Union Calls for School Budget Commitment, Not Just ‘Extras’

Haverhill Education Association President Joseph V. Cunha.

An overflow crowd of Haverhill public school teachers and others Thursday night called for more funding, including use of surpluses from other departments, for the Haverhill school district budget.

One day after budget reviews by the city council concluded, outgoing Haverhill Education Association (HEA) President Joseph V. Cunha and Mayor James J. Fiorentini, committee chairman, debated during public participation at the start of Thursday’s school committee meeting. While Cunha recognized the school committee worked “very hard to do what they can with very little,” he said it’s time everybody works to put more into the budget.

Cunha: “What I think you’re right about is extra money goes to schools.

Fiorentini: “Thank you.”

Cunha: “But that we don’t just make it extra money, we put more money in so it’s not just the extras and leftovers you’re giving to the schools.

Fiorentini: “I agree.”

Cunha: “But you make it your business to find more money and put it in there, whether it’s Medicaid money that’s coming back.”

Fiorentini: “I’m with you.”

Cunha: “Whether it’s going and stretching to the limit of two and a half’.”

Fiorentini: “Joe, I needed your support last couple of nights, I so wish you’d been there. But that’s all right, we got it through.”

Cunha: “I think they’re saying, ‘It sounds like a cop out,’ Mr. Mayor and they’re not easily fooled.”

Cunha, a music teacher at Bradford Elementary School, also questioned Fiorentini’s support when he did not attend Wednesday’s contract negotiation session, but said their presence wasn’t about the negotiations. He said it was about a statement made during the previous committee meeting two weeks ago.

Cunha:“There was a statement made that ‘everybody must be happy, people come to meetings only if they are angry’ and you don’t like to see a lot of people. I think you said you feel like crawling under the table because you know if they’re angry, they’re angry with you.  We have over a hundred people in the hallway and I believe this hall seats 80. We’re here and we are angry. Are we here, people?”

Crowd: “Yeah.”

Cunha: “And are we angry?”

Crowd: “Yes.”

The HEA this week organized a so-called “stand-out” outside City Hall Thursday to raise public awareness toward, among other things, a “new, fair contract for Haverhill’s educators.”

4 thoughts on “Union Calls for School Budget Commitment, Not Just ‘Extras’

  1. A 0% offer against inflation is actually a pay cut, especially when facing rising health care costs. The Haverhill teachers are not payed competitively or fairly. This being the case, many of them leave the city after a few years. Meanwhile, Haverhill becomes with a revolving door of school personnel. We deserve better as a City.

    Jack Haverhill, your ignorance and extremist agenda is clearly uninformed and uneducated. Just as in any profession private or otherwise talent is payed relative to others holding similar positions. While I suspect you are one who decries any municipal employee making money, the reality is that if municipal employees were indeed privatized they would command salaries far greater in the open market than they get through a flawed and disingenuous collective bargaining process.

    If you are a fair minded individual, ask yourself why teachers in Haverhill are paid far less than those in Lowell, Lawrence and Methuen. Meanwhile the school committee approves a 31% increase in expenses. Regarding the School Committee: “What have they done ‘above and beyond’ what they’re already getting paid to do that warrants extra financial compensation???”

    Lastly, as someone who has worked in the real estate industry, the first thing families look at when deciding whether or not to buy a home is the school system. The school system has a significant impact on property demand and in turn values.

    I can understand taking a hard line in negotiations with the HEA, however, turning around and approving a 31% raise for School Committee members is woefully inappropriate.

  2. Teachers want a raise, I get that. I want a raise too. Unfortunately school system budgets tend to turn into monsters that eat every available dollar (and not just in Haverhill), and Mr Cunha’s insistence that every spare dollar go into the schools is a warning sign that this may happen in Haverhill…which is unfortunate because as anyone who reads the news is aware we need more police officers on the streets (which benefits the schools because having children live in a safe, non-disruptive environment does wonders for their classroom performance).

    If I were in charge* I would offer the HEA a two year contract with an acceptable but not stellar increase (cost of living + 2 percent, which is pretty good these days), but I’d include the caveat that before the next contract negotiations I would initiate a zero-based budgeting process for the Haverhill Public Schools in order for the system to get what it needs and not necessarily get what it wants.

    (And yes, I’d be tempted to try to put some sort of teacher performance clause in place as well, but funny thing: when kids do poorly in school it’s the fault of the home environment, but when they do well it’s to the teachers’ credits. If I told my boss that I was only accountable for the good things and the bad things were someone else’s fault I’d be fired in a heartbeat.)

    *Fortunately for all and sundry, I am NOT in charge.

  3. Joe Cunha: You self centered hack!!
    You’ve got a hundred people in the hallway? Well, the city has TENS OF THOUSANDS of people who are sick and tired of you self serving union hacks that think you’re deserving of something that you’re not!!!! When have you mentioned even ONCE during all of these talks why teachers deserve a pay raise? What have they done ‘above and beyond’ what they’re already getting paid to do that warrants extra financial compensation??? If you’re so confident that teachers in Haverhill work hard and perform beyond a certain standard why not propose doing away with collective bargaining and put the teachers on a performance based compensation system? Put your money where your mouth is Joe!!! Unions breed mediocrity … everyone knows it. Many teachers actually deserve to be fired and have their pay reduced!!! And there is NOTHING they’re doing that warrants Haverhill citizens to have to pay them more than they’re already getting!!!

    • Performanced based compensation would be good only if the teachers had control of what they are expected to do. Teachers are told what to teach and how to teach it within parameters set by the state. They deal with disruptive kids whop. by state law, are allowed to be there regardless of how disruptive to the class they are. Teachers cannot control this yet you want them to be held accountable for their performance.

      I agree things must change and I agree that there are teachers who need to choose another profession but that is with any profession. The unions must realize that it is about the future of the kids and be open to changing how they do business as well. We can’t support the same old droning about how everyone is always underpaid, blah,blah. Show us what needs to be done and every once in a while tell your union to shut up and to do what’s right for everyone not just the union,