LETTER TO THE EDITOR: President of Teachers Union Frustrated by Meetings Schedule; Seeks Change

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Mike Colson. WESTFORDCAT PHOTO

Editor’s note: Upcoming School Committee meetings are as follows:

  • Jan. 22, 6:45 p.m., budget meeting at Stony Brook School
  • Jan. 24, 12 to 4:30 p.m., budget meeting at the Millennium building
  • Jan. 27, 6:45 p.m., at Stony Brook School

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Although the subject of cuts to school positions, staff, and programs that hurt students continues to be heartbreaking, I have been proud of the incredible involvement at late night School Committee and Select Board meetings this past month from our community’s parents, teachers, and students. The impact that educators have had on students has been a heartwarming affirmation of why we as educators became teachers to begin with.

This is why when it came to my attention this weekend as I viewed meeting agendas, that in addition to a School Committee Meeting this Wednesday evening, the School Committee also scheduled a Public School Committee meeting for Friday at 12 p.m.

Friday’s agenda includes the discussion over the elimination of:

  • Six elementary classroom teachers,
  • An Elementary School nurse,
  • Three of the four remaining Digital Learning Specialists, and
  • The proposal to combine the Student Support Leader and Elementary Assistant Principal positions.

Although this time might be better for some parents who work during the day from home, it does not allow many other parents who work outside the home during the day, WPS teachers, or many students to attend. This accomplishes the opposite of transparency and engagement with the community on these specific important conversations and considerations. We have already seen the impact that engagement with community has had with the Latin Program.

As WEA President I have asked for a reschedule or at least a drastically modified agenda seeing as the magnitude of the discussion items on this meeting’s agenda. I am extremely mindful that the School Committee is trying to do their best with the position they have been put in. I applaud each and every one of them for the increased effort to start the process early and engage the community in focused conversations at each meeting with specific reductions and eliminations.

I know scheduling meetings is challenging due to the balancing of their elected roles with their own lives outside of our School Committee. I am aware serving on a town board or committee is an often “thankless” volunteer position for them; I THANK them here publicly for the significant amount of their own valuable personal time they have spent on behalf of Westford’s students. I am cognizant that they are ALL parents in our community as well, and accordingly have a stake in the schools outside of their roles as committee members. I believe to the greatest extent possible that the WEA working with our School Committee is in the best interest of all parties, with our students’ best interests right at the center.

And still, I am extremely disappointed and frustrated with the meetings schedule. I ask publicly on behalf of parents, teachers, and students that this meeting be rescheduled or that the agendas for Wednesdays’ meeting and Friday’s meeting be reversed. — Mike Colson, President of the Westford Education Association