By Kathleen McGinty and Marina Renton
As work-to-rule concludes its third week at Andover High School, students, teachers, and parents continue to hope that a solution to the negotiating impasse is near. Members of the School Committee see the high school schedule as the main issue still to be resolved.
“AHS teachers have a teaching load and classroom instructing time that is significantly less than their peers in other high-performing school districts,” noted School Committee member Dennis Forgue, commenting by email on behalf of the School Committee.
According to a letter from the School Committee to the Andover Townsman, teachers in comparable schools usually teach five periods, with one 45-minute planning period and one 45-minute duty daily throughout the school year. They instruct between 120 and 125 students. In contrast, Andover High teachers, who teach 50 to 90 students each semester, have one 82-minute planning period throughout the entire school year and are required to fulfill one 82-minute duty period for one semester.
In an effort to break the impasse, explains Mr. Forgue, “The School Committee has through mediation presented two proposals that the School Committee would agree to immediately. Hopefully the AEA will agree to one of these proposals and conclude the negotiations.”
As explained in the letter to the Andover Townsman, one option would entail a new schedule in September with a 2 percent raise for teachers at that time. The other proposal would keep the current block schedule but require teachers to teach three classes each semester as opposed to the system in place now, which has the teachers instructing two classes one semester and three classes the other. If this second proposal were accepted, teachers would receive the same 2 percent increase in salary.
“Hopefully the AEA will agree to one of these proposals and conclude the negotiations,” wrote Mr. Forgue.
He emphasized that all parties to the negotiation have maintained a high standard of personal conduct throughout the negotiations: “As you know the negotiations have been long and challenging; however they have remained both professional and respectful. This is important as it sets the stage for working collaboratively addressing both opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”
“The School Committee,” added Mr. Forgue, “needs to remain focused on the larger picture of reaching a balanced, fair and sustainable contract and maintain the ability to invest in new initiatives including lower class sizes at AHS, a wireless environment at all schools, pursuit of the fine arts and foreign language initiatives already begun and implementation of the newly adopted strategic plan.
“The School Committee regrets any inconvenience or challenges created at AHS and the entire district as a result of the prolonged contract negotiations. Change is hard. However, to continue to be successful and a high-performing school district, Andover must continually adapt to the changing educational, economic and social environment in which we live. The School Committee is doing all it can to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion, but we must insist on an agreement that is both fair and financially sustainable,” Mr. Forgue concluded.
This is the third in a series of articles by the Warrior Weekly about contract negotations. Previous stories have documented sentiments expressed by teachers on work-to-rule, as well as an initiative by students to urge the interested parties to resolve the issue.