As faculty started voting against the reports due to the ongoing contract issue, voting was moved to a ballot process, according to the decision. Then-interim Andover High Principal Tom Sharkey approved a third “abstention” option for the ballot — basically allowing teachers to vote against the reports in a way that didn’t bring the content of the reports into question.
No administrator — including Superintendent McGrath — told teachers from that point forward that voting abstention was an illegal withholding of services, according to the decision.
Meagher’s email told those receiving it to use the option, because “we can assure the (School Committee) and (McGrath) that reports will be passed and NEASC will continue if there is a contract signed this summer that maintains a five-class load at AHS.”
“By approving the option on the ballot, they were validating that option as a vote,” Meagher said this week. “We had been using it. People had been voting to abstain. Nobody had been disciplined for it.”
“Nobody ever said to us, ‘you can’t do this,’” Meagher said.
On June 26, five days after all of the reports passed, Meagher received a letter from McGrath saying that abstaining and voting to “put a hold on” the reports was a violation of state law, which prohibits conduct that “induces, encourages or condones a strike, work stoppage, slowdown or a withholding of services,” the decision reads.
Meagher was put on paid administrative leave, and after an internal hearing, a follow-up letter on Sept. 14 finalized Meagher’s termination, according to the decision.
CERB’s decision supporting Meagher also supported the use of the abstention vote. “The abstain option on the paper ballots, as approved by Sharkey, de facto enabled faculty to ‘put a hold on’ the NEASC process, while still fully participating in the NEASC process,” the decision said.