Teaching Profession

Mailbox Restrictions in Mass. Have Teachers ‘Grieving’

By Michelle R. Davis — March 10, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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:


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.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
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.
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

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 Teachers’ Careers Go Through Phases. They Need Support in Each
Teachers experience a dip in job satisfaction a few years into their careers.
5 min read
Vector illustration of a female teacher at her desk with her head in her hands. There are papers, stacked notebooks, and a pen on the desk and a very light photo of a blurred school hallway with bustling students walking by in the background.
Teaching Profession Download Downloadable: 5 Ways Principals Can Help With Teacher Burnout
This downloadable gives school leaders and teachers various ways to spot and treat teacher burnout.
1 min read
Silhouette of a woman with an icon of battery with low charge and icons such as a scribble line, dollar sign and lightning bolt floating around the blue background.
Teaching Profession Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers' Time
This Atlanta school offers unique onsite benefits to teachers to help them reduce stress.
3 min read
Employees learn more about health and wellness options during a mini benefits fair put on by The Lovett School in Atlanta on May 8, 2024.
Employees at the Lovett School in Atlanta meet with health benefits representatives during a mini benefits fair on May 8, 2024.
Erin Sintos for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How Two Teachers Helped Me Weave a Dream
A journalist and debut book author dedicates her novel to two of her high school English teachers.
Anne Shaw Heinrich
3 min read
Image of nurturing the craft of writing.
Francis Sheehan for Education Week with N. Kurbatova / iStock / Getty