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UTL President Defends Contract, Criticizes Sun

August 20, 2018

The Sun’s editorial of August 7 -- “City must hold line on union pay hikes” -- misrepresents the facts concerning the most recently negotiated contracts between the United Teachers of Lowell and Lowell School Committee. During the late spring of 2017 the UTL concluded negotiations on what was actually a four-year agreement written as a one-year 0 percent increase, to comply with state law, and a three-year agreement worth 9 percent and growth with only 8 percent having any impact during that four years, with the last percent coming the last day of the fourth year. So 8 percent, or nine if you must, increase over a four-year period could hardly be considered extravagant but a more truthful and accurate account would have denied The Sun from portraying the School Committee, and by implication Superintendent Khelfaoui, as “fiscally clueless -- and negligent.” Those contracts also included defined job descriptions for some units and more precise contract language in an attempt to avoid costly and time-consuming grievances and arbitrations. The contract allows us to maintain a competitive salary structure (There is a nationwide shortage of teachers as fewer applicants are moving to the profession), to attract and retain the best teachers in servicing our students and maintain the progress that we have enjoyed over the last several years. As to The Sun’s absurd conjecture that the UTL’s neutrality on the high school site as a “quid pro quo reward” -- with whom would that deal have been made? The fact is that the siting of the high school had already become, and continues to be, a most divisive force in the community. Pitting the opinion of some members against that of others, particularly considering that the final decision was largely out of our hands, would have been equally divisive and we are, after all, a union.

The current fiscal shortfall is largely the result of cuts in federal grants, the failure of the state to follow the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Committee, the added expenditures to charter schools due to increased enrollment, the decision of the Lowell charters to no longer contribute to the cost of transportation of their students, along with other factors. There’s no doubt challenges are ahead. It will take a creative leader to bridge the gap in order to insure a quality education to all Lowell students, as has been exemplified by Superintendent Khelfaoui -- a resource that may soon be lost to us by the reckless actions of some members of the Lowell School Committee.

PAUL GEORGES,

president,

United Teachers of Lowell

Time to break out of the box and vote for someone new

Do you agree with me that it’s time to shake up Congress? For too long we’ve been urged to support candidates who will “bring home the bacon” and who will “follow the party line”.

What has that gotten us but a string of benefit-bloated gas bags who embrace the extreme ideology of their donors or push the expensive requests of lobbyists and ignore their constituents except at election time. Political office should not be a career choice but rather a short term “sabbatical of service” from one’s chosen field.

Is it time to abandon the idea of voting with one’s pocket book. Instead, select candidates based on their conformity with our own values and conscience? As an example, I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why federal funds from a taxpayer in California or anywhere else should be applied to programs and projects in Massachusetts, or vice versa, just because a particular legislator has influence or is owed a favor from the party leadership.

Also, is it time to abandon the practice of voting for a candidate who has a certain name and party affiliation but no relevant experience?

During the upcoming elections don’t be afraid to break out of the box and try someone new. What do you have to lose?

Michael Langlois

Dracut

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