Members of the Brookline Educators Union held a demonstration outside the annual Pancake Breakfast hosted by the Brookline Rotary Club on April 2. Union members distributed blue balloons to entering families with the phrase “We Trust Our Brookline Teachers.”
President of the BEU Jessica Wender-Shubow said the presence of the union at the Pancake Breakfast, which raises money for Brookline Rotary charities, was to emphasize the need for a contract, which would allow teachers to provide quality education for their students. Brookline school faculty have been working without a new contract for over 200 days.
“We are celebrating teachers and the support of the community for us to defend quality teaching in Brookline with a fair contract,” Wender-Shubow said. “Right now the Brookline School Committee has refused to seriously consider contract negotiation that would allow teachers to have a real role in making sure the priority is student teacher time.”
According to kindergarten teacher Lauren Kelly, who teaches at the Pierce Elementary School, one goal of the BEU demonstration was to inform families about the teachers’ lack of contract and strengthen bonds between Brookline parents and teachers.
“We just wanted to share a lot of information with parents and families and let everybody know that this is something really important to teachers across Brookline,” Kelly said.“We would really love support and help as we stand up for what we think is best for the kids here,” Kelly said.
Pierce first grade teacher David Weinstein said that he hopes that a sufficient contract will be negotiated to improve the learning conditions of students.
“We came out here this morning to give attention to what we’re fighting for, for the kids of Brookline and the quality of education that we can give to students in Brookline. That’s what we’re trying to do, trying get the message across to families and parents,” Weinstein said.
Jesse Kirdahy, who teaches fifth grade at the Driscoll Elementary School, said that he appreciates the support that the BEU has gotten from parents from the students at all the elementary schools. According to him, the BEU needs parents to help their cause.
“We need to continue applying pressure to the School Committee, and they need to hear from parents,” Kirdahy said. “We need parents who believe that our schools are special and should continue to be special and unique and have character to them. We need those parents to show up and Town Hall meetings and make their voices heard.”
According to Kirdahy, he hopes that contract negotiations will allow teachers to maintain the sense of community that they have.
“The reason that I love Brookline public schools is that I love my colleagues,” Kirdahy said. “I feel like I really belong to a community and that’s possible when we have the time to do that community building and maintaining those relationships. And that’s one of things that I’m afraid of losing with the increased data collection and the paperwork and all this time it’s taking us out of our classrooms.”
In terms of next steps for the BEU, Wender-Shubow said that she plans to hire a professional negotiator in the hopes of reaching a compromise with the School Committee.
“We have recommended this week on Thursday night that the School Committee and the Brookline teachers bring in a mediator,” she said. “We have agreed to bring in a professional problem solver who will go back and forth between the School Committee and the negotiators from the BEU and help us see if we can find a way to come to an agreement through some creative ideas.”
For Kelly, attending the early morning event and fighting for a contract was not something she ever wanted to do, but was something that she knew was necessary in order for her and other teachers to continue doing what they love.
“Hopefully things will get resolved soon, because no teacher wants to be having to take action,” Kelly said. “This is not what we want. We want a fair contract that supports teachers and kids, and then hopefully we can go back to doing what we do best, which is teaching.”