More than 50 Cambridge educators and residents rallied in support of the Cambridge Education Association outside of a School Committee meeting on Tuesday night, as the teachers’ union remains in a contract stalemate with the school district.
The union has been without a contract since the previous agreement expired on Aug. 31, just five days before the start of the school year. While the CEA and School Committee have met frequently since last October to negotiate a new contract, the two parties have yet to resolve all points of disagreement.
Dan Monahan — the president of the CEA – said while the School Committee has “begun to listen to us more,” negotiations are “not moving fast enough”
“The fact that we don’t have a contract now is really pushing educators harder to take more significant action,” Monahan said.
Until a new contract is agreed upon, the terms of the previous agreement will remain in effect, according to Massachusetts labor law.
Cambridge Public Schools spokesperson Sujata Wycoff declined to comment on the demonstration Tuesday and referred back to the district’s previous statement.
In an August press release, the school district reiterated its “commitment to reach an agreement on a fair contract” that values the district’s “talented and dedicated educators.”
“The School Committee looks forward to continued negotiations with the CEA,” the press release reads. “We will continue to update the community periodically as we work together toward a new contract with our union partners.”
The CEA announced Monday that it would demonstrate ahead of the School Committee meeting Tuesday evening. Additionally, the educators union plans to rally before and after the school day once per week.
Members of the union will not work outside of school hours and plan on “walking in together at the beginning of the contractual day and walking out together at the end of the contractual day,” according to a CEA press release.
Randi Campbell, an English teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, said the reality of teachers’ extended hours “needs to be shared”.
“I don’t know a single teacher who does not take work home with them or do work when they should be spending time with their family,” Campbell said. “I think that the only way that you really get people to see that is to have teachers stand up and share that experience.”
“I go home and I’m doing work at home, and I’m prepping, and I’m grading,” she added. “My job is already hard enough.”
Beyond concerns about working after hours, many CEA members said they are also concerned about insufficient compensation.
Tracey DeLucia, an elementary school teacher who has worked in the district for the past 24 years, said teachers “just want a fair contract.”
“I want the School Committee to know that we’re not all right, that teachers are really stressed,” DeLucia said. “The bottom line is we want our kids to be the best — but you need to support us when we are doing the heavy lifting”
Bella Sandoval, a teacher at CRLS, added that the price of living in Cambridge increases the difficulty for educators in the district. She said it’s “naive” to believe that someone living on an educator’s salary can afford to live in Cambridge.
“You can stay teaching and working in the community that you love,” she said. “But if you want to afford to live and support a family, you either move your family out and commute — which adds a toll on people’s lives, of course — or you stay and live in somewhat poverty in the area.”
Molly Brooks, a history teacher at CRLS with a master’s degree, said her compensation does not reflect the level of education she attained.
“Unfortunately, I can say I still live paycheck to paycheck, and I have a second job — sometimes three, depending on the time of year,” Brooks said. “On top of how ridiculously difficult this job is and the demands that take place — not just in the building, but outside — I still have that additional stressor in my life of, you know, being able to pay all my bills.”
Chris Montero, a history teacher at CRLS, said he hopes the School Committee “gets the message that we’re not going away.”
“We demand to be compensated fairly, and we demand to be treated like professionals — because we are — and I think that the sooner they get that, the better off they’re going to be,” Montero said. “It’s just a matter of when they’re going to come to that realization — I hope it’s sooner rather than later, but we’re in it for the long haul.”