School committee chair Susan McCready opened last Thursday’s meeting with an apology after some of her comments from a ‘long and difficult grievance meeting’ with the Andover Education Association were posted on the social networks.
The apology came days after a hearing into contract breaches raised by the teachers, which was one of many contentious meetings over the past nearly two years as several contracts were negotiated, including the contract for the teachers who was in question during the hearing.
The union published that McCready told teachers, “No one is asking you to stay here. If you don’t like working here, please leave. Go ahead, please,” shortly before the start of the school committee meeting.
“I know my comments did nothing to help us move forward toward mutual respect,” McCready said. “And for that, I apologize to you, my colleagues, to the administration, and most importantly, to the many wonderful educators in this district, some of whom were present at this hearing and perhaps thought that this was meant for them. I really appreciate you. and you with our students is why I sit on this committee.
The citation had been rolling since the previous Tuesday when the school board met with union representatives over a breach of contract grievance.
“As far as the no-apology is concerned, it’s quite complicated and not a complete mea culpa. We think the chairman of the school committee could have taken more responsibility,” said Matthew Bach, president of the Andover Education Association. .
The teachers had filed a grievance about the teachers’ work day, specifically the 10 minutes before and 30 minutes after school, McCready said. About 20 teachers testified at Tuesday’s hearing about why they believed the contract was breached, Bach said. But he would not say more, instead waiting for the decision to be made around February 8, he said.
McCready elaborated further on the emotionally charged meeting, saying, “It touched me to hear some teachers at the meeting say that those 10 minutes before and 30 minutes after bell time should be optional. and that the reminder of these contractual obligations was demoralizing. So demoralizing that they might start looking for jobs in other neighborhoods.
For years, there has been friction between the union and the school board which most recently manifested itself in teacher assistant contract negotiations that lasted over 500 days. The district is currently waiting to hear from an investigator about the negotiations after they stalled last summer when a state mediator became involved.
There have been protests, signs posted in residents’ yards and teaching assistants have gone to almost every committee meeting for months demanding a resolution to the negotiations. and McCready pointed this out during the reunion saying she felt “personally attacked”.
She shared her hope that the committee and the union could come to a more peaceful conclusion.