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Waterbury Teachers Union Stands Together Against Salary Freeze: 'No More Zero'
Hundreds of Waterbury teachers wear #RedForEd at last night's Board of Education meeting as they listen to comments by Waterbury Teachers Association President Kevin Egan.
March 8, 2019
Wearing #RedForEd T-shirts, several hundred Waterbury teachers showed their strength as a union, their dedication to their profession, and their value to the community they serve when they packed a Waterbury Board of Education meeting last night.
Their coordinated response—including chants of "No more zero!"—came in the wake of the Board's recent decision to freeze teacher salaries.
"We have reached a troubling crossroads in education," said Kevin Egan, president of the 1,600-strong Waterbury Teachers Association (WTA), which serves the city's 20,000 students. He called the board's refusal of a salary increase "demoralizing to our teachers," especially in light of the fact that new central office positions have been created in recent months—and that next year, 28 central office administrators will make a combined $3.5 million.
One young teacher held up a handmade poster that read, "Why is there always enough $ for positions downtown?"
Compounding the problem of a zero-percent increase for teachers, health insurance plans continue to increase by 6 percent or more each year, effectively reducing Waterbury teachers' take-home pay.
"Combined with the anticipated increase in the consumer price index of over 2.5%," said Egan, "the result is a net loss in income and a slap across the face of every one of our hardworking professionals."
Stacy Hittenmark, a teacher at Hopeville Elementary School, remarked that she and her colleagues are looking only for fair treatment.
Fellow Hopeville teacher Jason Mastrianni added, "We're here to show the value in what we do, and we want to be taken a bit more seriously."
As a union, Mastrianni said, "We are united, and we have found our momentum."
"When our union bands together, we have each other's backs," Hittenmark agreed.
"By the tens of thousands, teachers all across the United States—in places such as West Virginia, Colorado, Chicago and recently Los Angeles, have taken to the streets to advocate for their students and their profession," said CEA President Jeff Leake, who attended the meeting and stood with Waterbury teachers. "This national outcry is grounded in concern for our students and a hope—indeed a plea—that our leaders will prioritize the education of our students and support those who teach them. Unfortunately, this struggle is no longer the news of another state or city; it is happening here, in Waterbury, and I am proud of our teachers for standing in solidarity and speaking with one voice."
Teachers giving more, getting less
While the Board seemed to pay lip service to quality education for the city's children, Egan noted that key to successful education outcomes is "a motivated professional staff that feels respected, valued, and well-compensated to meet the challenges that take place in the classroom every day."
Those challenges include ever-increasing testing tied to grant funding and a lack of fundamental classroom resources—such as textbooks, copy paper, and curricula, leading Waterbury teachers to spend their own personal funds to provide essential items for their students. Also lacking, said Egan, is critical support for classroom safety and adequate levels of paraprofessional staff for special education students.
He also mentioned two controversial Board proposals to reduce teachers' prep time.
CEA President Jeff Leake and Waterbury Teachers Association President Kevin Egan, who also serves at CEA treasurer, are pleased so many Waterbury teachers came out to advocate for their profession.
"Not only did you want to slash the overall weekly minutes," he told Board members, "but in a more stunning proposal, and one of the most insulting contract proposals that I have personally ever seen, you wanted to reduce prep periods from five to four just for elementary teachers—I repeat, just for elementary teachers. I ask, how do you defend that? How is that showing respect for our dedicated, hardworking professionals?"
Egan—who received several standing ovations during his speech—called this combination of Board actions "a perfect storm, causing our teachers stress, anxiety, hopeless frustration, and eventual resignation. How does the Board expect to attract and retain teachers under these adverse conditions? A balance of new and experienced teachers is essential to ensure the long-term stability and success of this school district."
"We are equal stakeholders under the law, and we will no longer permit our role in the educational process to be marginalized. Just like our colleagues across America, we are ready to take back our profession and stand up for our students.
"This board has the power to alter the course we are on and permanently change the direction of education in this city. Do it for our teachers. Do it for our students.
"We are watching."
The Board did not directly address teachers' concerns or respond to their requests, at which point most in the packed room walked out en masse.
Today Connecticut Education Association (CEA) President Jeff Leake and AFT Connecticut Vice President Mary Yordon released the following joint statement regarding Governor Ned Lamont’s proposals for resuming in-person learning.
The purpose of this tool is to assist administrators in making (re)opening decisions regarding K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.
CEA Supports Decision to Keep Schools Closed Health and safety procedures must be in place before schools reopen in the fall. CEA applauds Governor Lamont for listening to public health experts in his decision to close schools for the remainder of this school year. Making the safety and health of students and staff the top priority will help save lives and prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
The Connecticut Education Association awarded Renee DiNino, on-air personality and community affairs director for iHeartRadio Connecticut, the Charles B. Kelly Local Media Award for her support of teachers and public education.
Residents shut out of town meeting; lack of transparency cause for concern.
Dozens of Farmington residents and teachers were prevented from participating in a May 4 Farmington Board of Education meeting held virtually on the Zoom platform, violating a state order requiring transparency and public participation during the coronavirus pandemic. The Board of Education meeting included public comment on the school budget, which impacts all town residents.
Connecticut is on the verge of making a critical decision regarding the fight against the COVID-19 health emergency. Prior to May 20, the governor will need to make a decision about whether to extend the stay-at-home order or open state businesses and schools.
During these challenging times teachers are going above and beyond to learn new skills to reach their students. Watch CEA members from around Connecticut describe teachers’ role during this health emergency.
iHeartRadio joins the Connecticut Education Foundation to bring the joy of reading and free books to students in five Connecticut towns. The year’s biggest literacy event rolled into Plainfield this morning to kick off the third annual Read Across America Reading Bus Tour to celebrate the joy of reading with hundreds of students.
Dalio Philanthropies donates $40,000. Hundreds of schoolchildren across the state facing extraordinary hardships will receive a helping hand—as will minority students planning on entering the teaching profession—thanks in large part to a generous donation from the Dalio Philanthropies.
Woodland Regional High School’s 600-plus students rose to their feet and cheered as beloved teacher Meghan Hatch-Geary was honored in a surprise ceremony announcing Connecticut’s 2020 Teacher of the Year (TOY). The announcement came this morning at the Beacon Falls school where she and her husband, building rep Paul Geary, teach English.
“From Stamford to Manchester and towns in between, teachers have been reporting illnesses related to environmental problems within their schools,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “There’s black mold, rodent droppings, extreme heat and cold temperatures, dust, asbestos, and other issues that are putting our students and teachers at risk every day.”
Educators from every corner of the state came together at CEA’s first-ever teacher tailgate party this weekend at UConn football’s homecoming game. More than 100 teachers, friends, and family members enjoyed breakfast, music, a fan photo booth, and games of KanJam, cornhole, and ladder golf.
The #RedForEd movement is only getting stronger—from Chicago, to Fairplay, CO to Little Rock, to Mendota, IL. Educators and their allies are coming together in communities across the country to create better schools for our children.
The National Education Association (NEA) and Connecticut Education Association (CEA) today applauded Rep. Jahana Hayes, longtime NEA and CEA member as well 2016 National Teacher of the Year, on her introduction of the Pell Grant Restoration Act, H.R. 4298.
There are those, including current U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who argue that spending more on public education doesn't lead to better outcomes. School finance expert and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker begs to differ, and he has research to back his position up.
Teachers are a selfless group who choose their profession because of a love for children and teaching, not for any expectation of accolades or honors. And that makes those times teachers are recognized and have a chance to be in the spotlight all the more special.
Teachers have a lot to say on issues from their pensions to classroom safety this legislative session, which is why local associations around Connecticut are meeting with their legislators and making their voices heard.
Speaking to hundreds of students at Harding High School in Bridgeport today, Governor Ned Lamont encouraged his audience to pursue a career in teaching and be role models for the next generation of students.
Wearing #RedForEd T-shirts, several hundred Waterbury teachers showed their strength as a union, their dedication to their profession, and their value to the community they serve when they packed a March 7 Waterbury Board of Education meeting.
Community schools, minority teacher recruitment and retention, the opportunity gap, and school literacy were just some of the issues members of the legislature's Education Committee heard public input.
"Our students would only benefit from having more opportunities to learn about the culture, struggles, and contributions of African-Americans and Latinos throughout history," Waterbury teacher Sean Mosley told the legislature's Education Committee
"Teachers become teachers because we want to help kids," says Danbury building rep Lori Woodruff. "It's the same with our union—we are here to help each other. As teachers, when we're involved with the union we can do more to help one another."
Connecticut Education Foundation's (CEF) second annual Read Across America Reading Bus Tour kicked off on February 25, featuring a customized blue bus decorated with well-known Dr. Seuss characters and outfitted with bookshelves, benches, carpeting, and hundreds of new books.
At a public hearing of the legislature's Education Committee today, classroom teachers—along with CEA leaders and staff—gave powerful testimony urging lawmakers to address the crisis of violent student behavior in rural, urban, and suburban schools throughout the state.
Teachers, CEA leaders, and staff testified before the Connecticut General Assembly's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus on issues critical to teachers this legislative session. These issues included school climate, classroom safety, the persistent shortage of ethnic minority educators, and funding for public schools.
CEA supports sensible ways of assisting the state in its efforts to make up for decades of underfunding teachers' retirement, including the governor and treasurer's plan to smooth out the state's payments to the fund over a longer period of time and lower the investment earning assumption to a more realistic rate.
"We reject the idea of cutting our way to prosperity. That has never worked," said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. His remarks came at a press conference yesterday where members of the labor community, including CEA, called on the state to adopt a pro-growth, investment budget.
Project Oceanology and New England Science and Sailing are partnering to offer "Sound Education: Working with NGSS and STEM in Long Island Sound". This is a FREE two-day PD event from April 5 - April 6 for teachers in grades 4-12, with overnight accommodations provided in Project Oceanology's waterfront hostel.
Legislation passed late in 2015 made many "tax extenders" semi-permanent, but there are still a few esoteric items that keep everyone on tenterhooks when, as once again this year, Congress fails to pass the tax bill by the end of the year.
Marks the inauguration of a new governor and the beginning of the 2019 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. It's likely to be a busy session with many issues for legislators to tackle over these next five months.