October 20, 2023 By Amee Synnott
Your October 17 email message regarding the Hingham Education Association’s decision to enter into a “Work to Rule” action was incredibly disrespectful. Work to Rule does not mean that teachers will begin behaving as hourly employees punching a time clock, nor does it mean that they are selfish or shirking their responsibilities. It simply means that teachers are no longer willing to volunteer their time and energy to provide services they were never obligated to provide in the first place.
As a reminder, a contract is a legally binding document that sets out the obligations of both parties. Neither party should be expected to provide the other with anything beyond what was promised. To illustrate the point, I invite you to join me in a thought exercise. Let us imagine that the HEA released a statement condemning the town for not voluntarily providing them with bonuses, that is, for “only” paying what was required under the contract. It would be absurd. Utterly absurd.
That is how absurd I found your October 17 email. Absurd, insulting, and outrageous. If, as a Committee, you truly believe that Work to Rule is harming HPS students, the responsibility for that falls squarely on the shoulders of anyone who participated in negotiating the most recent contract. If these duties are so vital, put them in the contract IN EXCHANGE FOR APPROPRIATE COMPENSATION.
As a town, we are not operating in good faith if proper functioning of HPS rests on the assumption that teachers are so committed to the HPS mission they will, as a matter of course, go above and beyond the duties set forth in their contract. The word for this is exploitation.
And yet, teachers do go above and beyond. Day after day, year after year. Even now, under Work to Rule, they continue to do so, but they are simply making a concerted effort to do it LESS. I applaud their decision and I hope HPS students and families ARE negatively impacted by Work to Rule. Maybe then we will stop paying lip service to how much we appreciate our teachers.
A community’s values are reflected in its budget, which is why I cringe every time I hear a town leader brag about the fact that Hingham spends less per student than our “peer” communities. The hard-working professionals who support, nurture, and inspire our children deserve better than that. They deserve compensation that reflects their value in the context of overwhelming workloads, increased cost of living, and truly inadequate benefits. At a minimum, they deserve to be treated with respect as they fight for such compensation.
The School Committee is charged with developing and promoting the vision, mission, and strategies of the HPS. Your October 17 email accomplished the opposite by levying unfair criticism at HPS teachers in a patronizing tone that was just plain gross. Please do not speak about my children’s teachers in this manner.