Norwood teachers cast no-confidence vote against district officials over promised back pay

NORWOOD — Members of the union that represents teachers at Norwood Public School have cast a no-confidence vote against the district’s interim superintendent and three members of the school board, alleging that teachers have yet to receive the retroactive pay they were promised after approving a contract in March.

Interim Superintendent Bert Ammerman was named in the vote last month along with the board’s president, Mathew Ross; its vice president, Joel Rubin; and a trustee, Michael Sprague.

The Norwood Education Association cast a no-confidence vote against the district's interim superintendent and three board members, citing

The Norwood Education Association cast a no-confidence vote against the district’s interim superintendent and three board members, citing “intimidation tactics” and payroll issues.

“Ammerman has failed to create an enriching and rewarding work environment, which fosters a healthy educational environment,” said Theresa Sullivan, president of the Norwood Education Association, which represents 53 teachers and aides at Norwood Public School. “Teachers have felt fearful. They’ve felt like they can’t speak and they haven’t felt like they’ve been treated professionally.”

Ammerman called the vote of no-confidence “hollow,” as he is leaving his post as interim superintendent in two weeks.

“When I was first told about it, I chuckled,” Ammerman said. “I know I’ve made decisions that some of the staff haven’t agreed with, but I know every decision I’ve made has been right.”

The vote comes just months after the union reached a contract agreement with the district after negotiating over teacher salaries. The new contract stipulates raises of 3 percent for the 2013-14 school year, 2.9 percent for 2014-15 and 2.8 percent for 2015-16. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2013, with teachers receiving pay for the time they worked without a contract.

“We were negotiating a contract for two years. During that time, nobody got a pay increase,” said Lisa Mazurek, a union vice president. “When negotiations ended, as part of the agreement, we were entitled to that money back.”

According to Mazurek, the union was told that teachers would receive retroactive pay in May for the first year covered by the contract, followed by payment for the second year in June.

“May came and went and we were never paid anything, nor were we given notice that we would not be paid,” Mazurek said.

According to Sullivan, the retroactive pay might be delayed because the board must first process it through the state.

Ammerman said he knows why he received the no-confidence vote, and that the reasons are “personal.” He declined to elaborate.

The union’s motives for including the other officials in its no-confidence vote are not clear.

“The union leadership gave no reasons for the action of its membership, leaving the board to conclude that there are no reasons to support the union’s actions other than its own undisclosed political motivation,” said Louise Napolitano, the board’s secretary and business administrator.

Ross said the letters from the union came out of nowhere.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “I wish they would come to a meeting and have a discussion about it or do something constructive.”

The union also criticized the board for the way it has handled payroll.

“Teachers were mistakenly paid thousands of extra dollars over a long period of time, and then they were called into the business office and told they had to pay it back,” she said. “Some had only two to three pay periods to pay it back, while others were put on a payment plan.”

“There is no equity in the way this is being handled,” she added. “Where is the financial oversight?”

Mazurek said the union hopes the no-confidence vote will be a notice to residents.

“When the contract was settled between the union and the board, the public seemed to think that everything was OK,” Mazurek said. “The union wants to alert the public that everything is not OK in Norwood. We are urging them to come out to meetings and get informed about what’s going on.”

*This story was originally published in The Record.

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