Speaking for the Harvard Teachers Association at Monday’s School Committee meeting, longtime social studies teacher Kathleen Doherty urged the committee to drop its request for a state mediator to take part in the ongoing teacher contract negotiations. Instead, she asked that the committee ratify the contract it had worked out with the Harvard Teachers Association a year ago.
As the pandemic bore down on Harvard in March 2020, the HTA and the School Committee agreed to replace a three-year agreement they had just reached with a one-year contract that expires this spring. Current negotiations are about what comes next.
With nearly 50 teachers and school staff members attending the meeting via Zoom, Doherty cited information released by the state this week about the new round of federal aid for towns and schools. Under the American Relief Act, the town of Harvard will get about $1.9 million, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s estimates. And the schools expect about $489,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds.
“We understand that the funds are meant for a variety of purposes, not just for teacher salaries,” Doherty said in her statement. “Still, it seems clear that even if the actual numbers come in well below these estimates, there is more than enough money to fund the contract as originally agreed to last March.”
Doherty thanked school families and the community as a whole for the support teachers have received during the year. She said Harvard schools had achieved many successes despite the problems caused by the pandemic. “Harvard schools—unlike so many other districts across the state—only had to declare one unplanned remote day this year,” she said, “and that was due to cold weather, not COVID-19.”
Shortly after Doherty’s statement, the School Committee went into executive session to discuss the contract negotiations.
On Tuesday, School Committee Chair SusanMary Redinger responded with a statement that read in part: “The School Committee appreciates the informative and sincere requests made by the HTA … to exit the mediation process. … We share their desire and interest in resolving our differences quickly. The School Committee remains confident that mediation will actually allow us to reach an agreement faster and more amicably than if we took a traditional bargaining approach.” Redinger expressed hope for a “productive, successful session” with the mediator April 8.