Massachusetts teachers’ unions vote no confidence in Education Commissioner Jeff Riley

More than 100 Massachusetts teachers’ unions have taken a vote of no confidence in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and its Commissioner Jeffrey Riley for poor performance during the pandemic.
“After surveying our members, we, the elected leaders of our local associations, have overwhelmingly found that Commissioner Riley and DESE have consistently failed to provide high quality administrative leadership, planning, or safe working and learning conditions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the declaration from members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
The 104 unions and three non-unions from across the state cited lack of leadership, failure to heed data on in-school coronavirus transmission and insufficient consideration of input from districts.
Three of the local union presidents testified before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Tuesday to underscore changes needed to support educators and improve health and safety in schools.
Deb Gesualdo, president of the Malden Education Association said, “There are a few wealthy districts, including Wellesley, that have implemented frequent surveillance testing so they can identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 and limit transmission in schools. This program should be available across the state regardless of family income, paid for with tax dollars.”
Anthony Parolisi, president of the Haverhill Education Association said Riley should consult with districts before before announcing changes in policy such as coronavirus metrics.
“We worked with local health officials and elected leaders for months to develop an education plan that met DESE guidelines and addressed conditions in our community, only to have the rug pulled out from under us when the commissioner changed the metrics and reopening guidance,” Parolisi said.
The locals who support the no-confidence petition represent nearly half of the MTA’s preK-12 members.
The petition said it is Riley’s and DESE’s responsibility to create a healthy and safe environment for students and teachers, and they “do not demonstrate the depth of understanding nor the impartial judgment needed to support students, faculty, and families.”
Colleen Quinn, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Education said in a statement there have been “very limited” instances of in-school coronavirus transmission in Massachusetts public schools.
“While unions engage in baseless attacks, we remain committed to children’s education and the best interests of staff, students and families and continue to believe that in person learning is best for the academic and emotional health of our students,” said Quinn.

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