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Superintendent's Weekly Memo - September 30, 2022

Marice Edouard-Vincent

Dear Mustang Community: 

In this week’s communication I want to provide you with an update on our ongoing negotiations with the labor unions that represent so many of our hardworking and dedicated Medford Public Schools team members.

As we emerge from a time in which the COVID-19 pandemic caused such significant disruption to the routines and continuity on which our students rely, we know that it is only through collaboration and teamwork that our school communities will serve students well.  That is the culture we are committed to fostering in the Medford Public Schools. It is in that spirit of collaboration, and with sincere gratitude, that we recently announced new collective bargaining agreements with three of the district’s unions representing our school nurses, administrative assistants and carpenters/maintenance workers. 

Today, I am again pleased and proud to announce that the district has reached tentative agreements with our paraprofessionals and the union representing our staff daycare program, Kids Corner. These agreements will now go to the Medford School Committee for their final approval, and I thank the leaders of those bargaining units for working with us and putting students first.

Earlier this month the Medford Public Schools contacted the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations to request that a neutral mediator be assigned to assist in our negotiations with the Medford Teachers Association. The decision to request a mediator occurred after 10 months and dozens of negotiating sessions. We believe the only remaining issue currently preventing us from finalizing a new teachers’ contract is one of compensation. As we have said on several occasions, we are deeply indebted to our teachers for the work they have done and continue to do on a daily basis.

But while our gratitude toward teachers may know no bounds, like all school districts, our financial capacity in fact does have limitations. We are committed to ensuring all staff receive a competitive and sustainable wage increase, but if we were to provide the types of increases for which the teachers’ union leadership has publicly advocated, we would have no choice but to eliminate positions that are specifically charged with supporting some of our most vulnerable learner populations.  In addition, increasing base salaries through temporary federal grant funding, as the union has publicly urged us to do, would create a structural financial deficit that would make it harder to serve the interests of students. Simply put, this is not something we are willing to do.

This week the teachers’ union communicated in a variety of forums that the negotiations have stalled because of the district’s attempts to enlist a neutral mediator. In fact, the only reason the mediation sessions have not yet commenced is due to the objection to mediation filed by the union’s representatives. MPS is eager to continue the discourse with teachers, but the increasingly public threats by the union’s leaders to engage in “job actions”that we believe will disrupt our students’ recovery from the pandemic make it challenging to do so.

As noted above, the aftermath of the pandemic requires all of us who care about the well-being of our students to work together.  I am grateful to live in a country and a Commonwealth in which we honor the rights of our employees to organize and advocate for themselves, and we will continue to respect all employees exercising their valid legal rights.  That said, the Medford Public Schools will not waiver in our obligation to protect the interests of students first and foremost as we help them recover from the pandemic. No group of stakeholders is more vital to making good on that commitment than our teachers, and that is why the Medford School Committee has proposed a pay increase that far exceeds the raises found in every teachers’ contract in Medford in more than a decade.

We will continue to communicate with you as necessary in the event of further disruptions to our school environments caused by these negotiations, and of course, we will continue to work in good faith to finalize a teachers’ contract that provides teachers with the competitive and sustainable pay increase that they deserve.

On behalf of the Medford School Committee, I thank the entire Medford Public Schools community for your patience and your trust, and I wish you a restful weekend.

Upcoming Events:

  • Monday, October 3, 2022, 6:00PM:   School Committee Meeting:  Alden Memorial Chambers, Medford City Hall in addition to Zoom: https://mps02155-org.zoom.us/j/92037485896
  • Wednesday, October 5, 2022:  The Medford Public Schools will be closed in observance of Yom Kippur.

Yours in Partnership for Children,

MEV Signature

Dr. Marice Edouard-Vincent, Superintendent