A teacher’s viewpoint
The following letter was submitted to the Transcript by The Winthrop Teachers Association.
The WTA supports Full Funding of the Needs Budget proposed by the Superintendent and the Winthrop School Committee at the May 21st Town Council meeting.
To the Members of the Winthrop Town Council,
My name is Christopher Beckvold, a sixth grade Social Studies and English Language Arts teacher at the middle school. I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the town’s plans to not fund the needs budget for the schools for the upcoming fiscal year.
I am finishing my fifth year working for Winthrop. I enjoy working for the town and working with the kids whom I teach. However, I find it stressful that the state of the town’s finances is always in flux from year to year.
While class sizes are low for the current sixth grade, I have many students with IEPs and 504 plans, as well as an increasing number of English Language Learner students. We also have a growing number of students with mental health concerns. This is the case in every single classroom, yet few of us have the support of ESPs due to the budget. To meet the increasing mental health concerns, we only have one-and-a-half adjustment counselors to service an entire student population. Additionally, the middle school has been working with a reduced number of core teachers at every grade level. Consequently, students are not receiving the same quality of education as they would with eight core teachers at every grade level.
The uncertainty of the budget and the money currently being offered the schools also affects the teachers. When I look at most schools, there are teachers with a variety of experience levels. In Winthrop, there is a limited number of veteran teachers (20 or more years) remaining. The majority of the teachers have been working for the town for ten or fewer years. Hardly any teachers exist between those two demographics. Experienced teachers play an essential role in every school. This problem is directly linked to past budgets. Newer teachers see no financial incentive to stay in the district or have been laid off because of a budget crisis. If the projected budget becomes the budget for the next fiscal year, you can expect more of the same.
Lastly, the current projected budget negatively impacts testing and prevents students from fully accessing the state’s curriculum. Where the normal middle school model calls for teachers to master one content area, most middle school teachers develop and teach two content areas because of budget cuts from two years ago. While all teachers do their best when teaching outside of their main content area, it is not the same as having a teacher who is an expert in the field. Expertise cannot be substituted. Expertise is how we can improve test scores and the overall student experience. Next year, expertise will be vital because the state plans to implement the second phase of the new Social Studies curriculum. The new curriculum requires each eighth-grader to lead community-based improvement projects for Civics class. Upon their completion, the school will submit projects to the state for evaluation. It will not be an easy task, especially when the eighth grade has only one full-time Civics teacher.
In order to have quality education for our students and to ensure that the next generation is prepared to tackle future world problems, why wouldn’t we invest in the most worthwhile and formative part of a child’s life? My teachers taught me the best that they could and the town where I grew up made sure the money was there to support them. I am sure the same story can be applied to any of you. I believe in paying forward that great debt. I challenge you to do the same.