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Members of the Boston Teachers Union have passed a vote of no confidence in district superintendent Brenda Cassellius. The motion was considered at an emergency membership meeting Sunday night and passed by a 97.5% margin, according to union officials.
The news coincides with the reopening of 28 additional Boston Public Schools. About 1,700 additional students with complex learning needs resumed in-person learning Monday.
Union leaders said the issue is the lack of formalized and equal protections across all of the schools. They want the 28 schools that reopened their doors Monday to be included in the same memorandum of agreement that governs the first four schools which reopened in mid-November.
"It's not that we don't want to go back. We do," Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang told WBUR. "We are just asking for the same provisions that our other four schools received when [COVID-19] rates were even lower."
News of the no confidence received harsh backlash from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
“You have to realize and understand that we’re all living through a pandemic and taking action like that is very short sighted,” said Walsh. “The union was quoted as saying we’re excited about getting high needs students into school and that’s what we’re doing today.”
BPS leaders also argue the 28 schools that opened Monday are working with the same safety provisions.
"We feel like we bargained in really good faith. We do have a signed agreement with the [union] that we signed in September that covers many of those safety provisions," said superintendent Cassellius, referencing the original MOA that was signed at the beginning of the school year before the district reverted to remote learning in late October. "And we feel like the Boston Public Health Commission has directed us with the other safety provisions. So it is in writing."
District officials also noted that they are exploring ways to expand testing in schools. The health commission and district are entering into a student testing pilot program beginning next Thursday at 15 of the reopened schools that serve high school students. Staff at those schools will also be invited to get tested.
District leaders added that they will be hosting four other dedicated testing sites across Boston for the other schools that serve students in grades 9-12. In addition to the testing pilot, Cassellius also highlighted the acquisition of mobile air purifiers for classrooms and the delivery of additional personal protective equipment.
This article was originally published on December 14, 2020.
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