‘Remote Learning’ Pact Between Haverhill Schools, Staff Comes Apart; Talks Could Resume Today

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The Haverhill School Committee last night killed, at least temporarily, a tentative pact between the department and educators to guide the start of “remote learning.”

The sticking point for School Committee members was paying certain activity stipends for the full school year. While members voted 6-0 to send an amendment back to the Haverhill Education Association, the union said it is unable to present it to members.

“It is demoralizing and demeaning to have all this work held up over a couple of thousand dollars. For the school district, it’s very little money. For teachers laid off from second and third jobs, the money is vital,” said union President Anthony J. Parolisi.

Although meeting remotely and officially behind closed doors, a reported tie vote by School Committee caused a vote on the agreement to fail. Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the usual tie breaker, was not present because his son is a union member. A subsequent compromise to amend the agreement passed unanimously.

Union members had been expected to take an online vote Friday. Because the School Committee recessed its meeting, it is possible for the two sides to meet today to resolve the difference.

The tentative agreement said both sides agree “remote learning” cannot fully replace or re-create the classroom experience and that “flexibility” is required to meet everyone’s needs. Before the School Committee vote an optimistic Parolisi told WHAV both sides agree teachers may use reasonable discretion to address student learning.

“We have every confidence that our members will do whatever they can to make sure our students are getting what they need during this time,” he told WHAV.

The accord requires all union members to work remotely, but with timing flexibility; continue receiving the same pay and benefits, check emails at least twice a day; try to meet a goal of having visual contact with each student a minimum of twice per week; and other measures. Those who are considered “essential staff” by the superintendent agree to report to work if the business of the district requires it. The school department also agreed take whatever “precautionary measures” it can to prevent teachers’ from being “videotaped or otherwise hacked… for ill purposes.” Both sides also agreed to continue bargaining to decide how teachers will receive their evaluations.

School Committee members Richard J. Rosa, who served as chairman, and Paul A. Magliocchetti handled the negotiations. Rosa said, “Both the teachers’ union and the School Committee negotiating teams have worked diligently online over three days, both face-to-face and separately, to craft an agreement that makes supporting every student our number one priority when remote learning begins on April 6. I am hopeful any differences will be resolved.” He said he is grateful “for those educators and other Haverhill Public Schools staff who have gone above and beyond over the past three weeks supporting students and families during this challenging time.”

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