'Angry and frustrated': Weymouth teachers' union, school committee clash over contract

WEYMOUTH – Contract talks between the teachers' union and the school committee have moved to mediation as union leaders say elected officials are unwilling to negotiate or offer an adequate proposal. Weymouth School Committee Chair John Sullivan said the committee is negotiating in good faith toward a contract that is achievable.

The contract between the Weymouth Teachers Association and the Weymouth School Committee expired July 1. Michael Murphy, president of the Weymouth Educators Association union, which includes the teachers' union, said negotiations started several months before the contract expired, which was a good sign, but after 13 negotiation sessions the two sides made little progress and have started mediation.

“All through the process it was extremely difficult for them to take anything seriously,” he said. “It’s almost like they didn’t care enough.”

Heike Tuplin, treasurer of the Weymouth Teachers Association, said the district has lost 212 members due to resignation or retirement in the last three years, which is about 30% of membership. She said 30 members left the district in September alone.

Reinventing Weymouth: A strong economy, housing demand, zoning encourage redevelopment

Stop by:Meet Weymouth reporter Jessica Trufant in person Oct. 12 at open hours at the library

Tina Conte, secretary of the Weymouth Teachers Association, said she's been through negotiations for five contracts, and this time it's been "extremely difficult" due to a lack of feedback regarding the union's proposal.

"It's a wall. They say 'no,' and they don't say why," she said. "This has been the most frustrating time trying to talk to other adults and actually negotiate."

Union leaders and school officials are prohibited from discussing specifics of negotiations while collective bargaining is ongoing.

Sullivan, a teacher at Boston College High School, said three school committee members are educators themselves and understand the important role teachers play. While the district is in the 17th percentile for net school spending, he said salaries are right around the state average.

“Teachers are at the center of everything we do and we prioritize our most valuable asset, after students,” he said. “We’re committed to coming up with a good, equitable deal.”

Murphy said Chapter 70 state aid for schools has increased and the school department received nearly $10 million through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, yet the district doesn't want to use the money toward teacher salaries.

'What sports should be about': Weymouth, Walpole square off in Unified Basketball game

South Shore League stalemate: Rockland, East Bridgewater boys soccer teams play to 1-1 tie

“We went into our district during COVID and worked in unhealthy situations, where we could bring the virus home to our families. And as a way of saying thank you, they have done nothing to negotiate the way we hoped they would,” he said. "We're angry and frustrated because we know they have money."

But Sullivan said money from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund is temporary, and therefore isn't a sustainable funding source for the district.

“I want our contract and future contracts to provide stability and security for our teachers, and I want our staff to stay with us and grow with us,” he said. “Taking money out of a three-year grant doesn't always achieve that goal.”

Joni Cederholm, vice president of the Weymouth Teachers Association and an education support professional, said the contract for paraprofessionals expires next, and they're already feeling apprehensive due to the teachers' experience.

Sullivan said he hopes bringing in an unbiased person during mediation will help the two sides settle a contract.

Thanks to our subscribers, who help make this coverage possible. If you are not a subscriber, please consider supporting quality local journalism with a Patriot Ledger subscription. Here is our latest offer.

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Weymouth teachers' union, school committee at odds over new contract