Editor's Note: The following was read to the Framingham School Committee Tuesday night.
The (Framingham) School Committee has stated on many occasions that it wants to rebuild the school system. Anyone who knows anything about construction knows that it is impossible to build anything without a strong foundation. A strong foundation of any school system includes a supportive School Committee, a long range plan for the district, a true focus on student achievement and a strong, dedicated teaching staff.
With newer teachers choosing to look elsewhere for teaching jobs, and with more veteran teachers retiring early due to the lack of respect and support, your once strong foundation is now weaker. You cannot have a strong house when you have a weak foundation.
The teachers in Framingham have been very generous over the last few years. Two years ago, you asked us to give you two furlough days. After all, desperate times called for desperate measures. The public school system was in financial crisis. Although, we were unhappy about giving up two day’s pay, we did so because we wanted to save programs and be part of the solution.
This was a financial hardship on a lot of people, especially, someone like me whose spouse also teaches in the district. For our family, it was a loss of four days’ pay.
A year later you came to us again and asked for a 0% COLA (cost of living allowance)and a freeze in STEPS and lanes. Once again, the teachers were unhappy with this proposal, but ratified it anyway, knowing we were working together on finding a solution to the district’s financial problems.
During this time, we have also increased our contribution to our health care benefits and we have increased co-pays and now we are paying deductibles. This has been a huge financial burden on all of us.
I am personally offended by the lack of respect that the teachers have been shown during these negotiations. We all know that as we continue to negotiate, we will inevitably be referred to by some in the public as “those greedy teachers.” I am constantly baffled with the way teachers are portrayed as “greedy.” This is a characteristic that I will never understand.
I ask you…
- Were the teachers being greedy when they gave up 2 days’ pay?
- Were the teachers being greedy when they accepted a 0% COLA and a freeze in steps and lanes?
- Were the teachers being greedy when they voted to increase their health care contributions?
- Were the teachers at McCarthy being greedy when they purchased a Christmas tree, the decorations and presents for a single father who could not afford Christmas for his child?
- Were the teachers at Cameron being greedy when they bought food for a family of a dying child so that they didn't have to worry about grocery shopping?
- Were the teachers at the high school being greedy when they paid the fees for field trips for students who couldn’t afford it and then bought them lunch on the day of the field trip?
I could spend all night and well into tomorrow giving you examples of the teachers’ generosity in this district. We do not do these things for recognition. We do them because we are teachers and we care about our students.
We have proven time and time again that we are willing to come to the table and work with you to do what’s best for children. All we are asking for is the same respect in return.
However you can only bend a branch so far before it breaks. If you do not retain and recruit talented teachers, what happens to our children? If you do not retain and recruit talented teachers what happens to our schools? If you do not retain and recruit talented teachers what happens to Framingham?
If we, as a district, do not want to keep the most talented and dedicated teachers then, by all means continue down the path of blatant disrespect for our dedicated and talented professionals. The result will be the remnants of a town that was once revered for its dedication to education, which will now be a ghost of its former self.
You can stock a school with supplies, add new technology, and change curriculum all you want but if you do not begin with respecting the professionals who dedicate their lives to the children of this town then you do not truly have a strong school system.
Keep Framingham strong! I urge you to settle a fair and equitable contract that shows the respect that my dedicated colleagues deserve!
Leader of the Association's negotiating committee and a third grade teacher at McCarthy Elementary School