By Ben Velderman
ANDOVER, Mass. – This might be as low as it gets.
A high school teacher and former union leader is urging her colleagues to disrupt and delay the process for renewing Andover High School’s state accreditation, until the local teachers union gets a new collective bargaining agreement, reports the Eagle-Tribune.
Jennifer Meagher, an English teacher who served as the Andover Education Association’s vice president until recently, reportedly sent an email on June 10 to fellow union members, telling them the accreditation process “is the only leverage we have left at the bargaining table.”
The main issue at the bargaining table is reportedly related to scheduling.
Union members want to stop a plan by school officials to make teachers increase their workload from five classes per year to six. The proposed change would save the district about $500,000.
While the district and the union haggle over that issue, it just so happens that “the high school’s accreditation is under review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges,” the Eagle-Tribune reports.
Accreditation is essentially a seal of approval from a state government, certifying that a school is meeting basic requirements. Students who graduate from an unaccredited school run the risk of being rejected by top colleges and universities.
Meagher seems to understand this, which is why her alleged plan to put Andover High School’s accreditation process “on hold” is so deplorable.
“To try to use the accreditation for anything else amounts to nothing other than blackmail in my opinion,” said Paula Colby-Clements, school committee chairwoman for Andover Public Schools. “On every level imaginable, this is just plain wrong.”
AEA President Kerry Costello told the newspaper that Meagher’s email did not represent the official position of the union, but refused to comment further.
But evidence suggests the delay tactic may already be in use.
“The high school is going through a self-study stage of the accreditation process, which requires reports to be prepared and passed by a two-thirds majority of the faculty,” the Eagle-Tribune reports.
Several reports have not passed by the necessary margin, due to a high number of teacher abstentions.
“Colby-Clements said it became clear to the school administration that such a high number of abstentions may have been an orchestrated measure,” the newspaper writes.
The School Committee will likely conduct an internal review of this situation, which it should. As Colby-Clements told the Eagle-Tribune, the union’s behavior may constitute an illegal strike action. If that’s the case, state officials must act swiftly to punish these out-of-control radicals who would actually damage the school and undermine the students they are supposed to serve.
Any union member found guilty of implementing this scheme must not be allowed to work with children. They would be guilty of violating the public trust, all in an effort to score cheap political points. That’s inexcusable.
Like we said, this might be as low as it gets.