Schools Stay Closed as Haverhill Teachers and City Reach Agreement on Pay, But Other Obstacles Remain

Haverhill Education Association President Tim Briggs at press conference during October of 2022, outside of union offices. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill schools again close to students Thursday despite both sides reporting significant progress, particularly on teacher salaries, but disagreeing on internal protocols for discussing student safety.

Haverhill School Committee Negotiations Chairman Scott W. Wood Jr. said agreement on money was reached.

“The Haverhill School Committee has accepted the union’s financial proposal which totals approximately $25 million. We believe this contract will put the Haverhill teachers on par with teachers in similar urban school districts, he said.

Haverhill Education Association President Tim Briggs agreed with Wood’s assessment, saying the union had direct contact with the full School Committee, which he described as “meaningful.”

“While we had a tentative agreement on money, we don’t have any agreement on language to keep students safe. Language we put forth to keep students safe and get codified in the contract was completely changed, and they don’t believe it belongs in a contract,” he said.

During a full, closed-door emergency meeting of the School Committee, it was said members agreed to set aside more money than previously allotted for teacher salaries and in line with amounts included a revised union demand.

Because negotiations are taking place before a state mediator, neither side said it could give specifics, but Briggs gave a broad outline of the language issues.

“We were asking to sit down and come up with a system. A lot of schools have electronic systems to be able to recognize and communicate with teachers when students are struggling. Struggling emotionally, struggling—obviously academically. We have those systems in place, but what we’ve recognized in the last two years is that some of our other systems fall short,” he explained.

Briggs gave an example of a hypothetical student incident in a hallway or classroom, but lacking a system to address other students that may be affected.

During his press conference, Wood said such language isn’t typically included in teacher contracts. “Any time you’re talking about student discipline processes, obviously, the sharing of information is heavily regulated and privacy issues are heavily regulated under Mass. general law,” he said.

The union president said the two sides also have differences over a “return to work clause,” particularly about the city legally “coming after” individual teachers who participated in the strike.

As talks stretched to 8 p.m. and could have continued into the night, school Superintendent Margaret Marotta said in email she chose to cancel classes because “we cannot keep our families who need to make alternative plans waiting any longer.”

Talks resume Thursday morning.

The superintendent said all childcare and food sites remain open.

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