Coalition of Teachers, Nurses Call for Postponing In-Person Classes as Some Andover Educators Walk

A new coalition of educators, school nurses and other support staff called Monday for schools across the state to postpone any in-person learning and adopt a phased approach until a range of potential COVID-19 safety issues are addressed. Their priorities include ensuring all staff and students have access to personal protective equipment, requiring all schools to enforce six feet of social distancing rather than three feet, and increasing access to rapid testing. Patty Comeau, who works as a Methuen school nurse, explained in a press release

“This process represents one of the most consequential decisions our communities and our state will make as our state and nation construe to grapple with a pandemic that is still surging across the nation, showing signs of a second wave in our state, with the threat of the flu season looming,” she said, adding, “In confronting this challenge a safe, scientifically guided, well planned, adequately funded and appropriately resourced process must be the priority for all involved, as the stakes couldn’t be higher and the outcome of our decisions truly have life and death consequences.”

The statement comes as 45% of the members of the Andover Education Association refused to go to work in person yesterday. Suggesting the action was strike-like, Andover School Committee members voted unanimously to petition the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations to act. The Coalition to Safely Reopen Schools—a group that has the backing of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts and other labor groups—outlined 16 specific concerns in a lengthy position statement it offered to guide a return to K-12 education.

DiZoglio Renews Call on Governor, House Speaker to End Use of Non-Disclosure Agreements

The Massachusetts Senate recently passed Sen. Diana DiZoglio proposal to end the use of taxpayer-paid nondisclosure agreements throughout state government, but the other branch of the legislature and the governor aren’t expected to quickly follow suit. DiZoglio, who during a debate on sexual harassment policies in 2018 broke a non-disclosure agreement she signed when fired from a job as a House aide years earlier, recently renewed her call for House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Gov. Charlie Baker to take action. “The practice of using taxpayer funded hush agreements to silence employees and victims of abuse across our state government is a shameful one, and one that must be ended—not only to help those who have already been silenced but also to protect potential future victims from abusers who could be hiding in plain sight,” said DiZoglio. The senator added, “NDAs don’t just silence victims, they perpetuate harassment and outright assault and place others at risk by keeping these offenses secret.”

The state Senate approved the ban 38-1 and also changed its own rules to prohibit the practice. However, DiZoglio said, the governor’s office has refused to release information about the amount of tax dollars spent on NDAs, while the House is known to have given out at least 33 NDAs in recent years.

Chiefs Feel Left Out of Policing Debate; Senator Says Police Falsely Denying Problems in Mass.

As they settle in for debate on a sweeping police reform bill and more than 200 proposed changes to its text, House lawmakers will need to grapple with blistering opposition from one of the largest law enforcement associations in Massachusetts. Lawmakers this month are closing in on new rules to hold police accountable for their conduct and dozens of police chiefs launched a volley of criticism Tuesday, complaining that both the House and Senate bills alter training and accountability too significantly and are advancing without sufficient input from police. Hampden Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth, who serves as the president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, said at a press conference that the legislation is “nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the events happening hundreds of miles away from here.”

“These bills are not a response to any current situation in Massachusetts,” Farnsworth said. “These bills are being used to make a political statement. They do not address issues in Massachusetts.

Mass. Senate and House Negotiate $1.7 Billion Borrowing Bill for School, Police and Other Tech

Technology that could help early education providers reopen safely, ensure students’ equitable access to remote learning and body cameras for police departments are at stake as the Massachusetts Senate and House try to come to agreement on a $1.7 billion borrowing bill. The six-member committee charged with negotiating differences met for the first time Tuesday afternoon. The committee convened in Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues’ office at noon and quickly voted to close the meeting after opening remarks. The members—Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, Danielle Gregoire and David Vieira and Sens.

Gov. Baker Extends Pause on Evictions, Foreclosures Two Months to Oct. 17

Most evictions and foreclosures will remain banned in Massachusetts until Oct. 17 under an extension to the COVID-prompted moratorium Gov. Charlie Baker triggered on Tuesday. Baker’s action adds another 60 days to a temporary ban that was set to expire Aug. 18—a step that the governor said will help keep many vulnerable families in secure housing while the state continues its gradual progress to revive public activity. The moratorium law that Baker signed on April 20 prevents virtually all non-emergency evictions and foreclosures amid the pandemic, and gave the governor the authority to extend the eviction ban for up to 90 days.

Senate Passes Police Reforms, But DiZoglio Takes Neutral Stance Until Questions Are Answered

The Senate overcame a difficult rollout and several false starts to pass a far-reaching reform of policing in Massachusetts on Tuesday that would ban chokeholds, limit the use of tear gas, license all law enforcement officers and train them in the history of racism. The bill passed 30-7, but Sen. Diana DiZoglio was among three who voted “present” rather than yes or no. DiZoglio told WHAV she chose the neutral vote of “present” because she supports much of the bill. However, the Methuen Democrat said she has not received answers to many questions prompted by the newly proposed 70-page bill and concerned about “last minute changes to sweeping reforms voted on at 4:10 a.m. without a public hearing.” The senator said she was pleased to learn late that the House plans to host a public hearing where some answers may be forthcoming. “This was only the first step.

State Lifts Ban on Reusable Bags in Grocery Stores; Unclear When Order Takes Effect in Haverhill

Reusable bags have been cleared to return to checkout lines in Massachusetts, with a previous ban now removed in the latest round of Baker administration guidance affecting grocery stores. On Friday, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel rescinded a pair of earlier orders that laid out required precautions for grocery stores to safely operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the rescission notice, Bharel said the two orders’ “COVID-19 reduction strategies” were now incorporated into the economic reopening safety standards for retail businesses that Gov. Charlie Baker issued in June. The newer retail safety standards mirror many of the original supermarket requirements—salad bars and seating areas must remain closed, hand sanitizer should be made available to customers, social distancing must be maintained among both workers and customers, and grocery stores and pharmacies must continue to set aside at least one morning hour each day for shoppers aged 60 and over. The Department of Public Health’s April 7 guidance limited grocery stores to 40 percent capacity, while the new retail reopening standards allow 50 percent of permitted occupancy.

Podcast: Sen. DiZoglio Cosponsors Legislation to Make Juneteenth a Statewide Holiday

Last Friday was the observance of “Juneteenth,” commemorating the day in 1865 when Texas became the last state in the nation to be notified of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free its’ slaves. State Sen. Diana DiZoglio wants to make the date a formal holiday. Appearing on WHAV’s morning show, DiZoglio said is co-sponsoring legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth in Massachusetts. “You know, I believe this legislation is a testament to the importance of this day, and I look forward to fighting for the day to actually become recognized as a state holiday,” she says. DiZoglio says Juneteenth was observed on the local level in several communities.