THE MELROSE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION and the city agreed to a new three-year contract last weekend and on Sunday, members rejoiced at the Knoll. (Photo by Raj Das,

MELROSE — It took a while to get there, but the city’s teachers have what they feel they deserve — a new contract, complete with pay raises and improved working conditions that will mean a continued commitment to providing a quality education to all Melrose students.

After months of protests, a job action and finally a vote to walk out of class, teachers rejoiced last weekend as they came to terms with the School Committee. Educators had been without a new contract for just under seven months.

In a joint release Saturday night, representatives of the Melrose Education Association and the School Committee said the three year pact provides cost of living and market adjustments totaling 10 percent over the length of the contract, which runs retroactively from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.

“On behalf of the Melrose School Committee, I believe that this contract shows our dedication to both the interests of the community and the commitment of our hard-working teachers,” announced School Committee Chair Margaret Driscoll. “We look forward to the MEA’s continued partnership in support of students, as we continue the tradition of excellent education provided to all students in Melrose.”

 “The Melrose Education Association extends our sincere thanks to everyone who supported us as we worked to reach a tentative agreement with the Melrose School Committee that meets the needs of our members, our students, our families, and our community,” said MEA President Lisa Donovan. “We are especially proud of the Melrose educators who so eloquently and passionately fought for the schools that our Melrose community deserves.”

“As mayor of a community I love, and as a graduate of Melrose High School, I’m proud that the city was able to make a significant investment in our students, educators and school district,” said Mayor Paul Brodeur. “I’m grateful for the hard work of our bargaining team, including my colleagues on the School Committee and the Superintendent, and for the collaboration of the MEA team.”

“I am beyond grateful that our Melrose educators and School Committee have reached a tentative agreement,” said Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger. “This contract not only provides our dedicated teachers with the compensation they deserve, it also provides them with more preparation time to support thoughtful and engaging lessons designed for our students in personalized and individualized ways. A strong, competitive salary schedule will help the district retain our amazing educators and fill critical positions needed to better serve our students. Thank you to the Mayor, School Committee, and MEA negotiation teams for reaching this agreement.”

On Sunday, some teachers and supporters gathered at the Knoll to celebrate the new contract.

The agreement with the city ends a short period of angst, as teachers voted Friday, January 13 to walk off the job effective last Tuesday if they did not get a new contract. The School Committee had expressed their dissatisfaction with how talks had been going, and recently announced they planned to seek a third party to mediate the negotiations. The teachers then voted no confidence in either the School Committee or Mayor Paul Brodeur, a run-up to their official vote to go on strike if they did not get what they wanted.

On Friday night, January 13, School Committee Chair Margaret Driscoll said, “The School Committee understands the frustration being experienced by the Melrose community relative to collective bargaining with our teachers. To say that we are also frustrated would be an understatement. We’ve made many generous and fair offers that have been rejected, and prior to the Melrose Education Association’s (MEA) December 19, 2022 proposal the parties were only ½ point apart over three years. The MEA’s offer on December 19, instead of bringing the parties closer to an agreement, brought the parties further apart, in that the MEA is now proposing to receive an additional 1% on day 90 of the contract. The School Committee’s current offer provides an 8.5% raise over three years, as well as providing a reduction in after school meeting time, additional elementary prep time, and an additional half day, among other language changes to the contract. The yearly raise is in addition to regular wage adjustments included in the teacher contract that honor years of service and the level of education a teacher has achieved (often referred to as “steps and lanes”). We’ve been advised by the President, Lisa Donovan, that the Melrose Education Association voted this afternoon to authorize a strike, yet the School Committee remains committed to working with the MEA to resolve this dispute through mediation.”

Reacting to the teachers’ vote to strike, Brodeur said:

“I know many of you are rightfully concerned about the status of the ongoing contract negotiations between the Melrose School Committee and the Melrose Education Association. As you may know, I am, and my children are, graduates of the Melrose Public Schools. I also have four nieces and nephews at MVMMS and MHS. I am personally and professionally connected and committed to the students and teachers of Melrose.

“I was disheartened to hear the announcement today that the Melrose Education Association (MEA) is planning to vote to hold a teachers’ strike.

“As noted in tonight’s message to parents and guardians from the Superintendent, MEA leaders have not contacted any Melrose Public Schools officials about their plans or responded to a direct request for information, but District leadership is under the impression that a strike could take place as early as tomorrow, Friday, January 13, or Tuesday, January 17. As Superintendent Kukenberger indicated, a strike will cause schools to close for all students.

“Closing schools is harmful to students and will create a burden for many of our parents and caregivers who may need to find alternative care for their children. Not only is a strike detrimental to the children and families of Melrose, but it’s also illegal per Massachusetts state law Title XXI Chapter 150E Section 9A. Unlike mediation, striking does nothing to bring us together to come to a mutual decision on a contract that is fair and equitable for our teachers, students, and the families of the City of Melrose.

“To advance progress toward an agreement with the MEA, in December, the District filed for mediation, which is a commonly used tool through which the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) supports sound and stable labor-management relations by assisting both parties in resolving outstanding issues and reaching a favorable resolution when negotiations stall. This afternoon, we received a Notice of Mediation from DLR indicating DLR is ready, willing, and able to assist, and the District has reached out to the MEA to start scheduling collaborative mediation dates.
“I believe that mediation is a far better path to take than an illegal strike that disrupts our students’ learning. As neutrals, mediators provide a third-party perspective and leverage the expertise of the skilled negotiators at the table to address the core interests of both negotiating parties. Most importantly, mediation offers the best opportunity for parties to code to an agreement without costing valuable learning time.
“It is important for the community to know that the School Committee’s collective bargaining team has met with the MEA at the bargaining table 20 times since last February. The School Committee is committed to negotiating with the MEA for a new contract that is fair to our teachers, is in line with the economic resources available to the City and meets the needs of our students and families. At the end of the day, everyone wants what is best for our students.”