News


GEA Update - February 27, 2021

posted Feb 27, 2021, 6:57 AM by GMHSLibrary   [ updated Feb 27, 2021, 6:57 AM ]

Dear Colleagues:

We wanted to take a moment to update you on the latest happenings.

Contract Talks- We have our 3rd meeting scheduled for March 4th to resume discussing our contract proposal package.  It's still very early in the process and we hope to see some movement on the proposal package that we presented in our next meeting.  

Going Back All In- As you know, Commissioner Riley and Governor Baker held a press conference earlier this week announcing that DESE is moving forward with requiring all elementary students back into the school buildings, 5 days a week beginning in April, with middle/high school students to follow, soon after.  Superintendent Jacobs and the School Committee reiterated that information at last night's School Committee Meeting.  Discussions/negotiations have already begun regarding this move.  Metrics are currently trending in the right direction, as well as the vaccine rollout.  GEA members, Meg Johnson, Chris DiFranco and I met with the Superintendent and School Committee on 2/24 to discuss/negotiate the rollout.  We will continue those discussions on 3/8.  There are many considerations that need to be looked at before any rollout plan becomes a reality.  Commissioner RIley has stated that he is shooting for April 5th as the start date for the "All in" phase to begin but that has yet to be decided at the state or our local level.  Furthermore, Superintendent Jacobs discussed the possibility of a phased in approach to the "All in" model.  For example, allow the younger grades, K-2 to begin the all in model on April 5th and then have grades 3-6 begin the "All in" model on April 26th.  Again, this all came to everyone's attention just this week and we are discussing all pertinent information as it becomes available. To be clear, nothing has been decided and we are still in discussions. 

Vaccine Survey:  Superintendent Jacobs asked the GEA Executive Board to poll membership about whether or not members were planning on getting vaccinated.  That poll was sent out to your personal emails, yesterday (2/25).  The poll will remain open until 6:00 PM tonight (2/26).  Results of the poll will remain anonymous and confidential.  The district does not know at this time whether vaccines will be offered here at the schools, yet.  Superintendent Jacobs is discussing that possibility with town official, Deb Rogers.  The Perley Gymnasium may become a vaccination center for teachers but that has yet to be decided. 

In conclusion, schools and school decisions are extremely complex.  GEA is aware of parent polls going around about reopening and many comments are being made on social media posts.  Please keep in mind that those comments are filled with emotion and not necessarily facts.  I know there are some members on these pages.  I suggest you remove yourself from that noise.  This job is difficult enough without having to read emotionally charged rhetoric looking to knock down people instead of building up.  

As soon as more information becomes available, we will update membership immediately.

Joe      

GEA Update - February 7, 2021

posted Feb 7, 2021, 8:28 AM by GMHSLibrary

Dear Colleagues:

We wanted to take a few minutes and update you on some of the items that the GEA Negotiating Team has been working on over the past few weeks.  We have heard back from the School Committee regarding some of the additional proposals that the GEA was hopeful in adding to our existing Hybrid MOU.  The Negotiating Team was successful in getting:

- $500 stipends for all three district nurses for the extra work needed to conduct the pool covid testing that the district opted to be a part of over the next six weeks.

-Also, the district has agreed to honor the quarantine language, even though that part of the covid law expired on 12/31/20.  This was a big concession on the committee's part.  MTA Rep. Visconti stated that most district Superintendents and School Committees are not honoring this language and are choosing to follow the law as it was intended.

-We were not successful in moving the committee off of the health metric language change in our current MOU from "Will consider" to "Will" go full remote.  Superintendent Jacobs response to this proposal was: 

"The reason for this is that the list of criteria is not meant to be cast in stone but rather as a list of considerations that will be used to make a decision."

With the rollout of the vaccine upon us, covid numbers beginning to trend in the right direction and after discussions with Vice President, Tim Larson, Negotiation members, Meg Johnson and Chris DiFranco, as well as MTA Representative Camille Viscotti, we collectively feel that we have negotiated this portion of the MOU as far as it can go under the current conditions.  The School Committee is well aware of our feelings about this issue and we will continue to discuss as long as the pandemic remains.  

-Also, the committee did not agree to providing "Vaccine days" where no sick time will be deducted from members who receive the vaccine.  Superintendent Jacobs response was:

"1. Not every person who has the vaccine will get sick and need to stay out of work so providing a guarantee that no sick leave will be charged may encourage people to stay out and pose issues for school coverage. People should try and schedule outside of school hours. In the cases of reactions, it is rare that they are seen on the day the vaccine is injected so allowing people to take an entire work day to get the vaccine is not something we want to support. 

2. When teachers are sick, they have days available to use for this purpose . I know they would like to be paid and not charged for the time but it is optional to get the vaccine and they have sick days for this purpose." 

When speaking to our MTA Representative about this language, she stated that MTA knew this was a long shot and to her knowledge, not one of her locals have been successful in getting this language added to their MOU.

Lastly, we had our third meeting with Superintendent Jacobs and the School Committee last Thursday concerning our latest contract talks.  Discussions are ongoing and our next meeting is scheduled for March 4th.  

Please know that these are complex issues and the Executive Board, as well as the Negotiating Team are working hard on the behalf of membership. 

Thanks

Joe

COVID Tracking matrix for Georgetown provided by the Mass. Dept. of Health

posted Feb 5, 2021, 4:40 AM by GMHSLibrary   [ updated Mar 2, 2021, 7:56 AM ]

COVID 19 Vaccination & quarantine leave update from MTA

posted Jan 27, 2021, 4:47 AM by GMHSLibrary

Dear Colleagues:

Please review this very important Covid 19 Vaccination in the workplace update from MTA.  It has a lot of information.  The GEA has already requested that language be added to our MOU regarding time off for vaccination days that is mentioned in the attachment and currently are awaiting a response from the Superintendent and the School Committee.

Also, the Massachusetts Law stating that a teacher in quarantine will not have to use his/her own sick time expired on December 31st, 2020.  MTA, along with GEA were fairly certain that the law would be extended in 2021 and it still very well may, however, at this time it has expired.  We have been in contact with MTA and know that there are other communities that continue to honor the spirit of their MOU'S regarding this issue, regardless of the expiring law, while many more communities have chosen to follow the law.  MTA is currently still working on this issue at the state level.  We are continuing the conversation with the Superintendent and the School Committee and hope that we can get members that need to be quarantined due to Covid 19 the necessary time off without using their own personal accrued sick time. 

Both the Executive Board and the Negotiating Team are aware of these issues and continue to work towards the best possible solutions for members.  

Joe       

403b Plan and retirement info.

posted Jan 25, 2021, 4:37 AM by GMHSLibrary

Dear Colleagues:

I know some of you are contemplating retirement, soon.  Even if you are not close to retirement, yet, please continue to read. 

 Retirement is a process that takes time to plan and is not as easy as just stating that you are going to retire.  There are forms that need to be filled out, such as: buy back time forms for those members that took a leave for pregnancies, letters of creditable service forms needed from MTRS (Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System), etc.  Currently, there is legislation being discussed at the committee level that would allow teachers to buy back up to five years at 11 % of their base salary to get a member closer to 80 % and allow members to use money from their 403B accounts to buy those years back.  Again, this is just in the discussion stages.   Speaking of 403B accounts, if you are a younger member and have not begun a 403B account yet, please consider doing so.  Currently, we have a matching 403 B clause in our contract that states the school will match up to $400 per year and we are currently working on improving on that amount.  That money compounds year after year, tax free. 
 
MTA has a free service to members where current or retired members will walk you through the process and with COVID upon us, that process is very time consuming.  If you think that you are within ten years of retiring, may I suggest you contact Peter Mili of MTA.  Peter is the gentleman that we are currently working with and he has a wealth of knowledge and will walk you through the entire retirement process, step by step.  Peter is currently conducting virtual meetings and we will be meeting him for a follow up in February and or March, as well.  If you would like to reach out to Peter to discuss your retirement options, he can be reached at pmili@massteacher.org.  Again, this is a free service to members.

To the younger members, please consider contributing as much to your 403B accounts as you can or set one up as soon as you can.  Trish MacDonald can help you out with any paperwork that needs to be completed.  You'll be at retirement age before you know it.

Joe    

GEA Update - January 23, 2021

posted Jan 23, 2021, 5:17 AM by GMHSLibrary   [ updated Jan 23, 2021, 5:18 AM ]

Dear Colleagues:

This week the Negotiating Team met with School Committee and Superintendent Jacobs for our second meeting and discussed our second set of proposals.  The meeting was very cordial but now we get down to the nuts and bolts and will be discussing the proposals at length.  Our next meeting to continue our discussions is set for February 4th.  We are hopeful that we will be able to deliver to membership a proposal package for ratification sooner rather than later. 
 
The GEA is still awaiting Superintendent Jacobs and the School Committee's response to the latest proposals to our Hybrid MOU.  We are hopeful that we will receive a response this week.

Both Superintendent Jacobs and I have signed onto a letter that is being delivered to Governor Baker requesting that teachers be moved to phase one of being vaccinated as soon as possible.  We consider teachers to be front line workers and we are hopeful that this will become a reality sooner rather than later.  A copy of the letter can be found below.  We signed onto both the North Shore letter, as well as, the Merrimack Valley Letter.

As always, the members of both the Executive Board and the Negotiating Team have done a tremendous job representing membership.  We are lucky to have them.

Joe


----------------


Dear Governor Baker,


We, the Merrimack Valley Superintendents’ Roundtable, write to you as a unified group of 20 administrators joined in this effort by all 20 of the union presidents in our respective districts, to respectfully request that you reclassify educators and make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations during Phase 1 of the vaccination process.


We cite the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in urging you to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our educators so that Massachusetts school districts can operate at the fullest possible strength as our nation begins to emerge from this global pandemic.


In making our request, we cite the following:


  1. Your office and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have drawn from the guidance and wisdom of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which strongly advocates for students to return to, at a minimum, an in-person hybrid learning model.  AAP further advocates that students should fully return to the classrooms where and when possible.

  2. We, as educators and leaders, recognize and agree that the best place for learning for our children is in the classroom.

  3. We have a profound responsibility to support the educational, emotional, physical, and mental

well-being of the children across the Commonwealth.

  1. First responders, healthcare workers, and educators share a commonality in their work in that they must come into contact with dozens or hundreds of people daily and often cannot be completely socially distant from those they serve.

  2. The stress and anxiety placed on educators as they continue to put themselves in this position without the protection of an existing vaccination is unfair and is not in the best interests of advancing public education in the Commonwealth.

  3. Beyond the teachers, themselves, there is a very real risk that an educator could expose their own families after contracting COVID-19 in the performance of their duties.

  4. To perform our jobs at the level desired by your office, DESE, and the AAP, the

professionals in our field should be vaccinated as quickly as possible so they can continue to work with the children they come into contact with daily.

  1. The CDC’s guidance focuses on “Preservation of Societal Functions” under which health care

personnel, frontline essential workers, and other essential workers are identified for Phase I vaccination.  We state, without reservation, that access to public education and access to school facilities is a societal function.


We believe it is inarguable that educators are front line workers.  Given the societal need for public school – not just public school via Zoom – and the expectations set by your office and DESE, educators should be vaccinated immediately and without delay so that they can perform their duties safely and securely.


While we understand that there is not an inexhaustible supply of vaccines, we believe the vaccination of educators should be a priority and is deserving of Phase 1 status.  We also call your attention to other states of similar educational expectations including New York, Connecticut, and Maine that have classified educators in the first phase of vaccination.


As always, thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented time, and thank you for your consideration.



Respectfully,


Chelmsford Public Schools – Jay Lang (Superintendent) & Lauren Cochran (Union President)

North Middlesex Regional - Brad Morgan (Superintendent) & Catherine Stepinski (Union President)

North Reading Public Schools- Patrick Daly (Superintendent) & Peter Kane (Union President)

Tyngsborough Public Schools - Michael Flanagan (Superintendent) & Shelby Gauvin & Jason Lewis (Union Co-Presidents)

Methuen Public Schools - Brandi Kwong (Superintendent) & Jonathan Becker (Union President)

Dracut Public Schools - Steven Stone (Superintendent) & Christine Lord (Union President)

Georgetown Public Schools- Carol Jacobs (Superintendent) & Joe Pittella (Union President)

Nashoba Valley Technical School - Denise Pigeon (Superintendent) & David McCloskey (Union President)

Carlisle Public Schools - Jim O’Shea (Superintendent) & Linda Vanaria (Union President)

Billerica Public Schools - Timothy Piwowar (Superintendent) & David Adams (Union President)



cc: James Arciero, State Representative, 2nd Middlesex District

Thomas A. Golden, Jr., 16th Middlesex District

Tami L. Gouveia, 14th Middlesex District

Vanna Howard, 17th Middlesex District

Michael J. Barrett, State Senator, 3rd Middlesex District

Sheila C. Harrington, State Representative, 1st Middlesex District

Edward J. Kennedy, State Senator, 1st Middlesex District

Anne M. Gobi, State Senator, Worcester, Hamden, Hampshire, & Middlesex

John Cronin, State Senator,  Worcester & Middlesex 

Colleen Garry, State Representative, 36th  Middlesex District

Barry Finegold, State Senator, 2nd Essex & Middlesex

Cindy F. Friedman, State Senator, 4th Middlesex District

Marc T. Lombardo, State Representative, 22nd Middlesex District


GEA Update - January 13, 2021

posted Jan 14, 2021, 4:54 AM by GMHSLibrary   [ updated Jan 23, 2021, 5:19 AM ]

Dear Colleagues:

On January 12, 2021, Negotiation Team Members, Meg Johnson, Chris DiFranco and I met for over an hour with School Committee Members and the Superintendent to revisit and discuss the Hybrid MOU.  Our main focus for this session was on the health metric chart.  You will recall that in September, 2020 when the covid positivity rate was at 3% and Georgetown was in the yellow, the School Committee opted to begin the school year remotely which the GEA supported.  When negotiating the hybrid MOU and the health metric flowchart was designed, we collectively said that if the positivity rate ever gets to the 5 % rate, the Governor will shut everything down like he did in March 2020, thus why we agreed to the flow chart developed by the health team.  Then, DESE and the Governor changed the metrics.  Districts that were once red in September were now yellow or green in November. As you know, most of the criteria that puts Georgetown in the red is currently being met.  The issue is with the word "Consider."  The flowchart language states that if most of the criteria for being in the red is being met, the School Committee will "Consider" phasing into remote learning. Again, the Hybrid MOU was agreed to before the metrics were changed.  The GEA is looking to change the word from "Consider" to "Will."  Both Meg and Chris eloquently described the collective feelings of anxiety, stress and low morale amongst most staff members from all buildings due to the pandemic and the incredible amount of work being done by members during the hybrid.  The School Committee and Superintendent understand our proposal requests and are discussing the proposals and taking them under advisement and will get back to us with their response.   All parties know the incredible work, effort and dedication that membership is putting into their jobs and the education of all students and are thankful for all your efforts.

Thanks

Joe   

GEA Update - January 11, 2021

posted Jan 12, 2021, 5:31 AM by GMHSLibrary   [ updated Jan 23, 2021, 5:19 AM ]

Dear Colleagues:

I just completed a phone conversation with Superintendent Jacobs.  I mentioned the concern about having a make up day for the Wed/Fri cohort on Monday, February 22nd, the day after February break due to travel and covid.  She heard your concerns and agreed to push out the make up date to Monday, March 15th, more than two months from today's date.  She also heard the concern about missing out on the Monday afternoon prep time and stated that she would be seeking out possible ways of rectifying that issue and or making up that time.  

Thanks

Joe    

GEA Update - January 10, 2021

posted Jan 12, 2021, 5:29 AM by GMHSLibrary   [ updated Jan 23, 2021, 5:20 AM ]

Dear Colleagues:

There is a lot to unpack here so I apologize for the length of this update.  

Regarding the date switch.

 When Superintendent Jacobs spoke to me about this issue of the Wed/Fri cohort missing out on multiple days, she asked about the possibility of making up some of the time on a remote Monday, so that some of the in person learning could take place.  At the time of this discussion, Superintendent Jacobs believed there were about four missed days of in person learning for that particular cohort.  Before she could even get to her next sentence, the thought of making up all those days was squashed immediately.  We agreed that the calendar issue was no one's fault and understood the concern.  We began to discuss making up that time with one additional day where multiple Monday dates were thrown around.  Knowing that Mondays are fully remote for both teachers and students, we began discussing the least intrusive way of rectifying this issue.  Knowing that you will never be able to please all members, I felt that getting this issue out of the way without giving up multiple days of having to come into the buildings on Mondays was the least intrusive.  Furthermore, I know how precious that Monday afternoon planning time is for members, hence why the date to make up for lost time was pushed out over a month.  Those of you that reached out to me regarding the date immediately following a vacation is not ideal considering many may be traveling and covid issues are valid and your point is well taken.  I have a call in to Superintendent Jacobs to try to push that date out into March to lessen the possibility of covid spread. 

Regarding the MOU. 

 The MOU and our contract are living, breathing documents.  They need to be at all times but mostly in times like these.  Those members that believe that our current MOU has only "bent" in favor of administration are incorrect.  I could list five examples just off the top of my head where our current MOU has bent in favor of membership but due to privacy issues, I cannot discuss further.  Going full remote the three days before December break broke MOU language in membership's favor.  Going full remote for teachers on Monday's broke MOU language in membership's favor.  Administration and membership both lose if we were to follow any MOU and contract to the letter of the law.  Both documents have to be amenable especially when dealing with complex issues and people.  If we were to live to the letter of the contract then all members (including me over the past 27 years) would have been docked pay for every time we were running late and needed a colleague to open the door between rooms to cover or needed a substitute, had to leave school early to go to an appointment or go over to Perley to watch our children participate in the adorable Preschool Olympics.  Evaluation deadlines have been missed by both administration and members since inception.  Work days end at a specific time but members work well beyond "Contractual hours."  No member, to my knowledge, has had a letter placed in their personnel file due to these contact "violations."  That's how our business has run for the past fourteen years with administration and GEA leadership.  I can assure each member that the heart of every clause of any MOU or contract is adhered to and discussed with sincerity with all parties and when compromises need to be discovered, we find them.   

Regarding communication.

When I first became President of the GEA when the dinosaurs roamed, we would update membership every month with a boilerplate statement that had little substance because minimal had changed since the previous month.  I remember members informing me that I was sending too many emails and just update them with pertinent information when necessary.  That is when we set up the GEA union website.  Communication is a fine line, some members want to know everything, while others only want to be informed if it is considered important.  Knowing how busy and precious your time is, especially in these times, I chose the latter route and thought I would update you only when it was something that we all would consider to be impactful information.  Again, I had planned on updating membership regarding the date switch, yesterday, but Superintendent Jacobs beat me to it, for that I apologise.  

Also, if a member has an issue, I would appreciate it if they emailed me or contacted me directly.  I feel that the person that invented the "reply all" portion of the email should be forced to sit in one of my classes with U2 on loop for seven days straight.  If you send me an email to ask a question, I will respond to you immediately.  If after that discussion, I feel that the response given to that member would benefit all members, I will send out an email to all members.  Sending a "reply all" email may somehow make the individual feel better when replies start coming in but it also causes angst and undo stress on some other members that I then have to address.  

Regarding Working Together:

Superintendent Jacobs and The GEA have a great working relationship that took time and has developed over the past fourteen years.  Drawing a line in the sand and fighting every issue is easy.  Finding common ground and compromising when issues arise is long, difficult work. We are in a contract year and currently negotiating our next contract.  The relationship piece of this puzzle is the most essential piece to working towards the best deal possible for membership.  Theoretically, could we have held a hard line on the Monday switch and won that battle, the answer is yes.  The rhetorical question to follow would be, how do you think that stance would have gone over across the negotiation table?  Having served on eight negotiating teams, I am here to tell you how it would have gone over...horribly.  Working through complex issues to find middle ground is difficult work.  Not every decision made is going to have one hundred percent approval, but for me, it is essential that every member at least knows that the Executive Board and Negotiating Team are working together with administration on your behalf towards solutions, every day.   


Joe     

Union Update - October 30, 2020

posted Nov 2, 2020, 7:25 AM by GMHSLibrary

Dear Colleagues:

The Executive Board met yesterday to discuss a few items of concerns.

1.  Covid Update- Hippa laws and privacy issues take precedence over knowing which student or staff member that has tested positive for covid.  School nurses and administration follow specific health procedures and directly contact those that  are considered a close contact using DESE and CDC guidelines.  I am happy to report that as of today, no close contacts have tested positive for covid.  We want to encourage everyone to continue to wash hands, wear masks, socially distance and remain vigilant.  We have ongoing discussions with administration and the school committee about any and all concerns

The Superintendent and  School Committee are aware that Georgetown is currently in the red regarding covid cases.  As of this writing, there have been seven known covid positive cases district wide.  Superintendent Jacobs will be speaking about our collective concerns, will be answering any covid related questions and will be updating membership on Tuesday, November 3rd's Professional Development Day.

Last week, I requested that our District apply for and complete a DESE survey that will provide free rapid covid tests to all schools.  Superintendent Jacobs completed the survey and application process and we await a response from DESE.  Furthermore, since covid cases are on the rise, we requested the School Committee to strongly consider the week after (Thanksgiving, December break and February break) to be completely remote considering all the potential travelling that may occur, even though Commissioner Riley has publically come out against that option .  I am happy to say that our request was met with sincerity and will be discussed at the next School Committee meeting.

As of right now, Superintendent Jacobs is contemplating next Tuesday's Professional Development day to be either attended physically in the buildings or virtually from home.  Membership will have the option.  She will update us all over the weekend with this decision.

Covid is a very personal issue and nobody knows your health better than you or your doctor.  If you feel that you need to be tested and are being told otherwise....get tested.  

2.  Contract Negotiations- We are currently fielding all contract proposals for the Negotiating Team to look at and discuss.  Initial contract Negotiations meetings will probably begin within the next month and truly get underway beginning in January.  If you have any proposals that you would like to submit for consideration, please forward them to me.

Furthermore, we are looking for members that are interested in serving on the Negotiating Team.  This is a stipend position.  Historically, there are four to five members on the team with representatives from both buildings.  The meetings are usually at night and the meetings can be numerous depending on the issues.  Also, just as an FYI, sometimes these meetings can get contentious and heated.  If you are a person that does not deal well in those situations, you may want to let another member represent your interests.  If you are interested in serving on the Negotiating Team, please forward your name to me.  The team will be chosen in the next month or so.

3.  Superintendent Jacobs is aware of the Open House Date issue, especially at the middle/high school and the lack of input by members regarding  specific dates.  Superintendent stated that she would be talking to the administration about this issue.  If you have a conflict, please let your building administrator know, asap.  

4.  As you know, most districts are scrambling for substitutes.  We have classroom coverage contractual language that will allow you to receive compensation for covering a class.  If available, please consider covering a class, when needed and fill out the proper paperwork to ensure that you are paid.

5.  Reminder, if you are out of school but can still teach, remotely, that option is available to you.  For example:  your child is home sick and you have to stay home to watch him/her but you can still teach, this option is available to you.  Please call in for a substitute like you normally would, inform your contact person that you will need a substitute but will be teaching from home, remotely and then follow that up with an email to Trish MacDonald so that she is aware and does not inadvertently charge you a sick day.

As always, there will be issues that may arise that we were unaware of due to these unprecedented times.  If you have any issues, please do not hesitate to bring them to your building representatives to discuss further.  

Thanks

Joe  

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