Details of an agreement that ended an historic teachers’ strike in Haverhill were outlined last night as the Haverhill School Committee officially approved the pact it negotiated with teachers represented by the Haverhill Education Association.
Bitterness between some union members and School Committee negotiators remained apparent during the public comment portion of the regular School Committee meeting. School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti said talk of firing teachers involved in organizing the strike and walkouts by city negotiators were not true. The two other negotiators, School Committee members Scott W. Wood Jr. and Richard J. Rosa, also denied any discussion of retaliatory action. It was an assertion bolstered by School Superintendent Margaret Marotta who said the Committee has no power to terminate any teacher in the district.
“I want to make it very clear that I am the only one that actually does have that particular power and I want to make it clear to our staff that at no point in time did I have any intention of firing staff simply because they engaged in the strike. That’s completely untrue,” she said.
The superintendent also took the opportunity to apologize to students and parents for the disruption to their lives and education.
Terms of the three-year contract include a 4% cost of living increase for teachers this year, retroactive to July 1, 3% increase for next year and another 3% increase for the year beginning July 1, 2024.
The new contract also establishes a Safe Learning and Working Environment Task Force pushed by the union. Wood said that group will be made up of four appointees from the district and four from the union.
“The task force will review and develop mutually agreed upon district-wide staff reporting forms and protocols regarding classroom safety issues and will continue to make ongoing training and reasonable resources,” he said.
Both sides also agree anti-racist policies and practices are a high priority and will be jointly addressed. The school district also agrees to work closely with the union to recruit, employ and retain individuals from underrepresented populations.
The contract also included a return-to-work agreement, promising all Haverhill Education Association members could return to work assured there would be no disciplinary action for engaging in a work stoppage.
Following the ratification, Mayor James J. Fiorentini, who had been barred from taking part in talks because his son is a district teacher, told one guest speaker that not only was he prevented under law from participating, but would have been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the state. Approval of the final pact, however, gives him a chance to weigh in.
“I congratulate all sides for coming to an agreement. I’m happy for our teachers and I’m happy for the city and, most of all, I’m happy for the parents and children. All parties worked hard together, including the union, so that we could all get back to business and I thank everybody for that,” the mayor said.
Ratification passed by a vote of 4-0 with Vice Chair Toni Sapienza-Donais, Magliocchetti, Wood, Rosa in favor. Committee members Gail M. Sullivan and Maura Ryan Ciardiello were absent and the mayor unable to cast a vote.