Brookline School Committee honors organizations and listens to problems in community

The+Brookline+School+Committee+%28BSC%29+convened+virtually+on+Jan.+6+at+6%3A15+p.m.+to+hear+community+members+and+their+concerns+throughout+the+district+through+their+public+comment+session.

ANIKA MAYAR/SAGAMORE STAFF

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually on Jan. 6 at 6:15 p.m. to hear community members and their concerns throughout the district through their public comment session.

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom on Jan. 6 at 6:15 p.m. to highlight thriving student groups and open a public comment session to hear voices from the community.

Superintendent Dr. Linus Guillory awarded the Baker School Student Initiative for Menstrual Products (BSIMP) the Spotlight on Excellence Award for providing feminine products in all bathrooms at the Baker School and advocating for widespread change throughout the district.

Seventh grader and BSIMP member Kate Ferguson said all of the members of the Initiative are looking forward to reaching the final goals of the organization.

“I feel extremely proud to be part of the process and am grateful that we got the opportunity to speak about this tonight. As for the final steps, the district will be distributing menstrual products of all different types of fits and sizes to the Brookline Public Schools,” Ferguson said.

Guillory also awarded the boys varsity soccer team the Spotlight on Excellence Award for their Division 1 All-State Championship. Head coach Kyle Beaulieu-Jones said the team’s strong efforts and sense of community paid off when it mattered.

“This really is a testament to the trust that each of the players have in each other and themselves individually. It represents the preparation that they put in during the summer, throughout the season and really pushing each other,” Beaulieu-Jones said.

Student representative to the BSC Claire Gallion introduced junior Azavia Barksy-Elnour, who read a speech and provided an outline to BSC members on how the district should continue to rethink their efforts towards diversity and equity.

“One of the most common attempts to combat these discriminatory biases is through anti-racist trainings, which although helpful, often only scratch the surface. I want to recommend something different, however,” Barksy-Elnour said. “We need a diverse teaching faculty in Brookline. It is difficult to overstate the political, pedagogical and personal importance of Black teachers.”

Special Education Coordinator Lindsay Linton is a single mother raising three children living in Brookline. Linton said the diversity in the district needs to change so students do not have to advocate for change all of the time.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want my seventh grader to have to wait until she’s a junior to be able to speak to her teacher or a teacher to understand who she is and what she needs,” Linton said. “My students now struggle to be able to speak to their teachers because they feel that sometimes they don’t understand them.”

Linton said for Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) students and students of color, the district needs more diverse educators to better understand their students’ experiences and perspectives.

“ may not go to bed at a normal time, because at the end of the day, they may not get home at a normal time because of all the travel that they have to do. We need educators who understand that,” Linton said.

In response to failed contract negotiations with the BSC, the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) recently began a work-to-rule policy throughout the district. This policy encourages all BEU members to arrive and leave at direct school hours and not come in early or stay late at school.

During the public comment period of the meeting, there were many BEU members calling for action, including BEU President Jessica Wender-Shubow. Wender-Shubow said the salaries teachers currently receive in the town are not livable considering the rise in cost of living.

“I am at the top of the pay scale and I cannot independently afford rent. I live each month, highly concerned with the dramatic rise in rental costs, groceries and gas. I work a second job Monday through Thursday, 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to be able to pay my expenses and afford college for my two boys. This is not sustainable,” Wender-Shubow said. “Is this how we treat a committed educator in a top performing district? It’s time to pay for the education that Brookline receives.”

To finish off the public comment session, high school librarian Ann Collins said there will not be any progress on the negotiating table unless research is done and there are efforts to increase transparency from both the BSC and BEU.

“What is the budgetary process that you go through to ensure there’s adequate money available to bargain in good faith with the teacher’s union? Is this process transparent? What percent of the town’s budget is dedicated to the schools? Have you looked at allocations in comparable communities?” Collins said. “Where and what are the stumbling blocks to a smoother systemic outcome that supports our teachers as they do the work to maintain the reputation of the public schools of Brookline? We cannot do it without your support.”