", "H Munster", ... then you may have a different take on what/who some of these folks are.
Molly February 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Well said Dan D. I think the school committee has done a great job with the resources they have had. I think the parents of school aged kids have been supportive as well and have paid their part. This is ONE time in a long time I can remember the teachers needed to take one for the team and they won't. SHAME on them.... I hope I am never asked to reach in my pocket ever again to save a teachers job!! If we can't hire the new teacher's, have to lay off some teachers then at this point SO BE IT!!! The teacher's UNION BULLYING isn't going to work... I am not afraid to lose some of you teachers. It will not change my job as a parent. You could have worked with respect now you will work with NONE!!
Molly February 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM
It is not cheapness Beverly that is catching up with us... The ecomony is not great and their is only so many times you can ask the taxpayers to pay more. We have a really well run school system. The teachers are not underpaid by any stretch of the imagination. They could have gotten their steps and cola this year and we could all be in this boat next year. You just don't get it... The teachers will always whine, they always feel underpaid, they always feel not appreciated. I just don't think they will ever be happy so why should the town go completely broke over something noone can fix.... They either appreciate they have a job or they don't. If we were to be in great financial times then yes, I would hope the town would reward them or anyone else who would deserve it. Just because they are in a BULLYING UNION does not mean we have to bow down to them..
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Vincent, I am neutral, and I have tried to foster discussion while trying to retain civility. Hopefully that's been made clear. However, I think this thread is nearly out of control. If I see one more incivil comment toward anyone, I'm going to close comments for everyone. I think I've been more than patient.
June Mary February 22, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Are you volunteering to pay for the retirees who depend on social security who did not receive COLAs in 2010 & 2011 although Medicare Part B premiums were increased. The Feds used two different COLA indexes to justify their actions. Back at the ranch, if you look at the teaching contract of the WEA for FY2010 and FY2011, no teacher received less than an automatic 6+% adjustment and some teachers received as much as 17% increase in wages.
June Mary February 22, 2012 at 06:58 PM
H Munster being a highly educated and intelligent individual, you must be aware that the average salaries have to do mostly with the number of years (steps) than actual compensation levels. If all the teachers in Westford were at M+30 with 14 years of experience the average salary for Westford would be in excess of $78,000/year for 185 six hours of teaching or about $78/hr. . If all the teachers in Westford were at B-1 then the average salary would be around $41,000 or around $41/hr. You and the rest of great intellects that compose the WEA membership always have the right to go find employment in any of the communities that you listed. If you really want the big bucks teach in Boston.
Ghost April 07, 2013 at 06:54 AM
WEA is getting ready to get the band back together so to speak and begin demonstration activities once again! We ain't gonna take it, no we ain't gonna take it, we ain't gonna take it anymore! Monday outside townhall it goes down once again. Green Shirts in force be there if you are probably teacher, continue to throw stones if you are anti teacher. Either way teachers anger has been percolating and it's bubbling to the surface starting now. Hope to see Andrew there for some patch coverage
Vincent DiRico April 07, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Oh boo hoo, no 2.5 override, you will have to do with ~ $50 million. Nice try at shaping public opinion, NOT ;) With these drive-by posts you show your true motives/priorities/... not stuff we want our children seeing. It is time to take responsibility for the $50 million per year you you accept: - stop adding positions to cover existing people not doing their jobs (aka the need for a resource officer) - stop asking for more more more, in the private sector we have learned to do MORE with LESS (aka in the private sector the building technology directors would have been told to SOLVE the need for a technology director, END OF STORY) - the dreaded private sector has done with less and less $ for years (aka lower service health plans for more $, pensions became 401k s with lower matches, ...)
Sam April 07, 2013 at 09:55 PM
I believe that If you throw in benefits and retirement costs the schools budget is over 70% of the towns entire budget. It does nothing but increase every year even though the number of kids has stayed level or dropped. At these prices they need make things work. Start with massive layoffs of administrative fat. Please don't come on here and there is none. Have you ever been in these schools! Unfortunately a suggestion to reduce the budget by $550,000 was shot down in flames by the union members that would have none of that! That may affect their raise next year. The money most certainly is there. The problem is that no public institution has any idea how to run a business. Why is that? Because no matter how poorly they perform, the solution is easy, squeeze the pockets of it taxpayers. This year the budget should have been reduced by 15%. When things start to get eliminated from citizens children education maybe then the would demand more from the inept and unaccountable people in power. Anyone can justify why the need money. Just listen to Olsen and SC each and every year. As for the teachers, I agree they are on a lower scale than some towns. This is because your bosses are fiscally inept. You all have had a full year to seek employment elsewhere. Other than the 8 that left I assume that has not gone well because we are seeing the same old stuff. Good luck squeezing your unearned raises for all. There will be no override.
Dick April 07, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Well said Vinny !!
Rand April 07, 2013 at 10:26 PM
the paper vote for the $500k passed at ATM by the blowing, override gonna squeak through too. pay up and shut up
Sam April 07, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Uhh no it did not. 140 no 105 yes. Get your facts right. How's the job search going? Not so well I take it.
Devils Advocate April 07, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Well Sam the vote was to decrease the school budget by $500,000 and it failed. Therefore, you with me here, the schools did get their extra half million to fund new positions because 140 people to 105 people wanted it that way. This same margin will push a 2.5 yes vote down your throat so get ready to paaaaaaaayyyyyyy for those new school positions like full Madarin Chinese!!!
Devils Advocate April 07, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Here you go: http://westford.patch.com/articles/town-meeting-updates-starting-at-10-a-m-today
Sam April 07, 2013 at 11:18 PM
My point was that the motion FAILED! Got that. This town meeting like most, if there are no big issues go just that way. The unions and the straw hats win the day. Bring on 2 1/2 and you won't be able to find a seat. Good luck Devil. Enjoy the relaxing time afforded to your during your upcoming work to rule. Any summer plans?
Devils Advocate April 07, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Sam, Westford's greedy teachers will be especially busy this summer spending their fat prop 2.5 override bonus checks, hope you keep that tax checkbook handy!
Sam April 07, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Funny. But now it is time wake up Devil. The dream is over.
Devils Advocate April 07, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Sam, John Lennon said it best: "you may say that Im a dreamer, but Im not the only one..."

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