UPDATE: Stoughton Teachers Union Refutes Claim that Censured School Committee Member Disclosed Bargaining Strategy; School Committee Chair Responds
School Committee Member Dr. Erdem Ural was censured by his fellow members on the Stoughton School Committee March 14.
The following article was originally published March 19 and was updated March 22:
The Stoughton School Committee voted 3-1 last Thursday to censure one of its members, Dr. Erdem Ural, for exceeding authority and insulting staff and opening the School Committee to legal liability; creating dysfunction within the School Committee and wasting taxpayer money; and submitting a rogue evaluation of the Superintendent.
Included in a lengthy list of concerns and issues spelled out in a case for censure, read during the meeting by School Committee Chair Deborah Sovinee, was the fact that Dr. Ural was "removed...from a union bargaining team because he spoke publicly and gave away the School Committee strategy."
This was during the negotiations process for Educator Evaluations.
The Stoughton Teachers Association refutes this, however.
As stated in the case for censure:
He [Dr. Ural] had been given an opportunity to work on the Educator Evaluation negotiations. During that period, last fall, after we had a conversation in Dr. Rizzi’s office he went back into the meeting with the union negotiation team and told them our strategy. He then not only denied it but blamed the Chair saying that she was the one who gave away the strategy despite multiple witnesses to the reality of what actually took place.
During negotiation strategizing in Dr. Rizzi’s office he picked up a paper off a table and proceeded to read it. When told to put down the draft of a letter he refused and the Chair took it away. He later criticized the Superintendent to the union president and publicly revealed the draft’s contents compromising strategy related to bargaining. As School Committee members we are privy to confidential information and allowed into the Superintendent’s office where privacy must be maintained. Dr. Ural has violated this on numerous occasions.
Stoughton Teachers Association President Andrea Pires, a teacher at the South Elementary School, sent the following statement to Stoughton Patch:
I am an elementary teacher and serve as President of the Stoughton Teachers Association. I was a member of the team that recently negotiated the new evaluation system with the school committee. At no time did any school committee member disclose internal bargaining strategy to me or any member of the STA team.
Sovinee responded to the STA statement, further detailing the negotiations:
Last October the School Committee was in the midst of negotiating for the new state-mandated Educator Evaluation tool. We understood that it changed the conditions of the Stoughton Teacher’s Association (STA) contract. In the process of revising work conditions there are collective bargaining meetings which include the normal give and take, offers and counter offers that are part and parcel of negotiations. The School Committee bargains for the town and our ability to do so effectively relies on a coordinated, agreed-upon approach.
During collective bargaining each side will leave the room to discuss strategy and agree upon negotiation goals and fallback positions. During the October bargaining session when we came back into the room Dr. Erdem Ural immediately revealed to the STA the School Committee’s fallback position thereby damaging what we were trying to accomplish.
Dr. Ural agrees that strategy was divulged –- he says just that in a published letter, dated November 12, 2012, to me. STA President Andrea Pires, who says no strategy was revealed, might not have recognized Dr. Ural’s statement as a revelation. Other members of the STA and the Massachusetts Teacher’s Association rep were in the room, several of whom have a significant amount of bargaining experience, and may have recognized it as such.
Dr. Ural was first elected to the School Committee in 2008, and served a single term, defeated in a bid for reelection in 2011. However, he ran again in 2012 and won back a seat on the Committee, defeating longtime member Allan Mills. Ural is near the end of the first year in this current three-year term.
The censure does not remove Dr. Ural from office, but rather is a way for the other members of the Committee to denounce his actions, they said, and distance themselves from his statements.