‘Frustrated’ Haverhill Teachers to Rally for Fair Pay, Working Conditions Thursday

Union President Ted Kempinski speaks to city teachers during a meeting at Hunking School on Aug. 27, 2018. (WHAV News photograph)

Union President Ted Kempinski speaks to city teachers during a meeting at Hunking School on August 27. (WHAV News photograph)

The 900-member Haverhill Education Association is coming together this Thursday, Sept. 13 for what the teachers’ union calls a “March for Respect” as the group prepares to vote on their latest contract.

Starting at 6 p.m., the March kicks off from the Middlesex Street Roma Restaurant and heads over the Basiliere Bridge to City Hall, where remarks will be delivered from HEA President Ted Kempinski, teachers, parents and state Rep. Andy Vargas.

Union Vice President Anthony Parolisi emcees the rally, which serves as a lead-in to Thursday’s 7 p.m. School Committee meeting.

Kempinski tells WHAV that in addition to marching to support a fair contract, union members are raising awareness for more effective learning—and teaching—conditions.

“The minimal budget that the Mayor (James J. Fiorentini) is providing is keeping the doors open and the lights on, but it’s not for significant improvements,” Kempinski told WHAV. “It’s reactionary and not for building a 21st century school.”

Teacher retention has also become a major problem. In a candid conversation this week, Kempinski recounted to WHAV how one Haverhill High engineering instructor left her job three days into last month’s new school year frustrated over a lack of resources.

For the last two years, one out of every four teachers has left the district, Kempinski told WHAV, leaving only 11 districts in the state with a lower retention rate than Haverhill.

The union’s most recent contract expired on June 30 and when a new three-year contract agreement could not be agreed upon, both sides settled for a one-year contract and decided to bargain for a three-year contract at a later date. That bargaining took place over the last several months.

Kempinski expects his members to accept the revised contract, but issued a stern word of warning to city officials to improve things—and fast.

Summed up the union head: “What do we have to lose? We’re at the bottom. They can’t replace us, because one in four of us are already leaving. They already took away our good insurance and gave us crappy insurance. If the Mayor takes away any more stuff, he’s going to turn the people who are already frustrated into militant teachers. And they’re growing more militant by the day.”