Friday, July 12, 2024

I write to express my concern to School Committee members about their lack of support for a fair contract for our teachers. While I no longer work in the schools, I have many friends and former colleagues who do. I hear stories over and over again of exhaustion, burnout and feeling disrespected. I find the offer of a less than 2 percent raise to be insulting after the past two years when teachers have had to work under extremely difficult conditions. I would also like to address a few other proposals specifically, to help give a little perspective.

One proposal is to allow principals to assign teachers extra, non-instructional work such as cafeteria, recess or bus duty. Why are teachers so resistant to this, you may wonder. It is not because they don’t care about the safety of their students in the cafeteria, on the playground or waiting for the bus. It is because they have very little, if any, free time. While teachers’ schedules may look like there is time, that is not the case: A 45-minute lunch and recess break is not 45 minutes of free time. It includes organizing your class to get to the cafeteria to make sure they are settled there; it is meeting with kids who didn’t understand a lesson or are having trouble at school or home; it is running off to make copies for the next lesson. I often saw teachers gulping down their lunch at their desks in the 10 or 15 minutes they had while their students were at lunch. Sometimes I saw teachers eating their lunch at the end of the day because they hadn’t had any time to eat sooner. I was often asked to watch over a classroom while the teacher made a dash to the bathroom because she hadn’t had a break in hours. When you add 10 to 20 minutes of an extra duty, what are you taking away?

The second proposal I especially object to is to allow the district (at any time) to assign a teacher, without their consent, to any other building or position. This is absolutely insulting. Schools are communities that are built on personal relationships. It takes time to build a teacher team so they develop trust to work together well. People are not interchangeable parts on an assembly line. These are human beings, with feelings and with connections to others and to the bigger community of their school.

The third extremely problematic proposal has to do with evaluation. I believe a good evaluation process is important. People need to get feedback to help them grow and improve their work. But the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education rubric, especially if it adds student test scores, is not the answer. Have any of the committee members ever followed the state’s process, either as a teacher or a supervisor? I have been in both roles. And in both there were endless, and often pointless, hoops to jump through that contributed little to the quality of teaching. To add in MCAS standardized test scores as a measure is an old proposal that has been debunked many, many times.

Teachers need and deserve to be treated as professionals. Please work with the Cambridge Education Association to give them a contract that honors that professionalism.

Kathy Greeley, Erie Street