"Listening Tour" wraps up

Local association leaders and activists got a chance to air their concerns with members of the Joint Committee on Education during the committee's 15-hearing tour of the state, which ran from Sept. 28 to Dec. 8.

MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau commended the new committee chairs, Sen. Robert A. Antonioni (D-Leominster) and Rep. Patricia A. Haddad (D-Somerset), for holding the hearings and meeting with educators "and for listening to classroom practitioners talk about what's really going on and what's really needed in our schools."

State education funding -- which has yet to recover to its 2002 levels -- was a common topic of educators' testimony.

At the hearing held at the State House on Nov. 3, in testimony echoed by educators across the state, Mary Alice Sharkey, president of the Winthrop Teachers Association, recounted the effects of "severe budget cuts and decreased funding" on her town's schools: "Large class sizes ... libraries that continue to be non-functional due to the lack of staffing ... no reading programs in our middle school or high school ... substandard technology ... outdated books and materials ... students having to pay for sports and extracurricular activities ... no early childhood programs ... no full-time free kindergarten ...."

Scott Johnson, of the Chelmsford School Administrators Association, told committee members that his system would have to lay off more than 60 teachers and staff due to budget shortfalls. He also spoke against the proposal to remove administrators from collective bargaining.

"It would be difficult and inconsistent," Johnson said, "to try to negotiate individual contracts with the many assistant principals, deans, curriculum specialists, special education administrators and others who fall into this category, especially in a time of elimination and consolidation of positions."

Sharkey also spoke to the issue, stating, "It is very clear and important that administrators have the protection they need to do their jobs effectively."

Boudreau called the turnout at the hearings by local leaders, rank-and-file educators, parents and others "truly impressive and gratifying."

"Now," she said, "we must continue our political activism so that the entire Legislature understands -- and acts on -- the issues that are so crucial to our schools and our students."

Other local officers who testified before and/or met with the committee as of Dec. 1 included:

  • Martin Gilman, Oxford
  • Linda Millett, Webster
  • Rose-Marie Pelletier, Mt. Greylock Regional
  • Sheila Irvin (former president), Pittsfield
  • Mary Jane Rudolph, Gloucester
  • Marc Harvey, Haverhill
  • Chad Radock, Fitchburg
  • Bernadette Marso, Leominster
  • Joseph O'Sullivan, Brockton
  • Cheryl DelSignore, Worcester
  • Kelly Finneran, Shrewsbury
  • Gerard Ruane, Malden
  • Paul Phillips, Quincy
  • Sarah Marples, Marshfield
  • Mary Flanagan, Rockland
  • James Sullivan, Holyoke
  • Timothy Collins, Springfield
  • Nancy Daniel-Green, Gill-Montague
  • Virginia Colton, Beverly
  • Jack McLeod, Barnstable
  • Julia Monteiro-Johnson, Dennis-Yarmouth
  • Susan Karb, Marlborough
  • William Kaylor, Fall River
  • Harriet Kelly, Somerset
  • Lawrence Abbruzzi, Swansea