Teachers, parents, and staff members made an appearance at last Monday night’s school committee meeting to voice concerns over the budget issues that the district has faced for several years. Signs expressing the frustration surrounding the lack of teacher compensation, resources, and retainment, were held high in the first three rows of the Neil Shapiro Center for Performing Arts, as several residents stood up to voice their concerns.
The Town Council passed a $64,866,135 budget last Tuesday for FY20, with the school department allotted $21,275,036, a four percent increase.
“We all enjoy being here, but the sacrifice remains the same,” said 7th grade math teacher, Vasili Mallios, who is finishing up his third year teaching in the district. “The majority of teachers that are hired here, stay for five years or less, get some training and leave to go to other districts where they are rightfully compensated. My roots are here, and I teach here for the love of the community and the dedication to the students, but I’m going to have to make the same decision if things don’t change.”
In a comparison that shows the average pay of 14 different districts in the area, Winthrop is at the low end of the spectrum. The salary of a Winthrop teacher with a bachelor’s degree and several years’ experience is $68, 309, where the average salary of a teacher with the same experience compared with other Massachusetts public schools is $71,410. Winthrop would need a 4.5% increase in funds to meet the average pay for a teacher at this level. In a similar theme, the average pay of a fifth-year teacher with a master’s degree is $57,346, compared to the average pay of $60,506 for a teacher with five years’ experience elsewhere in the area. Revere, Malden, Chelsea, Medford and Winthrop are all part of the 5 District Partnership (5DP), which is a team of districts that share curriculum, resources, and tools, and out of the five, Winthrop comes in last for teacher salaries. Out of the lowest paid districts in the Commonwealth, Winthrop is the only one within 495, which is considered metro Boston, where the top 50 highest paid districts are located. Overall, the average teacher salary in Massachusetts is $80,000 and Winthrop’s average is $66,000.
“Not only are we not getting the appropriate salaries, but we aren’t getting the resources that the children need,” said kindergarten teacher, Mary Clucas. “There is a great need for adjustment counselors and emotional support that we need to have for our kids. If we can help them, we can make their learning that much easier. Winthrop’s worth it, our children are so important. We need everything we can give them. It’s not just the material things, it’s the emotional support that we need to provide them.”
Negotiations for teacher contracts began in October, however; according to Winthrop Teacher Association (WTA) President and third grade teacher, Kristen Reynolds, there has yet to be a lot done and little has been changed.
“We are encouraging the bargaining team to come to a settlement with the WTA,” said Reynolds. “We are asking for fair compensations, alignment with the teachers start and end times, and a streamlined system to the evaluation process to make it less cumbersome for teachers and administrators.”