On Winthrop Schools
“This is a response to the letter published in the June 11 edition of the Transcript. From the minute school buildings closed on March 13th, Winthrop’s School Department employees have been working tirelessly to create a learning environment that will adequately serve every student in Winthrop. From Mrs. Howard and the School Committee, through the building administrators and the Winthrop Teachers Association every level of our educational apparatus has been engaged in developing a plan to ensure maximum engagement from our students.
We at the Winthrop Teachers Association emphatically stand by the work done not only by Mrs. Howard, but by the principals in every building. She has worked with her building administrators to creatively adapt vague language from State Education Commissioner Riley to the needs of Winthrop’s children. This language insisted on a focus on the mental health of all students first, followed by continued focus on academic imperatives. It asked for enrichment for students in art, music, and physical education. At every step of the decision making process, the most important question that was answered was about meeting the needs of our students. We are proud of what our leadership has accomplished.
There is no amount of planning and preparation that could have made remote learning a perfect situation. By the very nature of responding to a global emergency the likes of which none of us have ever been exposed to, our response has been flawed. We have had to adjust our plan several times to the changing situation outside of our doors. None of these flaws lessen our commitment to continuing to fight for all of our faculty and staff to continue to receive pay they have rightfully earned.
It is well known and widely accepted that teachers routinely work outside of our ‘contracted hours’ but this pandemic has forced a greater amount of this than ever before. Our teachers have had to adapt their in-class curricula to a new medium that most were unfamiliar with only 3 months ago. This has caused extra work during early mornings, late nights, and long weekends. We had to modify our plans, expectations, and materials in real time. There is not one single solitary employee of Winthrop Public Schools that has had ‘nothing to do’ for the past 3 months. To suggest that any staff member should be risking their own health and safety to make personal deliveries to students at home is reductive of our role as educators and directly contradicts the advice of public health experts.
Our staff have had to do their jobs while also caring for our own families. We are fully appreciative of the difficulties experienced by families working from home while attempting to ensure children are keeping up with their own remote learning requirements, shopping for elderly parents, and caring for sick spouses. This was not the end of the 2019-2020 school year we had hoped for. We are devastated at the loss of classroom time with our students, not to mention the loss of precious moments for students who have reached life milestones. There is simply no room for anybody to ‘try harder’ or ‘do more’. We will continue to learn, react, and adapt to the world around us, and the guidance provided by public health and education leaders at the state and national level. Whatever learning model we employ in September, we will strive to improve our practice every day, just as we always have.
Association On Behalf of the WTA Executive Board”
Thank You, WPS
In the midst of an on-going pandemic, you shifted gears at full-tilt, and did a Herculean job to continue teaching our children remotely. Has it been perfect? No. But given the circumstances, especially the massive uncertainty, I feel you have done a tremendous job on the whole.
I especially want to thank those teachers with school-aged children, who not only had to teach 25, 50, or in the case of “specials” teachers, upwards of 100 students, but who also had to shepherd their own children’s remote learning. None of this is normal, and I appreciate your efforts to keep *all* your children learning.
Not all children respond ideally to remote learning. Some kids do just fine, but even they are suffering from anxiety and uncertainty, missing the usual social interactions with their teachers and fellow students. I repeat, none of this is normal. We are all having to feel our way and adjust our expectations, while constantly keeping our children’s safety and education top of mind at every turn.
It is unclear what the Fall will bring. Public health experts recommend spacing desks 6 feet apart, but with most classroom desks spaced anywhere from 1.5 to 2 feet apart, it’d take anywhere from 9 to 16 times the current classroom floor plan area to accommodate 6 foot desk spacing. Maintaining physical distancing when entering and exiting schools, let alone traveling inside of schools, will also be a challenge. How about feeding our children, when they have to remove any protective face coverings or masks? All these issues and more are what our school administrators are losing sleep over right now, and will continue to work with public health officials to safely re-open our schools.
Enjoy your summer vacations. Try to recharge your batteries, and enjoy spending time with your loved ones. You have more than earned it.
Paulo Correia, Parent of Winthrop Public School student
WPS, You’re Doing Great
After reading last week’s “Letter to the Editor,” I felt the need to write a letter myself to let the Winthrop Schools know that not all parents have the same opinion as the last writer. I do not believe that the way the Winthrop Schools handled the Covid-19 situation was an “epic fail” at all levels. I believe that the Superintendent, Principals and Teachers did a great job, given the situation.
I have three children in the following schools: Gorman Fort Banks, Arthur T. Cummings and Winthrop Middle School. I felt that all the principals and teachers communicated sufficiently in their weekly emails, letters, videos and ConnectEd calls. I felt that all teachers, including the specialist, tried to keep the kids engaged and connected with each other during their online meetings/office hours and recorded lessons. I’m glad that our kids had the opportunity to continue their art, music, gym, computer, drama and STEM classes as well. Some kids thrive in these important classes and see them as a way to express themselves, help with stress and just have fun. I appreciate their continued support, creativity and dedication they have for their students. This was obviously not a typical school year, but I felt they tried to make the best out of it.
We have to remember that Covid-19 has affected each person/family differently. This includes our teachers. They may not have 4 or 5 hours a day to spend with their students now that they are home. Some of them have their own children that they need to take care of. Some might have had a family member who needed to be taking care of or helped. Some of them might have been dealing with stress or anxiety with all that has changed. There are so many reasons why the requests made by the last writer were not possible. There is no perfect plan for a school year that was abruptly stopped and altered to a home schooling environment. I’m sure the Winthrop Schools will be able to use the past few months as a learning experience and will continue to do their best for whatever happens with the next school year.
In closing, I would just like to say thank you to the Superintendent, Principals, Teachers, Food Services and Custodians. I appreciate all that you do and I know I’m not the only one.
A Message to WPS Families
Thank you! The educators of the Winthrop Public Schools want to send a collective “Thank you” for all you have done to partner with us during this extremely difficult time. We understand how challenging it has been for you, from all your efforts at “home-schooling” while doing your own work, to keeping your families safe and healthy. We realize that you have had to wear many different hats (parent, teacher, family member, cook, cleaner, mental health counselor, caregiver, etc.) during this remote learning period, because we have been doing the same right along with you! We truly appreciate all that you do.
Thank you for understanding that we have multiple children in our various classes, and to tend to all needs has been very time consuming. From planning and correcting, to learning new technology, to meeting with students and answering individual questions from students and parents, we have had a busy few months.
Thank you for recognizing that behind the scenes, educators were meeting “virtually” several times a week and working on general curriculum and individualized education plans.
Thank you for knowing that education is not mere workplace preparation, but about teaching the whole person. It includes teaching specialized skills that foster the development of fine motor, language, and social skills, along with decision-making, risk-taking, and inventiveness; thank you for believing in the inherent value of Art, Science, Music, Drama, Computers, Physical Education and more.
Thank you for understanding that we, as adults in our own homes, have had to wear all of those same hats listed above! It has been challenging, but together we have accomplished a lot.
Again, thank you for supporting us and partnering with us, and we look forward to a positive, productive working relationship in the Fall. Have a safe and healthy summer, and we can’t wait to see our students face to face. We miss them!
Keith D. Demers
Mary Gail Clucas
Christopher H. Beckvold
Patrick Barry, ESL Specialist (Grades 6-8)
Denise Robertson, MSN
Nicole K. Cipriano
Chelsea Da Paz
Leslee C Kfoury
Mr. Beck, WHS Lead Math Teacher
Michael A. DeFelice
Pamela Gilfoyle Lund
To the Parent Who Wrote on Behalf of “Winthrop Parents” Last Week
It is a bold assumption to encapsulate the viewpoint and experience of a town full of committed and loving parents. I do sympathize about how difficult the last few months of home school have been. You made a few salient points, but a public declaration in the local press is so hurtful to all the educators who did an awesome job with an unruly set of circumstances. I’m not sure what it achieves and from what I understand you didn’t formally gather consensus. This has all been very complicated. There was no play book or set of best practices to navigate the last few months. The fact that we are now within hours of the school year’s conclusion is a relief! This has been a complicated and emotional end to a strange chapter of our lives. This isn’t over yet, but I think there are encouraging ways to be critical. We still must figure out what the fall looks like! Showing respect, gratitude and support for an already under resourced school system would be a positive way to use our collective voices and impart constructive feedback.
For the record – I did a terrible job teaching my children in my kitchen. I did. I admit it! I made some decisions in that kitchen about what was necessary to get through in a week’s curriculum. Was I always right? Probably not. Sometimes we missed Zooms. We had no printer for a month. I cried. The kids cried. My point is – it was hard for everyone. I don’t think publishing an imbalanced evaluation about WPS’s remote learning capabilities during a pandemic is what best serves us as a community. Let us link arms and be helpful. We need solutions to the following:
• How September 2020 will begin in a safe way that doesn’t disrupt our community’s public health.
• How we provide our children with a quality education.
Before COVID-19 I was very interested in being a part of an Override Movement for Winthrop Public Schools. I am still very much committed to an Override feasibility and impact study to address systemic issues. I am fearful that due to the pandemic and the economy, the platform would lack the strength and resources it needs to be a success. I imagine that soon, when plans are in place for how we will navigate the public health risk potential in our schools, we can begin to think about an Override conversation as a community.
We’ve learned a lot in the last few months. Some of the challenges that have become more visible are:
• Accessing technology
• Providing online training for teachers and students
• Providing instructional design and tech support for online and hybrid classroom efforts
• Integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts throughout the WPS system
• Supporting food security
• Supporting and advocating for mental health
As an adult in Winthrop, I want to ensure that these students are prepared to be well rounded humans in a very complicated world. I hope that someday, maybe my next letter to the editor, will be about investing in an Override for our schools. Education is the most worthwhile and formative part of their development. We’ve got a great team at WPS that is entirely overburdened right now. It is up to the town to make sure the budget exists for our educators and administrators at WPS to address the issues. They are qualified to do the work and we need to give them the resources to do it. Let us pay it forward to these children so that the world we are trying to repair for them – through voting, through rallying, and through love – is a place where they will thrive.
Respectfully Submitted to the Taxpayers of
Kay Moriarty O’Dwyer, Precinct 3
Winthrop Parent of 3 Winthrop Public School students