Brookline Educators Union organizes Dec. 16th demonstration to rally for contract

Lizzy Filine, Arts Editor

Hoist those signs high! Teachers and paraprofessionals attend demonstration before school on Wednesday Dec.16. SAM KLEIN/SAGAMORE STAFF

The teachers lined up on both sides of street in front of the high school main entrance, positioning signs at the passing cars and responding to honks of support with cheers. Members of the Brookline Educators Union organized the demonstration in front of the high school the morning of Wednesday Dec. 16 in protest to the lack of contract with the Brookline School Committee. Over 30 educators were at the demonstration.

English teacher Jennifer Rose-Wood said that teachers are overworked since there is no formal agreement specifying the amount of work required for given wages.

“We’re asking for that contract to fairly reflect what we can actually do and what we can do for kids,” Rose-Wood said. “There’s too much that’s being asked of us, and it’s not good for us, but it’s really not good for all of you [students].

According to BEU Local President Jessica Wender-Shubow, one of the issues that the teachers were demonstrating against was paraprofessional wages and work policies to help paraprofessionals get through their days.

“So terrible are the wages of paraprofessionals and classroom aids in Brookline, that this district can’t convince people to take the jobs. Right now we have a shortage, because there isn’t a respect for the real face to face work that paras do,” Wender-Shubow said. “This is a desperate situation. Brookline School Committee should be ashamed to not pay a living wage and decent benefits.”

English teacher Nick Rothstein said that to keep Brookline public schools strong, the town must hire qualified staff, which can’t happen without certain pay.  

“No one is looking to get rich here,” Rothstein said. “Everyone’s looking for a bare contract. We don’t go into the job to get rich. We go into it because we love teaching. It’s a good job, an outstanding job, but we need a cost of living.” Wender-Shubow said teachers are increasingly getting involved and taking action in the issue.

“We had 200 teachers at town meeting, to try to tell the community that the School Committee is not taking seriously the voice of the teachers,” Wender-Shubow said. “We had another 200 out at Coolidge Corner on Saturday. We will continue to do this and we will start sitting down with parents as is now happening.”

According to World Language Coordinator Agnes Alberola, there are various levels of involvement within the union to get community attention and to connect teachers with their representatives.

“We have an action team and the action team thinks about actions that might make us more visible, so that people might understand what’s going on,” Alberola said.

Rose-Wood said that being able to stand up for unfair working conditions is important to being a human being, as well as a teacher.

“It’s like anything where there’s a power difference, like teachers and students, parents and children, and employers and employees,” Rose-Wood said. “If something’s not right you should be able to gather together and stand up for yourselves.”

Biology teacher Liz Crane said she felt it’s good to raise awareness among parents and families that teachers care deeply about the students attending Brookline schools.

“I’m grateful that we’re starting with positive steps rather than trying to take things away or making things unpleasant for somebody,” Crane said. “We’re trying to have positive momentum to show people we care how much good teaching matters.”

Wender-Shubow said that the teachers have learning conditions as their primary emphasis in negotiations, as well as comfortable living wages.

“Brookline needs to remember why they had an override,” Wender-Shubow said, “because it was not for more administrators at town hall. It was not for computers to get ready for standardized testing. It was supposed to be for enhancing the ability of classroom teachers as well as specialists like guidance counselors.”

Rose-Wood said that although sometimes people think unions conflict with the interests of schools, students and families, she thinks that it’s not the case.

“When your teachers, or whoever the workers are, do their job well and have the time to do it with creativity and joy and energy,” Rose-Wood said, “that’s great for kids and families. It’s not a bad thing.”