Do the United Teacher’s of Lowell remember 2008?

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I’ve heard that the United Teachers of Lowell are being more difficult and demanding than they have been in the past and I didn’t think about… Why?

I was also all in favor and supportive of the School Committee trying to jumpstart their slow-paced contract negotiations with the UTL by appointing a 3 member panel compromised of the Supt., it’s lawyer and the City Manager. I thought it might help to get things rolling because Murphy had some history representing unions and school committees.

I completely forgot until a conversation with a couple of retired teachers over the past few weeks that Manager Murphy also has a history with the Lowell School Dept. and one that maybe the United Teachers of Lowell remember and still resent.

To remind every one of what I’m referring to, I think it best to use the words of the Lowell Sun, from their July 22nd 2008 Editorial

When Lowell School Department teaching positions aren’t being filled, class sizes are expanding and much-needed books aren’t always purchased, it’s not a time to be handing out 9 percent pay raises, additional vacation time, sick-time buyback and $2,500 bonuses to a select few.

You ask what does that have to do with City Manager Kevin Murphy? Let’s get back to that Editorial.

Most egregious was that the board tore up one assistant’s contract that still had two years to go at a lesser salary level, awarding her a $10,000 yearly pay raise in the process! Did taxpayers get bilked? You bet

That Asst. Supt. at that time happened to have been the State Representatives wife, who also happened to be the Lawyer representing the Asst. Supt’s who negotiated the deal. Oh most importantly, the Lawyer who was a State Rep. at the time happens to be the current City Manager, Kevin Murphy!

The raises translated into a 9.8 percent increase for Mrs. Murphy, who was previously making $108,308; a 7.2 percent pay hike for Jean Franco and Jay Lang, who were both earning $111,010; and only a 1 percent increase for Susan Mulligan who was the Asst. Supt. of personal who had been making $117,785.

According to a July 2008 story in the Sun by Jenn Myers :

The new contract also included a $2,500 bonus in the second and third years of the contract, provided that the employee meets goals agreed upon by the employee, Superintendent of Schools Chris Augusta Scott and the School Committee.

* A boost in annual vacation days from 20 to 25, as well as allowing the accumulation of up to 80 unused vacation days. Previously, they could bank a maximum of 60 days.

* An education clause that provides reimbursement for coursework and fees in an accredited doctoral program of study at a state college or university, dependent upon the administrator remaining employed by the Lowell schools for three years. The administrator must earn a grade of B or higher to be reimbursed for a course.

* A $100 monthly travel allowance, up from $50 in the previous contract.

* The addition of “nonrenewal of contract” as a factor for receiving 100 percent vacation buyback and 33 1/2 percent sick-time buyback. However, the sick-leave buyback only kicks in after 15 years of service to the city.

Back to that Editorial, which was btw titled: Contracts are a public ripoff

How could they approve the outrageous increases when the committee — and Doherty in particular — had so recently been before City Council, pleading for more money to retain teaching jobs threatened by budget cuts?

The new three-year contracts conveniently left out performance goals, accountability measures, or givebacks, prompting School Committee member Jim Leary to disgustedly call the lopsided deals the worst he had ever encountered. Leary, along with Mayor Edward “Bud” Caulfield and David Conway, voted against the contracts.

Back before Campy and company were carrying Murphy’s water and actually were somewhat of a fair and impartial newspaper they, like the Teachers Union were pretty ticked off at these shenanigans and even vowed to remind people and (stop laughing) vowed to “change” things they wrote:

The School Department eliminated 49.5 positions in this fiscal year’s budget, most through attrition, but the losses impact students’ learning. The difficult — and prudent — choice would have been to defer the huge pay raises or cut administrators to save as many teaching positions as possible. That’s what past school boards have done during times of economic distress. Instead, Doherty, Faticanti, Leahy and Martin put the kids last in line while moving the Central Office’s top-paid payroll pirates higher up the pension pole.

This is irresponsible decision-making from elected officials. It amounts to an abuse of the public’s trust. If this is how the system works, then the system is broken and must be changed. And The Sun, as the public’s watchdog, is committed to changing it through legislative and/or other means.

Looks like the “public’s watchdog” has become the Manager’s lap-dog but that’s another column for another day.

The Sun may have forgot…I’m betting that the United Teacher’s of Lowell haven’t and will not. Is it a major issue in their talks? Probably not but you can bet they are all aware of it.

Back when he was only interested in taking care of his family he didn’t care about their members, he got his wife a 9% raise while their members lost jobs. They now want theirs and don’t care about his excuse of not having money.

The Union knows the city has excess tax capability, he didn’t care in 2008 that they lost jobs, they don’t care now if he needs to raise taxes!

Is this issue having any effect on the contract negotiations?

School Committee member Jim Leary doesn’t think that the contract from 2008 for the Assistant Supt’s positions is a factor in this year’s negotiations. While he didn’t vote or support the contract, he thinks people have or should have moved on. The excess tax capability that the city has may be something the union is aware of. Just has they are aware that while he and Steve Gendron wanted to keep Jean Franco who has a great working relationship with the union, the rest of the school committee did not and yanked her two year deal at the 12th hour.

Regardless of those issue’s he just see’s this as another normal contract talk. The Union team is trying to do what they feel is in their members best interest and the city doing what they feel is in the best interest of all taxpayers and in the end a fair contract will be reached.

A couple retired teacher’s I spoke with think maybe having Murphy in the Manager’s role and in contract talks is still a sore spot for some Union people, he fought to get his wife a raise while the union lost positions. They haven’t forgotten.

I did point out that as Manager he has met net school spending but they didn’t seem to care.

I was reminded that Lowell has a long history of political bad blood over past actions, it appears at least a few retired teachers sure haven’t forgotten 2008.

Anyone think Paul Georges has??

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