The Andover School Committee will open its meeting Thursday with a closed-door, executive session to discuss two of the biggest issues it’s facing: contract negotiations with the union representing teachers and a $4 million federal lawsuit filed by a private school company.
Andover Public Schools’ teachers started the year without a contract, and the tense negotiations have spilled into the public since schools opened last week. The Andover Education Association says the district has added administrative positions to the detriment of students and teachers and says the school committee is “not taking our proposals seriously.”
“They claim prioritizing student needs is the ‘cornerstone’ of their bargaining approach,” AEA President Matt Bach said in an email last week. “Our schools are not political tools for educators, however we will continue to zealously advocate to improve our schools for our students and our members. We hope the School Committee will stand by the public statements their costly attorneys and PR firms write for them. ”
APS does not comment on active litigation or ongoing negotiations.
Among the proposals and issues Bach said the committee has “ignored”:
- 30-minute student lunch and recess
- “poverty wages” for instructional assistants
- concerns about the district’s curriculum vendor
- no announcement on an interim principal at Andover High School
As contentious as the labor negotiations is the lawsuit by Fusion Academy, which claims its First Amendment rights were violated when the school committee twice rejected its applications to open a private school in Andover. Fusion also claims the district has been uncooperative during the lawsuit’s discovery phase and violated the state open meeting law by making decisions on its applications in private.
Fusion is accusing the school committee of violating the Massachusetts Open Meeting law, the Americans With Disabilities, and its First Amendment rights when it denied its applications in May 2018 and April 2019 to open a private school in Andover. The company, which runs schools for students in grades 6-12 who struggle in normal school settings, is seeking $2.6 million for the 10-year lease it signed at 3 Dundee Park Drive in September 2018 and $1.4 million for its build out of the site.
Among the evidence Fusion cited about the school board’s open meeting law violations in its amended complaint was a draft press release in turned over by APS that announced the school committee’s rejection of Fusion’s second application before the board took its first vote on April 11, 2019. “Based on the tracked changes contained in email correspondence among the defendants, the draft started nearly a month before in March,” according to Fusion.