I’m hoping to publicly correct some of the misinformation spreading in the community about our schools. Normally, I ignore misinformation with the hope that most people will logically dismiss it, but lately the hostile rhetoric directed at educators is having a negative impact on the morale of our members. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing I’m describing.
I completely understand why the issue of schooling in the time of COVID is so fraught with emotion. We are all frustrated with the limitations of the hybrid and remote model. We empathize with the struggles of parents trying to balance work schedules with supporting their child’s learning, and we empathize with parents hesitant to send their child to school. We want nothing more than to be back in person with our students.
That said, some of the misrepresentations floating around are way off base. The first is that our educators only work a couple of hours a day. The fact is – everyone is working their regular hours from the school buildings, even if students are not in person. Our cohort A teachers have been with students in person all along.
The hours we put in extend well into our evenings and weekends as we plan engaging instruction using new technology. The effort and creativity shown by everyone in this district should be a source of pride, not disparaging remarks. I would welcome anyone who doubts this to shadow an educator for a day.
The next fact to share is that the union is NOT the reason that our schools are not open full time. I’m not sure people understand that cohort B students are learning exclusively at home because their parents had the right to select a remote education model, not because of the union.
Despite the rumors, we have never refused to appear in person and we have never engaged in bullying the School Committee or the administration into the current learning posture. While you have remained open to our input, we do not get to make the final decisions. There is one reason- and one reason only- that our schools are not fully open and that is the virus.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have remained flexible and responsive to the needs of the district, and we continue to bargain new agreements that address constantly changing rules by DESE. While we haven’t agreed on everything, we have collaborated in earnest good faith around our shared interests. You will be voting on a couple of these new agreements in executive session tonight.
We’ve also fulfilled our obligation to advocate for the health and safety of our members. In most other professions, that advocacy would be applauded. The difference is that, historically, our profession has included an unspoken expectation of sacrifice.
Additionally, what we do in schools impacts everything else in society, leading to more Monday morning quarterbacking. I hope the silver lining is that when this is over, society will better value the institution of public education.
I would ask everyone watching to understand that the struggle is real for all of us. The only enemy here is the virus. We would be better served to focus our energy on advocating for what we need to return to normal- testing, vaccines, and full funding of the Student Opportunity Act. In the meantime, let’s also find hope that we are turning a corner towards brighter days.