Haverhill Teachers and School Committee Note Progress on Eve of Educators Returning to Schools

Educators protesting in August 2020 in front of Haverhill City Hall were Barbara Freeman, Elizabeth Briggs and Barry Davis. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Both sides in Haverhill schools’ “impact bargaining” report progress on the eve of teachers returning to school buildings.

School Committee Vice Chairman Richard J. Rosa said negotiators for both the school department and the union met Tuesday and plan another meeting Friday—the same day teachers report for in-person work.

“We made progress on a number of issues and we still have others to iron out before school starts on the 16th,” Rosa said.

Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi agrees there are tentative pacts on matters such as personal protective equipment and protocols. He added there is final agreement on how to handle remote academy staff who may have preexisting conditions or live with someone who is at high risk.

The union, which represents teachers, education support professionals and clerical staff, went into negotiations with the city, saying staff want to return to school, but “only when it’s safe.” Parolisi said he is concerned the union has not yet received heating, ventilation and air conditioning assessments for all buildings.

“We’ve been assured that not only will we receive the HVAC assessments, but the buildings will be certified as safe by Friday when our members are expected to return to work in person,” he said.

In addition, Parolisi said, there are concerns about the hybrid model where teachers are expected to be simultaneously responsible for remote and in-person work and curriculum and resources when teaching music or physical education, among other items.

Friday’s negotiations take place in the shadow of a ruling Tuesday by Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations Commonwealth Employment Relations Board. It took the position that Andover Education Association “engaged in an unlawful strike when they refused to enter school buildings on Aug. 31.”

Parolisi said the state improperly expanded the definition of the word “strike.”

“I think they are just providing more cover for (Gov.) Charlie Baker and other school committees to be able to ignore the demands—the health and safety demands—of their workers,” he explained.

The union head said everything that has emerged from Beacon Hill seems to be “stacking the deck against educators and in favor of rushing us back into the buildings.”

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