Negotiations: All In for APS Students


Primer on the Collective Bargaining Process

Collective bargaining in the public sector is governed by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 150E.

Massachusetts law permits public employees who are not confidential or managerial to collectively bargain but expressly prohibits public employees from engaging in a strike including a work slowdown. 

The Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) provides an overview of the collective bargaining process. Some key points to Collective Bargaining:

What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining is the mutual obligation of employers’ and employees’ representatives to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, standards of productivity and performance, and other terms and conditions of employment, or the negotiation of an agreement, or a question arising under an agreement.

Must an employer negotiate with representatives of the bargaining unit?
Yes. The employer and exclusive bargaining representative must, upon demand, negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, standards of productivity and performance, and other terms and conditions of employment. No public employer may exempt itself from the operative provisions of the law.

Is either side required to agree?
No. But both sides must bargain in good faith, and either reach agreement or impasse.

What are the next steps if an agreement is reached during bargaining?

Agreements reached by union and management representatives at the bargaining table must be brought back to the union membership for a ratification vote and to the school committee as a whole for approval. Members of the bargaining teams for the union and for management are legally required to vote in favor of the agreement that they reached during bargaining.

The School Committee’s Role in Collective Bargaining

The School Committee is the employer for purposes of collective bargaining with school unions. Generally, the School Committee will select one or two members as the bargaining team for each union.  For purposes of collective bargaining, a municipal representative, such as the Town Manager, can participate and vote with the school committee and may be appointed by the school committee to serve on the bargaining team. Collective bargaining agreements cannot exceed three (3) years.

Mandatory Subjects of Bargaining

Wages/ SalariesHoursConditions of Employment
Standards of ProductivityProcess for Performance EvaluationsBenefits, i.e. personal leave, sick leave
Health InsuranceBreaksStipends

Additional Considerations: 

The School Committee may set long-term as well as short-term goals for bargaining.  The goal of preserving good employer/employee relationships is important and must be balanced against the availability of funds and the needs of students, the general public, and the community. The School Committee’s main responsibility is to ensure that students receive the highest quality education as well as the services they need to succeed. Decisions on contract terms must ensure that the administration’s right to manage and to fulfill other School Committee goals and state mandates are preserved.

A recommended operating budget for Andover Public Schools is determined each year by the School Committee in close consultation with the Superintendent of Schools. The Committee also works with the Town Manager, Select Board, and Finance Committee to understand revenue and expenses throughout the town in order to make responsible judgments about the appropriate level of school budget. For more information on the APS School Operating Budget Overview and Process click here


Who does the teachers’ association represent?

AEA Unit A consists of all classroom teachers, program heads with teaching assignments, media librarians/digital learning specialists, learning specialists, guidance counselors, school social workers, special education teachers, speech and language therapists, Board Certified Behavioral Analysts with DESE license, and registered school nurses. Members do not include paraprofessionals (Instructional Assistants), administrators, secretaries, custodians, nutrition services staff, OT/PTs, and other employees.

Who is on the negotiating team for the Andover School Committee? 

Tracey Spruce, Shannon Scully, and the Town Manager, Andrew Flanagan, represent the School Committee with support from the superintendent and others. The negotiating team is represented in negotiations by an attorney from the law firm of Valerio, Dominello, and Hillman.

Who is on the negotiating team for the Andover Education Association (AEA)? 

The AEA selects a team of bargaining unit members for its negotiating team. The AEA’s negotiations team traditionally has been joined in negotiations by a negotiator from the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), a statewide organization that provides support and legal representation to member unions.  In the past, the AEA has had a team consisting of ten members including teachers at the elementary and secondary level and special education teachers.

What is the process of negotiations?

  • At the beginning of negotiations, the School Committee and the AEA historically have agreed upon ground rules to guide the negotiations.
  • After ground rules are agreed upon, each party presents a list of proposals that include changes that they wish to make in the existing contract, including adjustments to salary and benefits. These items are discussed through a series of negotiations meetings.
  • When the parties reach agreement, that agreement is subject to ratification by the union membership and approval by the full school committee, including the municipal representative.  After ratification and approval, the agreement becomes effective.

What happens if the parties can’t reach an agreement?

Mediation: If the parties bargain in good faith but are unable to reach agreement after a reasonable period of negotiation, the parties are at “impasse.”  At that point, either party or both parties acting jointly may petition the DLR for a determination of the existence of an impasse. The DLR then assigns a mediator to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. The role of the mediator is to facilitate an agreement.  Agreements reached in mediation are subject to ratification by the union membership and approval by the school committee, including the management representative.

Fact finding: If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step in resolving an impasse is fact-finding.  The parties select a factfinder from a list provided by the DLR. 

  • The factfinder holds a hearing(s) where the parties present their proposals, positions, and information, including relevant data about the District’s resources and comparable districts. 
  • The factfinder then issues a confidential report with findings of fact.  This report may or may not include recommendations. 
  • The parties receive copies of the report and are required to return to negotiations informed by the report. 
  • If the parties do not reach agreement within ten days from the issuance of the report, the DLR will release the report to the public.  If the parties are still unable to reach agreement, the employer informs the DLR, which either sends the parties back to mediation or finds the employer has satisfied its bargaining obligations, which permits the employer to implement its last best on the record offer.

Can the AEA strike if no agreement is reached? 

No, it is against the law for public employees in Massachusetts to strike.  Massachusetts General Laws chapter 150E section 9A provides:

  • (a) No public employee or employee organization shall engage in a strike, and no public employee or employee organization shall induce, encourage, or condone any strike, work stoppage, slowdown, or withholding of services by such public employees.
  • (b) Whenever a strike occurs or is about to occur, the employer shall petition the commission to make an investigation. If, after investigation, the commission determines that any provision of paragraph (a) of this section has been or is about to be violated, it shall immediately set requirements that must be complied with, including, but not limited to, instituting appropriate proceedings in the superior court for the county wherein such violation has occurred or is about to occur for enforcement of such requirements.

What happens if a teachers’ union goes on strike?

The law requires that “[a]ny employee who engages in a strike shall be subject to discipline and discharge proceedings by the employer.”  (See G.L. chapter 150E, section 15.) 

If a union were to go on strike, the DLR will order the union to cease the strike and employees to return to work.  If the union does not comply with the DLR’s order, the DLR will seeks judicial enforcement of its order.  Failure to comply with a judicial order subjects the union to contempt charges and large fines.