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Teachers unions call for Mass. school board member’s resignation after ‘demeaning’ comment

Moriarty apologized Friday, promising to ‘communicate much better going forward’

The presidents of two local teachers unions echoed calls for state education board member Michael Moriarty to resign on Wednesday, saying his “inflammatory remarks” during a public meeting last week were insulting.

In an April 20 board meeting, Moriarty, who spent 13 years on the Holyoke School Committee, said that while “there’s no getting away” from freezing school district performance reviews because of the pandemic-related cancellation of MCAS exams, the state’s accountability system is important in chronically underperforming districts like Lawrence and Holyoke.

“That’s a period of time now that we’ve been unable to take the kinds of actions that are necessary because of the deep inequities that exist from one district to [the] next, and we know they can’t change themselves, ‘cause they never do,” Moriarty said.

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“So if there’s any place where there needs to be a very serious conversation and a very serious intentionality about moving forward, it’s going to be in a revived accountability system that follows the end of this pandemic,” he added.

Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez called for Moriarty’s resignation on Thursday, saying his words “acted as a dog whistle and what you really want to say is that ‘immigrants are lazy people who do not care about education.’”

On Friday, Moriarty apologized for his comment, “which,” he said, “I regret was insulting.”

“I was referring to school districts, not people in those communities,” he wrote. “I never meant to disparage people who live in Holyoke and Lawrence. I apologize for giving that impression. I will strive to communicate much better going forward.”

But on Wednesday, the presidents of two local teachers unions said Governor Charlie Baker should remove Moriarty from the board if he does not resign.

“It is impossible for the people of Lawrence, Holyoke or any Massachusetts Gateway City where families struggle for a share of the American dream to have confidence in the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) while Michael Moriarty sits on the board,” Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and Kimberly Barry, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union Local 1019, wrote in a statement.

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Acting Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy told the Globe on Friday he did not want Moriarty to resign, calling him a “very strong advocate for improving education in Holyoke.”

But Kontos and Barry said Moriarty’s apology was not enough.

“His defense that he was taken out of context is nonsense, as any unbiased person who viewed the DESE meeting would attest,” wrote Kontos and Barry. “We call on the DESE board members who participated in the meeting to denounce his language and join us in calling for his resignation.”



Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.