Haverhill School Committee, ESPs Head to Mediation After City Declares Impasse

Haverhill Education Association members picket City Hall Thursday, Sept. 14, on behalf of educational support professionals. (WHAV News photograph.)

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The Haverhill School Committee says it has reached an impasse in contract negotiations with educational support professionals—or ESPs for short, prompting a request for a mediator to step in.

Haverhill Education Association President Barry Davis said he was surprised last Thursday when he was notified by the state Department of Labor Relations of the mediation request by School Committee negotiators Richard J. Rosa and Gail M. Sullivan.

“Not only did they not tell the HEA, they didn’t tell—the subcommittee of Mr. Rosa and Mrs. Sullivan—did not tell Mr. (Scott W.) Wood, Miss (Toni Sapienza-) Donais and Miss (Maura L.) Ryan-Ciardiello that they were filing as well as the superintendent,” he said.

Sullivan disputed Davis’ account, saying the full School Committee voted Oct. 10 to allow a request for mediation. Rosa argued mediation isn’t a bad thing. “Mediation shouldn’t be seen as something negative, but should be seen as something positive, a way for us to move forward and get a contract complete.”

Davis accused the School Committee negotiators of having a “personal agenda” that fuels their interest in “beating the HEA, (rather) than doing what is right for the children in Haverhill Public Schools.”

Sullivan fired back, saying, “That’s a ridiculous statement and an insulting statement.”

Davis added the union learned this summer city negotiators were authorized by the full School Committee to offer 4%, 3% and 3% annual wage increases over the three years of the next contract. Instead, he charged, Rosa and Sullivan sought a four-year agreement starting with about a 2% wage hike, but increasing only a quarter percent during each round of talks.

Sullivan responded, “That’s what negotiating is.” Rosa, committee chairman, went further, saying the committee in fact offered the 4%, 3% and 3% increases before Oct. 10, but the union did not counter with any proposals on Oct. 25. “They can still take it.” Rosa said. Both sides say they met 13 times since April.

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