Much has been said about the recent School Committee approval of the teacher’s contract. While the focus has been on a 1.5% wage increase over two years, what is being lost in the argument is the fact that the Committee negotiated an agreement to re-examine the salary table which has been a significant source of annual financial pressure. In addition, the contract provides for the parties to undertake interest-based bargaining, an innovative method to implement solutions to systemic issues. These are two monumental breakthroughs for all parties.
Thrown into the discussion is the issue of why the School Committee was not in attendance at the last Town Council meeting. Here is some information to consider on these issues:
Several School Committee members, including me, could not make it to Wednesday night’s Council meeting due to work and/or family commitments, and notified several members of the Council and the Town Administrator well in advance. We felt that unless we all could attend, it wouldn’t be fair to ask one or two members to do it on their own, especially given the heightened tension and climate of anger. We prepared a letter in lieu of attendance and offered to provide additional information and answer any other questions they may have. Click here to view the complete letter. We are continuing to address questions and concerns as we receive them.
Each School Committee member cares very much about this community and we are committed to working hard to make Franklin a great home for all residents, young and old. Indeed, that’s why I dedicated the past 10 years of my life to the School Committee. We accomplished some great things together, and I am ready to bring that dedication and commitment to the Town Council if elected on November 8.
I respect the Council’s authority and autonomy under state law and the charter. I have not always agreed with the decisions from that board. When appropriate, I have shared my opinions in a respectful manner, understanding that they have researched and carefully considered the issue before rendering a decision. I only ask that the same consideration and respect be given to the authority and autonomy of the School Committee. Click here for an interesting article from City and Town which discusses roles, responsibilities, and accountability.
I can assure you that the School Committee carefully researched and considered all options before making its decision on the teacher’s contract which concerned more than raises. It was a reasoned and informed judgment. I know that it is not popular with some in this community, but I continue to believe that it is right and just. I suppose we could have sought political cover by delaying the vote until after the election, but that would have been disingenuous and irresponsible. We have a responsibility to exercise our judgment, not for political gain, but for the benefit of the community. I am convinced that the long range benefits of this contract will prove their worth. It may not happen in the next six months, but long term, this contract is good for this town.
As noted earlier, one of the key components of the deal was an agreement to study and revise the salary table. It’s an enormous undertaking, but the groundwork has been laid. The teacher’s union has promised to work with us to affect change, and I believe that it will be a successful effort. A successful re-structuring of the table will save money for the community and reward teachers for a job well done.
Finally, I don’t think it’s fair to say that no one showed up at the Council meeting on October 5. In fact, a key member of the School Committee negotiating team who helped broker this deal was in the Council Chambers that night. The Town Administrator was a member of the negotiating team, he was at all the negotiation sessions discharging his duty on behalf of the Council, and he had more intimate knowledge of what went on than many of the School Committee members because of his presence at those sessions over the past two years. He was in a position to address any immediate questions or concerns that could not have waited until the next Council meeting when School Committee members could appear. The fact that Council members chose to excoriate rather than ask questions of a negotiating team member is puzzling.
I thank everyone who has shared their opinions and concerns on this issue. This is not the first time there has been disagreement, and I do not suspect it will be the last. But we become a stronger community by approaching our disagreements with creativity and civility. I hope that we can continue to do this in the future, and I pledge to make every effort to do so myself.