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Quincy teachers face tough choices

Posted by Molly Connors  May 21, 2010 04:06 PM

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The faculty and staff of the Quincy Public Schools are scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to discuss possible changes to their current contracts, and morale is “miserable,” says their union president.

As many as 200 positions could be eliminated in the fiscal year that begins July 1, officials say, and speculation about who could stay and who could go is creating a tension among faculty and staff, said Paul Phillips, president of the Quincy Education Association.

“The fact is that [layoffs and budget cuts] pit people against one another,” he said. “You find out what people think is more important than other [things], and that can have a very negative impact on morale.”

Reduced services and layoffs are inevitable in the schools, officials say, the only question is where the cuts will be and how deep they will go.

For fiscal 2011, the schools requested about $91.6 million, and Mayor Thomas Koch appropriated about $82.3 in his overall city budget. Pay raises for school employees – about $4.8 million for teachers, $132,000 for custodians, and $366,000 for administrators – account for nearly half of the budget shortfall.

The QEA, which has about 850 members and went on strike in 2007, already proposed one concession to the School Committee and Koch a few weeks ago, which was rejected, officials said. The details of negotiations were not disclosed.

Phillips said Monday’s meeting, which will take place at the Boston Teacher’s Union in Dorchester because no space in Quincy is big enough to accommodate the group, will last about two hours.

If they do not conclude their discussions Monday, Phillips said they can use their annual meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, to wrap up.

Phillips, the full-time union president for 14 years, said the teachers at North Quincy High School have a draft agreement that will be presented to all union members Monday.

“We will vote on it in a democratic fashion,” Phillips said. Votes will be done by a secret ballot, Phillips said, and any contract changes need to be approved by 2/3 of the membership.

Some elected officials are calling on school employees to take a pay freeze or deferral. At a meeting last week attended by hundreds of residents, School Committee member David F. McCarthy told Phillips that the union should “Do the right thing, not the political thing.”

At least five other city unions, including the police and laborers, have taken furloughs or deferrals, and the city’s librarians haven’t had a pay raise since 2007, officials said.

Next fiscal year, the police and fire departments are slated to take 3.7 percent less than they did this year, the library will take 9 percent less, and the schools will take 3.6 percent less. Quincy’s overall budget is about $230 million.

The mayor’s office declined to comment on the school budget, saying only that the mayor respects the union’s negotiations.

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