Haverhill Education Association Approves ‘No Confidence’ Vote in State Over COVID-19 Rules

Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley. (Photograph by Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe/Pool.)

Haverhill teachers, clerical staff and education support professionals Monday night decided, in the words of union officials, “almost unanimously to join with other locals throughout the Commonwealth in declaring ‘no confidence’ in Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.”

Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi wrote to members Friday night, noting the Education Department has been “moving the goalposts” when it comes to safety around COVID-19. He reported 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. He added, “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.”

The union’s Action Team plans to meet next Monday at 4:30 p.m. via Zoom to consider next steps.

Here is the text of the “Declaration of No Confidence:”

Members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association have come together across the state to declare that we have no confidence in the judgment or professional leadership capabilities of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and its Commissioner Jeff Riley. It is their responsibility to create an environment that ensures the health and safety of all students and educators. It is also their job to create structures that promote educators’ ability to provide the best quality of learning for students.

After surveying our members, we, the elected leaders of our local associations, have overwhelmingly found that Commissioner Riley and the DESE have consistently failed to provide high quality administrative leadership, planning, or safe working and learning conditions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The overwhelming majority of staff surveyed in our schools across Massachusetts believe that:

  • The Commissioner lacks the necessary managerial and leadership skills to manage safely and effectively the DESE during the Covid crisis.

  • The DESE and the Commissioner have failed to sufficiently consider input from individual districts.

  • The Commissioner and the DESE continue to ignore the ever growing body of scientific evidence showing the direct correlation between in-person learning and increased transmission rates of Covid-19.

  • Commissioner Riley and the DESE do not demonstrate the depth of understanding nor the impartial judgment needed to support students, faculty, and families.

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