MTA deserves ‘time out’ for bad behavior

Union takes low road in refusing to honor National Teacher of the Year

AS REPORTED IN CommonWealth on Thursday, last weekend the Massachusetts Teachers Association decided to reject a resolution congratulating the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee from Codman Academy, right here in Massachusetts.

Usually the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is celebrated by the MTA and given the chance to talk to their fellow educators at the union’s annual convention. And Sydney is the very first National Teacher of the Year to be selected from Massachusetts in the entire history of the award — dating back to 1952. But this year, not even a tip of the hat.

Why not celebrate this clearly exemplary teacher and sing her praises to the rafters?

Because Sydney is public enemy number one in the eyes of the MTA — a public charter school teacher.

To admit Sydney is a quality educator making a difference for children in her classroom and is an example to be celebrated would be an admission that maybe years of disparaging and discrediting public charter school teachers simply because the MTA disagrees with the existence of charter schools was wrong. It might run the risk of even validating the very existence of charters.

This is nasty, ridiculous, and bullying behavior. If my five-year-old behaved this way, I’d put his butt right into time out.

Here’s a message from parents — you know, the people with the most skin in the game: Enough is enough.

Parents don’t care about your turf wars. We don’t care about “political complications” that make collaboration “impossible.” We want a great education for our children — and our children have a constitutional right in Massachusetts to access it. Call the building a district school, a magnet, a pilot, a charter — we don’t care. We want great teachers and great curriculum to open the minds of our children, and we want proof that you’re fulfilling the promises you’ve made to provide them with a foundation of knowledge that prepares them for the future.

We’re not interested in your excuses about how some kids are “impossible to teach.” The data proves that charter schools in our urban areas are able to eliminate the achievement gaps for children regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. Talk to them, share ideas ,and work together to figure out what they are doing to reach our children and start doing it. Now.

Former MTA president Paul Toner responded to the controversy around Sydney’s snub with a simple statement: “Sydney is a teacher, not a politician. We should respect all of our teachers.”

Our kids are not politicians either. And they’re also not pawns in contract negotiations. They’re our flesh and blood, our heart and soul and the future of Massachusetts and our nation.

Parents don’t have time to waste. Every minute that we bicker about who is “running the show” when it comes to education is another minute my child is losing from having equitable access to a high quality education. And there’s no place for me to go to get that time back once it’s gone.

When my child graduates and is forced to take two years of remedial courses in a community college before being ready to take a college level course is a union president going to stop by my house and explain that we just couldn’t get it done because it meant that district schools might have to collaborate with charters? Will they explain that a school down the street that has unlocked the secret to getting Latino boys like him to really engage in the classroom wasn’t allow to share what works because the people running his school were afraid that someone else might get credit for the idea?

The bottom line is pretty simple for families in Massachusetts — and I spend my days talking to thousands of them who are members of Massachusetts Parents United across the Commonwealth. Our education system is not your political playground. Nor is its primary function to be an employment agency for adults. It’s about our children and working together to figure out what works best for them.

When it comes to recognizing Sydney, this is a teachable moment for all of our children and they are watching. I choose to believe that the majority of Massachusetts teachers are better than this and don’t agree with the leader of their union — and don’t buy into the idea that teaching at a different type of public school makes you less of a teacher. The teachers that I know believe that simply being a union teacher doesn’t make you better or more qualified. Whoever has the best ideas, teaching skills, and commitment to children — we need them. We want them.

Stop it. Mom has had just about enough of this behavior.

Meet the Author

Keri Rodrigues

Founder and CEO, Massachusetts Parents United
Keri Rodrigues Lorenzo is executive director of Massachusetts Parents United, a grassroots organization with 5,000 members working to build safer neighborhoods, stable homes, and equitable access to high quality education for every child in the Commonwealth. She was Massachusetts state director of Families for Excellent Schools, the main organization that funded the pro-charter school side on Question 2, the state ballot question last fall to raise the charter school cap.