The School Committee says Andover missed out on a chance to get federal money for its town schools yesterday, Wednesday, Jan. 13, because the teachers union president would not sign on to the effort.
Superintendent Claudia Bach and the five members of the School Committee had hoped to apply for federal Race To the Top money. The sticking point is that a grant application requires a "memorandum of understanding" to be signed by the teachers union president, superintendent and School Committee chairperson.
The union disagreed with one of the memorandum's frameworks, which seeks to improve "teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance."
After a serious discussion, the 58 member executive board of the Andover Education Association voted unanimously against signing the memorandum earlier this month, said Tom Meyers, AEA president and Andover High School social studies teacher.
"The feeling of the executive board was that if you're going to tie evaluation to compensation, then teachers are tied to student performance. It will drive all education to standardized testing, denying the creativity and tremendous originality that goes into planning lessons in Andover. Rather than benefit education, it would homogenize and standardize education, and not take into consideration all the myriad of learning styles that students exhibit."
The School Committee issued a lengthy statement this week, signed by all five members and the superintendent.
"We do not believe that at this stage there is any downside to all three parties (superintendent, School Committee chairwoman and union president) signing the memorandum of understanding at this time. There is, however, a significant loss of opportunity for money, change and innovation all backed by federal dollars," wrote the committee, in part. "We are disappointed in the response of the union leadership. We believe this is not in the best interest of the children, the teachers and the community."
Meyers said the AEA was also working on a press release on the issue, but it would not be ready by Townsman press deadline.
"It was our feeling that if it was going to help education, obviously we want to see money come into the system, but not in a way that won't benefit students directly," said Meyers.
The union also felt slighted because the School Committee brought up the grant proposal as an afterthought, at the end of a December meeting on a completely different topic, said Meyers.
"It shows a clear lack of trust, a School Committee that doesn't want to work with educators," said Meyers. "Now they put this press release out, and attack us behind our backs."
The AEA executive board is comprised of elected representatives from all of Andover's 10 schools, said Meyers. The union's 900 members include teachers, nurses, secretaries and other school positions.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association had advised local teachers unions to support the measure, under specific conditions.
"We believe the Memorandum of Understanding protects your collective bargaining rights and prevents unilateral implementation of changes if an agreement cannot be reached. A separate document we have developed, the MTA Memorandum of Agreement, makes it clear that any party can back out at any time," wrote the state union.
The group recommended local union presidents sign the MOUs, if they could agree to some statements, including, "there is a trusting, collaborative labor-management relationship in the district"; "I have discussed the mandatory and voluntary elements of the MOU with the superintendent and school committee chairperson, and we agree that we have a shared interest in many of these elements"; and "we have jointly agreed to sign the MOU and take on the collaborative work that it outlines should DESE be awarded an RTTT grant."