EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 10, 2013

Letter: Andover High, taxpayers poorly served by teacher firing

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

Your article in the July 6 paper, “Fired teacher wins back job” is most notable for its errors and omissions. You state that Meagher’s email “urged them (teachers) to abstain from voting” on the re-accreditation reports. In fact, her e-mail urged them to vote “Abstain”. There is a huge difference that lies at the very heart of this matter. To abstain from voting would have been to hold up the process. A vote to abstain, which Meagher’s email recommended, was to participate in the process by exercising one of three legitimate options on the paper ballot.

The reason the abstain option was on the ballot was to address the concerns that many high school teachers had that until the teaching scheduling issues were resolved in the ongoing contract negotiations, one could not be confident that the conclusions in the report were valid. This made abstention the only viable option. This is all very clear in the 53- page Labor Relations Board findings report, a public document that I encourage anyone interested in this matter to read.

School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue opined that “encouraging other teachers to abstain put at risk the loss or delay of the high school accreditation.” There are two problems with this. First, as stated previously, that’s not what the email asked teachers to do. Second, according to the findings report (page 48) the accreditation could be done in a timely manner even if the teacher’s recommendations were not received until September after the teaching schedule was in place. There was no real risk that the high school would not receive its accreditation and, as a matter of record, it did. Ms. Meagher’s email was irrelevant.

Your article also had two glaring omissions. First, the report stated clearly that Jen Meagher is a terrific teacher. A recent performance evaluation concluded that “her impact on students was powerful, her contributions to the school are many, and her presence in the Andover school community is powerful” (page 6). The taxpaying citizens of Andover have a right to know this.

Second, the findings noted Superintendent McGrath’s “lack of involvement in or knowledge of the NEASC (the accreditation group) voting process that was put in place at AHS” (page 48). More plainly put, McGrath didn’t really know how the process worked. Worse, she manipulated the timing of releasing her decision to fire Ms. Meagher to suit her own purposes. She received a copy of Jen’s email on June 10, but she took no action until after the vote on accreditation on June 21 (page 49).

The students of Andover High and the taxpaying citizens of Andover have been poorly served by this sordid mess. An appeal would be a further waste of Andover taxpayer dollars.

Ed Warnshuis