GTA draws support from Gloucester community

Teachers still rallying for a contract among other concerns


Gus Martinson

Teachers rally at the rotary to support a fair contract

Still without a contract, the Gloucester Teachers Association rallied at Grant Circle last Friday afternoon to encourage the community to support continued negotiations with the school committee.

“It was great to go out on the rotary and see teachers in other buildings, which we never have a chance to see,” said GHS history teacher Shaun Goulart, “but also to have the community members who joined us in the demonstration and see the support from the public.”

Gloucester teachers have been without a contract for about two years. Currently, the school committee and GTA are not in negotiations. Applying for a mediator has been mentioned, but so far both parties have not reached an agreement.

“We are still brainstorming ideas on how to move forward and work together,” said GTA President Andrea Tarantino. “We just want the public to know that we want to have the best education for our students as possible, and that is our focus.”

Fourteen health and safety concerns and a push to add 90 hours to elementary teachers’ work year without compensation were the main issues surrounding the contract negotiations as of last year. However, neither party will discuss current points for negotiation.

About half of the health and safety concerns have so far been addressed by officials, yet several major problems have yet to be fixed.

Health and safety issues still a major concern

Members of the GTA are also concerned with the conditions of GHS and other schools in the city, and that these conditions are making it “difficult to provide students with the best education possible.”

“There are schools in the district where teachers are getting ill from just entering their rooms because of the poor air quality,” said GHS math teacher Gus Martinson.

The ventilation systems in the high school especially have raised concerned among teachers. According to Martinson, “dead mice, fecal matter, and other debris” have been found behind the univents in the classrooms.

“The ventilation systems, for the most part, have never been cleaned or vacuumed since they were installed in the late 90s,” said Martinson. “When the fans are on, air and debris from behind the vents get blown up into the classroom.”

Martinson hopes that meeting with city officials will result in the univents being cleaned at least every four to five years.

The health concerns surrounding the ventilation systems are now a level three grievance, meaning that Martinson and other teachers will go to the school committee to address the problem. If a compromise cannot be made, the issue will be upgraded to a level four grievance- the highest one that can be filed- and an outside party will be brought in to find a solution.

“I will commend the school committee and the DPW for continuing to fix the many broken ‘guillotine’ windows in the high school,” said Martinson.

Despite all of the prevalent grievances, teachers remain hopeful for a fair agreement.

“I’m optimistic that both sides will come together,” said Goulart, “and work to resolve the issue.”