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Merrimack Valley

April 3, 2014

Lawrence teachers union ratifies new contract

Union, city receiver view deal as victory

LAWRENCE — Members of the Lawrence Teachers Union finally have a new contract — their first in more than three and a half years.

The union ratified the pact by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin during three hours of secret ballot voting at the Relief’s In.

After more than a year of contentious negotiations — marked by several unfair labor practices filed by the union against Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley and allegations that he was trying to scrap collective bargaining, both sides hailed last night’s vote as a victory for the state’s most troubled school district.

“The Lawrence Teachers Union, Receiver Jeff Riley, Lawrence educators, students, and parents are looking forward to moving forward.” Lawrence Teachers Union President Frank McLaughlin said in a statement last night.

“It is great to see the membership come together like this and approve a contract we have worked long and hard negotiating,” said McLaughlin, whose union represents classroom teachers, guidance counselors, occupational therapists, speech therapists, librarians, attendance officers and school psychologists. The contract will remain in effect through June 2017.

Riley, who took over management of the school district under state receivership in January 2012 after the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education declared it “chronically underperforming,” had been involved in tough negotiations with the union for more than a year.

“This is an important moment for Lawrence, its schools, and its educators and students,” Riley said last night.

“Some people doubted it was possible, but both sides worked incredibly hard to reach an agreement that would preserve the turnaround’s momentum while giving our teachers the protections and opportunities they deserve. This vote puts everyone in the best position since receivership started to move forward together. There’s still a lot of work to do in Lawrence, but now one less obstacle to getting it done,” Riley said.

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