Year after year the staff of Brookline Schools has heard how they have carried the load as the school district was bursting at the seams. We taught large classes, we taught in hallways, we taught with limited support and resources.
After the most difficult year of teaching in everyone’s career, we are being told that some positions must be cut due to lower enrollment. This is a shortsighted and destructive move. Nobody knows what the enrollment will be next year. Will parents who homeschooled want to return their students? Will international families be returning? Will families that went to private schools now be returning? The answer is we don’t know.
Despite the district’s inability to retain Town Hall administration and principals, the educators in the system have kept the district delivering quality education for Brookline students. There is every reason to believe that the numbers will come back, and that as we get beyond the pandemic the student population will rebound. So reducing staff is shortsighted.
Reducing staff is also destructive. It is destructive when reduction of staff necessarily leads to other teachers being assigned to pick up additional sections that remain to be covered in their absence. This means students will be taught by teachers who are spread more thin and who may be less experienced in a subject area. It is destructive because it makes everyone who works in the schools feel undervalued and like “part of the machinery.” It is destructive because it makes Brookline less attractive as a destination for outstanding educators.
With a large amount of Federal funds coming in, and increased state funds on the horizon, now is not the time for cuts. Next year is a year when we need all of the skilled staff that make up the Public Schools of Brookline. Even if classes are smaller at the start of the year, what better time for increased support than as we recover from a pandemic?
For far too long and in far too many areas Brookline is reactive not proactive. Here is an opportunity to be considered and think long term. The federal government is funding the opportunity to maintain the valuable school system that has taken generations to build. Last year the Public Schools of Brookline laid off over 360 staff because the district had not been doing the hard work of long term planning. While most were hired back, quite a few chose to move on. We have chronically not been able to hire enough paraprofessionals to serve our children. We have begun to lose valued teachers.
If you want to have world class schools, you need world class educators. That does not happen if you hire and fire people as if they were contract employees. It is time for the residents to demand that educators be treated as the valuable center of the system that they are and must be.