HAVERHILL, MASS. (WHDH) - School is canceled for Haverhill and Malden students Monday after the school committees and the educators’ associations were each unable to reach a tentative agreement, according to the superintendent Sunday.
Haverhill’s union had a hard deadline of negotiating until 5 p.m., by which if they had failed to make an agreement, they would strike on Monday. Malden educators said they were prepared to negotiate into the night, and had made a few key agreements already.
But negotiations ended abruptly around 8:20 p.m., when the school committee left the discussion, requesting mediation from the state.
Malden Public Schools will be closed tomorrow, according to an update on their website. The announcement said there will be “no after-school programs, extracurricular, and athletic practices/games,” though out-of-district students will still be provided transportation.
“All staff should report to work,” the update said.
In her update on the Haverhill Public Schools’ website, Superintendent Margaret Marotta said the day will now serve as a professional development day for all staff. The school committee and union are still in communication, and the negotiating parties will meet again Monday morning at 8 a.m.
Students will have to make up the “day of lost learning time” at the end of the school year, Marotta’s update read.
“While some progress was made over the last few days, we are extremely disappointed that union leadership and the Massachusetts Teachers Association has encouraged our teachers to take this illegal action,” the Haverhill Negotiations Subcommittee said in part in their statement on the strike. “The School Committee and the Mass State Labor Board are asking a Salem Superior Court judge to issue an injunction against the union for its illegal strike which would have a devastating effect on the students and families in Haverhill.”
The Haverhill School Committee said they offered the teachers a combined over $20 million in raises. They added that childcare services will be provided Monday to assist families whose children cannot go to school during the closure.
As 7NEWS previously reported, Massachusetts State law prohibits public employees to strike, but teacher strikes have happened in the past. Back in May, Brookline educators made the decision to strike after not reaching an agreement with the union.
The Brookline Educators’ Union, along with unions from Andover, Tewksbury, Somerville, Wellesley, Burlington and Belmont, support the strike.
The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Teachers Association said in a statement: “In Malden and Haverhill, our members are fighting for the common good. When school committees fail to settle fair contracts, they disrespect not only educators, but also the students and the communities that depend on our public schools. Malden and Haverhill are saying enough is enough.”
The unions said they are asking for higher wages and smaller classroom sizes. The Haverhill School Committee accused the state teacher’s union of hijacking local negotiations for their own agenda, at students’ expense.
“There’s still several hours left in this day and we’re committed to getting as much done as we can,” Deb Gesualdo, President of the Malden EA said. “Hopefully we’ll come to an agreement. Nobody wants to go on strike and be on a picket line. Our educators want to be in classrooms, with students, teaching them.”
Since Malden negotiations fell through Sunday night, 14,000 students across both districts will be impacted by the strikes on Monday.
Mayor Fiorentini of Haverhill was advised not to comment on the strike by the state Ethics Comission, the City of Haverhill said in an emailed statement Sunday night, since his son is a teacher and a member of the union. The city instead clarified statistics from social media.
“Contrary to what has been posted on social media, no money has been withheld from the school department by the mayor or by anyone else,” the email said. “The HPS’s has its entire budget allotment of around $110 million. No money was withheld. Their budget was up around $9 million this year and has doubled in around the past decade.”
The email also said “the city does not fund education at “barely” above the state minimum.” And noted the education budget for Haverhill Public Schools this year is “funded at approximately 12% or $10 million above the minimum funding levels set by the state.”
Marotta said the local YMCA and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill will be open on Monday for children already enrolled in their programming. The schools are also working with Food Services to provide free lunch on Monday and free breakfast on Tuesday to children under 18. More information on which locations will be providing care and food services, as well as pre-registration links, are available in Marotta’s update.
“I am hopeful that this strike will be brief,” Marotta said, “and that we will be back in our classrooms on Tuesday.”
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