Opinion: Don’t Forget About the People

November 6, 2023 by Diane DeNapoli

“The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers” – Schleicher.

A little over a year ago the good people of Hingham came together and passionately committed to supporting the future of our school system. We overwhelmingly voted “Yes” to build a new Foster School. As someone who worked actively on this campaign, I was proud to be part of a community who so strongly continued to stand by our principles. Soon after the Foster School vote passed talk of the operational override became the main point of discussion in the town. One of the primary reasons given by those who supported the override was to retain the staff that was added to Town Administration and the Hingham Public Schools during Covid. I was not a supporter of the override because it failed to contain any personal cuts, nor did it take into consideration the ongoing contract negotiations that were already active with most of the town’s employees. Putting a cap of 3.5 percent growth on the school budget which normally grows between 4-5 percent annually seemed like an appealing, yet unattainable, olive branch.

Since the override passed in the Spring I made the choice to bring my son back into the Hingham Public School District. This was a hard choice as changing schools is not easy on any child and my son had changed schools twice in three years. The decision to come back to Hingham was made primarily because the schools he did attend, or could attend, have acute staffing issues. To be blunt this meant that my son with acute disabilities did not have access to a teacher for months. When a person was hired by these other schools, they only had emergency provisional teaching licenses and no experience.

To date Hingham has been spared the worst of the national teacher shortage. I certainly know Hingham has many openings for paras, the exact number is debated between the Admin and the Teacher’s Union, but most of our classrooms are run by well-trained certified teachers. I can tell you this isn’t something we in Hingham should take for granted. One of the stated goals of the override was to ensure that the schools would retain the additional staff needed to stabilize the school district after Covid. How is this feasible if we are not an appealing employer in a highly competitive job market?

Since contract negotiations are not public in MA the details of the bypass between the unions and the School Committee aren’t clear to those in the public. What I do know first-hand is that the strength of a child’s education depends on the quality of the teacher you have in the classroom. I would implore all of us involved in this conversation to remember the words of The German Academic Andreas Schleicher who said, “The quality of an education system can NEVER exceed the quality of its teachers”. I would respectfully request that a public meeting be held between representatives of the HEA and the districts negotiation team to better inform the public as to the state of the negotiations.

Thank you,
Diane DeNapoli

3 thoughts on “Opinion: Don’t Forget About the People”

  1. Diane, that was a well-written piece. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the override, for being transparent in your position regarding the override, and for your views on teachers and education. As a teacher in the district, I appreciate the support and know all too well the impact of losing hardworking staff to other better-paying communities is having on the classroom. Your message is important to consider no matter which side of the debate one finds themselves on. Of course, being directly involved, my position favors the adjustment to teacher wages so that we, as teachers, can have a chance to outpace inflation. Our insurance coverage, at a 50/50 split, sinks many of us financially. Neighboring towns offer 80/20 and 75/25. The teachers in Hingham want to stay. We love the families and the children you place in our classrooms, but some will need to leave for other opportunities simply because they cannot afford to work for this town for another year.

    • I agree with your comments, especially the one regarding the health insurance split. Hingham is 11th out of 11 for compensation to teachers (compared to comparable districts) once the health insurance is taken into account. The town health insurance went up $3,100 for my family plan just this year. I had to switch to a slightly more expensive plan, still an HMO, or South Shore Hospital would not have been included. Teachers from other towns are shocked when I mention the split that Hingham pays. I know of at least two paraprofessionals who have left Hingham this Fall because of the health insurance costs. I spoke with another one this week who shared that in November, she OWES the Town money (between the early release days and Thanksgiving break, for which she is not paid.). I don’t know how we will retain young teachers. I pay $14,477.06 a year for my portion of the health insurance premiums. In another town, where I would pay 25% of the premiums, I would be paying $7,238.53. That is also $7,238.53 more in compensation. You can imagine why paraprofessionals are leaving.


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