Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

June 6, 2013

Union fighting to restore fired high school teacher

Meagher testifies before state labor board

The Andover Education Association says a school district decision to fire high school teacher Jen Meagher for an email she sent to fellow teachers last June was illegal, and a grievance filed with the state’s Department of Labor Relations seeks to restore her with back pay and benefits.

Meagher and AEA President Kerry Costello testified before a DLR hearing Tuesday at the department’s Boston headquarters. At the hearing, they answered questions about the high school’s reaccreditation process and how bargaining for the latest contract was tied directly to reaccreditation self-study reports.

In the final month of contract bargaining last June, Meagher sent an email to 60 high school staff saying the reaccreditation process “is the only leverage we have left at the bargaining table. We can assure the (School Committee) and (Superintendent Marinel McGrath) that reports will be passed and (reaccreditation) will continue if there is a contract signed this summer that maintains a five-class load at AHS.”

Up to that point, the only remaining “sticking point” in contract talks was teacher workload at the high school. The School Committee proposed increasing the workload from five to six courses, allowing the district to eliminate teaching positions and save money while also putting a dent in climbing class sizes.

Ultimately, the final, ratified contract incorporated a six-course-per-year teaching model. Though Meagher asked the teachers receiving her email to abstain in their votes on the self-study reports, all seven reports were passed by the last day of school, June 21.

Meagher was fired by the district on Sept. 17, according to a notice of dismissal from McGrath. In the dismissal, McGrath said Meagher’s email urged teachers to refrain from performing an in-service duty required of them by the contract — exercising their judgment as to the merits of the reaccreditation reports.

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