BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island Education Association, which is the local teacher’s union, has filed a complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board claiming the MDI Regional School System (MDIRSS) has made “numerous unilateral changes to working conditions” and accusing the school system’s teacher contract negotiators of “levelling many false accusations against the Association.”
The complaint was filed last Friday.
That same day, Kristi Losquadro, the school system board’s chair and lead contract negotiator, resigned from the Bar Harbor School Committee – which means she also is no longer a member of the school system board or the MDI High School board.
In announcing her resignation, she cited what she called “malicious” accusations against her and fellow board members by representatives of the teachers association.
“I regret terminating my service prior to the end of my current term, but I can no longer participate in the gamesmanship the Teachers Association and their Union representatives are playing,” she said in a letter to Superintendent Marc Gousse and Bar Harbor School Committee Chair Lilea Simis.
Losquadro said the Prohibited Practice Complaint that the teachers association filed with the Maine Labor Relations Board, “which accuses me and my fellow school board volunteers of multiple labor violations, is malicious and misrepresents the facts.”
Representatives of the school system board and the teachers association began working six months ago to negotiate a new three-year contract. The previous contract expired Aug. 31.
Starting March 23, the two sides held four bargaining sessions before engaging in mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on Aug. 19. But that meeting failed to break the impasse in negotiations.
Over the next few weeks, the two sides exchanged proposals and responses and then met Sept. 8.
The teachers association said in its complaint to the Labor Relations Board that, on Sept. 9, Losquadro “sent an email to the Association bargaining team, levelling many false accusations against the Association and presenting an inaccurate account of the bargaining session on September 8.”
The complaint also claimed that, since Sept. 1, the school system has made changes in working conditions “without giving the Association the opportunity to meet and confer or bargain.”
“These changes include: changes to the school day that have triggered 30 minutes or more that teachers are responsible for students, and shifting release time of students at the end of the school day.”
In doing so, the complaint said, the school system has violated the state’s collective bargaining law.
The complaint asks the Labor Relations Board to order the school system to bargain in good faith and to “cease and desist from refusing to supply to the Association information necessary…to its collective-bargaining functions; refusing to give meaningful counter proposals, refusing to schedule dates for bargaining…”
The complaint was filed by Sean Brailey of the Maine Education Association on behalf of the local teachers association.
Daniel Horning, a teacher at Tremont Consolidated School and the lead negotiator for the teachers association, said Tuesday that he hopes the two sides can return to the bargaining table and reach an agreement soon.
“I really think we can,” he said.
Noting that teachers have had to work especially hard under difficult circumstances over the past couple of years, he said they deserve a contract that recognizes and rewards their dedication.
Horning said he regretted Losquadro’s decision to resign, calling her a strong advocate for the schools.
Losquadro said in her letter of resignation, “I joined the school board eight years ago to be an advocate for teachers and students, and every action and decision I have made has been from that position.
“Based on the actions of the Teachers Association and their Union representative, I feel that I can no longer serve in the manner I had intended. This process has begun to negatively affect my mental health and the quality of my family life. I also fear this process will negatively affect my children’s school experience.”
Losquadro was elected chair of the MDIRSS board in May. On Monday, the board
elected Jessica Stewart, a member of the Tremont School Committee, to succeed her.
Gousse read a prepared statement at Monday’s school board meeting in which he expressed appreciation for Losquadro’s “leadership, selfless service, unwavering advocacy and support for teachers and support staff and as a champion for students.”
“Over the course of my nearly 39-year career of public service in education, I have worked for and with dozens and dozens of elected officials. Kristi Losquadro is as fine a board member, person and colleague as you could ever have the pleasure of meeting and working with.
“It’s disheartening for me to see someone with her experience, her caliber, her talents and her passion resign,” Gousse said of Losquadro. “I know firsthand we’ve lost a significant leader.”
Losquadro was last elected to a three-year term on the Bar Harbor School Committee in 2019, so her term was to expire next spring.