By SCOTT JACKSON
With dozens of educators in attendance, members of the Quincy Education Association spoke out at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting, saying that they want a “fair and equitable” contract for the teachers’ union.
Mayor Thomas Koch meanwhile told The Sun that the school board is willing to give the union the same raises police and firefighters have received in their new contracts.
Twelve members of the Quincy Education Association spoke during the open forum portion of the school board’s meeting on Wednesday.
“I’ve come this evening to respectfully request a fair and equitable contract for the members of the Quincy Education Association,” said Carol Austin, a teacher at the Parker Elementary School and Quincy resident.
Natalie Valente, a teacher at Quincy High School and a Quincy resident, said the school board was asking her and other educators to accept less than what they are worth.
“Our work isn’t valued, understood or appreciated with the counter offers we’ve seen come across that bargaining table,” Valente said. “We have already lost so many great teachers over the past few years to other districts who put their teachers first, knowing full well that a school district that supports their teachers ultimately supports their students and their families. The more involved and respected we are in the community, the more of an impact we can have on students to do the right the thing, to take the right road, the better path.”
Mollie Ehrlich, the nurse at the Merrymount Elementary School and a Quincy resident, asked the school board to, “remember all the hard work and the hours spent by the Quincy Public Schools nurses during the pandemic to keep students and staff safe and healthy during such a challenging few years.”
“Please take this into consideration when discussing contract negotiations,” Ehrlich said.
In addition to the dozen Quincy Education Association members who spoke during open forum, two residents voiced their support for the city’s educators Wednesday evening.
“I’ve often heard that a budget is a value statement,” said Liz Speakman, a former candidate for school board, “and I know in my heart that we all value our children and our educators, and I would love to see our budget reflect that and reflect our values as a community.”
“Teachers, please know that parents across the city, we see what you do for our kids,” said Courtney Perdios, a former school board member. “We see everything you do from behind the scenes, everything that’s not in your contract that you go over and above for your kids. I just want to say that we support you and we thank you.”
In an interview with The Sun prior earlier on Wednesday, Koch, the chairperson of the school board, said contract talks are ongoing and he wished the two sides were closer.
“I think there’s been nine sessions of negotiations between both parties. I wish we were closer. That’s all I can say,” Koch said.
The city’s contracts with each of the unions representing municipal employees expired this summer, at the end of June on the city side and August on the school side, the mayor said. He said the city has since agreed to new 3-3-3 contracts – meaning a three-year contract with 3 percent annual raises – with the unions representing firefighters, police patrol officers and police superior officers.
The school board would be willing to accept a contract with those same terms if the Quincy Education Association asked for it, the mayor said.
“If the bargaining unit from the QEA said to me or said to the committee tomorrow, ‘we’d like to have 3-3-3,’ I’m sure we could settle that in a moment,” Koch said.
“I would never give the teachers less that what other public servants have received.”