SCHOOL COMMITTEE POWERS AND DUTIES
From MGL Ch. 71, Sec. 37
The School Committee in each city and town and each regional school district:
shall have the power to select and terminate the superintendent,
shall review and approve budgets for public education in the district, and
shall establish educational goals and policies for the schools in the district, consistent with the requirements of law and statewide goals and standards established by the Board of Education.
State law: The school committee continues to be the “employer” of school employees for collective bargaining purposes. (G.L. c. 150E, [[section]] 1) The Education Reform Act made only one change concerning participants: the chief executive officer of the city or town (or his or her designee) shall participate and vote as a member of the school committee in collective bargaining. If a town does not have a town manager or administrator, the chairman of the board of selectmen (or his or her designee) shall so participate and vote. In regional school districts, the municipal chief executive officers elect one of their number to represent them, in accordance with Board of Education regulations. (G.L. c. 150E, [[section]] 1; 603 CMR 42.00)
C. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. Instruct Law Department Prepare An Advisory Opinion As To Whether The City, Through Its City Manager, Can Assume The Powers And Duties Of The School Committee As Set Forth In MGL C. 71, S. 37; And Further,Prepare The Necessary Votes To Effectuate Such A Change In The Event It Is Permissible.
I understand Councilor Rourke’s frustration with the chaotic opening of Lowell Public Schools, his frustration with the UTL Leadership for not agreeing to any reopening or remote learning plan and his frustration with Mr. George’s insistence to not agree to anything until he gets a say in the selection of a third-party to check the HVAC systems even after the City has hired a State approved contractor.
I understand the Councilor’s frustration and disappointment with the Supt for canceling in person learning 2 days before school opening and using an excuse that all the purifiers are not in when they are not even DESE mandated , and in listening to the school committee meeting Wednesday night hearing that hand sanitizer stations were just being finished putting in and some plastic isn’t even put up the day before school was supposed to open.
I understand the frustration by many Councilors and especially many parents with the Supt being so focused on getting in school learning launched that his administration lost focus on the majority of remote learners and didn’t have schedules ready for not just the High School but a solid standard remote learning schedule for every grade.
The UTL Leadership has delayed any agreement that deals with a defined remote learning schedule. Teachers and parents are still not supplied with what a day to day schedule will be, they still have no definite plan on what remote learning will look like this year.
Parents were told that remote learning would be better this year than last spring. The Florida Learning System lobbied for by the UTL Leadership which was sold to the School Committee and parents in the Permission to Enter (approval by SC to spend $813,00.00) stated it was
“To provide a learning management solution that monitors student participation, provides access to assessment data, MA standards aligned content, and the ability for families to monitor student progress for grades K-12.“ has suddenly been pushed aside and referred to by the Supt to be just another tool in the box just like a textbook.
My initial reaction was to agree with Councilor Rourke’s motion, maybe this is the time to have the City Manager take over especially given the school committee and Supt lack of achieving any agreement with the UTL leadership on a school reopening plan and remote learning.
However for this to happen the school committee would need to voluntarily do this (doubtful) or it would require a Home Rule petition that would be drafted by the city law dept., then voted on my the City Council, then sent to the state legislature to get approval in both the House and Senate before it could go into effect.
In the meantime the UTL Leadership would further drag their feet longer on an agreement, institute work to rule and demand remote learning be only 3.5 hours a day like it was last spring. So NOTHING positive would be accomplished.
In fact since there is nothing in the last UTL contract dealing with Remote Learning and knowing Mr. George’s Ego, It wouldn’t surprise me if he threatened to NOT participate in remote learning and require the City to take it to court! He’s about his members NOT the STUDENTS !
With both the State and City facing very difficult financial times, when the City is asking our 1st responders and other unions to consider furloughs and concessions, now doesn’t seem to be the time to widen what is already a divide between the City and School side and what is shaping up to a divide between the other Unions and UTL.
There is already a growing resentment among city unions and the UTL, many 1st responders walked into situations daily that exposed them to Covid, They reported to work, went on calls and received nothing extra for their service. The conditions at firehouses is worse than most schools. The Police building is in deplorable condition yet all these members work daily.
Teachers, Paras, Cafe and Security staff went home for the first 2-3 weeks with full pay and no REQUIREMENTS then agreed to an MOA to “teach” 3.5 hours a day from late April to mid June at full pay.
Custodians who should’ve been in the building cleaning every classroom making every classroom ready did not , the classes that are ready for school to open are only the 25% that would be used for in person , if you don’t believe that take a look at the pictures below I took walking by the Robinson school, windows are blocked by boxes stacked up in a classroom not being used, there are several like that. We were told at all rooms were measured to see how many could fit why won’t these emptied all floors clean all vents in front of the windows or shelves in front of windows cleaned off? What went on in the schools for cleaning classrooms during March April and May? The superintendent lost focus on getting the entire building ready just focusing on in person learning classes.
No One went after the City more on maintenance and maintenance of effort charges than me! No one has blasted the city more for allowing these buildings to deteriorate. I was a vote and support the hiring of Supt Boyd.
I think Dr Boyd can do wonders for the school district however in this case I think he let his ego of being the six largest school district in the state and the only one to try to open with some in person on opening day get in the way and he lost focus on the majority of remote learners and having every building ready but it’s hard to force custodians to do things , like teachers, when there is no contract in place and the reluctance of the Supt and SC to just state that they are enforcing last year‘s contract and putting teachers back in the buildings to teach remotely because the UTL leader ship refuses to reach an agreement to reopen the schools
I have seen 1st hand watching the COUNCIL Meeting, this City Manager and Council commit most of the Covid funding the city received to repairing the HVAC systems in schools to get them operabel, I have seen the DPW staff working many hours of overtime to get these buildings ready. I believe their committed and that they have shown their commitment to provide safe schools.
The frustration of having a union official question theIr integrity insinuating to the public that this City Manager and City Councilors would allow children Or staff to enter an unsafe school shows you the low tactics that Paul George’s will resort to . I have said for years the union leader ship is Not concerned about the students it’s about their ego’s, what they can get for their members while the majority rank and file teachers suffer because they didn’t get schedules, they didn’t get class rosters, they didn’t know whether they were in school or remote until two days before school was supposed to open.
The frustration they and other city workers feel toward the UTL Leadership, the frustrations the City Council and I know the Mayor feels towards both the UTL Leadership and the School Administration is understandable but now isn’t the time to pick a new fight when so many more challenges, especially fiscal, services and staffing lay ahead?
Under Ed Reform the City Manager has a seat at the negotiating table, my understanding is the CFO has been there representing her. Councilor Rourke should vent Tuesday Night along with the Mayor and other Councilors, then maybe another Councilor can make a substitute motion and send this to a joint subcommittee, the Council should be requesting the City Manager to take a more active in-person role in these ongoing negotiations if she hasn’t already.
The School Committee and School Administration should get the message that they need to reach a “collaborative” agreement with two weeks or the School Committee should MANDATE that ALL Teachers report to Schools and teach remote from there.
To let this drag on longer not only widens the already growing divide between the School and City side but will heighten the already growing frustration from parents who not only have no schedule to their students but we have no access to that remote learning dashboard tool that was promised to make remote learning better and more accountable.