Andover News doesn’t have a crystal ball, but if we did, we wouldn’t be surprised if it told us these stories and issues will be making headlines in 2023.
School Committee, Teachers Union Will Continue To Spar
Andover Public Schools and the Andover Education Association, the union that represents teachers, have four pending unfair labor practices hearings pending before the state Department of Labor Relations and a pending arbitration hearing before the American Arbitrator Association over the district’s attempt to extend the workday by 30 minutes.
The pending DLR disputes include:
- The district’s complaint against AEA after its members campaigned for a special town meeting warrant article that would have used federal money to give bonuses to the union’s lowest-paid members.
- Earlier this month, the labor board held a hearing over AEA’s complaint of the district’s decision to change a longstanding practice to give members release time to attend district and union business, including hearings.
- AEA is awaiting a labor board decision following a hearing on AEA’s complaint over the district’s move to take away case management from special education teachers.
- Next month, the labor board will hold a hearing on complaints of a hostile work environment at South Elementary School AEA filed in 2019.
“The AEA attempted to settle all of these issues through the grievance process and negotiated settlements, but the School Committee seems to have a policy of ‘No Lawyer Left Behind!'” AEA’s Matt Bach said in an email earlier this month.
Complaints About Mail Delivery Will Start This Spring
Andover has one of 200 post offices in the U.S. in the first wave of consolidation of sorting under a plan USPS announced in August. Under the plan set to go into effect this spring, USPS will eliminate sorting operations at the Andover Post Office. That means letter carriers with routes in Andover will have to start and end their workdays with a trip to the Woburn sorting facility to pick up mail and drop off postal trucks. At an October talk at Memorial Hall Library, opponents of the plan warned the move will cause delivery delays and could be the first step in reducing other services at the Andover Post Office, including passport and bulk mail services.
Debate Over New Andover High School Will Intensify
No one is arguing that Andover needs a new high school: the current school opened in 1968. It’s crowded, lacks the space and tech for modern learning and is expensive to maintain. The debate will center on whether to build it now without state funding or wait until the West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool project is completed, allowing the town to apply to have the Massachusetts School Building Authority pick up a big portion of the tab.
The school building committee is pressing forward to replace the school without state assistance, arguing construction costs are likely to continue to increase, and the project may ultimately be more expensive for local taxpayers if Andover waits for state aid.
The big wildcard in the debate, however, won’t be revealed until March, when the committee plans to begin discussing how much it will cost to build a new school. Considering West El’s price tag is now up to $168 million (photo), it’s a safe bet a new AHS will be in excess of $200 million — which could be a tough sell when the proposal gets before town meeting in Jan. 2024.
Andover Will Have Another Sleepy Local Election
Moderator Sheila Doherty, School Committee member Lauren Conoscenti and select board member Laura Gregory — the three high-profile elected officials up for reelection in 2023 — haven’t publicly said whether they plan to run for reelection. But if and when they do, they should have an easy go of it.
- Keith Saxon has challenged Doherty in three of the last four local elections. His best finish was in 2018, when he received 41.9 percent of the vote. Last year, he received 39.9% of the vote. Doherty has run unopposed in all other years.
- Select board and school committee races have only drawn serious candidates when an incumbent has decided to not run for reelection, creating an open seat. Last year, for example, Jose Albuqureque challenged select board incumbents Annie Gilbert and Christian Huntress and Amy Hafensteiner challenged school committee incumbents Susan McCready and Tracey Spruce. They received 5 and 9 votes respectively.
With just one term each under their belts, Gregory and Conoscenti seem poised to run again. Other officials up for reelection this year include Greater Lawrence Tech school committee member Marilyn Fitzgerald and housing authority member John O’Donohue.
Corrected: This story has been updated to correct the percentage of the vote Keith Saxon received in 2022. Andover News regrets the error.