Teaching Profession

Mailbox Restrictions in Mass. Have Teachers ‘Grieving’

By Michelle R. Davis — March 10, 2004 2 min read

High school teacher George M. Clement didn’t get any Christmas cards in his school mailbox during the past holiday season. A fellow teacher hand- distributed wedding invitations instead of using the mailboxes. And, Mr. Clement said, unlike in years past, his box hasn’t been stuffed with helpful articles and notes from co-workers that could enhance his classes.

That’s because the fallout from a union dispute at Salem High School in Salem, Mass., has led to teachers being barred from using the mailboxes to send information out without getting the prior approval from their principal. The issue has spawned an unfair-labor-practices grievance.

“People just aren’t using them at all,” Mr. Clement, a social studies teacher who is in his third year at the school, said of the mailboxes. “It’s professionally insulting to me. It’s so childish.”

Contract Objections

The squabble started in September, when Salem district officials were trying to hammer out a contract with the local teachers’ union.

Mr. Clement and four other teachers at Salem High had concerns about terms of the contract being advocated by union leaders and printed up fliers listing their objections. They delivered their fliers to nearly all teachers’ mailboxes in the 5,000-student Salem school district.

The following day, the “gang of five,” as they’re now known, were pulled out of class and told that the only “mail” permitted in the mailboxes had to be given the nod by the school’s principal.

Only leaders of the Salem Teachers Union may distribute information in the mailboxes without permission from the principal, said Daniel B. Kulak, a lawyer representing the district.

Union leaders backed that interpretation of the contract.

That didn’t sit right with Salem English teacher Betty Anne Babcock. Though not one of the five involved in the mail incident last fall, she filed an unfair-labor- practices grievance last month with the state’s labor-relations board against both the American Federation of Teachers affiliate and the school district. The outcome is pending.

In her complaint, Ms. Babcock said that despite Principal Ann M. Papagiotas’ assertion that all mail had to go through her, “use of mailboxes has never been prohibited in the past,” and the teacher handbook has no “written reference to any mailbox restriction.”

Web Forum

The whole issue even sparked the creation of a Web site (one of the five disgruntled teachers was a Web developer in a previous career) devoted to Salem High School concerns, much of it filled with comments about the mailbox dust-up. Mr. Clement said the mailbox issue, along with adjusting to a new principal and a move to block scheduling, had dampened school morale.

“The students sense the mood,” he said.

But David J. McGrath, the president of the Salem Teachers Union and a technology education teacher at the high school, said he had spoken with Ms. Papagiotas on behalf of union members, and they informally agreed that only mass mailings must be approved by the principal.

Mr. McGrath said the whole to-do over mailboxes hasn’t really had a widespread effect on teachers’ operations.

“I wouldn’t say there was a lot of mailbox use” to begin with, he said.

For Mr. Clement and others in the “gang of five,” however, the dispute has cast a pall over their tenure at Salem High.

“It’s like we’re the resistance; ... we’re the bad boys,” he said last week. “They’re playing with our jobs here.”

Mr. Clement said that he was seeking a teaching job elsewhere.

Related Tags:

Events

School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession 4 Ways Districts Are Giving Teachers More Flexibility in Their Jobs
After a year-plus of pandemic schooling, some experts are seeing momentum for district leaders to reimagine what teaching can look like.
11 min read
Teacher working at home in front of camera.
Getty
Teaching Profession New Teaching Jobs May Emerge With Continued Demand for Virtual Learning
As school districts plan for online learning to continue beyond the pandemic, they'll need teachers to staff those virtual classrooms.
4 min read
Teaching Profession Teacher Salaries Are Increasing. See How Your State Compares
The National Education Association warns that some of the progress in teacher pay could be jeopardized by the pandemic.
2 min read
Teacher Salary Rankings 04262021 943331302
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Opinion What Can We Do to Help the Well-Being of Teachers?
A Seat at the Table focused on the social-emotional well-being of teachers during the pandemic. Here's what we learned from the guests.
1 min read
Sera   FCG
Shutterstock