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A week after teachers' strike, Haverhill approves new contract

During a school committee meeting on Oct. 27, Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini addressed the strike for the first time. (Screengrab from HC Media broadcast)
During a school committee meeting on Oct. 27, Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini addressed the strike for the first time. (Screengrab from HC Media broadcast)

After a four-day teachers' strike earlier this month, the city of Haverhill has approved a new contract that raises educator pay and secures other union demands, like an anti-racism pledge, school safety system and workload protections.

The city’s school committee on Thursday night voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding.

The meeting, broadcast over Haverhill Community TV, also included signs of lingering bitterness between the union and school committee — and the first public comments on the strike by Jim Fiorentini, Haverhill’s mayor since 2003.

During the labor dispute, Fiorentini was barred from comment or participation under state conflict-of-interest laws: his son is a teacher in Haverhill and a member of the union.

Once the MOU was approved, Fiorentini said he had “no problem with paying a competitive salary” to teachers. He commended both sides for reaching an agreement.

Under the agreement, Haverhill educators will receive 3% to 4% raises annually through the 2025 fiscal year. Average teacher salary in Haverhill as of 2020 was about $75,000, which is about $10,000 lower than the state average.

The MOU also establishes a joint task force on school safety that will develop an electronic monitoring system for student disturbances and will expand on efforts to promote diversity and fight racism in the district.

The signed return-to-work agreement includes a commitment that neither the city’s school committee nor the union will take disciplinary action due to individuals’ conduct during the strike.

The union also agreed to pay the committee $200,000 for “reimbursement of expenses and/or damages” incurred during the four days of closed schools, including for legal fees and police details.

Since it involved public employees, the strike in Haverhill was illegal under state law.

A judge in Essex County Superior Court issued fines to both the Haverhill Education Association and the Massachusetts Teachers Association of $50,000 per day for each day the strike continued beyond last Wednesday.

Union membership voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement a day after the strike concluded.

The Haverhill Education Association touted the deal on social media, saying it will result in annual raises of between $10,000 and $14,000 for educators and start a scholarship program for Haverhill graduates who seek to become teachers, with a $50,000 initial investment from the union.

Tempers were still running high in Haverhill during the meeting. Community members raised the city’s relative lack of investment in schools and the committee’s decision to hire a public relations firm that criticized the teachers’ union during the strike. Several speakers threatened to vote the school committee out.

Haverhill resident Alicia Smolar said school officials had “held an entire city hostage” and “played dirty” during the strike.

Committee members — including Magliocchetti, Richard Rosa and Scott Wood — said they never proposed to fire union leaders in retaliation for the strike.

Related:

Headshot of Max Larkin

Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin was an education reporter for WBUR.

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