Andover teachers will “reluctantly” enter school buildings on Tuesday to report for a day of professional development after the district’s school committee voted to take legal action against the educators for what it called an “illegal work stoppage.”
According to the Andover School Committee, the unanimous vote Monday afternoon to authorize the district’s legal counsel to petition the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations was made after about 45 percent of the members of the Andover Education Association — which represents school educators, guidance counselors, and social workers, among others — refused to enter school buildings on Monday for in-person training, citing concerns about safety related to COVID-19. The teachers instead stayed outside the building, doing the work outdoors.
“This was not a decision the School Committee took lightly,” Chairperson Shannon Scully said in a statement released by the district. “We have worked to ensure that our school buildings are safe for our students and staff, and we are well-positioned to enable in-person learning with the district’s hybrid learning plan to start the school year. It is our responsibility under Massachusetts law to notify the DLR of the union’s action.”
In a statement, the union said members voted to suspend what they called a “workplace safety action” in response to the “excessive and punitive measures management took [Monday] to stifle and obstruct our ability to prepare for this school year.”
“Instead, we will reluctantly enter school buildings [Tuesday] under duress, and hope that the School Committee will begin to negotiate reasonable health and safety benchmarks with us in good faith,” the Andover Education Association said in its statement. “Educators who participated in the safety action completed the work that was required of them. The School Committee’s decision to pursue a labor charge further demonstrates the administration’s antagonistic stance toward educators. The AEA is fully committed to negotiating a resolution that ensures the health and safety of students, their families, educators and the community as the school year begins.”
Sheldon Berman, superintendent of Andover Public Schools, said in a statement that Monday was an “important day” for professional development.
“The district was prepared to train our staff on the safety protocols, cleaning protocols and health mandates developed to maintain a safe environment in all our school buildings,” he said. “It is a missed opportunity on the part of the AEA to see for themselves the precautions and care we have implemented on their behalf, and on behalf of our students.”
Members of the union held a vote of no confidence in Berman on Monday, saying in a statement that the head of the district “has shown persistent disregard for educators.”
“He does not respect our professionalism and fails to take a cooperative approach in addressing the many challenges that face the district,” the education association said. “His behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a point where his autocratic style of management can no longer be tolerated, as it jeopardizes the health and safety of students, educators and the community at large.
“Berman has repeatedly disregarded the many health and safety concerns raised by both the Association and the community,” the union wrote. “He refuses to meaningfully address the concerns and unanswered questions of educators who have documented health issues that will have an impact on their working conditions.”
Andover Public Schools are set to begin the school year with a hybrid learning plan, with each student attending in-person two full-days per week. The first day of school for students is Sept. 16. The teachers union, like others across the state, has advocated for the district to start the year fully remote, with a phased-in approach to bringing back part-time, in-person learning.
The members of the Andover Education Association have voted No Confidence in Andover Public Schools Superintendent…