Haverhill Teachers Union Considers ‘No Confidence’ Vote in State Education Dept. Over COVID-19

Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, right, with Gov. Charlie Baker. (Photograph by Sam Doran/SHNS.)

Members of the Haverhill Education Association—the union representing teachers, clerical staff and education support professionals—gather Monday night to consider approving a resolution of “no confidence” in the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and its commissioner, Jeffrey Riley.

At issue, the union says, is the state “moving the goalposts” when it comes to safety around COVID-19. Union President Anthony J. Parolisi wrote to members Friday night, reporting 63 students are on quarantine as close contacts while 18 are positive virus cases. Thirteen staff members are also quarantining with five testing positive for the coronavirus.

“As you are aware, Haverhill’s overall coronavirus numbers have risen yet again. Our average daily incidence rate has gone from 14 per 100,000 residents a week ago to 21.6—an all-time high—and the percent positivity rate jumped to 3.39%. Of course, a week ago this would have meant that Haverhill remains in the ‘red’ risk designation according to the state’s guidelines. However, Gov. (Charlie) Baker has simply redefined what it means to be labeled as “red,’ making our current designation of “yellow” misleading and dangerous. Jeff Riley and DESE have likewise changed their guidelines to make it easier for them to force schools to bring more and more students into the buildings despite worsening public health conditions in the community,” Parolisi said.

Last week, after an outbreak closed the Dr. Albert B. Consentino School to in-person learning, the union asked the administration to test students as well as educators before reopening. Parolisi reported Superintendent Margaret Marotta and public health officials made a “good faith” effort, securing access for students whose parents volunteered to have them tested prior to returning to school. As of Friday night, he said, there were no positive test results, but some tests were still awaiting results or hadn’t yet been performed. Parolisi called the preliminary results “encouraging enough to give staff there confidence that the risk associated with returning was low.”

The Haverhill Education Association all-member meeting takes place Monday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m.

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