The School Committee voted last month to determine when school will start next year for Andover students. The final calendar chosen has the teachers of Andover Public Schools coming back to school on August 25 and students starting on August 27.
Prior to this vote, the faculty members of Andover Public Schools voted between three different calendars, A, B, and C. Calendars A and B both started before Labor Day, whereas calendar C started after Labor Day. The School Committee eventually chose calendar A, which had 152 faculty votes compared to 192 votes for B and 150 votes for C.
According to the union contract, the teachers are not allowed to go back to school before Sept. 1, unless they vote otherwise and therefore waive that contractual right. In this case, the total number of votes for the two calendars that started before Labor Day (A and B) was greater than the number of votes for the calendar that started after Labor Day (C), which allowed the School Committee to choose a calendar that started before Labor Day.
“In addition to seeking teacher input,” says School Committee Chairwoman Annie Gilbert, “the School Committee put out all three options to the parent community and set up a dedicated email address for public comment. We received 32 responses from parents, as follows: Calendar A-18 votes, Calendar B-12 votes, and Calendar C-1 vote. We also sought input from the PTOs and PACs at a Townwide PTO meeting. Finally, we asked the superintendent for her recommendation, which was Calendar A. Taking everything together, we decided to go with Calendar A.”
According to Andover High School teacher and union building representative Mr. Shea, there is concern from the teachers about why Calendar A was chosen over Calendar B, which had received the most faculty votes. Shea said, “The word ‘vote’ is what’s throwing people off. The reality is that we were not voting on a calendar. We were voting on whether or not to start before Labor Day.”
The confusion for the teachers, however, lies in the question of why Calendar A was chosen over Calendar B, which was the teacher favorite. “The question that I’m getting from other union members is why [the School Committee] put B on the list when it wasn’t really a viable option. However, [I understand now that] from the School Committee’s perspective, it was about how many votes they could [tally] for a calendar that started before Labor Day [so the contractual rights were waived], and then choosing from there.”
Gilbert said, “Generally speaking, we like to choose a calendar option that is favored by the teachers, but this year their preferences were split fairly evenly (30%, 40%, 30%), and we also factored in the preferences of the parent community and the superintendent as well.”
The final calendar was voted on by the School Committee on March 11, 2014. According to the School Committee, it was a 4-1 vote. Barbara L’Italien was the only member who voted against starting before Labor Day, but she was not available for comment.
By Jenna Kosinski, with additional reporting by Caden McKenna