Revere School Committee Responds to Contract Non-Renewal for Three Teachers

After statements from Revere Public School Superintendent Dianne Kelly and Mayor Brian Arrigo, the Revere School Committee has weighed in on the online petition that has been circulating for weeks calling for contracts to be renewed for three Revere educators.

The petition and subsequent letter to the Revere School Committee argues that the contracts of Katie Cochrane, Victoria DeVincent and Heather Kantrowitz, all staff members at the A.C. Whelan School were not renewed as retaliation for their union activities.

“On June 5, 2020, three Revere staff members at the A. C. Whelan school had their contracts non-renewed as retaliation for their union activity,” reads the online petition. “They were punished for standing up for the rights of teachers and students in the 2019-2020 school year. We call on the Revere Public Schools to immediately reinstate these three educators.”

On June 23, 2020 the Revere School Committee received a letter from a Revere City Councilor regarding three educators.

In the letter the Councilor speculated that the educators “were non-renewed as retaliation for their union activity”.

“The Committee would like to take this opportunity to expressly and categorically state that it did not retaliate against any educators for union activity, either acting on its own or through its Superintendent and Principals,” said the School Committee in a statement to the Revere Journal. “Although the District cannot comment on individual personnel matters, it must be noted that every year the District (like the many other school districts in Massachusetts) reviews all of the provisional teachers without professional teacher status (first three years of employment) and, consistent with the requirements and standards of the state law in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71, determines which teachers should return to work for the subsequent year.”

The School Committee wrote that any teacher who is renewed after three consecutive years of employment acquires “professional teacher status”, after which a teacher can only be dismissed for “just cause” and has arbitration rights.

“The statute ensures that school districts have ample time to objectively assess all teachers and to decide which teachers have earned the status of permanent employees,” the statement continues. “This year was no different than the previous years in that some teachers without professional teacher status were issued notices of non-renewal for the upcoming school year. When determining which personnel to return, the District does not consider any teacher’s union activity.”

The School Committee reminded the public that personnel decisions in the school district are not the responsibility of the Committee, nor the C ity Council but rather the decision of administrators who operate schools on a daily basis.

“The Committee supports the recent personnel decisions of the Superintendent and Principals and assures the City Council and community that no educator was retaliated against for engaging in union activity,” the statement concludes.

The statement by School Committee members was in line with previous statements made by Superintendent Kelly and Mayor Arrigo.

Like the School Committee, Kelly said each year administrators review all teachers, as well as staff without professional teacher status, to determine which teachers will return to work for the next school year.

“This year was no different than the previous years in that some teachers without professional teacher status were issued notices of non-renewal for the upcoming school year,” said Kelly in June. “When determining which personnel will return administrators do not consider any individual’s union activity or use of the contractual grievance procedures.”

In a statement Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo said, “Our school system is one of our city’s greatest assets — providing a high quality education to our thousands of current students and attracting new families to Revere all the time. I’m proud of the work Dr. Kelly and her teams do in applying the sound policies that continue to move Revere Public Schools forward.”

However, the Revere Teachers Association said the dedicated staff members all had one other thing in common–they took a stand against unfair practices and raised their voice as union members this year.

“They filed grievances, spoke at rallies, and all were outspoken in their concern,” said the RTA in a statement. “They protested against wrongful policies by their administrator which hurt student learning. They went above and beyond every day in their jobs and also took the risk of advocating for their working conditions, and for the learning conditions of their students.”

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