LETTER: Wilmington Teachers Association Wants Safest Return To School Possible; Asks For Patience As Negotiations Wrap Up

Below is a letter from the Wilmington Teachers Association Leadership Team which was shared on social media on Friday morning:

Dear Wilmington Families,

As we wrap up the last week of the summer hiatus for Wilmington educators and support staff, we recognize that there is still a great deal of unknown around the coming school year. This year will be anything but ordinary, regardless of how our students return to learning in September. We truly appreciate that many of you have reached out with support for your children’s teachers, counselors, educational assistants, administrative assistants, and many others who make up the membership of the Wilmington Teachers’ Association as we prepare for the fall.

We also recognize that the view of teachers and teachers’ unions has become deeply polarized over the past few months. As we teach our students, no matter how private one makes their settings, once something is put online it is out there for all to see. We see the Wilmington community’s social media posts, including hurtful ones like these:

*Grammatical errors in these posts are that of the original author, not the WTA

– Who are the teachers to decide who/ where and when our children get a public education!!!

– No excuse not to be ready for remote teaching, Teachers have had since March to prepare, Come on!

– If the teachers can’t/won’t work, they should not get paid.
If I did my essential job for 40 minutes a week, I would not get paid full time. It was a joke.

– I honestly think The issue now lies with the teachers union. Ridiculous

– This is absolute insanity. Why is it that teachers can drag their feet and cause such havoc? Since when is our kids education NoT essential? We can’t live in a bubble. Wash your hands, put on a mask, put on your big person panties and DO YOUR JOB! It’s infuriating to me!!

– This school system is a joke. They failed the kids in the spring and I for one am not willing to allow them to fail again.. Absolutely a joke

– The buffoons here can’t figure it out and it’s been 5 months.. Maybe a reduction of salary is needed

While our leadership team cannot speak on behalf of all local unions, we want you to know that ours is dedicated, has the best interest of all—staff, students, families—in mind as we plan for the coming school year, and maintains that the health and safety of everyone must continue to be our number one priority. Of the approximately 325 teacher members in the district, more than 70% have dedicated 10 years or more to teaching in Wilmington! Our hope at the beginning of summer was to have this wrapped up prior to August 31st since, like many Wilmington families, our teachers also have childcare and other personal obligations set in limbo due to our ongoing negotiations. We wanted to begin negotiating much earlier in the summer but were unable due to circumstances that were not in our control. While there is no solution or quick fix to our current circumstances that will please everyone, even within our own membership, know that we are working collectively and collaboratively to find a path that will provide for the best educational experience with the safest conditions for our entire community during this ongoing public health crisis.

At Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting, Dr. Brand presented a list of “next steps” which will likely impact our return to in-person learning: Sound Protocols and Procedures, HVAC Assessment Results, PPE Availability, Metrics, Direction/Decisions by State Agencies, Appropriate Staffing Levels, Negotiations, and Scheduling Logistics. Based on recent public comments and social media posts that have been shared, it appears that there are members of our community who believe the Wilmington Teachers’ Association is holding up our district’s planning process. This is categorically untrue; we have been working tirelessly since early July in hopes of establishing a plan before the start of the school year. But as Dr. Brand pointed out last night, there are many moving parts to this situation. The WTA’s involvement is only one small piece in this puzzle.

The WPS administration has been assigned a nearly impossible task, with little support from the State and Federal levels. While there are still various aspects of our negotiations to be spelled out, we are working jointly with the WPS negotiating team to find an agreement that will result in the best possible educational experience for our students while providing safe working and learning conditions for all, as quickly as we can.

We understand there is a misconception that teachers do not want to work, which could not be further from the truth, or that we should be added to the record setting unemployment numbers simply for exercising our rights to protect our own personal safety and that of our families, which by proxy also protects your children’s learning conditions. We want the safest return to school possible—one that protects our entire community from COVID-19 and takes into consideration the wellbeing of all. We are abundantly aware of the mental health effect this school year may have on students, regardless of learning model, with masks on all day, not able to work in close proximity with groups or partners, socialization with peers kept to a minimum, the majority of work done on a computer, etc. Students are not coming back to a typical school environment, and we are genuinely concerned about the toll this could have on them.

Based on the extensive experience this teaching staff has here in Wilmington, we have publicly stated our case for a safe, phased-in approach for a return to schools. Now, it is our hope that we will be able to wrap up our negotiations without resorting to job actions like the ones we are seeing in other communities. We ask for those of you not at the negotiating table to have patience with both the WTA and WPS leadership as we work to reach the necessary compromises over our remaining bargaining sessions.

Thank you for your understanding and support.

Sincerely,
The WTA Leadership

Jennifer Fidler, President 
19 years in Wilmington, High School Graphic Design Teacher

Noel Cali, Vice President of Elementary Affairs 
26 years in Wilmington, Shawsheen Elementary Grade 2 Teacher

Theresa Fisher, Vice President of Secondary Affairs 
22 years in Wilmington, Middle School Grade 7 Science Teacher

Bob Mauriello, Treasurer 
17 years in Wilmington, Shawsheen Elementary Grade 3 Teacher

Cheryl Cazeau, Secretary 
21 years in Wilmington, Shawsheen Elementary Grade 3 Teacher

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