The School Committee has cleared the way for fired Andover High School English teacher Jen Meagher to return to the classroom, saying any appeals to a state labor board decision ordering her reinstatement wouldn’t be in the best interest of students.
Despite being “deeply disappointed” with last month’s Commonwealth Employment Relations Board ruling that determined Meagher engaged in protected union activity and that her termination amounted to discrimination, the committee voted unanimously last Friday against pursuing an appeal.
Meagher was fired last September by Superintendent Marinel McGrath for sending an email in spring 2012 encouraging fellow faculty members to abstain from voting on high school reaccreditation reports in an effort to gain leverage in protracted and contentious contract talks.
School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue and former Chairwoman Paula Colby-Clements said this week they were surprised by the Employment Relations Board’s decision that essentially said a “teacher can collude to sink a reaccreditation.”
“We feel a teacher shouldn’t be allowed to do what she did,” Colby-Clements said. “The fact that CERB has now decided that activity is protected was something we couldn’t have predicted or imagined.”
But Colby-Clements said just as people may not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow pickets at a serviceman’s funeral, the same holds for school officials. They are bound by the decision.
“We don’t have to like it personally,” she said.
Forgue said while the School Committee maintains that the labor board’s decision is flawed, it also recognizes the inability to press forward given that the state appeals court would essentially back the labor board.
“We need to look at the larger picture,” he said.
The state board’s ruling orders the school district to reinstate Meagher and provide her back pay with interest and benefits lost during her termination.