School committee chairman Patrick Guida said a request for proposals was issued a few weeks ago seeking legal counsel to represent the board during negotiations. The union’s current contract expires at the end of August.
In prior years, Mr. Guida said legal counsel was used for consultation and did not have a seat at the negotiating table. He said previous negotiations included the superintendent and finance director sitting at the table with regular reports back to the school committee.
Mr. Guida said current superintendent Michael Messore will not be at the table for this upcoming round of bargaining. One of Mr. Messore’s family members is a member of the teachers’ union.
Mr. Guida also said, however, that this is not the sole reason for a change in the negotiating team. A number of other individuals including citizens and elected officials have previously called for the school committee to employ a professional negotiator.
The negotiating team is now expected to include whichever attorney is selected through the RFP along with current director of administration and finance Ron Tarro.
Mr. Guida said he feels Mr. Tarro has “great experience” with collective bargaining given his work with multiple school unions on multiple agreements during his tenure with the district.
Mr. Guida also said one or two school committee members may join the negotiating team though no final decision has been made on that.
While the school committee has often previously used the firm of Little, Medeiros, Kinder and Bulman as special counsel, Mr. Guida said the board is not tied to any one firm. The lawyers brought in for negotiations, Mr. Guida said, will be special for that purpose.
Mr. Guida said negotiations haven’t started yet because the school committee wanted to wait until after next month’s election. Mr. Guida also said that ultimately, all decisions are made by the entire school committee.