School Committee, Union Negotiate Teacher Contracts in Winthrop Public Schools

School Committee, Union Negotiate Teacher Contracts in Winthrop Public Schools

Corinne Powell, Writer/Editor

Every three years, Winthrop Public Schools renew their staff’s contracts, and every three years, the School Committee and the staff are at arms. This year, the teachers have taken to the streets, and worn buttons to show their support for fair contracts. While no decisions have been officially made, negotiations are going on every week at meetings. I met with Jennifer Powell, the Chairman of the School Committee, to ask her some questions about the process.

What is your role in negotiations?

In addition to being the chair of the Winthrop School Committee, I am the chair of the Unit A Winthrop Teachers Association Subcommittee. This is the panel that negotiates with the teachers on behalf of the School Committee, which represents the town of Winthrop.

What is the teacher’s role in negotiations? 

 The teachers are represented by a union. They have a bargaining committee that includes some of the union members to represent their interests. With any agreement, union members vote on it and a majority must approve before it goes into effect. Having a contract is beneficial for all because it helps to create stability and certainty for the school administration and employees. 

How do you feel about the teachers protesting?

In Massachusetts, teachers are not allowed to strike. They are, however, allowed to picket within certain guidelines. It is their protected right. 

How long do you think negotiations will take?

We have a three-year agreement that is in place until the end of August. We have already had several negotiating sessions and we have more scheduled. We are working diligently to reach an agreement as soon as possible. 

Are there any big differences between the negotiations taking place this year and three years ago?

Overall, the process isn’t different. When a contract is up for renewal, both sides develop proposals for changes. This could include changes in procedures, schedules, time-off, and pay. The two sides present their proposals and they have discussions about them and work to reconcile any differences. Both sides have put their proposals on the table and now we are working through those to find a mutually acceptable agreement. Our priority is maintaining high-quality schools while living within the means of the town. 

Although the process is similar, we certainly went through an unpredictable disruption due to the pandemic. When the schools moved to remote and then to a hybrid learning model, we negotiated an agreement with the union to address those changes based on the contract that was in effect at that time. This process was collegial and resulted in one of the earliest returns to full in-person learning in the state for all students.


This is going to be a very detailed process, but it is important to make sure that our teachers have the best contracts they can under the circumstances of the town. Not many details can be publicly disclosed just yet, but the contracts will be released when they are done. The contract process is a negotiation, so both parties will not get exactly what they want, but I believe in our schools to make sure that there is the best outcome possible.


**DISCLAIMER: The interviewer and interviewee have a personal, family relationship**