State education board rejects most Morgan appeals

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has rejected most of the modifications proposed by the Holyoke Teachers Association to the turnaround plan for the Morgan Full Service Community School. At the marathon eight-hour meeting in Malden on Monday, June 9, the board also rejected modifications sought by the union representing two Boston schools that also have been designated Level 5 “chronically underperforming” schools.

The most significant modification sought by the HTA that the board members did adopt was requiring Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and the Morgan receiver, Project GRAD USA, to take “any and all steps” to introduce a prekindergarten program at the Morgan School by this fall. Morgan teachers had contended that providing their high-need students with free and accessible preschool services was essential to improving student achievement at the school.

“The working conditions in this plan have already driven excellent, committed teachers out of the school and we think it will lead to continued high turnover in the future.”

- HTA President Peter McAndrew

Peter McAndrew, president of the HTA, said, “While we are gratified that they recognized the importance of preschool services and adopted that change, we are very disappointed that a majority of the board members rejected most of the other modifications we were seeking. The working conditions in this plan have already driven excellent, committed teachers out of the school and we think it will lead to continued high turnover in the future."

One change rejected by the board members for all three schools was a requirement that teachers be compensated commensurate with the additional hours they are being required to work. At Morgan, teachers will have to work 395 more hours a year, or 31 percent more time, for only a small increase in pay.

Board members also rejected a proposed modification calling for a dispute resolution process that ends with a hearing before a neutral third party, as exists for teachers in other schools throughout the state. The commissioner's plan gives Chester final say over disputes and will give "substantial deference" to the receiver.

Click here for more on Level 5 schools.