Chelmsford Teachers Deserve ANSWERS

This week we’re revisiting the union drama up in Chelmsford and their never-ending hot mess surrounding former Chelmsford Federation of Teachers President Jennifer Salmon.

You’ll remember Chelmsford came to our attention last year when the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts launched a state-wide petition to support Jennifer Salmon, then-President of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers.

Salmon had been tossed from a local elementary school along with an AFT-thug for trying to throw down with the Principal and Superintendent to the point where the cops had to be called. (All because they didn’t like being told that the union wasn’t entitled to a student personal IEP information.)

The statewide union stepped in and then suddenly Jennifer and the situation in Chelmsford was getting some national attention. I mean, this was a full-court press push, complete with a petition demanding ACTION to REINSTATE JENNIFER!

We pushed for transparency, published the police reports and suddenly stories started changing. (Peter Cook does a great job of giving us the complete run down here. Plus you can read the actual police report.)

Then we uncovered the fact that Jennifer and her executive board voted themselves pay raises without the approval of the rest of their membership. Members of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers got BIG MAD and demanded answers.

Salmon, Arrington, and O’Donnell (the executive board members who decided they deserved to give themselves a raise) are no longer members of the executives board. After much speculation that a deal had been cut to “overlook” the situation provided the group didn’t run for re-election, Arrington and Salmon then promptly quit the union.

That’s right. They became agency fee payers.

That didn’t go over too well with the rest of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers. I mean, these are their former executive board members — so under some intense pressure and embarrassment, they ended up reversing themselves and rejoining the group.

Since then, members of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers have called on Attorney General Maura Healey and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers — but neither have responded to the rank and file membership requests.


CFT members are now furious once again upon hearing that Salmon has taken a leave of absence from the district since last spring — and is even drawing down from the CFT “sick bank” because of this “extended illness.”

Thank goodness she had the good sense to rejoin as a full member of the union!

The good news is that Jennifer seems to be on the mend! Throughout her illness she has been able to continue teaching her cycling classes at Best Fitness while drawing down from the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers sick bank.

… and it turns out that while she’s moved from Chelmsford:

… and has also received several job offers from area school districts which she has accepted/rejected (ahem.)

(Chelmsford Teachers report that folks at the Harrington were not too happy to find her on the roster for a Lowell Public Schools while on sick leave.)

So as you can imagine, members of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers who donate their personal time to the Chelmsford sick bank to support their fellow members are beside themselves. And they’ve heard she plans to continue using their time through January at the least.

The actual members of the CFT who pay dues to the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers are so furious that this is happening and are appalled at the fact that no one is willing to do anything about it that they have once again written to EduMom for help. They don’t even have a voice in their own union, but we are happy to give them a platform to be heard. No one else seems to be listening.

We see value in keeping high quality educators happy and in the classroom. Not leaving because they are sick and tired of union shenanigans. In this post-Janus world, you’d think that unions would try to be more responsive to the voices of their own membership. They would refocus and rededicate themselves to serving their teachers.

I mean, even in politics, we’re seeing union leadership completely ignoring the voices of the actual educators on the ground. So Chelmsford Teachers, don’t expect the statewide union to come back you up. The statewide leadership of both of the teachers unions won’t even listen to the members of their own groups when it comes to making political endorsements:

Deb McCarthy, president the Hull Teachers Association, the Mass. Teachers Association affiliate in the seaside town that is part of the Senate district, said local MTA leaders in the district met on two occasions to discuss the race. “Overwhelmingly, the consensus was to recommend a non-endorsement,” she said. “We were unanimous that both candidates would actively support the MTA’s legislative agenda.”

“Somewhere there was a breakdown in the chain of communications and the vote to endorse Sen. O’Connor happened without the collective wisdom of local leadership,” she said of the statewide union’s move.  

(Cue another piece by Barbara Madeloni in Labor Notes congratulating herself for building a more “democratic” union. What. Ever. Dude.)

Sounds more like a group of folks who have seized power and are now using it to advance their own agenda.

Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss.

Many of the members who write into EduMom complain about the fact that unions are spending so much time playing political games that they won’t even provide teachers with adequate representation in the grievance process in fear that it might put them in a tricky political situation — or can’t be bothered to negotiate a decent contract. 

If I were the teachers in Chelmsford, I’d be looking long and hard at a decertification campaign — and maybe creating your own association to bargain your contract. I mean, at this point — what are your AFT union dues really getting you exactly?

I would hope that the AFT, the Attorney General and the Ethics Committee would at least provide some answers. These ARE your members and your constituents, remember?

They deserve it.


What do you think?

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